Haunted houses can often feel hokey to those with a true interest in the paranormal. After all, they’re just filled with actors in costumes.
If you really want to get spooked, there are several spots across the United States that some say are actually haunted. From sanitoriums to socialite mansions, these ghoulish places will give you goosebumps — and you can even spend the night in some of them, for an extra hair-raising experience!
Eastern State Penitentiary – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Eastern State Penitentiary was once known for its severe, inhumane punishments. The menacing prison opened in 1829 and became the first to use solitary confinement. Prisoners lived entirely alone in stone cells, and they even had hoods placed over their heads any time they were moved.
It’s now believed that the tortured inmates’ ghosts took back the prison after it closed for good in 1971. While visiting the 192-year-old site, you might catch apparitions wandering the corridors and hear whispers in abandoned cells.
Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast – Fall River, Massachusetts
This clearly isn’t your standard New England Bed and Breakfast. This B&B is also the home where the bludgeoned bodies of Andrew and Abby Borden were discovered in 1892. Daughter Lizzie Borden was the prime suspect, but she was ultimately acquitted due to a lack of physical evidence.
These days, the home is a B&B and museum, where you can see crime scene photos and stay in one of the haunted rooms. Maybe you can conjure one of the Bordens to tell you what really happened on the morning of August 4, 1892.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum – Weston, West Virginia
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum just sounds like a haunted spot. It opened its doors to patients in 1864. By the 1950s, it was housing more than 2,400 patients — despite being designed to hold only 250. Severe overcrowding and inhumane conditions flourished, and hundreds of patients died here.
If this place looks familiar, it’s because the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was featured on Ghost Hunters. These days, you can tour the deteriorating halls with historical day tours, ghost hunts, and paranormal tours. But if that isn’t enough of a thrill, there’s also the annual Asylum Haunted House.
Winchester Mystery House – San Jose, California
The Winchester Mystery House is definitely unusual, but it’s also one of the most disturbing construction projects in history. Widow Sarah Winchester, the heiress to a large portion of the Winchester Repeating Arms fortune, bought a farmhouse in San Jose, CA after her infant daughter and husband died. It was to be a house for her, but also for the spirits of people who fell victim to Winchester rifles.
The renovations began in 1886 and continued until her death in 1922. With 160 rooms, 10,000 windows, and 2,000 doors, it’s full of confusing features designed to confuse vengeful spirits: staircases that lead into the ceiling, doors that lead to nowhere, and windows that will take you to secret passages.
Castillo de San Marcos – St. Augustine, Florida
As the nation’s oldest city, there’s no doubt that St. Augustine is one of the most haunted cities in America. From the old jail to the cemetery full of yellow fever victims, the city, founded in 1565, is full of ghost stories. However, Castillo de San Marcos, has some pretty chilling tales involving wars, ruthless European soldiers, and Native American prisoners since the fort was built in the seventeenth century.
If you visit the fort, though, you’ll notice a very small room hidden behind a wall. This is where an 18th-century Colonel had his wife and her lover bricked in to starve in the dark. Their skeletal remains were found many years later, in 1833. While visiting, some visitors report smelling a strong scent of perfume, lingering from the wife’s restless spirit.
LaLaurie Mansion – New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans rivals St. Augustine as one of the most haunted cities in America. But one of the city’s most infamous haunted spots is the former home of Madame LaLaurie, a wealthy widow and prominent socialite from the early 1800s. Guests gorging on food and champagne were unaware of the grisly scenes unfolding a few stories above.
A kitchen fire in 1834 led to authorities discovering the bodies of several horribly mutilated enslaved people in a secret torture chamber in the attic. An outraged mob of citizens stormed the house, pushing LaLaurie to flee. Later occupants of the building claim it’s still haunted by the ghosts of her victims.
Crescent Hotel – Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Built in 1886, this building served as a luxury resort, college for young women, and a junior college. But it was when new owner Norman G. Baker turned the building into a hospital and health resort that things took a dark turn.
Baker posed as a doctor, even though he had zero medical training. He claimed to have discovered a number of “cures” for ailments, including cancer, and frequently attacked organized medicine for being corrupt. These days it’s gained a reputation for being America’s most haunted hotel, and you can tour the hotel — including the Crescent Hotel Morgue.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium – Louisville, Kentucky
Sanatoriums are always left haunted, right? Built in 1910 to treat victims of tuberculosis, somewhere around 8,000 patients died here. While many died because the disease had no known cure, there were also illicit medical experiments conducted, and stories of nurses killing themselves.
Visitors can expect strange noises, slamming doors, phantom footsteps, and shadowy figures wandering the narrow corridors. Some even hear voices echoing from the “death tunnel,” a tunnel they used to secretly transport the dead bodies out so living patients wouldn’t see them.
Proctor’s Ledge – Salem, Massachusetts
In the centuries following the Salem Witch Trials, there was some confusion over where the hangings took place. After all, the exact site was never memorialized, for obvious reasons. Maps from the time show no markers. But, thanks to forensic and historical investigations, this spot was confirmed as both the spot of the hangings and the unceremonious dumping of bodies below.
Touching a “witch,” even just to bury them, was illegal at the time. Families scurried under the darkness of night to retrieve loved ones for proper burials. You can just imagine all the troubled souls that haunt this spot.