Virtually every town with more than a couple of stoplights has a haunted house. Most are just fading old structures that may have been abandoned years ago and have certainly seen better days. Sorry to spoil the local legends, but that old house up on the hill in your hometown is probably not haunted, just old. On the other hand, there are quite a few houses around the U.S. that are real hotbeds for paranormal activity. Whether you believe in that kind of thing or not, plenty of paranormal investigators have visited these places and come away convinced they’re haunted. The following sites are open to public tours, and most are open for overnight stays … if you dare.
5. Winchester Mystery House
This sprawling house in San Jose, Calif., features more than 160 rooms and is worth a tour just to see the bizarre design and incredible architecture. The house’s original owner, Sarah Winchester, hails from the Winchester firearms fortune. As the story goes, a psychic told Winchester to build a large house for the spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles; construction began in 1884 and continued off and on until Winchester’s death almost 40 years later.
4. Heceta Head Lighthouse Keeper’s House
The Heceta Head Lighthouse near Florence, Ore., is one of the most picturesque in the world. The 125-year-old light tower is not haunted, but the light-keeper’s house is reportedly home to a spirit named “Rue,” or the “Gray Lady.” The spirit supposedly belongs to a former resident whose infant daughter died in the house. She can reportedly be heard walking around at night, opening and shutting cabinets. She’s been known to set off smoke detectors — even when the batteries have been removed. Plenty of people want a chance to experience the Gray Lady; there’s often a three-month waiting list of people eager to spend the night in the house.
3. Villisca Axe Murder House
The name alone implies this house might be full of tortured souls. On June 10, 1912, someone wielding an axe brutally murdered a couple and their six children. Police never found the murderer. Today, the restored house in Villisca, Iowa, is open for both tours (adults $10) and overnight stays. Visitors have reported all types of paranormal activity, from flying objects to children’s voices.
2. Sorrel-Weed House
Savannah, Ga., has a reputation for being one of the most haunted cities in America and some regard this house as the most haunted site in the city. A love triangle involving a slave owner and his wife’s servant resulted in two grisly deaths, fueling paranormal activity here. You can tour this massive 16,000-square-foot house during the day — but where’s the fun in that? Take part in a night tour, or even a late-night ghost-hunting investigation with paranormal-sensing equipment. According to the Sorrel-Weed website, everything from disembodied voices (EVPs) to full-bodied apparitions have been filmed and recorded here.
1. Myrtles Plantation
This 220-year-old antebellum mansion looks like something out of a Hollywood horror director’s casting dreams. The gnarled old oaks and Spanish moss at this site in St. Francisville, La., only add to the mysterious atmosphere in a house that reportedly has at least a dozen different ghosts. Two ghost girls here are so famous they have names, “Chloe,” and “Ghost Girl.” Several paranormal TV shows, including Unsolved Mysteries, have featured the house. Tours are available seven days a week ($15 for adults) and overnight accommodations are available.