With Halloween right around the corner, many travelers are adding haunted destinations to their bucket list. From cities rich in history, to a few unexpected destinations, our team at VacationRenter conducted research to uncover the 10 spookiest cities to visit in the country. Read on for our list of cities that are sure to spook even the bravest ghost hunters.
- Salem, MA
Points of interest: Gallows Hill, Salem Witch Village, Salem Witch Trails Memorial, The Witch House
Cultural depictions: Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, Walt Disney’s Hocus Pocus, Kathleen Kent’s The Heretic’s Daughter
Home to the deadliest witch hunt in American history, Salem holds the top spot on several lists as the nation’s spookiest city. Residents claim that Salem is haunted by condemned “witches” who were jailed or executed during the 1692 and 1693 Salem witch trials, reportedly hearing their screams echo and spirits roam at the Gallows Hill.
For the full bewitching experience, visitors should schedule haunted house tours at the Salem Witch Village and learn about the notorious witch hunt at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. Don’t forget to visit The Witch House, one of the last remaining structures in Salem with direct ties to the trials and home of Judge Jonathan Corwin – the man who sent many wronged souls to the gallows.
- Sleepy Hollow, NY
Points of interest: Phillipsburg Manor, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
Cultural depictions: Washington Irving’s short story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Paramount Pictures’ Sleepy Hollow and FOX’s Sleepy Hollow
Should you step foot in Sleepy Hollow, it would be wise to “watch your head.” The historical village in New York’s Hudson Valley was inspiration to Washington Irving’s classic tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and home of the legendary Headless Horseman. Visitors looking for a Halloween spook should venture to the town’s haunted, 18th century Philipsburg Manor, which is transformed into a terrifying site of vampires, zombies, witches, ghosts and overall evil every Halloween. Travelers can also take a stroll through the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Just beware – you may see an apparition of the Headless Horseman himself.
- New Orleans, LA
Points of interest: LaLaurie Mansion, St. Louis Cemetery
Cultural depictions: FX’s American Horror Story: Coven, HBO’s True Blood, Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire, Walt Disney’s The Haunted Mansion and Universal Picture’s The Skeleton Key
New Orleans is a city most famous for its spirited music, Creole cuisine, Mardi Gras festivities – and haunted happenings. Filled with a rich history of voodoo and paranormal activity, travelers should walk by the LaLaurie Mansion, which is haunted by the tortured slaves of 19th century socialite Delphine LaLaurie. For the complete “ghostly” experience, explore all of New Orleans’ French Quarter on a guided Ghost Tour. The not-faint-of-heart should also travel to the world-famous St. Louis Cemetery, where over 100,000 souls are buried. The Voodoo Queen herself, Marie Laveau, may even make an appearance.
- Philadelphia, PA
Points of interest: Eastern State Penitentiary, Independence Hall, Elfreth’s Alley, Baleroy Mansion, Grumblethorpe, Philadelphia Zoo, City Tavern, Powel House, Betsy Ross House
Cultural depictions: E.B. Hudspeth’s The Resurrectionist, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense, Jon Foy’s Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles
Philly is known for its great food and spooky legacy. Sign up for a haunted food tour to taste your way through ghost stories and local haunts. Travelers can also visit the Baleroy Mansion, featured in the book Haunted Houses USA, where infamous owner Amelia is said to trick visitors into sitting in a death chair. For deep American history, check out the Powel House, home to Samuel Powel, mayor of Philadelphia during the American Revolution and friends with George Washington. The house is rumored to be haunted by Benedict Arnold and his wife, Peggy Shippen.
If you want a little bit of everything that haunted Philly has to offer, sign up for a Ghosts of Philly tour, which stops by the Betsy Ross house, Independence Hall, Powel House, City Tavern, Washington Square and more. Perhaps the most well-known, spookiest place in Philly is the Eastern State Penitentiary, a haunted house set inside of an actual penitentiary built in 1829. Eastern State’s confinement cells were known to drive prisoners mad, including one of the most famous inmates, Al Capone.
- Galveston, TX
Points of interest: Stewart’s Mansion, The Bishop’s Palace, The Hotel Galvez, Mayfield Manor
Cultural depictions: HBO’s The Jinx, The Drowning House, Melanie Laurent’s Galveston
During one of America’s deadliest natural disasters, The Galveston Hurricane of 1900, an estimated 6,000-12,000 lost their lives. It’s no wonder that, in its six historic districts, Galveston has more than 60 structures on the National Register of Historic Places – including many haunted sites. Check out Dash Beardsley’s Original Ghost Tour on The Strand, which takes visitors through multiple locations in The Strand and educates them on the historical events that shaped Galveston’s haunted past.
Travelers can also head to The Mayfield Manor, which served as a morgue after the 1900 storm. Dr. Mayfield, who was engaged to be married, lost his bride and parents to the storm, driving him to insanity. If you want a real spook, check out The Hotel Galvez, one of the oldest hotels on the island. Guests can barely make it the full night when staying in room 501.
- Gettysburg, PA
Points of interest: Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg Museum of History, The International Museum of Spiritual Investigations
Cultural depictions: Michael Shaara’s, The Killer Angels, New Line Cinema’s Gettysburg, 20th Century Fox’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Gettysburg was the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War and is today a setting of ghoulish haunting and paranormal activity. The tragic battle was responsible for 51,000 dead and injured soldiers, whose souls still haunt Sachs Covered Bridge and battlefield site Devil’s Den more than 150 years later. During your visit, you may even see Confederate General Robert E. Lee roam the historic Gettysburg National Military Park. Visitors are encouraged to stay at the Lightner Farmhouse bed and breakfast, which once served as a hospital for wounded Civil War soldiers. For nonbelievers, visit The International Museum of Spiritual Investigations and see live footage of paranormal activity on the Gettysburg battlefield.
- Estes Park, CO
Points of interest: The Stanley Hotel, Rocky Mountain National Park, Molly Brown House Museum
Cultural depictions: Nicholas Sansbury Smith’s Trackers, Stephen King’s The Shining
Once home to the Ute and Arapaho tribes, Estes Park wasn’t widely known until Freelan Oscar Stanley and his wife Flora built a beautiful, grand hotel in the mountains. That building, The Stanley Hotel, is now widely recognized as the setting in Stephen King’s The Shining. King famously spent a night there in 1974 in room 217, which is infamous for its paranormal happenings. Guests can still stay in the most haunted rooms, including 418 where guests hear young children playing in the hall and 407 where Lord Dunraven is said to still reside.
For those too afraid to stay in the hotel at night, check out the daily, family-friendly spirit tours and more extensive tours with Stanley Paranormal Investigators. A short drive from Estes Park, travelers can also visit the nearby Molly Brown House Museum in Denver, home of the famous Titanic survivor. The house is known for strange happenings and even visits from Molly.
- Savannah, GA
Points of interest: Hamilton-Turner Inn, The Marshall House, 17 Hundred 90 Inn and Restaurant, Moon River Brewing Co.
Cultural depictions: John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, E.L. Doctorow’s The March, PBS’ Southern Haunts, Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, Robert Redford’s The Conspirator
Savannah is rich with terrifying history, from bloody Civil War battles to the 1820 Yellow Fever epidemic. It was the first city in the 13th colony (spooky!) and is known for famous murders, like the one made popular in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and the 1959 murder of three sisters at 432 Abercorn Street. Travelers looking for scares should sign up for a ghostwalker tour and ghost hunt to explore some of the most haunted places in Old Savannah.
Want to drink spirits while hunting them? Check out a haunted Savannah pub crawl, which will take you to the infamous and ghostly Moon River Brewing Co. The Hamilton-Turner Inn is another historically haunted site, where travelers often hear children laughing or see a cigar-smoking man sitting on the roof. Finally, pay a visit to the Marshall House, one of the most haunted hotels in the U.S. that has been used as a hospital three times – once for Union soldiers and twice for the Yellow Fever epidemics.
- Chicago, IL
Points of interest: Chicago Water Tower, Congress Plaza Hotel, The Drake Hotel, Death Alley behind Oriental Theater, St. Valentine’s Day Massacre on Clark St., Jane Addams Hull House, H.H. Holmes Murder Castle
Cultural depictions: Adam Selzer’s The Ghosts of Chicago, Dale Kaczmarek and Troy Taylor’s Windy City Ghosts, Peter Hyam’s The Relic, Bernard Rose’s Candyman
Many have shopped in Water Tower Mall, but few know its historic namesake is haunted. Constructed between 1867 and 1869, the Chicago Water Tower is the second-oldest water tower in the U.S. and one of the few buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Rumor has it one worker stayed behind to man the pumps and hung himself inside – to this day, some people claim to still see him hanging. Down the street on Michigan Ave, travelers can check in at the haunted Congress Plaza Hotel where (rumor has it) Al Capone and his crew committed gruesome crimes inside. Al himself is said to haunt the floors, along with other spirits – especially on the 12th floor.
Travelers can check out the Oriental Theater – not just for tickets to Hamilton – but to experience the spooks inside. In 1903, the supposed “fire-proof” theater suffered a fire that killed 602 people. Today, people claim to hear noises and feel touches in the alley behind the theater. Lastly, don’t miss visiting the site of H.H. Holmes Murder Castle, home of America’s first serial killer (where Englewood’s post office now resides). Holmes preyed on eager World’s Fair job seekers, and his home featured a labyrinth design with soundproof rooms, secret passages and mazes.
- Long Beach, CA
Points of interest: The RMS Queen Mary
Cultural depictions: Matt Doeden’s The Queen Mary: A Chilling Interactive Adventure, Andrew Britton’s, RMS Queen Mary
Between 1939 and 1967, the luxurious RMS Queen Mary sailed the North Atlantic, transporting the rich and famous (like Winston Churchill and Clark Gable) and World War II soldiers overseas. But, behind its lush façade, the ocean liner brought doom to more than 50 people onboard. Now docked off a port in Long Beach, the haunted ship has over the years trapped more than 200 spirits. From crew members to passengers dressed in 1930s attire, visitors have sighted many ghosts on board. Pay them a visit during a night tour, but beware of Door #13 – it is said to have killed multiple men at different points in the ship’s history.