5. Lizzie Borden House
No one knows if Lizzie Borden really killed her father, Andrew, and her stepmother, Abigail, with an axe in Fall River, Massachusetts, on the morning of Aug. 4, 1892. Lizzie's relationship with her parents was rocky, and she was the only one home at the time. Despite heaps of incriminating evidence, a jury acquitted Ms. Borden in less than two hours.
Innocent or not, Lizzie Borden will be forever immortalized in rhyme. The house where “Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks” is now the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum. Visitors can stay in one of eight rooms, including the room where Abigail Borden's body was discovered. Not surprisingly, the house is believed to be haunted, and it regularly hosts ghost tours, paranormal lectures and other related events. Coming soon: A “Ghost Cam,” so fans of the site can follow paranormal activities at the house via the Internet.
4. The Philippi Mummies
In 1888, a West Virginia farmer named Graham Hamrick had a dream. He dreamed of an affordable, safe and effective embalming fluid. After practicing on snakes and a human head, Hamrick procured two female corpses from the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane (now the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum) in nearby Weston, West Virginia.
Hamrick's embalming fluid was cheap — it cost a nickel to make back in 1888 — and it could be made from common ingredients. What's more, it worked so well that Hamrick's mummies are still in great shape. The mummies toured Europe with P.T. Barnum for many years. After that, they ended up stored in a barn and then under a bed. Twice they’ve been submerged for long periods in floods. They can now be seen at the Barbour County Historical Museum in Philippi, West Virginia, for a donation of $1.
3. Wyoming Frontier Prison
The Wyoming Frontier Prison opened in 1901 as Wyoming's first state penitentiary. It was not a pleasant place, even by prison standards. The original 104 cells lacked both electricity and running water and were poorly heated, bad news for the inmates given Wyoming’s harsh winters. Two inmates froze to death in their cells. Some inmates remained without basic amenities, such as hot water, even into the late 1970s. The prison had a dungeon, and unruly inmates were brutally flogged with rubber whips. Fourteen prisoners were executed during the penitentiary's 80-year history.
After closing in 1981, the prison in Rawlins, Wyoming, remained vacant for several years before opening to the public for tours. Many different ghosts and other strange phenomena have been spotted in the prison by paranormal investigators, visitors and tour guides. The most macabre yet popular activity lets visitors undergo mock executions in the gas chamber where five men paid dearly for their crimes. The prison’s Halloween night tours are also a popular draw.
2. The Mütter Museum
The College of Physicians of Philadelphia is America's oldest medical organization, founded in 1787. Its Mütter Museum contains some of the most … interesting medical curiosities collected throughout the college's history. The Mütter Museum's oddities include the Chevalier Jackson Collection. Dr. Jackson pioneered endoscopic techniques at the turn of the 20th century, revolutionizing the removal of swallowed foreign objects without surgery. Dr. Jackson collected more than 2,000 foreign objects from the bodies of his patients, including a pair of binoculars and a set of dentures. In one notable case, Dr. Jackson removed 32 foreign objects from the stomach of a single infant.
Also on display in the building are former President Grover Cleveland's tumor; an assortment of brains, both human and animal; and the attached livers of Chang and Eng Bunker, the original “Siamese twins.” The Mütter Museum also contains a range of deformed, unusual, or uniquely preserved skulls, skeletons, bones and cadavers, including that of the Soap Woman, a 19th century yellow fever victim whose corpse transformed into soap, due to chemicals present in the soil of her grave.
1. The Winchester Mystery House
Sarah Winchester was the widow of William Wirt Winchester, and heir to the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. fortune. She had lost her only child, Annie, and her husband, when, grieving and desperate, she consulted a medium in 1881. Sarah learned that she was cursed by the spirits of those killed by Winchester firearms. Sarah was to build these spirits a home, the medium said; if she ever stopped construction, she, too, would die. So, in 1884, Sarah bought an unfinished farmhouse in San Jose, California. Construction continued around the clock, seven days a week until Sarah's death in 1922.
Legend has it that Sarah consulted the spirits each night, and presented her workers with a new set of instructions each morning. Rooms were added, only to be removed as soon as they were completed. Stained-glass windows were installed, then covered by walls. One staircase famously leads to nowhere, while others swerve erratically, and boast stairs only 2 inches tall. The house also sports extraneous chimneys and cabinets less than 1 inch deep. Some believe that Sarah Winchester lost her mind from grief; others believe that the house really is haunted, and that Sarah hoped to confuse and foil the spirits with her bizarre architectural plans. The home she constructed is so large and unusual in its design that even the California Historical Society doesn't know exactly how many rooms it has, because they have never been successfully counted.