In the spring of 1692, a dangerous hysteria descended upon the quiet town of Salem, Massachusetts, snaking through the community like an insidious virus. Over the coming months, a group of young girls claiming to be possessed by the devil condemned a score of men and women to the gallows in one of history’s most infamous witch hunts.
One of the hysteria’s most notable victims was 80-year-old farmer Giles Corey, accused of being a warlock after publicly questioning the girls’ motives. In September 1692, after spending months in prison and refusing to stand trial, Corey was stripped naked, a board was placed on his chest, and heavy stones were piled on him as life slowly drained from his body. It’s said that his ghost still roams Salem.
Howard Street Cemetery, where Corey is buried, is one of many sites across the United States believed to host the paranormal. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, their haunting lore is often rooted in very real histories.
The LaLaurie Mansion, New Orleans, Louisiana
Madame Marie Delphine LaLaurie was a Louisiana socialite known for hosting ritzy soirees in her decadent Creole mansion in the French Quarter of New Orleans during the early 19th century. Guests gorged on fine food and champagne, unaware of the grisly scene unfolding two floors above.
When local police responded to a kitchen fire in 1834, they discovered the bodies of several horribly mutilated slaves 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 spilling from the house in the dead of night.
Spooky Fact: In 2014, the infamous murderess was reborn through Kathy Bates in the television series American Horror Story: Coven.
How to Visit: The LaLaurie Mansion is now privately owned and doesn’t offer tours, but several city tour operators, such as Free Tours by Foot and Ghost City Tours, include a stop at the Royal Street mansion on their itineraries.
The Shanghai Tunnels, Portland, Oregon
Portland was one of the most dangerous ports in the United States during the early 19th century and was the epicenter of an illicit maritime practice known as shanghaiing, a form of human trafficking.
According to local lore, swindlers preyed upon unsuspecting men in the local saloons, which were often outfitted with trapdoors that deposited the victims directly into a network of underground tunnels. These men were then supposedly held captive, drugged, and eventually transported to the waterfront, where they were sold to ships as unpaid laborers; some worked for several years before finding their way back home. The tunnels are said to be haunted by the aggrieved spirits of the captives who died in the dark recesses beneath the city.
Spooky Fact: The practice of kidnapping men to work on ships came to be known as shanghaiing because the ships they were sold to were often headed to East Asia.
How to Visit: Portland Walking Tours and the Cascade Geographic Society offer guided tours of the Portland tunnels, where visitors get a sinister history lesson in the dark. Don’t worry: They provide the flashlights.
Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia
This menacing Gothic-style prison opened in Philadelphia in 1829 and became the first in the U.S. to implement solitary confinement, a hotly debated practice. Prisoners languished in gloomy stone cells with virtually no human contact, with hoods placed over their heads anytime they were moved. Proponents of this system believed that solitude would lead to penitence, which would ultimately result in rehabilitation. Critics, on the other hand, believed it incited emotional anguish comparable to physical torture. The so-called “Pennsylvania system” was replicated in several other states and in Europe.
When the prison closed in 1971, it is believed that the ghosts of the inmates took back the prison. Visitors claim to see their apparitions wandering the corridors and hear mischievous whispers in abandoned cell blocks.
Spooky Fact: Each summer the penitentiary hosts an annual Bastille Day celebration to commemorate the French Revolution. Two thousand Tastykakes (a Philadelphia treat) are flung from the prison’s towers while a Marie Antoinette impersonator is dragged to the guillotine.
How to Visit: Eastern State Penitentiary offers daytime tours year-round, as well as special events. If you’re feeling brave, visit during the fall, when the decommissioned prison transforms into Terror Behind the Walls, one of the top haunted houses in the country.
R.M.S. Queen Mary, Long Beach, California
This retired ocean liner sailed the Atlantic Ocean from 1936 to 1967. During her first three years at sea, the Queen Mary carried Hollywood celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn and dignitaries like General Dwight Eisenhower. Her days as a luxury ship were short lived, however, and in 1939 she was stripped of her amenities and began her second life as the "Grey Ghost," a World War II troopship. At the conclusion of the war, she was restored to her former glory and traversed the Atlantic for nearly two more decades.
On Halloween 1967, the Queen Mary departed on her last cruise, eventually docking in Long Beach, California, her final resting place. The ship is reportedly haunted by the spirits of those who died aboard, such as the young sailor who was crushed to death by a door in the engine room, and a crew member who was murdered in cabin B340.
Spooky Fact: Winston Churchill signed the D-Day Declaration aboard the Queen Mary during World War II.
How to Visit: The Queen Mary no longer sails the Atlantic, but she lives on as a floating hotel and restaurant on California’s Pacific coast. Follow in the footsteps of her famous passengers and book a room. Don’t want to share a suite with ghosts? The Queen Mary also offers a variety of tour packages. Visit during Halloween season, and join ghouls, spirits, and the undead aboard the Queen Mary when she transforms into Dark Harbor.
Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast, Fall River, Massachusetts
On August 4, 1892, the bodies of Andrew and Abby Borden were discovered bludgeoned beyond recognition in their home. The prime suspect: their youngest daughter, Lizzie.
The Borden case was one of America's first crimes to unfold under the media spotlight, capturing the attention of the nation. Despite allegations that Lizzie had financial motives for the murder and growing public scrutiny, she was ultimately acquitted due to lack of physical evidence. The Borden home has since been converted into a museum and bed-and-breakfast, where guests can see gruesome photos of the crime scene and sleep in one of its reportedly haunted rooms.
The 19th-century murder made headlines again when it received a Hollywood makeover with Lifetime’s 2014 movie Lizzie Borden Took an Ax, starring Christina Ricci.
Spooky Fact: No one was ever charged for the Borden murders.
How to Visit: Guests can book a room at the Lizzie Borden B&B and sleep in the same rooms where the Bordens took their final breaths. Too scared to stay the night? The museum offers daily hourlong tours and a gift shop that sells spooky souvenirs, like an ax-wielding Lizzie Borden bobblehead doll.
The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado
One night in this hotel nestled in Colorado’s mountain wilderness inspired Stephen King’s best-selling novel turned horror film, The Shining. Massachusetts couple F.O. and Flora Stanley opened the isolated resort in 1909—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 reports of bags being unpacked, lights turning off and on, and echoes of children’s laughter heard in the hallways. Paranormal experts hail the Stanley Hotel as one of the nation’s most active ghost sites in the U.S.
Spooky Fact: Guest bedrooms have a TV channel that plays The Shining on a 24-hour loop.
How to Visit: Book a room at the Stanley and spend a night with the hotel’s permanent guests. You can also purchase a “ghost adventure” package, complete with your very own “REDRUM” mug. Too spooked to spend the night? Book a day tour or brave the nighttime ghost tour. Visit during the Halloween season and enjoy special events like the RedRum Mystery Dinner or the Shining Ball.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, Weston, West Virginia
This foreboding asylum began construction in 1858 and opened to patients in 1864. The massive structure was designed by architect Richard Andrews to maximize sunlight and fresh air—it was believed that the building itself would serve as a healing environment.
By the 1950s, the facility designed for 250 people housed 2,400 patients in crowded conditions, with afflictions ranging from alcoholism to epilepsy. Patients were physically restrained and often given inhumane treatments, such as electroshock therapy and lobotomies. After more than a century in operation, the facility was forced to close in 1994 due to reforms in mental health treatment and the deterioration of the building.
Hundreds of patients died during the asylum’s tenure, and scores of guests and ghost hunters have claimed to see their shadowy figures roaming Trans-Allegheny’s crumbling halls.
Spooky Fact: The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America, and supposedly the second largest in the world after the Kremlin in Moscow.
How to Visit: The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum offers historical day tours Tuesday through Sunday. Visit during October to participate in ghost hunts, paranormal tours, and flashlight tours, or attend the annual Asylum Ball.