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Restless spirits and haunted stories: Here are 13 of the most haunted places in America

  • October 16, 2021

Ghosts. They seem to be everywhere. The lurk around battlefields, graveyards, in cave structures, old homes and sometimes refuse to check out of hotels. 

Reported sightings have stirred the imaginations of some of America’s greatest storytellers and feed the curiosities of ghost hunters and paranormal enthusiasts.

Do ghosts exist? Or are they figments of urban legends and overactive psyches? For some, finding out is part of the fun.

Do you live near a site visited by restless spirits? Want to know the best places for a good ghost sighting? Here are the 13 of the most haunted places in the country:

Bacon’s Castle — Surry County, Virginia

A historic 17th century home located in rural Virginia might be one of the most haunted places in the country.

Built in 1665, Bacon’s Castle is the oldest brick dwelling in North America. The home is so named because several supporters of Virginia plantation owner and rebel Nathaniel Bacon occupied it during the Virginia Rebellion of 1676. Up to 300 slaves also lived on the property under inhumane conditions.

Paranormal researchers have visited the site over the years, drawn by reports of spectral fireballs, disembodied voices and floating heads around the grounds. Furniture moves on its own, reports say, and footsteps and gunfire can be heard throughout the house. 

These phenomena were allegedly confirmed by photographs, flashlight communicators and sounds caught on recordings. Brad Bradley, research coordinator for The Center for Paranormal Research and Investigation, said in 2014, “We have yet to find a location that has more activity than Bacon’s Castle, and we do research all over the state.”

Mountain Meadows Massacre Site — Mountain Meadows, Utah

On September 11, 1857, 50 to 60 Latter-Day Saint militiamen aided by Native American allies killed 120 in an emigrant wagon train headed to California.

The “Mountain Meadows Massacre” was the tragic outcome of territorial conflicts between the U.S. government and Church of Latter-Day Saint settlers who feared emigrants and the Army would drive them out.

The dead were never properly buried, and passersby report hearing children crying, the screams of men and women and the feeling of being watched. The ghost of John D. Lee, the only man tried and executed for his involvement in the massacre, is also said to haunt the site.

Providence Biltmore — Providence, Rhode Island

The swanky Rhode Island destination may have been the inspiration for two of the most terrifying fictional locations in literature — the Bates Motel and The Overlook Hotel.   

Completed in 1922, The Providence Biltmore Hotel — now the Graduate Providence — operated a basement speakeasy during the Prohibition era. It became the scene of many an alcohol-induced murder

But the hotel has even darker origins. The construction was funded by a Satanist who conducted rituals on the property. Over the years, visitors have reported hearing laughter from unknown sources, seeing locks that turn by themselves and ghostly apparitions. 

Shoshone Ice Caves — Shonshone, Idaho

The Shoshone Ice Caves is the largest such cave structure in the state of Idaho. In the 1800s, the caves were a source of ice for the town of Shoshone, named after an area Native American society.

According to legend, a Shoshone princess called Edahow was buried in the caves centuries ago. In recent years, staff and visitors have reported hearing strange voices and footsteps throughout the tunnels. 

Villisca Axe Murder House — Villisca, Iowa

The name of this infamous house in Iowa is apt — on June 10, 1912, an intruder used an axe to kill homeowner Josiah Moore and seven others while they slept.

It is suspected that an intruder waited in the home until its occupants — Moore, his wife and six children including two unrelated children— went to bed. The murderer then bludgeoned each person in cold blood, leaving the bodies for Moore’s brother to discover the next day.

A visitor who dared to spend a night in the home in 2014 vowed to never enter it again after witnessing weird stuff that “spooked” him. More than 100 years after the gruesome killings, the case has never been solved.

St. Louis Cemetery #1 — New Orleans, Lousiana

The city of New Orleans is no stranger to ghost stories. Unsurprisingly, it is home to one of the most haunted cemeteries in the country.

St. LouisCemetery #1 is the city’s oldest extant gravesite. Established in 1789, it is the resting place of over 100,000 bodies in more than 700 tombs — and counting.

Ghostly encounters have been reported for over 200 years. Novelist Mark Twain even nicknamed the cemetery “the Cities of the Dead.”

If you visit, keep an eye out for famed 19th century Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, who is buried in St. Louis Cemetery #1 but rumored to haunt the French Quarter.

Old Burying Point/Charter Street Cemetery — Salem, Massachusetts

The Charter Street Cemetery, or Old Burying Point, is the oldest in historic Salem, Massachusetts and among the oldest in the country.

Dating back to the 17th century, the cemetery is the final resting place of Judges John Hathorne and Bartholomew Gedney, principal magistrates in the Salem Witch Trials. More than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft between 1692 and 1693. Twenty of the accused were executed.

Many of the executed were also dumped around Old Burying Point, and visitors have reported strange anomalies, voices, orbs of light and sudden temperature drops. Hathorne’s ghost is also said to haunt the grounds.   

The Queen Mary — Long Beach, California

Once a luxury ocean liner, the Queen Mary is now a permanently docked hotel in a Long Beach, California port. Guests and staff say spirits still wander the lofty hull of this ’30s-era ship, earning it the moniker of one of the most haunted hotels in America.

Nearly 50 deaths were recorded during over 1,000 transatlantic crossings. Perhaps their souls are among the 100 others who call the ship home.

Ghosts reportedly love to pull blankets off of sleeping guests and sneak up on staff members. The specter of an old woman in a wedding gown haunts the abandoned pool and an engineer crushed to death in the ’60s is still a familiar sight near a hatch door.

Windsor Ruins — Bruinsburg, Mississippi

Windsor Ruins — so-called because of the more than 20 gigantic columns left behind after the mansion was engulfed in flames — is one of Mississippi’s most recognizable sites. Spirits from the mansion’s storied past are said to haunt the landmark.  

The home’s owner Smith Coffee Daniell II died weeks after construction was completed in 1861. He appears at the ruins from time to time, reports say, accompanied by sounds of a party.

Visitors also report seeing the ghost of a Union soldier killed in the mansion’s doorway during the Civil War.

The macabre ruins have been featured in the 1957 film “Raintree County,” starring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift, and in the 1996 film “Ghosts of Mississippi,” starring Alec Baldwin and Whoopi Goldberg.

Little Bighorn Battlefield — Montana

In 1876, the U.S. Army’s 7th Calvary under the command of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer fought thousands of Lakota and Cheyenne warriors along Montana’s Little Bighorn River. Casualties of the battle numbered in the hundreds.

The site was designated a national monument in 1946. Park staff and visitors have reported seeing ghostly riders on horseback and soldiers in uniform. Battle cries, bugle-blows and rifle shots are said to still ring out across the park.

Isles of Shoals — New Hampshire

New Hampshire’s Isles of Shoals is primarily known for its ties to pirate lore. Famed pirate Blackbeard allegedly abandoned one his many wives there in the 18th century, and her ghost still haunts the area. Another legend says a fisherman became wealthy after discovering a horde of silver left by the pirate.

One of the islands — Smuttynose — was the scene of a notorious murder in the 1870s. Two women were killed during a botched robbery and another barely escaped.

The spirits of the women are said to roam the island’s rocky shores to this day. Their screams reportedly echo across the waters.

Morris-Jumel Mansion — Manhattan, New York

The oldest mansion in Manhattan dates back to the 18th century. Stephen Jumel, a former owner, died under suspicious circumstances in the 1800s. His widow Eliza later married former vice presidential candidate Aaron Burr, who famously killed former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in a duel.

A group of schoolchildren visiting the mansion in the 1960s reportedly saw the ghost of Eliza Jumel who told them to “quiet down.” Stephen Jumel apparently haunts the mansion, as well.

Male apparitions in soldiers’ uniforms party in the dining room. A voice is said to emanate from an old grandfather clock in the home, and the spirit of a Hessian soldier emerges from a painting hung on a wall.

The Stanley Hotel — Estes Park, Colorado

No most-haunted list is complete without the eerie property that inspired author Stephen King’s “The Shining.”

Entrepreneur and co-founder of the Stanley Motor Carriage Co. F.O. Stanley fell in love with scenic Estes Park while on physician-advised retreat to improve symptoms of consumption. He commissioned the construction of the Stanley Hotel, which was completed in 1909.

Mr. Stanley is one of many ghosts said to haunt the hotel’s halls. Guests have also reported flickering lights, objects that move on their own, creepy laughter and shadowy figures in every room.

The hotel is a popular attraction for paranormal investigators and staff host ghost tours. A Houston man said he saw an apparition on the staircase in a 2016 photo he took with his phone’s camera. And in 2017, two guests allegedly captured the specters of two girls on camera while on a tour.

Reach out to Chelsey Cox on Twitter at @therealco.

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