5 Haunted Places to Visit on Vacation

Haunted Vacations

Dwindling daylight and cooler temperatures make autumn an intriguing time to set off on a spooky trip. Whether through mysterious folklore or paranormal sightings, these five top haunted places offer alluring histories and a dose of fright for ghost enthusiasts and doubters alike.


Salem, Massachusetts

Salem might just be the most haunted town in the United States. Home to the infamous colony of Puritans that executed 19 people for suspected witchcraft in 1692, Salem remains a portal into the captivating and sordid story of one of our nation’s earliest settlements.

Visit the Joshua Ward House, Salem’s most infamous haunted spot, which sits atop the foundation of witch-hunting Sheriff George Corwin’s house. Much of the era’s most brutal torture took place in Corwin’s basement, where he used unusually cruel methods of interrogation and punishment on the accused. It is said that Corwin’s ghost, along with those of his victims, haunts the halls of the house, causing mischief and fright. Book a Salem ghost tour to many of the town’s spooky locations — including the Joshua Ward House, a haunted cemetery and Old Salem Prison — through the Salem Wax Museum. Tours are held daily in July, August and October and cost $15 per person.

Salem fully embraces its witchy history in October, with live performances at the House of the Seven Gables. Folks dressed as witches fill the town’s streets. Stores sell witch paraphernalia if you want to try your hand at casting a spell. Year-round, travelers can visit the Salem Witch Museum for an in-depth look at the hysteria surrounding the village’s witch trials.

Salem Witch Museum Examine the events that led up to the 1692 Witch Trials during a visit to the Salem Witch Museum, which offers extended hours during the month of October. Photo by Robert Linsdell, Flickr.

For the bravest among us: Book a hotel room in Salem at the Hawthorne Hotel, where guests have reported feeling phantom hands, seeing a spectral lady roaming the halls and hearing a crying baby who cannot be soothed.


Eastern State Penitentiary — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

With its crumbling walls and winding hallways, the Eastern State Penitentiary — which housed notorious criminals like mobster Al Capone and bank robber Willie Sutton — certainly feels haunted. Staff and guests have long corroborated this inkling with reports of shadows, apparitions and a gripping, negative energy in the abandoned cells at this former prison in the heart of Philadelphia.

Eastern State’s 142-year history is grim, to say the least. Opened in 1829 with the intention of rehabilitating wrongdoers before their re-entry into society, Eastern State quickly devolved into a place of corruption and terror. Staff were known to employ harsh punishments for the most minor offenses. Today, tour guides year-round recount the tales of murder, suicide, madness, torture and disease that make it easy to imagine that troubled souls still roam the corridors at this haunted penitentiary.

Eastern State Penitentiary Eastern State is known not only as the first penitentiary of its kind, but also for its grand architecture, which is awe-inspiring despite its crumbling state. In fact, the building had running water and central heat before the White House. Photo by Tom Bernard, courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary.

For the bravest among us: Every fall, Eastern State takes advantage of its spooky reputation and hosts an interactive haunted house called Terror Behind the Walls. This haunted attraction, rated No. 1 by Forbes, includes Hollywood-scale sets, a fright-inducing plotline and characters like a lunatic dentist and a zombie SWAT team member.

 

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum — Weston, West Virginia

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is a seriously creepy historical landmark located an easy day-drive from Pittsburgh. Just the outdated name bears a foreboding reference to its dark past. Throughout its history, patients suffered nightmarish conditions and questionable methods of treatment before the facility was shut down in 1994. Built as a sanctuary for 250 patients afflicted with psychiatric illnesses, the asylum became so crowded that it held 2,600 people at its peak. No one knows all that happened under its roof, but apparitions, unexplained noises and strange shadows suggest that the spirits of those who lived there might have unfinished business in our realm. The attraction offers history- and paranormal-themed tours all year.

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum Even on a sunny day the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum can give visitors goosebumps. If you plan to visit during the winter, make sure to bring a coat as the building can get cold inside. Photo by PatrickRohe, Flickr.

For the bravest among us: If touring the crumbling corridors isn’t creepy enough for you, visitors can book a private ghost hunt, where a guide in nurse’s garb leads a private investigation of the lunatic asylum’s darkest corners.


New Orleans, Louisiana

Of several rumored haunted destinations in New Orleans, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is among the oldest and most notorious. More than 700 crumbling tombs make this eerie space feel like a city of the dead. Buried there is voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, a prominent Creole woman of the early 19th century whose practice of occult magic has earned her a legacy that continues to inspire art and culture. Visitors can take a guided ghost tour of the cemetery for $2. Check the cemetery website for tour times.

St. Louis Cemetery Opened in 1789, Cemetery No. 1 holds the graves of prominent figures including voodoo priestess Marie Laveau as well as chess prodigy Paul Morphy. You may also stumble upon a pyramid tomb, which actor Nicholas Cage built to be his final resting place.

For those seeking an even scarier place to visit, look no further than the Mortuary Haunted House. Each October, New Orleanians and tourists alike flock to this opulent 1872 grand Victorian mansion, which once housed a funeral home, to experience one of the best haunted houses in the country.

For the bravest among us: Jean Lafitte’s Old Absinthe House — where General Andrew Jackson met the outlaw pirate Lafitte to discuss plans for a forthcoming British attack in the War of 1812 — is notorious for ghost sightings, including apparitions of Jackson himself. If you dare, enjoy a drink in this dark, 200-year-old tavern full of history and suspicious shadows.


Rose Hall — Montego Bay, Jamaica

Set atop a bluff with expansive ocean views, Rose Hall mansion in Montego Bay, Jamaica, is noted for the legend of the White Witch of Rose Hall. According to folklore, Annie Palmer, whose husband owned the mansion, murdered him in the night while living there in the 19th century. Mystery, murder and curses followed her throughout her life: Her two subsequent husbands died suddenly, as did her parents. Annie is said to appear as a white witch, roaming the halls of her splendid mansion.

Tours of the Rose Hall great house and its gardens, located an easy drive from many of the resorts on the island’s north coast, provide an excellent afternoon or evening adventure for travelers. And whether fact or fiction, the legend of the White Witch of the Rose Hall mansion offers a fascinating look at what the life of the European bourgeoisie was like hundreds of years ago on this Caribbean island.

Rose Hall Don’t let the lovely exterior of Rose Hall fool you, the legend of the White Witch is said to haunt the halls of this Georgian mansion. Photo by Sarah_Ackerman, Flickr.

For the bravest among us: Rose Hall offers night tours for $18 that focus on the Annie Palmer legend: supposed locations of underground tunnels, bloodstains, hauntings and murders. The property also holds séances to conjure Annie’s spirit.

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About the Author

Allie McCarthy is a writer and editor based in Washington, D.C. Allie enjoys traveling to see stunning nature, bustling cities and quirky small towns in the U.S. and abroad. She is happiest when her morning coffee comes with a side of craggy New England coastline.