This time of year, as the days grow shorter, colder, and darker, it’s easy to let your imagination run away from you. Mother Nature’s third act is breathtakingly beautiful; but there’s a tension underlying the season, as the foliage and landscape are quite literally
dying right before our eyes. And this is what sets the tone for Halloween – and all its frightening fantasies. The U.S. is full of abandoned places and ghost towns; these sites are accessible, well-known, and widely explored by folks of all ages. We’ve already covered the best haunted houses but today we’re turning our attention to the dark side: actual haunted places in the US that most wouldn’t dare explore. If you’re up for trespassing upon these haunted grounds, be warned: they aren’t for the faint of heart.
The Shanghai Tunnels - Portland, Oregon
Haunted Underground Shanghai Tunnels Tour, 226 NW Davis St, Portland, OR 97209, USA
Portland, Oregon, was one of the most dangerous ports in the U.S. during the early 19th century; this PNW town was the epicenter of an illicit and inhumane maritime practice known as
. While originally designed for storage and transportation, the Shanghai Tunnels were also used to traffic -- or "shanghai" -- men from the streets of Portland to work as unpaid laborers on ship crews. The men were drugged and then dragged into the tunnels; many toiled for years before being released, and some perished deep in this underworld. This is a very dark and violent time in Oregon's history, so it should come as no surprise that these tunnels are now said to be
by the aggrieved spirits of the captives who died in the dark recesses beneath the city.
One of the scariest places in the US can be found in Portland. Learn more about and explore the Shanghai Tunnels in Portland, Oregon in this video from TLC Australia:
The Queen Mary - Long Beach, California
The Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy, Long Beach, CA 90802, USA
Long Beach may be known for its pristine sands and SoCal surfer vibes, but there's a place off its shores that's shrouded in darkness and mystery. The Queen Mary is a retired ocean liner that sailed the Atlantic Ocean from 1936 to 1967; during her first three years at sea, she carried dignitaries and Hollywood celebrities, including General Dwight Eisenhower, Elizabeth Taylor, and Audrey Hepburn. The ship also served as a "Grey Ghost" in WWII, before returning back to recreational duties off the California coast. The vessel hung up her captain's hat for good in 1967, and today operates as an event venue and hotel in Long Beach. But more popular than the events aboard this ship, are the
of the Queen Mary. This liner is listed as one of the most haunted places in the country and is a hotbed for paranormal activity. As such, the Queen Mary is considered to be a bucket-list must for history buffs and ghost hunters alike.
The Clown Motel - Tonopah, Nevada
The World Famous Clown Motel, 521 N Main St, Tonopah, NV 89049, USA
Coulrophobia is real -- and even those who aren't afraid of clowns will likely change their tune after a visit to this Nevada nightmare.
The Clown Motel
in Tonopah, Nevada, has been unsettling guests since 1985, with a collection of over 2,000 clowns from just about every era and part of the world you could imagine. Spending the night in this hotel makes for a unique and utterly terrifying experience that's absolutely no laughing matter. The motel is located adjacent to a cemetery, too, so there's nowhere to run when you wake up in the middle of the night surrounded by scores of creepy clowns.
The Stanley Hotel - Estes Park, Colorado
The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, CO 80517, USA
There's something wholly unsettling about the Stanley Hotel; an iconic 140-room resort located at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. While most known as the inspiration for the hotel in the classic horror film "The Shining," the Stanley carries a haunted reputation all its own. In 1909, Massachusetts couple F.O. and Flora Stanley opened the isolated resort -- and reportedly never left. According to staff, Mrs. Stanley can be heard playing her Steinway piano in the music room at night, and Mr. Stanley occasionally shows up in photographs. There have also been rumors of bags being unpacked, lights flickering off and on, and children’s laughter echoing in the hallways. Paranormal experts regard the Stanley Hotel as one of the nation’s
most active ghost sites
-- and if you're brave enough to visit, you'll understand why.
San Fernando Cathedral - San Antonio, Texas
San Fernando Cathedral, 115 Main Plaza, San Antonio, TX 78205, USA
oldest church in the country
has a haunted reputation as big as the Lone Star State where it's located. San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio was built before 1750 and is a striking example of Gothic Revival architecture. Over 5,000 people attend mass here each week, but this gilded cathedral isn't just popular with the living. Tourists come to San Fernando Cathedral in troves to marvel at a tomb in which the remains of Davy Crockett himself lie. While the validity of that claim is questionable, the cathedral
play a role in the bloody Battle of the Alamo. Whether or not you believe the San Fernando Cathedral is haunted is up to you, but this historic church is certainly a bucket-list-must for historians and ghost hunters alike.
LaLaurie Mansion - New Orleans, Louisiana
Lalaurie Mansion, 1138 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA
New Orleans is certainly no stranger to the paranormal; its iconic French Quarter is a hotbed of hauntings and nefarious spirits, with many a ghost story surrounding
. Back in the early 19th century, Madame Marie Delphine LaLaurie was a Louisiana socialite known for hosting ritzy soirees in her lavish French Quarter mansion. Guests gorged on fine food and champagne, oblivious to the horrors that were happening above their heads. When local police responded to a kitchen fire in 1834, they discovered the bodies of several horribly mutilated enslaved people in the attic. When the public learned of LaLaurie’s grotesque secret, a mob stormed the house, prompting her to flee to France. Soon after LaLaurie disappeared from New Orleans, people claimed to hear the phantom screams of her victims echoing from the house at night. Today, only the bravest of souls dare to pass by LaLaurie Mansion at nightfall.
Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park - Mandan, North Dakota
Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, 4480 Fort Lincoln Rd, Mandan, ND 58554, USA
One of the most popular state parks in North Dakota is Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, located near Mandan. It has a rich history, beautiful views of the Missouri River, trails, campgrounds, and the state’s only working trolley. But there's more to this popular park than meets the eye -- much, much more. Particularly intriguing is the Custer House, once the home of the same general who was slain at Little Big Horn. The general’s wife is said to roam their preserved home in the fort complex in a black dress, slamming doors, and showing up for no other reason than to give people chills. Some believe Custer himself roams the grounds, too, though others think that the ghosts in blue are soldiers who never got
from duty. If you don't believe in ghosts, you just might after a visit to this
historic state park
Villisca Ax Murder House - Villisca, Iowa
Villisca Axe Murder House Inc., 508 E 2nd St, Villisca, IA 50864, USA
There is no way around it: the home in Villisca, Iowa, that's become known as the
Villisca Ax Murder House
is one of the scariest spots in the country. On the evening of June 10, 1912, an entire family and their two overnight guests were brutally murdered in their beds with an ax -- and to this day, the killer was never caught. The main suspect in the murders was a traveling minister who had taught at a nearby church that night and skipped town early the next morning. Today, tours and overnight stays are offered in the very rooms that were the scene of a bloody massacre, experiences reserved for only the most gung-ho ghost hunters.
Old Joliet Correctional Center Prison - Joliet, Illinois
Old Joliet Prison, 1125 Collins St, Joliet, IL 60432, USA
There's little more haunting than an abandoned prison, and the Old Joliet Correctional Center in Illinois certainly is just that. This gothic, castle-like prison complex first opened to prisoners in 1858 and had its fair share of nefarious events and notorious inmates. It was even featured in the 1980 hit movie, "The Blues Brothers," the more recent television series "Prison Break," and several other shows and films. Today, the Joliet Area Historical Museum oversees the preservation of the Old Joliet Prison and hosts several themed tours, including the fascinating
Haunted History Tour
where you can hear grim stories of what happened behind the prison walls... if you dare.
If you enjoy finding haunted tours in the US, a trip to the Old Joliet Prison is in order. Learn more about the Old Joliet Correctional Center Prison in this video from It's History:
South Manitou Island - Michigan
South Manitou Island, Glen Arbor Township, MI, USA
One of the most
breathtakingly beautiful regions of Michigan
, South Manitou Island is also one the most notoriously haunted. Originally settled in the 1830s as a bustling port town in the Great Lakes, today, South Manitou is the Great Lakes State's very own ghost town. South Manitou is home to commanding sand dunes, deserted shoreline, empty campgrounds -- and haunted spirits. Ghost stories abound about the island: one legend tells of a ship of cholera-stricken passengers who stopped at the island; the sailors buried them in a mass grave
while some were still alive
. The ghost island is also home to two derelict cemeteries, a desolate cedar forest wherein voices are often heard, and its very own haunted shipwreck.
St. Augustine Lighthouse - St. Augustine, Florida
St Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, 100 Red Cox Dr, St. Augustine, FL 32080, USA
The St. Augustine Lighthouse is consistently ranked as one of the most haunted sites in the South, and it certainly lives up to its reputation. This historic lighthouse from 1874 has seen many tragedies in its 150-year tenure, including countless tragic deaths and drownings. Past lighthouse keepers, as well as two sisters who died on the premises, are said to now roam the historic lighthouse grounds. Most alarmingly, visitors report the disembodied voice of a woman repeatedly crying out for help. Today, curious ghost hunters can opt for a
guided tour of the St. Augustine Lighthouse
; however, given the numerous
deaths on the premises, these tours are only for the very bravest souls.
Oakland Cemetery - Atlanta, Georgia
Oakland Cemetery, 248 Oakland Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30312, USA
Georgia is easily one of the most historically haunted places in the country -- and the Oakland Cemetery is widely considered to be its
haunted place. Built in 1850, Atlanta’s
-- the city’s oldest and largest -- is home to Maynard Jackson, Bobby Jones, and Margaret Mitchell, among many others. Originally built in the 1800s, this important cemetery ended up being the burial spot for nearly 7,000 Confederate soldiers during the Civil War -- 3,000 of which remain unknown. And although the Civil War was over 150 years ago, visitors insist they’ve seen uniformed soldiers wandering aimlessly around the cemetery grounds. Perhaps the most chilling story to come from this cemetery is when one visitor heard Confederate soldiers conducting roll call in the distance, and his name was added to the call. This is a place you do not want to be alone after dark; that is, unless you want to hear your name called out, too.
Dock Street Theatre - Charleston, South Carolina
Dock Street Theatre, 135 Church St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
The theatre has a reputation for being, well,
, but the stories surrounding Dock Street Theatre in Charleston, South Carolina, are nothing but the cold, hard truth. As the location of the oldest performance theater in the U.S., you'd expect there to be a certain amount of ghostly tales and rumors. But what most visitors don't know is that the first theater at this location opened in 1736. It burned down, and the Planters Hotel was built upon its ashes. It was a popular spot for the wealthy -- and their
mistresses of the night
. As one story goes, a fraught and frantic prostitute called Nettie plunged over the hotel's balcony, perishing at what would later become the present-day Dock Street Theater. Today, the
is haunted not only by Nettie’s ghost but also by an actor from the 1800s who frequented the hotel: Junius Booth (yes -- the father of
John Wilkes Booth). Junius didn't actually die in the building; no one knows why he's here instead of where his actual death occurred, which was on a steamboat in Louisville in 1852. But truth is stranger than fiction, and both Booth and Nettie are regularly reported wandering the halls.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum - Weston, West Virginia
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, 50 S River Ave, Weston, WV 26452, USA
There's nowhere more frightening in the country than
West Virginia's Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
. This foreboding building began construction in 1858 and opened to patients in 1864. It was designed by architect Richard Andrews to maximize sunlight and fresh air; ironically, the building itself was designed to be a healing environment. This was most certainly
the case; by the 1950s, the asylum was home to 2,400 patients housed in overcrowded conditions, "treated" using measures such as restraints, electroshock therapy, and lobotomies. Hundreds of patients died during the asylum’s tenure, and numerous guests and ghost hunters have claimed to see their tortured souls wandering Trans-Allegheny’s crumbling halls.
Eastern State Penitentiary - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Eastern State Penitentiary, 2027 Fairmount Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19130, USA
This ominous Gothic-style prison opened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1829 and became the first in the U.S. to implement solitary confinement. At Eastern, prisoners wore hoods to prohibit communication during the rare times when they were allowed outside of their cells. While this inhumane punishment was discontinued in 1924, Eastern State Penitentiary remained a place of high tension and violence. In January of 1970, Eastern State Penitentiary closed and the remainder of the inmates were sent to the State Correctional Institution at Graterford. After conservation efforts, the former penitentiary opened to the public for group tours in 1994; since then, there have been numerous reports of paranormal activity in the old prison's crumbling halls and corridors. For the truly dauntless, there are opportunities to
spend the night here
Gettysburg Battlefield - Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Gettysburg Battlefield Historic District, Cumberland Township, PA 17325, USA
One of the most haunted places in the country, Gettysburg is a place where the weight of history hangs heavy in the air like fog. During the second day of the Civil War's infamous Battle of Gettysburg, soldiers took part in intense fighting among the boulders, hills, and valleys of Pennsylvania. When the Confederate and Union armies retreated from Gettysburg, they left most of their dead and injured behind. Many of the deceased were left unburied -- and those who were buried were often moved. Since the end of the Battle of Gettysburg, tales of the paranormal abound about Gettysburg. One of the most notable ghosts in this area is a barefoot soldier with torn clothing, a floppy hat, and long hair claiming, "What you’re looking for is over there," as he points toward nearby Plum Run (also a scene of battle). Whatever you believe,
is undoubtedly a place that will send shivers down your spine.
Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast - Fall River, Massachusetts
Lizzie Borden House (A Bed and Breakfast & Museum), 230 Second St, Fall River, MA 02721, USA
On Aug. 4, 1892, the bodies of Andrew and Abby Borden were discovered bludgeoned to death in their home. The prime suspect: the Borden couple's youngest daughter, 32-year-old spinster Lizzie. The Lizzie Borden murders were one of the first "true crime" stories to unfold in the public spotlight, inspiring legions of armchair detectives. Despite growing public scrutiny and allegations that the accused daughter had financial motives for the murder, Lizzie was ultimately acquitted due to a lack of physical evidence. The Borden home has since been converted into a museum and
where guests can see gruesome photos of the crime scene and sleep in one of its reportedly haunted rooms.
House of the Seven Gables - Salem, Massachusetts
The House of the Seven Gables, 115 Derby St, Salem, MA 01970, USA
Salem, Massachusetts, is one of the most
notoriously haunted places in America
, with the eponymous Witch Trials one of the most heartbreaking periods in history. And the weight of Salem's past transgressions hangs thick in the air here, still, with the entire town a hotbed of paranormal activity. Salem's House of the Seven Gables was built in 1668 and inspired a novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne about the aforementioned trials. This house was eventually sold to the author's cousin, Susan Ingersoll, and is one of the most visited -- and haunted -- places in Salem. Visitors consistently report strange activity like flickering lights, muffled laughter, and cold spots. Susan, it seems, may have never left the House of the Seven Gables.
Learn the history of the House of the Seven Gables in this video from HowStuffWorks:
These haunted places in the US will truly send shivers down your spine. Have you explored any of these haunted places in America before? Do you know of any brave souls who have? Share your most haunting stories with us with a comment.
One of the best places to visit in the US if you love a good scare is New Orleans. Take this
haunted ghost tour, for example.
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More to Explore
More abandoned places to visit in the US
What are some places in the US that have been abandoned?
Magnolia Beach Club, Pawleys Island, SC: The Magnolia Beach Resort was a unique spot for its time - it was one of the only African-American beach resorts on the East Coast between Miami and New York City. It opened in the 1930s when segregation laws prevented African Americans from entering many white-only establishments. Esteemed entertainers like Duke Ellington and Ray Charles lit the halls with smiles at a difficult time in American history. Hurricane Hazel destroyed the resort in 1954, but it went through a partial restoration before financial hardships caused its abandonment in the late 1960s. Hurricane Hugo hit the resort in 1989, so now only a few remnants remain of this once thriving and lively resort.
Fun Spot Amusement Park & Zoo, Angola, IN: There is nothing more eery than an abandoned amusement park - all the lingering laughter seems to echo from the shell of this once great park. The theme park and zoo first opened in 1956 and its claim to fame was having the only inversion roller coaster in Indiana until 2008 when the park shut down. It still remains relatively intact after all of these years.
Portlock, Alaska: The story of this abandoned village in Alaska is quite interesting - and a bit creepy. This was one of the first settlements on the Kenai Peninsula in the 1780s, even though the Aleut people lived on the Southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula for thousands of years. The town was abandoned in 1950 leaving a mine tunnel, a few pieces of cannery equipment, and the remnants of a few houses. It was abandoned after decades of unexplained murders by "a big hairy creature." Yes, Big Foot! As far back as 1905 there were reports of something mysterious "bothering" the camp. All throughout its history bodies were found, miners went missing, and giant footprints were discovered...