American Nomad Blog
About this blog
American Nomad covers the best of U.S. travel—from vacation deals to festivals, weekend getaways, travel tips, and more. A seasoned traveler and Moon author, Laura is the perfect guide to help discover new gems when traveling domestically.
- A Southern Girl's Wintertime Adventure in Yellowstone
- One Novelist's Odyssey Across America
- Gearing up for a Family Camping Trip
- Mint Juleps and More at Oak Alley Plantation
- Avoiding Identity Theft While on Vacation
- Money-Saving Travel Tips from Nomadic Matt
- Fashion, Fun, and Convenience for the Modern Traveler
- In Search of Irish Museums Across America
- The Inspiring Journey of a Solo Kayaker
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 2
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 1
- Experiencing Yosemite with YExplore
- Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning
- A Word About the TSA's No-No List
- A Reader's Advice About Airport Security
Ten of the Most Haunted Cities in America, Part 2
On Friday, I shared with you the first post of a five-part series about America's spookiest towns. In that initial piece, I mentioned just a few reasons why Key West, Portland, and San Francisco each made the cut. Here, as promised, are four more of the 10 most haunted cities in the nation:
7. San Antonio, Texas
On June 13, 1691 – the feast day of San Antonio de Padua – a group of Spanish explorers and missionaries came upon the Native American settlement that would eventually become San Antonio, making it one of the oldest cities in America. As such, it has a rather ghostly reputation. Several buildings along the tourist-friendly San Antonio River Walk are said to be haunted, and some people attest that the magnificent Menger Hotel (204 Alamo Plaza, 210/223-4361) is equally haunted. Erected in 1859 on the site of the state's first brewery, the Menger supposedly houses several resident ghosts, including that of a murdered maid, who now ambles along the upper hallways, as well as that of President Teddy Roosevelt, who once frequented the hotel bar to recruit soldiers for his “Rough Riders.” Near the Mission San Juan (9105 Graf Rd., 210/932-1001, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, free) south of downtown San Antonio, a particular set of railroad tracks was once the site of a terrible collision that took the lives of several children, who had been riding home when their bus stalled. Today, it's claimed that if you put your car in neutral while crossing the tracks, unseen hands will push your vehicle to safety, though I wouldn't encourage anyone to attempt such a foolhardy venture.
Other allegedly haunted establishments include the Spanish Governor's Palace (105 Plaza de Armas, 210/224-0601, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun., $4 adults, $3 seniors, $2 children 7-13, children under 7 free), where the spirit of a woman raped and killed by a mob of Spanish soldiers still roams the premises, and the Mission San José (6701 San José Dr., 210/932-1001, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, free), where people have witnessed the ghost of a maid who died from an illness and was immortalized by the stonemason who loved her. Of course, the most famous landmark in San Antonio, the Alamo (300 Alamo Plaza, 210/225-1391, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Sun., free), is also considered the most haunted. Site of the famous battle between Mexican and Texan troops that claimed the life of Davy Crockett and many others, the Alamo and its grounds are now home to several ghosts, including moaning prisoners as well as the ill-fated defenders of the fort. If you're interested in awakening such spirits, contact the San Antonio Ghost Tours (210/336-7831), which offers the Alamo Ghost Hunt (9 p.m. nightly, $15 adults, $10 children 5-17, children under 5 free), a walking tour that begins at 307 Alamo Plaza and visits several different locations, from hanging trees to haunted hotels to spooky cemeteries.
6. Los Angeles, California
Although the City of Angels rarely seems to make other people's top-10 lists of haunted U.S. cities, I'd be remiss if I didn't include it in mine. It's difficult, after all, to ignore a town where so many tragic deaths have befallen Hollywood celebrities, from Marilyn Monroe and John Belushi, who both died of untimely drug overdoses, to Sharon Tate, who was brutally murdered by the Manson clan, to the mysterious Black Dahlia, whose horrific demise has never been solved. Besides the homes, hotels, and other places where these ill-fated actors and actresses died, there are numerous allegedly haunted establishments throughout this sprawling mosaic of distinct neighborhoods and communities. The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (7000 Hollywood Blvd., 323/466-7000) is one such place. Reportedly named after President Teddy Roosevelt and financed by a group that included Hollywood luminaries Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and Louis B. Mayer, the Roosevelt opened in 1927 and, two years later, hosted the first Academy Awards. According to many overnight guests, at least two famous ghosts haunt this historic hotel. The spirit of Marilyn Monroe, who once lived in a cabana that overlooked the pool, has been seen dancing in the hotel's ballroom while the spirit of Montgomery Clift, who lived at the Roosevelt for three months during the filming of From Here to Eternity, supposedly haunts his old room, #928, where guests claim to have heard him playing his bugle.
Other haunted spots in the Los Angeles area include the world-famous Grauman's Chinese Theatre (6925 Hollywood Blvd., 323/461-3331), where people have witnessed the murdered actor Victor Killian moving objects around; the Hollywood Sign (Mt. Lee in Griffith Park), where a struggling 1930s actress allegedly jumped to her death; and the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (6000 Santa Monica Blvd., 323/469-1181, 7 a.m.-6 p.m. daily), where a veiled ghost has been seen laying flowers beside Rudolph Valentino's tomb. South of Los Angeles, you'll also find The Queen Mary (1126 Queens Hwy., Long Beach, 877/342-0738), a historic ocean liner that was built in 1936, sailed for more than three decades, and found a permanent home in Long Beach in 1967. Since then, many visitors have reported a variety of paranormal experiences, from hearing phantom crying in the former third-class nursery to seeing mysterious footprints around the long-drained swimming pool. For a potentially spooky experience, consider purchasing a Haunted Encounters Passport ($28 adults, $25 seniors 55 and over, $16 children 5-11), which includes a general admission ticket, plus the “Ghosts & Legends” show, the “Haunted Encounters” tour and film, a ghost-sighting scavenger hunt, and a self-guided ship-walk tour. Of course, if you really want to get up close and personal with the on-board spirits, you can always opt to stay overnight in the on-site hotel.
5. Charleston, South Carolina
Established in 1670 beside the Atlantic Ocean, Charleston is one of the oldest cities in the American South – and indeed the country – so perhaps it's not surprising that it's also considered one of the most haunted towns in the nation. Its nickname, “Holy City,” stems from the fact that church spires pepper its picturesque skyline, but it's just as well known for the Battery, a downtown area that served as an artillery installation during the Civil War and now contains several Victorian mansions and other houses considered to be haunted. Perhaps the most infamous of these is the Battery Carriage House Inn (20 S. Battery, 843/727-3100 or 800/775-5575), an elegant bed-and-breakfast built in 1843, where overnight guests claim to have seen mysterious lights as well as various apparitions in their bedrooms, including a headless torso and, for some horrified female visitors, a strange man lying beside them. Meanwhile, at the Dock Street Theatre (135 Church St., 843/577-7183) – which was originally opened in 1736 and rebuilt in 1809, long after the catastrophic 1740 fire that destroyed much of Charleston's French Quarter – workers and performers alike claim to have spotted two ghosts in the backstage area: that of “Nettie,” a prostitute struck by lightning near the theater, and that of Junius Brutus Booth, an actor who also happened to be the father of presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth.
Other supposedly haunted buildings in Charleston include the Aiken-Rhett House (48 Elizabeth St., 843/723-1159, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 2-5 p.m. Sun., $10 pp), a spooky mansion built in 1818 and now known for its paranormal residents; the Old City Jail (21 Magazine St., tours by appt. or through Bulldog Tours), constructed in 1802 and home to the spirits of slaves and former prisoners, some of whom have been known to grab, push, and ogle living visitors; and the Provost Dungeon (122 E. Bay St., 843/727-2165 or 888/763-0448, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, $8 adults, $4 students and children 7-12, children under 7 free), a 1781 building in which prisoners suffered terrible conditions and often died, lending credence to the fact that many visitors have heard phantom moans and witnessed lights and chains moving of their own accord. Roughly eight miles from downtown Charleston, you might also spot the spirit of a Civil War soldier at the Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens (1235 Long Point Rd., Mt. Pleasant, 843/884-4371, 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun. mid-Mar. to Labor Day, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 1-4 p.m. Sun. Labor Day to Nov., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun. Dec. to mid-Mar. $19.50 adults, $17 seniors 65 and over, $9.50 children 6-12, children under 6 free), one of the country's oldest working plantations.
Of course, Charleston's ghostly atmosphere can also be attributed to a past that includes pirates, voodoo lore, and the Gullah, a West African culture that pervades parts of South Carolina as well as nearby Georgia. To hear about such stories and experience the city's most haunted locales for yourself, contact Bulldog Tours (40 N. Market St., 843/722-8687), which offers several spooky and/or scandalous excursions, including the Charleston Ghost & Dungeon Walking Tour (7-8:30 p.m. and 9-10:30 p.m. Tues.-Sat. Mar.-Nov., $18 adults, $10 children 7-12), the Charleston Ghost & Graveyard Walking Tour (7:30-9 p.m. and 9:30-11 p.m. nightly, $18 pp), The Haunted Jail Tour (7-7:45 p.m., 8-8:45 p.m., 9-9:45 p.m., and 10-10:45 p.m. nightly, $18 adults, $10 children 7-12), and The Dark Side of Charleston Walking Tour (8-9:30 p.m. and 10-11:30 p.m. nightly, $18 adults).
4. Chicago, Illinois
While paranormal experts attribute part of Chicago's ghostly vibe to its underground fault lines and its location beside Lake Michigan, the town's checkered past is likely also to blame. After all, Prohibition-era gangsters once called the Windy City home, and many unfortunate souls were murdered during that time. In fact, some residents and visitors claim to have heard phantom screams near the Clark Street Bridge, where many bodies were allegedly dumped into the Chicago River. Another place with a haunted reputation is the Clark Street Dog Bar (3040 N. Clark St., 773/281-6690), not far from the site of the former warehouse where the notorious Valentine's Day Massacre occurred. Other haunted locales include the John Hancock Center (875 N. Michigan Ave., 888/875-8439, 9 a.m.-11 p.m. daily), site of many tragic deaths, including those of several falling victims as well as comedian Chris Farley; the Museum of Science and Industry (57th St. and Lakeshore Dr., 773/684-1414, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily, $15 adults, $14 seniors 65 and over, $10 children 3-11), which is supposedly home to several ghosts, including the spirit of Clarence Darrow, the celebrated lawyer who battled William Jennings Bryan over teaching evolution in schools in the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial; and the Oak Woods Cemetery (1035 E. 67th St.), a 183-acre graveyard established in 1854 that now contains the final resting places of more than 6,000 Confederate soldiers, the spirits of whom have sometimes been witnessed among the tombstones.
Perhaps Chicago's most famous ghost story, though, is that of Resurrection Mary, one of the city's so-called “vanishing hitchhikers.” Since the 1930s, many male motorists driving along Archer Avenue have reported picking up a blonde, blue-eyed, female hitchhiker donning a white party dress, only to let her out at Resurrection Cemetery and watch her disappear. According to legend, the young woman had been leaving a ballroom on a cold winter's night when she was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver on Archer Avenue; her grief-stricken parents later buried her in the aptly named Resurrection Cemetery. To hear about this and many other ghost stories, including those about gangsters Al Capone and John Dillinger, consider taking the Chicago Hauntings Tour (888/446-7891, 7 p.m. Tues.-Thurs. and Sun., 7 and 10 p.m. Fri.-Sat., $28 adults, $20 children 8-12), a nighttime bus-and-walking excursion that leaves from 600 North Clark Street in downtown Chicago.
As I wrote in the first part of this series, please feel free to share any ghostly encounters you've had in one of these potentially creepy towns, and be sure to stay tuned for my next post about the most haunted cities in America.
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.