From famous ghosts to spine-tingling legends, we’ve rounded up some of the most haunted places in the USA.
Estes Park, CO: The Stanley Hotel
The Stanley Hotel, the most distinctive building in Estes Park and one of the oldest, was built in 1909 by F. O. Stanley, who, along with his twin, was the co-owner of the company that built the famous Stanley Steamers. Stanley and his wife Flora craved the more refined accommodations and social scene they were used to on the East Coast, so they decided to build a grand colonial revival hotel with innovations like electricity throughout the building. Today, the 140-room hotel is known for its amazing views from every window, and for frequently landing on lists of America’s most haunted hotels. The Stanley is famous for its ghostly guests, including Stanley and Flora, who plays her antique piano in the middle of the night, and for serving as horror writer Stephen King’s inspiration for the terrifying Overlook Hotel in his best-selling novel The Shining.
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Mansfield, Ohio: the Ohio State Reformatory
If you’ve ever seen The Shawshank Redemption, you’re familiar with the Ohio State Reformatory. This intimidating prison gained notoriety as a filming location and hub for paranormal activity. Constructed in the late 1800s, the reformatory was operational up until its closure in 1990. The interior has not been restored—folks expecting an intact structure will instead find a haunting, peeling maze of prison cells and offices. These days, it is open for tours, and ghost enthusiasts will want to check the calendar for terrifying Halloween events.
The tragic past of the prison, which became increasingly violent over the years with rampant mistreatment of prisoners, still makes itself felt today. Both guides and visitors have been pushed by invisible hands, and an eerie chill can be felt while on the premises. It is not uncommon to hear voices and cell doors slamming and to see shadowy figures in the halls. The ghost of a local hermit roams the driveway. Even the ghost hunt manager at the prison says he has seen grown men crying from fear while on a tour.
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Boston, MA: The Omni Parker House
Boston’s Omni Parker House—the oldest continuously operating hotel in the United States—opened in 1855, and the history inside its doors is as captivating as that of the Freedom Trail outside. John F. Kennedy used the hotel as a base for both his candidacy for Congress and his bachelor party, and everyone from Malcolm X to Emeril Lagasse to Ho Chi Minh has been on the hotel’s payroll.
But with so much history comes a spooky side, as well. Numerous visitors have spotted the ghost of Harvey Parker, the former owner, who once even appeared smiling at the foot of a young guest’s bed. There is also a mirror supposedly haunted by the spirit of Charles Dickens (don’t say his name three times!), and Room #303, which is said to be the basis for Stephen King’s short story 1408, was converted into a storage closet due to so many complaints of hauntings from guests. It doesn’t help that the city’s oldest cemetery (and notorious paranormal hotspot), King’s Chapel Burying Ground, is right across the street.
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New Orleans, LA: LaLaurie Mansion
The curious gray LaLaurie Mansion has a dark history. While it’s not open to the public, it’s routinely included on the walking ghost tours offered in the French Quarter. This notorious mansion was once owned by the twice-widowed Madame Delphine Macarty de Lopez Blanque and her third husband, Dr. Louis LaLaurie. After a fire broke out in the mansion in 1834, newspapers reported that several of the men and women the LaLauries kept enslaved were found in the attic tortured, starving, and chained. As word spread of the mistreatment, a mob gathered intent on damaging the home. To evade punishment, Delphine and her family fled to Europe, where she supposedly died several years later.
Over the ensuing decades, the building has served as headquarters of the Union Army, a gambling house, and the home of Nicolas Cage. Through all of its incarnations, however, the LaLaurie Mansion has often been the source of ghostly tales, with reports of moaning, phantom footsteps, flickering lights, and sightings of apparitions.
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New Mexico: UFOs in Roswell and Aztec
Launched into national notoriety in 1947 by an alleged UFO crash (and subsequent government cover-up) on a ranch, Roswell has been marked indelibly by odd events. Popular fascination was renewed with “truth-seeking” exposés in the 1980s, and the town has become a pilgrimage site for true believers and kitsch seekers alike. Check out the International UFO Museum & Research Center for an in-depth exploration of the crash, as well as related issues such as ancient alien cults, Area 51, abductions, and crop circles.
Want more? In March 1948, residents of Aztec had a similar occurrence in their backyard—although no one actually saw it, as all but a scrap had supposedly been whisked away by the military. Years later, it came out that the story was the work of two con men. Visitors can take a trail called Alien Run, which traces a route past the alleged site of the 1948 crash where remnants of a 100-foot-wide disc were spotted, along with dead creatures resembling small humans. Today, the site apparently registers a slightly abnormal amount of radiation. Coincidence or evidence? It’s up to you to decide.
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Los Angeles, CA: Griffith Park
Griffith Park feels worlds away from Hollywood Boulevard, the 405 freeway, and the rest of L.A.’s traffic-laden corridors. This is a place where you can lay a blanket, read a book, eat a picnic lunch, and hike trails across more than 4,000 acres. It’s serene, refreshing, and…cursed?
Legend has it that a curse was placed on the land in 1863 by Dona Petronilla Feliz, the niece of the original landowner who believed she was the rightful heir to the land. While it’s hard to say if the years of drought, wildfires, and livestock deaths on the land can be considered supernatural, the eventual owner Griffith J. Griffith donated the property to the city to rid himself of the tainted land after a particularly bad ostrich stampede. (You can’t make this stuff up.) Ghosts have been sighted here for decades, including the spirits of Peg Entwistle, the actress who jumped from the Hollywood sign to her death in 1932, and even James Dean, whose film Rebel Without a Cause was filmed at Griffith Observatory. The strangest story of all is that of a coyote-like beast that stalks the park, rumored to be a demon unleashed by the original curse.
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Chicago, IL: Oriental Theatre
Opened in 1926, the Oriental Theatre screened motion pictures and staged vaudeville acts amid its ornate, over-the-top east Asian decor. Today, the beautiful theater hosts pre- and post-Broadway shows, concerts, and other events, and the lobby’s elaborate architecture and design is worth checking out even if you don’t see a show. But where the Oriental now stands was once home to the Iroquois Theatre, the site of one of the deadliest fires in US history, claiming around 600 lives in 1903. Today, both performers and audience members report mysterious activity, particularly in “Death Alley,” the narrow passageway behind the theater. Ghostly figures are seen and even captured on camera, cries are heard, and unseen hands have reached out to touch the living.
The Windy City and all its ghostly inhabitants await you.
Savannah, GA: The Kehoe House
The Kehoe House, a Queen Anne brick mansion designed for owner William Kehoe in 1892, is one of Savannah’s premier bed-and-breakfasts. It’s also a former funeral home with a creepy history and countless reported hauntings. Some of the Kehoe children died in the house, including the twin boys who, as the legend goes, were trapped while playing in a chimney.
Although this particular story has been met with skepticism, guests report hearing children laughing, running and playing in the hallways, even when no children are present. In Room #203, guests have claimed to have seen a child at the foot of the bed, felt as if someone was kissing their cheek and touching their hand, and watched lights go on and off by themselves. Spooooky.