16 Haunted Cities to Visit This Halloween
Some thrill seekers are looking for more than fall festivals, pumpkin fairs, and local haunted houses this autumn—they want to experience ice-cold chills, eerie sounds, and hair-raising phenomenons firsthand, and they want to do so while visiting truly haunted destinations. Nearly every state in America has its spooky spots, but if you're willing to travel, you can plan a trip to some of the most haunted attractions that the U.S. has to offer.
Most of these destinations—which include storied architecture, embattled parks and graveyards, and industrial scenes—are still in operation today, and you'll find that you can visit most of the places on this list for free without need for a ticket or a tour guide. But the best experiences often take place overnight as a guest at one of the haunted hotels on this list; the eerie experiences offered at these historic getaways go way beyond traditional amenities. Chock full of vintage décor and antiques, these properties are very different from other modern resorts. Some have been plagued by tales of paranormal activity for as long as they've hosted guests, while others have inspired the scariest cinematic masterpieces that horror fans hold so dear. We're recapping how each of these ghostly accommodations earned their reputation, and you can experience them yourself when you book a stay in October this year.
Other places on this list can be experienced entirely in as little as a few hours. Some of the most terrifying locales are public spaces, after all; restaurants where hot and cold chills are on the menu, battlefields that are reportedly still alive with lively spirits, and cemeteries where the dead don't seem to stay quiet. The following cities have a reputation for being among the most haunted in the nation, and these local spots help add to the folklore that keeps these reputations alive and well.
New Orleans, Louisiana
This entire list could be populated by truly terrifying locales in the Big Easy—after all, nearly everyone considers New Orleans to be the most haunted city in the United States. But which spot is the most terrifying? Many historians would argue that the LaLaurie Mansion should be at the top of your itinerary. Once owned by Madame Marie Delphine LaLaurie, a Louisiana socialite who was known for extravagant soirées in the city, this Creole mansion in the French Quarter was home to unspeakable horrors conducted by its mistress. When a fire broke out in 1834, police discovered gruesome, tortured remains of enslaved servants in the attic, which inevitably led LaLaurie to flee back to France. While the home—largely in its original condition—is now privately owned, many local tour operators in New Orleans include a tour of the grounds on Royal Street as part of their round.
Lake Charles, Louisiana
A small city halfway in between Houston and New Orleans, Lake Charles has earned a haunted reputation across the Bayou State for the tale of Toni Jo Henry, the only woman to ever be executed in Louisiana history. According to the Texarkana Gazette, Henry killed a man while hitchhiking her way to a Texas prison where its thought she wanted to help a lover escape. After many trials, Henry was sentenced to death by electrocution in 1942—per local folklore, her spirit haunts the courthouse where she was executed. The building is open to the public today.
At the height of maritime trading in the 1800s in the United States, Portland was considered a dodgy port for most. Beneath the coastal city's Chinatown, there's a maze of dark, dank tunnels that are interconnected. According to The Oregonian, local legend says that many of the saloons in Portland were connected to these tunnels via trapdoors, and unsuspecting men were lured into the shady network before being "shanghaied" and sold as laborers to visiting ships in the harbor. The Shanghai tunnels, as they're called, are believed to be haunted by unfortunate souls who perished in the struggle, but local tour guides will bring you down with flashlights to see for yourself.
Long Beach, California
This haunted destination is permanently at sea—at one point, the Queen Mary carried high-profile passengers like Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor across the Atlantic Ocean in the 1930s. But the luxurious profile of the ship ended in 1939 when it served as the "Grey Ghost," a World War II vessel for troops—later, according to the ship's curators, it was restored to its former glory and did another 20 years of service moving passengers across the sea. In Long Beach, visitors can book a room aboard the ship and stay overnight, where staterooms are reportedly haunted by all of the sailors who died on board. During the fall, there are tour packages offered, including daily visits, before it transforms into a proper scarefest by night.
Los Angeles, California
Probably one of the most recognizable hotels in the United States, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel has been open to the public since 1927, making it the oldest operating hotel in Los Angeles. According to the Dallas News, Marilyn Monroe lived at the hotel for more than two years while her modeling career was taking off—and she's rumored to still show her face near the suite she once occupied. "Visitors have reported seeing her face in one of her own mirrors, now hanging next to an elevator on the tenth floor," the report reads, mentioning that other reports include photos of orb-like apparitions and cold spots in other suites in the hotel.
Fall River, Massachusetts
Just before the turn of the 20th century, Americans experienced what is often referred to as the first highly publicized murder case in our nation's history—the Lizzie Borden case. Prosecutors tried to pin the violent deaths of Lizzie's parents, Andrew and Abby Borden, on their youngest daughter, according to a recounting of the case by American Heritage. While she was ultimately acquitted of all charges, her influence in American history remains strong: The Borden residence, located in a sleepy coastal town near Martha's Vineyard, has since been converted into a museum and a bed-and-breakfast inn. If you don't wish to stay the night, tours are also provided throughout the fall season.
If Borden's tale is too gruesome for you, you may find that the historical nature of Boston and the fact that the Revolutionary War was largely fought in this city can lead to more appealing paranormal activity. And while many people associate Salem with witches around Halloween, the very first woman accused of witchcraft was actually executed in what is now the South End of Boston proper. According to Annals of Witchcraft, Margaret Jones was a midwife accused of witchcraft in June of 1648; she was hanged in the city's gallows, which was once located on the Boston Neck, an isthmus that no longer exists today. Currently, the location of the historical gallows is said to be in the vicinity of Washington Street and Berkeley Street.
Estes Park, Colorado
You've probably seen it at least once in your lifetime, but did you know that Stephen King's The Shining was actually inspired by a real-life establishment? Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the Stanley Hotel was opened by a couple from Massachusetts in 1909—the same couple that reportedly haunts the property today. According to the hotels' website, staff experience lights turning and off, echoes of unexplained laughter, and even music stemming from the Steinway piano in the middle of the night. In addition to booking a stay at The Stanley, you can also enjoy a "ghost adventure package" or attend estate tours.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Like New Orleans, Charlotte has plenty of ghost stories to go around—in particular, the dining establishments and bars and lounges in Charlotte are known for paranormal activity, according to the Charlotte Observer. On 7th Street, local hotspot The Cajun Queen was actually converted from a private home into a restaurant in 1985. The bar is built over the bedroom of the mistress who once owned the home, and patrons say she's keen to haunt the place after hours, according to Charlotte Five.
Film buffs may recall that The Exorcist was filmed in D.C. in 1973, and many people visit the film's iconic staircase at 3600 Prospect Street around Halloween. But fewer know that the Octagon House, a registered United State historical landmark near Lafayette Square, is said to be home to mischievous spirits who have been recorded here as early as the mid 1850s. Built by John Tayloe III in 1799, who is known as one of the nation's richest "slave barons" in this 1891 New York Times clipping, Octagon House was one of the last main outposts of the slave market in the years leading up to the Civil War; the Times writes that Octagon House's history led "to many horrors to the imaginations of a certain class of people, who love to believe that it is haunted." Many local tour guides will highlight spooky locations in D.C., but Lafayette Square Park is an area that shouldn't be missed.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
In the sunshine state, there are plenty of haunts related to the great southward expansion that developed much of this region back in the 1800s. Now known as the Old Fort Lauderdale History Museum, this building used to be the New River Inn, first built by Edward T. King in 1905: businessmen traveling to Miami often stopped in the hotel, as it's closely situated to the former Atlantic railroad. According to the Broward Palm Beach New Times, residents have reported sightings of a man "clad in a leather coat or duster outfit," pacing the grounds of the hotel between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m.
St. Paul, Minnesota
While Minnesota is chock full of pumpkin patches and other Halloween activities, the truly ghastly history of the Wabasha Street Caves in St. Paul may draw a unique crowd. According to the Minnesota Association of Tourism, these caves beneath the city were turned into an actual nightclub during Prohibition in the 1920s. Local folklore says members of a St. Paul gang running the club were murdered and buried inside the cave, and they like to haunt tourists who visit the caves all year round. There are 45-minute walking tours through the caves every day throughout the year.
Philadelphia is one of America's oldest cities—and located on the banks of the Delaware River in the heart of the city, Fort Mifflin is the nation's only Revolutionary War battlefield that is still intact. The British Army captured this fort in the fall of 1777, and the United States Army began rebuilding the fort in 1794—it wasn't until the Civil War, however, that prisoners were garrisoned here. Some locals believe they see apparitions on the grounds on Halloween when the site hosts a "Sleep with the Ghosts" event where visitors can sleep overnight in the original buildings on site.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Given its proximity to the frontier between the United States and Mexico, Santa Fe was an important city during the Mexican-American War in the 1800s—plus, this historic spot served as the frontier for many Americans heading out West. The La Fonda Inn, in particular, is said to be haunted by the spirit of John P. Slough, the chief justice of the Territorial Supreme Court, who was shot to death in the hotel's lobby in 1867. His death and subsequent haunting has earned the inn's inclusion on a list of the most haunted hotels in the nation by the Historic Hotels of America.
This Southern city earned the moniker "The Magic City" because of its role in the American Industrial Revolution throughout much of the late 1800s—it became a rather large exporter of steel to powerhouse cities, including Atlanta and New York, across the nation. Much of the industrial work done here was very dangerous, especially when working at the Sloss Furnaces, an industrial compound that still stands today. Featured on an episode of the Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures, Sloss was one of the most dangerous work yards in the nation—workers routinely died while working long hours, either by loss of limb or by tumbling into molten steel by sheer misfortune. At Halloween, this national landmark is turned into a haunted attraction; even outside of October, locals say they can hear audible screams at night.
If you're a fan of scary stories, you probably know of Stephen King's novel Pet Sematary, which turned into a film in 1989. The movie was actually filmed on the grounds of Mount Hope Cemetery, a 181-year-old cemetery in Bangor that's home to Civil War monuments and grave markers that date back to 1836. You can tour the spooky location as part of Stephen King-themed tours of Bangor, since the horror author lives in an antique mansion on the outskirts of town.