What makes a city haunted? Is it the city’s mere existence over centuries? Is it the worn and aged buildings and places—or the things that happened in those places? Residents in most cities can point to a location or two known for supernatural activity, but some cities just seem to be generally haunted, with ghastly stories—and sightings—around every corner.
For ghost hunters or those who want the thrill of a brush with the other world, the following cities are your best bet:
According to some who have visited, the Civil War is still taking place in Gettysburg. Men still walk the battlefields, others lay dead. Take a candlelight tour to Sachs Covered Bridge where many soldiers have been seen, and ghostly apparitions have been photographed. Devil’s Den is where heavy fighting took place during the Battle of Gettysburg. People report hearing gunshots, drums, and some have even reported that they’ve seen soldiers. In Gettysburg National Military Park, there have been reports of people hearing voices and capturing unexplainable things on camera.
New Orleans, Louisiana
In the French Quarter at 1140 Royal House sits a house with secrets so dark they could never be hidden. It was the home of socialite Delphine LaLaurie. Despite attending lavish parties there, no one knew what went on in the basement and behind closed doors. When a fire broke out one day, rescuers discovered slaves chained to walls, beaten and dead, or nearly dead. Visitors to the house these days report seeing slaves around the grounds, and hearing screams and the sound of whips. For other scary haunts while in New Orleans visit the LaPrete House, otherwise known as the Sultan’s Palace, the scene of what had once been a lavish pleasure palace turned site of a brutal massacre. Or get a spooky introduction to voodoo. Voodoo queen Marie Laveau’s tomb rests in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, but visitors say Laveau doesn’t do too much resting. Many have seen her apparition at the cemetery, and some say she returns each year to lead faithful voodoo followers in worship on St. John’s Eve.
How do you amp up the scare factor of a ghost tour? Hold it at night and just add alcohol. Many Savannah companies offer haunted pub crawl tours. Visit several of Savannah’s most haunted pubs like Moon River Brewing Company where guests and workers have experienced the antics of some not-so friendly ghosts.
The pubs aren’t the only haunted buildings. Savannah was even named the most haunted city in the country in 2003 by the American Institute of Paranormal Psychology. Find out why by visiting places like the Marshall House Hotel, one of the oldest buildings in Savannah, and also one of the most haunted. The hotel was once a hospital that served the sick and wounded during the Civil War, and during an outbreak of yellow fever. Many deaths occurred there, and some of those spirits have remained. People have reported seeing objects move on their own, lights turn on and off, and the voices and laughter of children playing. Hampton-Lillibridge House is another such haunted house having played host to several tragic events. Neighbors and locals report seeing apparitions and hearing screaming in the house. An exorcism held there in the 1960s did nothing to stop the paranormal activity.
As the political capital and power seat of the country, it’s no surprise that Washington D.C., through its long history, has also been the site of assassinations and other untimely deaths.
One of the most haunted buildings is the Octagon House. The house is rumored to have hosted a slave market in the backyard. Many people died there when it was still in use as a home, and their spirits are often seen or felt. In nearby Georgetown, Halcyon House is alleged to have served as part of the Underground Railroad. People claim they still see the spirits and hear the cries and moans of runaway slaves who died there on their way to freedom. And you may not experience it on a tour, but many White House staffers have reported seeing the ghosts of former presidents Thomas Jefferson, John Tyler and Abraham Lincoln. Many first ladies have also been seen in the White House as has Lincoln’s 11-year-old son, Willie, who died of typhoid while his dad was president.
The Chicago River is the site of the 1915 Eastland river disaster, which resulted in the deaths of 835 people when the S.S. Eastland rolled over, trapping its passengers. People report hearing screams and seeing victims wandering around the area of the disaster. The bodies were taken to various areas in the city that acted as makeshift morgues. In some of these buildings, like the one that now houses Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios, and the former Chicago Historical Society/Excalibur Nightclub building, have reported sightings of people in period clothing.
If you dare, you can take a walk through Death Alley. The alley is located behind the Oriental Theater and is the site of the Iroquois Theater Fire that killed 600 people during a vaudeville show. The building was razed and rebuilt as the Oriental Theater, but the alleyway is said to be the site of many a haunting.