The only thing creepier than a good ghost story is a good ghost sighting … or 10. With that thought in mind, we rounded up a list of the 10 most haunted places in America, in no particular order, based on the sites that kept appearing during our research. Some are closed off and crumbling, like Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery in Chicago. Others, like the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in West Virginia, are National Historic Landmarks. Most of the sites offer ghost tours; all have the ability to send a chill up your spine.
10. Waverly Hills Sanatorium
Many tuberculosis patients left the Louisville, Kentucky, Waverly Hills Sanatorium no longer in pain — but only because they were dead. More than 6,000 deaths occurred in the sanatorium during its 50 years of operation, although rumors put the corpse count much higher. Two suspicious nurse suicides aside, most of the deaths came from experimental TB treatments, such as surgical implantation and inflation of balloons in the lungs and the removal of ribs and chest muscle to make it easier for patients to breathe. The dead bodies were removed through a supply tunnel, eventually renamed the body chute, which connected the hospital to nearby train tracks. Open for ghost tours today, the building features plenty of spooky apparitions, including cold spots, ghosts, screams and doors that slam themselves. A woman has also been spotted running from the building with her wrists slashed, screaming, “Somebody save me!”
9. Stanley Hotel
If you’ve seen The Shining, you’ve witnessed the impact the Stanley Hotel had on Stephen King, who wrote the tale after staying there. Built in 1909 by F.O. Stanley — Mr. Stanley Steam Engine himself — guests at the Estes Park, Colorado, resort report noises of children playing in the fourth floor hallway, the appearance of a man who shows up standing inside their rooms and closets before vanishing and a hazy apparition of a young boy spotted in room 1211. The deceased Mr. Stanley has been spotted in the billiards room and lobby while his wife, Flora, still entertains guests with her ballroom piano playing on a piano that bangs out a tune with keys that move by invisible force.
8. Bell Witch Cave
The pesky Bell Witch is said to still hang around the cave bearing her name in Adams, Tennessee, although her heyday was torturing the nearby Bell Family from 1817 to 1821. The witch spirit identified itself as Kate Batts, a nasty neighbor with whom John Bell had some bad business dealings. The spirit of Kate haunted the Bell family, especially young daughter Elizabeth, whom she pinched, slapped, bruised and stabbed with pins. Kate is said to have caused the death of John Bell, who perished from a mysterious illness. The cave, which paranormal observers believe may be Kate’s portal to another dimension, remains plagued by a violent force that temporarily paralyzes visitors, shuts off cameras and flashlights, and ensures anyone who takes anything away from the cave, such as a simple rock, is hounded by horrible misfortune. Past visitors have sent rocks back in the mail.
7. Lincoln Theater
Phantoms that sit in the audience when no one else is in attendance, frigid cold spots, footsteps on an empty stage and a ghostly young couple standing on the stairwell are just some of the free entertainment you can get at the Lincoln Theater in Decatur, Illinois. The theater was built in 1916, but evidently inherited spirits from the Priest Hotel, which stood on the same spot from 1880 until it burned down. Two people died in the 1904 fire. The theater was also the site of the 1927 death of a one-armed stagehand named Red, who was rumored to have fallen to his death from a catwalk, although he really died quietly during one of his nap breaks.
6. Myrtles Plantation
Myrtles Plantation, built in 1796 atop an ancient Indian burial ground in St. Francisville, Louisiana, is steeped in mystery and death. One creepy rumor claims 10 murders went down in the place, including the woman of the house and her two daughters who were killed when a slave fed them a poisoned birthday cake. The slave, named Chloe, was allegedly hung by her fellow slaves and is said to be one of the most prominent ghosts. Skeptics, however, debunked the Chloe story by researching the facts and finding no slave named Chloe ever existed. Despite the Chloe tale and other questionable stories, most paranormal observers do not dispute the place is haunted. Visitors see ghostly children playing in the hallways, rooms and on the verandah, a curly-haired young girl floating around the game room and handprints that mysteriously appear on the mirrors.
5. Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery
Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery started as a pristine little burial ground in the mid-1800s where folks would picnic while visiting their departed family and friends. By the 1960s, vandals turned the Chicago-area wooded alcove in the Rubio Woods Forest Preserve into a hodgepodge of destruction that includes toppled headstones and dug-up graves. Sightings include a woman who clutches a baby as she wanders aimlessly through the cemetery during full moons, phantom cars and a streaking red orb that frequent the entrance road and a ghostly horse, plow and man that have come galloping out of the nearby algae-infested pond. That same pond was a dumping ground for the murder victims of Al Capone and other gangsters.
4. Gettysburg National Military Park
With more than 8,000 men slaughtered on this Pennsylvania battlefield during the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, it’s no surprise this place is haunted. Being the location of a craggy, creepy outcrop of large boulders dubbed “Devil’s Den” certainly doesn’t help matters. Even before hundreds of dead Confederate soldiers were left to bloat and rot amongst the rocks, Devil’s Den was already infested with snakes and the spirits of Native Americans who also battled violently in the area. A few of the spooky happenings reported there are Native American war calls, malfunctioning electronics and ghostly apparitions so real that visitors have mistaken them for Civil War re-enactors.
3. Lemp Mansion
St. Louis’s Lemp mansion, built by the Lemp family in 1860 and currently a combination dinner theater, restaurant, bed and breakfast, has certainly been haunted by tragedy. Four members of the Lemp family died in the mansion in a tragic string of suicides over a 45-year period, starting with William Lemp in 1904. Spooky stuff ranges from candles that light themselves to phantom phone calls, from missing items to the unexplained aroma of cigar smoke. Guests have also reported feeling someone stroking their hair in the middle of the night.
Known as the Rock, San Francisco’s Alcatraz was packed with horror while it was still in operation until 1963. Insanity was one of its side effects, with one striking example being an inmate who began cackling as he methodically hacked off all his fingers with a hatchet. A man stuck in a “hole” cell screamed for hours about a monster with glowing eyes that was going to kill him. Guards found him strangled in his cell the following morning. The dungeons were even worse, where prisoners were chained naked to the walls. Screams are often heard from the dungeons, while other noises around the prison include clanging and banging, voices talking and men running on the upper tiers. The sound of a banjo sometimes comes from the shower area, where Al Capone used to play for fear he’d be murdered in the recreation room.
1. Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
Opened in 1864, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia, saw numerous horrors within its walls. The most gruesome events might have been the hundreds of “ice-pick lobotomies,” in which a doctor would use electroshock to knock a patient unconscious, then insert an ice pick through the patient’s eye into the brain, where a few sweeping motions would render the patient a vegetable. The later decades of the state-run psychiatric hospital saw patients killing other patients — or raping and killing employees, such as the missing female nurse who was found dead eight weeks later at the bottom of an unused staircase. The facility reached its peak capacity in the mid-1950s, housing almost 2,600 patients, 10 times what it was designed to hold. Patients tapered off with changes in mental health care and the asylum shut down in 1994 — although not every soul vacated the premises. Activity spotted during ghost tours includes screams from the electroshock areas, the sounds of gurneys being pushed down the halls and a ghost named Jacob who flits about the Civil War wing.
One More: Winchester Mystery House
This home in San Jose, California, is very strange, and strange happenings have been reported there, as we noted in a previous Listosaur.com story.