Explore the dark local histories of 16 spooky cities!
It’s that time of the year again, folks: leaves are falling, there’s a chill in the air and you’re deciding which “Hocus Pocus” witch to be for Halloween. But it doesn’t have to be fall for you to dig in to all the creepy-ass ghosts tours our fair nation has to offer.
From the wicked scary spirits of New England to the haunted mental hospitals of the Midwest, these United States are home to a wide variety of places that go bump in the night. So in the spirit of the season, we’ve put together a guide for paranormal thrill seekers to get their yayas out— if you can handle it.
Apparitions with hoop skirts and slow southern drawls are the stuff of nightmares. Toss in some voodoo and Civil War gore and you’ve got yourself enough scary stories to keep you up all night (or year).
- New Orleans, LA — If you like your ghost stories to be rooted in historical fact, check out NoLa’s Haunted History Tour, which the Travel Channel called the #1 tour in town.
- Savannah, GA — Many say the undead are quite alive in Savannah, where you can experience the city’s spookiest haunts from the back of a hearse.
- Charleston, SC — Take a lantern-lit stroll under the city’s live oak trees, dripping with Spanish moss and tales of murder and intrigue.
- Key West, FL — Key West is certainly known as a party town, but no visit to the island is complete without a ghost tour. Stories of necrophiliacs, Robert the doll, and the hanging tree will haunt you long after you return home.
From early colonists who died of weird diseases to witches torched by Puritans, the East Coast is home to some OG American ghosts. Take a tour in one of these cities for some hair-raising haunts:
- Salem, MA — Salem is synonymous with spooky. See where the witch hunts happened on one of the city’s killer ghost tours.
- Philadelphia, PA — In the heart of Philly lies Eastern State Penitentiary— one of the most paranormally active prisons in the country. This seriously haunted historical site does not offer guided ghost tours, but brave paranormal investigators can stay overnight…at their own risk.
- Gettysburg, PA — The site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, Gettysburg attracts history buffs and ghost hunters alike. Catch up with a candle-lit walking tour for a hearty mix of the two.
- Williamsburg, VA — Colonial Williamsburg is not just a quaint place for a school field trip. With all that history comes some fearsome legends. Hear them all on the award-winning Colonial Ghosts walking tour.
Eerily empty prisons, abandoned insane asylums…some of the creepiest shit goes down in the middle of nowhere. If you wanna get cozy with some spooks in America’s heartland, here are our picks:
- Mansfield, Ohio — Opened in 1896, the now defunct Ohio State Reformatory held over 154,000 souls, many of whom died from murder and suicide during its 100 years as a prison. Best known as the setting of “The Shawshank Redemption,” the institution is now open to tours for movie lovers and spook seekers alike.
- Estes Park, CO — For fans of “The Shining,” the Stanley Hotel is a must-see. Hear the stories that inspired Stephen King and walk the halls of those terrifying twins on the hotel’s paranormal investigation tour.
- Weston, WV — The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is exactly what you imagine when you think of a haunted, abandoned mental institution. Opened during the Civil War, the asylum was horrendously overcrowded by the 1950s. By 1994 it was forced to close due to poor treatment of patients. Take a late-night tour of the asylum to decide for yourself if the souls of these unhappy “lunatics” are still lingering.
- Chicago, IL — Known for old-school gangsters and the fire of 1871, Chicago surely has tons of ghost stories. But if you’re looking to see the city in a more…novel way, consider the Haunted Segway Tour, where spooky tales are shared as you float down the street (ghostly dress is encouraged).
The best coast may be known for its rocky beaches and mustachioed hipsters, but this creepy coastline is also home to its fair share of blood-curdling haunts.
- Seattle, WA — Seattle’s spooks aren’t just a bunch of dead-eyed zombies who haven’t had their coffee yet. Or maybe they are. Check out America’s most haunted pub among other sites on one of Seattle’s ghost tours.
- Portland, OR — Lurking beneath the artisan-shop-lined streets of Portland is a network of underground passageways called the “Shanghai Tunnels,” which hold the dark past of the city. Tour the seedy underbelly of PDX with Underground Portland or get supernatural with Beyond Bizarre Ghost Tour.
- San Francisco, CA — From infamous murders to California cults, the Haunted Haight walking tour knows the secrets hidden behind every corner of San Fran’s iconic district.
- Catalina Island, CA — Just off the coast of Los Angeles, Catalina Island is mostly known as a sleepy beach town getaway. But for those who know that the village was built on an ancient burial ground, The Original Ghost Tours of Catalina Island is the place to go for local [haunted] history.