America the Beautiful has a dark side. Whether you’re a believer or not, there’s no denying that this country loves a good ghost story. From Native legends to modern horror tales, this country is lousy with places that are saturated with memories of terror and violence. It will be hard to sleep with the lights off after reading about these terrifying sites.

Here are the spots across the country where you’re most likely to hear something go bump in the night.



This cemetery has a long history of hauntings and ghostly sightings. A pack of phantom dogs is said to prowl amongst the tombstones, chasing after late-night visitors and howling through the evening. There are also reports of the spirit of a little girl, supposedly that of six-year-old Grace Watson, who died of pneumonia in the 19th century. She is described as hiding behind headstones, and occasionally beckoning visitors further into the graveyard.

The Ackley House was actually legally declared to be haunted. In the 1991 case Stambovsky v. Ackley (also known as the “Ghostbusters” ruling), the Ackley family was found liable for not revealing to the home’s new owners that the property was severely haunted. The Ackley family had reported almost daily hauntings to friends and neighbors since the 1970s, including spirits that would shake their beds and hover around the living room. When it came time to sell, the family decided not to tell the buyers about the haunted happenings. The New York Supreme Court ruled that the home was “legally haunted” and the buyers had a right to rescind their offer.

This historic fort was built in 1867 as a military fort, and was eventually converted to a boarding school for local Native children. It is said to be haunted by the ghosts of former pupils, as well as soldiers who died of illness on the site. Visitors report strange shadows and cold spots around the fort, as well as seeing the faces of small children peering out from the windows of empty buildings.

This lake is haunted by the pale, dripping ghost of a drowned girl. She is said to approach campers who are alone, and ask for them help. Reports state that her lips and fingers are blue and wet, as if she has been in the cold water for a long time. When campers agree and try to approach her, she vanishes. The sound of sobbing is also reported to echo across the lake, and some campers even report finding small, child-sized footprints around their campsite in the morning.

This legendary property was built by Sarah Winchester, the widow of the owner of the Winchester rifle company. She believed that she was being haunted by the spirits of people killed by her company’s rifles, and so began building a maze-like, 160-room mansion in a bid to confuse and disorient and restless spirits that might come after her. Construction began in 1884, and was reportedly ongoing without interruption until Winchester’s death in 1922. The mansion includes stairs that lead to nowhere, doors that open into walls, and more than a few reports of the haunting presence of Sarah Winchester.

This private estate turned restaurant is said to be haunted by its former owners. Driven mad by guilt over his affair with a maid, Joseph Forepaugh shot himself in the head on the property. The maid in question soon hanged herself in grief. Today, visitors report the forms of the doomed lovers mingling with guests at weddings hosted on the estate, or prowling the back halls of the restaurant. The ghost of Molly is said to be more aggressive and sinister than that of her lover.

This cemetery is filled with the remains of the original settlers of the area who died long before Idaho was granted statehood in 1890. Legend has it that if you knock at one particular mausoleum, you may hear a knock back. The catch? You’ll only get a response if the time of your death is near.

This hospital opened in 1910 to treat tuberculosis victims. Thousands of people died within its walls, with some estimates placing the body count at over 9,000 people. Visitors to the hospital report hearing disembodied voices, seeing strange shadows move across the walls and feeling the touch of hands on their bodies. This hospital consistency ranks among the most haunted spots on the planet, and was featured on the television show Ghost Hunters.

This asylum for the “criminally insane” has been the inspiration for horror films, and was one of the most horribly overcrowded and psychiatric institutions in the country. Conditions for patients in the 19th and 20th centuries were abysmal, and there were frequent reports of abuse, malnutrition and filth-covered patient rooms.

Even more chilling, the hospital was allegedly the site of unethical and illegal experimentation on patients. Since the hospital closed in 1994, explorers have encountered full-body apparitions mutilated patients, as well as the sound of banging on the walls and disembodied voices echoing through the halls.

This historic performing arts venue in Virginia City began experiencing paranormal activity after restorations began on the century-old structure. Visitors report seeing rows of seats filled with people in period dress, and performers have stated that they’ve seen a male figure standing on an attic ladder and watching them on stage. There have been reports of a disembodied singing, and the apparition of a female in a blue dress ascending the stairs in the opera house.

Few hotels have a reputation as darkly legendary as the Biltmore. The grand structure first began hosting guests in 1918, and was owned by successful businessman – and noted Satanist – Johan Leisse Wiesskopf. The hotel featured a chicken coop on the roof where fowl were kept for sacrifices; steaming baths in the basement that were used for purification rituals; and the infamous Bacchante Girls, who served drinks completely nude in the Bacchante Dining Room.

There have been 11 documented murders in the Biltmore, and the hotel served as the inspiration for Stephen King’s Overlook Hotel, in addition to Robert Bloch’s Bates Motel. Other deaths have surely gone unreported, as the hotel was a den of debauchery during the Prohibition era. Staff members would occasionally “lose” the information of guests who checked in and did not check out.

This place was once home to some of the most violent criminals in the state, and now seems to host a population of equally terrifying ghosts.You might recognize the interior and facade from The Shawshank Redemption. Also known as the Mansfield Reformatory, the institution opened in 1866 and remained operational until a federal court demanded its closure in 1990. The prison was terribly overcrowded, and hundreds of inmates died of disease or committed suicide.

In the 1930s, 120 men were sentenced to share 12 solitary confinement cells for one week without food or water as punishment for participating in a prison riot. Many of these men lost their minds over the course of the week, or attempted suicide. Today, visitors report hearing the sound of dragging chains, screaming voices, or the sound of rioting just around the corner.

This 19th-century farm was run by Annie Cook, who savagely abused and overworked the destitute and homeless individuals who were sent to her estate to earn their keep. Cook would reportedly torture her unfortunate workers for pleasure, and work them until they dropped dead in the fields. Her spirit has been spotted

This cemetery is said to be haunted by a spirit that doesn’t stop at saying “boo,” but actually physically harms trespassers. Local legends tell of a woman who was executed under suspicion of witchcraft. Before her hanging, she cursed the town, foretelling that it would burn down three times as punishment for her death. Since her proclamation, Lafayette has burned down twice.

Visitors describe her spirit as extremely aggressive, with many reporting that they have seen a woman standing alone amongst the headstones and screaming in a low, nausea-inducing voice. Others have even reported finding scratch marks and bruises on their necks and chests after visiting the cemetery that they cannot explain or remember receiving.

The Marfa lights are some of the most famous ghost lights in the country. No one knows what causes the large, glowing orbs of light to appear and hover in the sky above the town of Marfa. Some say they are merely the headlights from a nearby highway, while others attribute a more supernatural origin to the flickering, pulsating lights.

This cave is frequently cited as being a supremely active paranormal hotspot. The story goes in the early 1800s, John Bell and his family (especially his youngest daughter Betsy) were tormented by a spirit known as the Bell Witch. The entity was thought to be the result of a curse placed on John Bell by a disgruntled neighbor, Kate Batts. Angered over a land dispute, Batts allegedly warned Bell that she would haunt him and his descendants until the end of time.

A cave near the old Bell farm is thought to be the nexus of the hauntings. People report hearing strange laughter emanating from the cave, along with feeling the warmth of breath on their necks when inside, or seeing strange shadows move on the cave walls. Local custom dictates that visitors never remove anything – not even a pebble – from the cave, lest they take the curse home with them.

The McRaven home was built in 1797, and was originally owned by notorious murderer Andrew Glass. Glass died in the home at the hands of his wife, and his was the first of a long procession of deaths and accidents at the McRaven estate.

In 1984, Leyland French purchased the home, becoming the first to live there in 20 years. He didn’t stay long: French reported being chased through the halls by spirits; being pushed to the floor and required stitches for his injuries; and even having two of his fingers broken by the ghosts. French left the house, never to return. Today, you can tour the estate and try to capture photographs of the dead, like the one above.

At this home in 1912, six members of the Moore family and two house guests were viciously murdered in their sleep by an unknown individual wielding an axe. Investigators found two spent cigarettes in the attic, suggesting that the killer had lain in wait upstairs until the family were in their beds, before descending and creeping from room to room. The spirits of the victims, most of them children, are said to roam the halls of this midwest home. The property is available for overnight “lockdowns” by the brave.

Stories of midnight apparitions and ghostly sightings have abounded at this battlefield since the historic 1876 battle between the United States army and Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors. Over 400 individuals died on the battlefield during combat, and more than 5,000 veterans of later wars are buried at the nearby Custer National Cemetery. The sounds of Native warriors riding and yelling on horseback has been reported to echo across the field at night, and visitors have reported seeing apparitions of Native and U.S. fighters wandering among the grasses.

There is a room in this former Wild West saloon that is kept permanently locked. The supernatural activity that has been experienced in room 18 has been so intense, the current owner does not allow anyone to enter. The hotel was built in 1872 and quickly became a favorite with outlaws and gold seekers. Annie Oakley, Jesse James, Buffalo Bill Cody and Clay Allison were all notable guests. Between bar brawls, murders and duels, the St. James has seen plenty of violence and death. When the hotel was renovated in 1901, more than 20 bullets were found in the ceiling of the first floor – a double layer of hardwood had kept the shots from killing anyone upstairs.


It’s easy to dismiss ghosts and hauntings as products of an overactive imagination, or a scam to drum up business. However, to those who have traveled to these places and experienced something they cannot explain, it’s harder to ignore those bumps in the night. Have you been to any of the spots on the map? Share your story.

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