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American history has seen a lot of gruesome moments in its time — even though our country has only been around since the 18th century. We've had wars, mass killings, and many other instances where Americans embodied the worst of humanity.
Because of all the horrible things that have happened in this country, many parts of the United States have seen some serious tragedy. If you listen to local legends, there are also some places that carry such bad energy, they may as well be portals to hell.
The funny thing about bad vibes is that they seem to cause ghosts, paranormal activity, and other scary things that go bump in the night. (Or, at least that's what all of the scariest nonfiction ghost stories I've ever read have suggested.)
So, you don't have to take a plane across the pond to raise your chances of seeing a ghost. All you need to do is take a road trip to one of the most haunted places in America to get a chance to see a ghost or just get scared.
Paranormal investigators have rated these venues as the most haunted places in America. Would you spend a night in any of these places?
Waverly Hills Sanatorium — Waverly Hills, KY
Starting this list of the most haunted places in America is Waverly Hills, a place so well known for ghosts and paranormal activity, it regularly ends up on television. For many people, it's considered to be a "no-go" zone due to the possibility of bringing ghosts back home with you after a visit.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium was, at one point, one of the largest TB clinics in the United States. It was known for having some of the most advanced TB treatments of its time — which wasn't saying much 100 years ago.
However, the hospital did get a lot of praise for its regular use of "fresh air therapy" in the middle of winter, hydrotherapy, and for being the birthplace of the tanning bed. (Fun Fact: Tanning beds were used to get corpses to turn tan as a way to avoid shocking family members by the way "White Death" looked.)
Over the years, thousands of people died there. The body count got so high that they actually had to build a tunnel to transport all the bodies outside of the sanatorium. It became known for being a "village in itself," and for having a serious overcrowding problem.
Even staff members, once they started working there, would never leave.
After tuberculosis stopped being a major disease, the hospital was converted to a psychiatric ward. Conditions quickly deteriorated, with many patients receiving abuse. At one point, you may have been sane going in, but not coming back out.
It's not fully known how many people died in this strange macrocosm. However, it was definitely the scene of death for both patients and hospital staffers. At least one nurse was found dead, via a suicide by hanging. It's possible there could have been others.
Many ghosts allegedly reside in this area, including some of the more well-known residents below:
- Shadow People: Almost everyone who goes to Waverly Hills claims to see at least one shadow person while they're there. No one knows who these beings were in life, nor why they decided to stay.
- The Nurse in Room 502: Legend says she killed herself because she became pregnant from an affair with a married doctor. Today, people still hear sobbing in her room, feel a presence of a woman behind them, and sometimes even get to see her walking around.
- Timmy: According to ghost stories, Timmy was a boy who died on the second floor of Waverly Hills — and he stuck around. Rumor has it that Timmy loves to throw balls around, and if given time, he often will toss balls back to you. Multiple paranormal investigators have gotten video of balls that just randomly bounce on their own, so it seems like this ghost really did enjoy playing.
- EVPs: Electronic Voice Phenomena, as well as recognizable disembodied voices, are regularly heard at Waverly. The Death Tunnels, in particular, mark one of the most haunted places in America due to the high number of disembodied voices people hear.
The Shanghai Tunnels — Portland, OR
Portland was, at one point, a hotspot for human trafficking — with sex slavery and forced labor on ships being the two biggest products.
At the turn of the century, men would have drugs slipped in their drinks and would wake up on ships, or in the tunnels where illicit activity was conducted. The only way to get back home was to do labor on a ship.
Women, on the other hand, were often kidnapped and simply dragged into the Shanghai Tunnels. They never were freed, and often were raped to death. Many people died in the trade, and that means that there was ample tragedy — and a perfect backstory for a good ghost story.
Ever since the Shanghai Tunnels were rediscovered, people began talking about the strange vibes, ghost sightings, and overall paranormal occurrences they've seen while uncovering history. As word spread, paranormal investigators realized it may be one of the most haunted places in America.
Unlike others on this list, there's no real knowing who the ghosts were in life. However, there are definitely people who died there, and remained there after death.
Many points in the tunnels have a foreboding vibe to them already. People regularly claim to see shadow people darting around corners, hear sobbing or disembodied voices speaking in Chinese.
It doesn't sound like much on paper, but the truth is that most people experience something here. With the Shanghai Tunnels, the reason that it's one of the most haunted places in America isn't due to specific ghosts; it's due to the fact that there are hundreds of ghosts there.
Eastern State Penitentiary — Philadelphia, PA
Without a doubt, one of the most haunted places in America would have to be Eastern State Penitentiary. Known for being one of America's oldest prisons, Eastern State Penitentiary was home to some of the cruelest punishments in American history.
Around the turn of the 18th century, prisoners were expected to stay in complete silence, without any human interaction. This was meant for rehabilitation, but only caused them to go insane. People would eventually claw at themselves or start hitting themselves just to hear some noise.
When this practice was disbanded, it got replaced with savage beatings, sprays with ice cold water and, of course, police ignoring incidents when inmates would attack each other.
Over the years, many major criminals stayed in Eastern State during the last parts of their lives, including Al Capone in his infamous Cell Block Six. Even Capone lost his mind here — and perhaps, that's why he's one of many ghostly residents that allegedly haunt the Penitentiary.
Some of the more unusual ghostly activities include the following:
- Al Capone's Apparition: Rumor has it that Capone never really left Cell Block Six. People sometimes hear music in his cell, and once in a while, people claim to see a dark shadow float through the block.
- Shadow People: One of the most common ghost types people report are shadow people who appear in the middle of cell block hallways, only to vanish when approached or looked at directly.
- Jimmy: When Al Capone started to succumb to syphilis, he claimed that he'd continue to see a man known only as "Jimmy," who would attack him. He'd beg and plead for people to take Jimmy away — but there was no Jimmy there. Many who have felt being attacked or watched believe it may be Jimmy.
- Disembodied Voices.: Cell Blocks 12, 10, Six, and Four all have been known to attract disembodied voices. Most of the time, the voices they hear involve giggles, crying, and whispering.
Myrtles Plantation — St. Francisville, LA
At first glance, this charming Southern plantation looks like it's just a simple relic from the dark times before the first Civil War. Its sprawling mansion, picturesque paths, and idyllic scenery seems like it is a setting for an old school Victorian romance movie.
However, the truth is that this beautiful plantation is marked by a history of tragedy and the reputation of being one of the most haunted places in America.
Allegedly built atop an ancient Native American burial ground, Myrtles Plantation was the scene of horrific slave abuse, love triangles that ended in death, and a number of deaths throughout the two centuries it's existed.
According to legends, there are at least 12 different ghosts who make their home on the plantation. Some of the ghostly residents and paranormal activity reported include:
Sightings of Chloe. A lot of people have claimed to see an African American woman wearing period clothing and a turban wandering around the plantation. Legend has it that she was a slave who had her ear cut off as punishment for eavesdropping on her masters. She enacted revenge by poisoning her owner's birthday cake. Unfortunately, the owners got the last revenge; her fellow slaves punished her by hanging and she now wanders the grounds wearing a turban to hide her (lack of) an ear. Few famous ghosts with horrific origins are as well-known as Chloe, so she's definitely a legend in her own right.
- Sightings of the Ghost Girl: Many people have also claimed that they've seen a young girl walking around with antebellum-period clothing on the plantation. No one knows who she is, but she's been caught in photos before — and it seems like others regularly feel her presence around here.
- The Haunted Mirror: One of the mirrors on the plantation is said to really be unusual. It allegedly contains the spirits of Sarah Woodruff and her two daughters inside of it. People often take photos of it, only to see faces or other objects that didn't exist looking back at them after the photos were developed.
- The Disembodied Children's Voices: Visitors also have been known to hear the sounds of kids playing in the hallways, only to find out no children are nearby.
- The Wandering Indian: The ghost of a Native American is regularly spotted in the plantation. No one knows who he was, or why he haunts the plantation.
- The Last Steps of William Drew Winter: To this date, William Drew Winter is the only murder victim confirmed in the plantation's history. Legend has it that visitors often hear him staggering up the steps, then collapsing — exactly the way he died.
Even if Myrtles Plantation isn't one of the most haunted places in America, the stories alone are worth talking about over a campfire.
RMS Queen Mary — Long Beach, CA
The RMS Queen Mary was one of the most well-known ships in America's fleet until it retired to its Long Beach home where it became a hotel. The transatlantic oceanliner has seen its fair share of action during WWII — and apparently, that may be why it's one of the most haunted places in America.
Though much of the Queen Mary's history is peaceful, those war years took a number on the overall energy of the ship. As a result, many ghosts have been said to continue service aboard the ship in its afterlife.
During its time as a ship, it's been the site of one confirmed murder, the drowning of a child, and several accidental deaths. Many believe the ship's engine room to be the biggest hotspot for activity, with people reporting chills, foreboding vibes, and shadow people around every corner.
Gettysburg Battlefield — Gettysburg, PA
History buffs can tell you that Gettysburg was the site of the bloodiest battle ever recorded on American soil. This Civil War battlefield was the place of death for thousands of people, and apparently, the war never ended for some of those soldiers.
Considering how many soldiers were killed on this landmark, it's not surprising that it tops so many lists of the most haunted places in America. No one even knows who all of these soldiers haunting this place really are, or if they're looking for help.
Some of the more unusual ghostly residents that paranormal investigators claim still roam the area include:
- Ghost Troops: People have regularly spotted shadows or full apparitions of soldiers from both sides of the Civil War marching near the woods.
- Lone Civil War Soldiers: Many photographs have been taken of ghostly soldiers still waiting at their posts. In many cases, they are alone, wearing the uniform they died in.
- Rosa's Haunting of the National Soldier's Orphan Homestead: Right on the outskirts of Gettysburg's battlefield was a homestead that was used to house soldiers during the Civil War. At the end of the war, it was converted to an orphanage run by a lady known as Rosa Carmichael. Rosa was notoriously cruel to the orphans, and allegedly may have even killed some of them. Rumor has it her dark shadow still can be seen flitting from room to room in the homestead.
- Disembodied Voices: Some visitors who have spent time overnight claim to hear occasional sounds of gunfire, shouts, and commands.
War is hell, and if these legends are true, it seems like Gettysburg may be what hell looks like for the soldiers who can never leave the battlefield. If any of the most haunted places in America would be likely to have ghosts, we're willing to bet that Gettysburg would be it.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum — Weston, WV
It seems like psychiatric wards naturally attract bad energy, and to a point, it makes sense. The tortured souls who live in these places have serious problems in life, and often were treated very poorly. In death, they may feel stuck.
With the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, what allegedly makes it one of the most haunted places in America is the sheer bad energy that's trapped there.
Originally established in 1864, the asylum became synonymous with overcrowding by the turn of the century. By the 1950s, the venue built to house 250 people turned to a venue housing over 2,400.
The patients began to get increasingly violent and suicidal. This caused staff to react violently, turning the asylum into a den of horrific abuse. By 1994, humanitarian standards forced the asylum to close, with surviving tenants rehomed.
Those that didn't survive? Well, they still allegedly live there. Paranormal investigators regularly visit, and regularly cite strange activity going on throughout the area. Some of the more common hauntings include:
- Unexplained Voices and Disembodied Noise: Ghost Hunters filmed an episode here, and found lots of disembodied voices and unexplained movement throughout the area. Voices included a woman talking and children laughing.
- Shadow People: Many people report seeing shadow people poking out from hallway corners, or see shapeless black masses moving right in front of them.
- Apparitions of Patients: Ghost Hunters and other visitors have claimed to see people dressed in white smocks walking through the area, only to disappear.
Dock Street Theatre — Charleston, SC
The Dock Street Theatre is the most haunted places in America's theater landscape. Over the course of centuries, the Dock Street Theatre has been the place of a lot of rumors — as well as some confirmed ties to mayhem.
Actors and actresses can tell you that this theatre has a strange ambiance to it. Those who work late night often quit within a matter of days, due to the sheer number of strange occurrences they've experienced over their tenure.
Unlike other locations on this list, the Dock Street Theatre's ghosts seem to be relatively easily identifiable.
The most well-known resident apparition is the ghost of Nettie Dickerson, an alleged prostitute who died when she was struck by lightning on the balcony outside. Nettie is described as a woman in a red dress with a crazed stare who glides in the hallway of the 2nd floor.
The other ghost has some serious historical ties. According to legend, former actor Junius Brutus Booth also haunts the venue that he so regularly used to frequent in life. The significance of this? He was the father of John Wilkes Booth — Abraham Lincoln's assassin.
Winchester Mystery House — San Jose, CA
If you ask most paranormal investigators, it's hard to do an article on the most haunted places in America without talking about the Winchester Mystery House. This house, unlike any of the others on this list, was literally built to be haunted.
Sarah Winchester, the wife of the rifle-making mogul, started to build a house after the deaths of her husband and child. Would you believe her to have a normal reason to build a house? Nope, not for this house.
She claimed that ghosts were angry with the Winchester family for making weapons that killed them. To keep the dead from killing her, Sarah felt she had to build a house specifically for them.
The final product was the Winchester Mystery House, a bizarrely built mansion filled with dead ends, stairs to nowhere, false entrances, and totally bizarre rooms. It's a work of a grieving widow's insanity, and apparently, ghosts did decide to take up residence there.
No one really knows who the ghostly residents are in this strange home. However, over the years, there have been many photographs involving apparitions, masses of ectoplasm, and stray orbs wandering through the halls of the Winchester home.
Could it be that Sarah Winchester was right all along? Could the dead killed by her husband's guns be in need of a home?
Captain Tony's Saloon — Key West, FL
Most literature fans would tell you that Captain Tony's is a famous haunt for writers. In the course of its existence, it's been a hangout spot for names like Ernest Hemingway, Shel Silverstein, and Tennessee Williams. However, there's more to this place's reputation than a writer's haunt — it's also heavily haunted by ghosts, too.
Captain Tony's Saloon has a tree on its property that was used to hang people in the early 19th century. The venue also was originally used as an ice house and a morgue. Over the years, at least 17 people were killed and countless bodies were embalmed there.
Only one of the victims is regularly identified, and that would be a "lady in blue" who allegedly was condemned to death at the turn of the century. Visitors regularly claim feeling hands touch them, chills, and occasionally hear disembodied voices.
People who have to clean up and close the venue often mention seeing shadows and even being pushed by unseen forces. If you listen to what former workers have to say, this may be one of the most haunted places in America.
Bachelors Grove — Chicago, IL
Haunted cemeteries are a major trope that have been involved in classic zombie movies as well as some of the best horror movies ever made. Scarily enough, few Hollywood cemeteries might be as terrifying as the real-life haunted cemetery known as Bachelors Grove.
Paranormal investigators and historians all agree that this is probably one of the most haunted places in America — and quite possibly one of the most haunted cemeteries in the world.
Once the site of a small farming community, Bachelors Grove's became known as a cemetery by the 1830s. Only around 70 people were buried here officially, but the venue's lake also became known as a body dump for Chicago mafiosos back in the 1920s.
For years, this site was abandoned and forgotten. Things began to decay, and somehow, something just seemed to become sinister about it. Rumors of Satanic rituals being performed on site spread. By the 1980s, police had been called to the cemetery and confirmed bones and ritual items being found there.
Whatever the reason may be, it seems like many of the area's denizens aren't getting the rest they want. Many strange ghosts have been spotted here, including:
- The Ghostly Man and Horse: Many people see a ghostly farmer and his horse plowing the area near Bachelors Grove's lake. They often appear wet, or even are seen coming out of the lake. Both the man and his horse disappear the moment you call out to them.
- The Madonna of Bachelors Grove: A ghostly woman sitting on a bench crying has regularly been reported and photographed. Sometimes, people see her walking through the cemetery holding a baby on moonlit nights.
- A Two-Headed Ghost: No one knows why this ghost has two heads. No one knows if this apparition was ever even human. Could this have been what the Satanists were summoning?
- Black Clad Monks: Since the 80s, people have reported seeing monks wearing dark robes walking through the cemetery at night. These might not be ghosts, though.
- A Black Dog: This spectral puppy has been regularly spotted outside the gates of the cemetery. You might not want to pet him, though. According to legends, ghostly dogs that appear at cemeteries are hell hounds — and can be omens of death!
- The Ghost Children: Some also have claimed to see children apparently playing "hide and seek" in between tombstones, only to vanish into thin air.
- The Ghost House: You might have been expecting ghost women and farmers, but a ghost house? Yeah, it's true. Since the 50s, many people who go to Bachelors Grove see a beautiful, shimmering two-story farmhouse through the trees, complete with inviting lamps and a porch. However, the house isn't there. It shrinks the closer you get to it, then it disappears. It hasn't been there for over 100 years.
- The Blue Lights: Many people who wander off the main path at night find themselves guided by lights that lead them even more deeply lost in the cemetery.
- The Groundskeeper: If you meet a man in his 70s with a shotgun telling you to leave, you've just met the Groundskeeper. He may chase you out, or he may just yell at you. Sometimes, he has a Doberman with him. The only problem? He's not alive, and when you turn to leave, he and his dog vanish.
The Congress Plaza Hotel — Chicago, IL
It's not just Bachelors Grove that marks Chicago as one of the most haunted places in America. Chicago's Congress Plaza Hotel is also extremely haunted, with many regular occurrences involving the paranormal.
This decadent hotel was known for having problem after problem arise with its building — including a worker who accidentally got buried alive between the walls. To make matters worse, it also was a favorite venue for a number of extremely unsavory characters, including serial killer H.H. Holmes and mafia boss, Al Capone.
What's interesting is that both the Congress Plaza Hotel and Eastern State Penitentiary are allegedly haunted by Capone. However, not much evidence has been involved in Capone's spirit activity at the Plaza. That doesn't mean other ghosts haven't made this their unearthly home, though.
According to paranormal investigators, the following spooks help make this one of the most haunted places in America:
- The Boy on the 6th Floor: In the 1930s, a Polish mother and her two sons went to the hotel to wait for the father to come. He never came, and wrote her a "Dear Jane" letter saying so. Anguished, the mother threw both her sons out the sixth story window, then killed herself. Legend has it that one of the boys still haunts the venue, playing pranks on guests.
- Peg Leg Johnny: Peg Leg Johnny was a hobo who met his death on the hotel grounds. Much like the young boy, he's known for pranking guests and making the lights flicker.
- The Hand of Mystery: Remember when we talked about the worker who got buried alive? If you spend the night in the Gold Room, you might see a ghostly hand appear through the wall and reach into the closet. Rumors say it's the worker trying to reach for help.
- The Florentine Lady: In the Florentine room, you often can hear a woman whispering in your ear. However, no one can make out what she's trying to say — and no one has ever seen her.
- The Ghost of Room 441: This is the most heavily haunted room in the hotel, and few actually are willing to sleep here as a result. The room is haunted by a female ghost who appears as a black shadow at the foot of the bed, then kicks you awake.
Dudleytown — Cornwall, CT
Dudleytown was once a booming little settlement in Connecticut during the early 1800s. However, as with many things dealing with negative energy, tragedy after tragedy started to unfurl.
People began to mysteriously disappear, adults and children both began to die without cause, and diseases regularly spread like wildfire. Those who could, moved. Those who couldn't, died.
Dudleytown was completely abandoned by the 1950s — at least, by the living. Dudleytown is now limited access, and only those with a permit (or the chutzpah to trespass) can go there.
The high population of dead people that seemingly remain is what makes it one of the most haunted places in America, despite not much being left from past settlements. Paranormal investigators who ventured to Dudleytown have reported the following:
- Unidentified Lights and Orbs: Many photos of lights and orbs have been caught on camera throughout Dudleytown's area. Investigators also claim to have seen disembodied lights in the area, too.
- Violent Ghosts: People who have walked around on the property also have claimed to be hit, pushed, or scratched by unseen forces. Others have gotten very sick after being in the area, seemingly without explanation.
- Ghosts That Travel Home With You: A lot of rumors suggest that the bad energy of Dudleytown wants to escape. Some have claimed to have spikes in paranormal activity after visiting the area, or even dealing with a period of ghostly appearances once they got home!
- PANic in the Woods: Many people experience a phenomenon known as PANic in the Woods — a phenomenon which starts with a sudden stillness in the woods, followed by deep anxiety, followed by a feeling of abject terror.
The Red Onion Saloon — Skagway, AK
When the Alaskan Gold Rush ended, a lot of families wanted to head back to the mainland US — but couldn't, due to a lack of supplies. Many women found themselves widowed after their husbands succumbed to the harsh conditions boasted by Alaska's wilderness. With no way to get back home and no jobs to be found, these women turned to prostitution.
Many brothels popped up, but The Red Onion Saloon was one of the most well-known. It seems like the ladies never left, and neither did some of their gentlemen callers.
According to legend, Madam Diamond Lil keeps an eye on women who enter and makes a point to ensure men act respectfully. She's also known for caressing men and whispering in their ears. Perhaps she might know who the unnamed woman, who's seen occasionally walking by in a red dress, really is?
A more malevolent spirit, a man, is said to bully people from beyond the grave. This spirit is known for pushing people, scaring them, and at times, breaking glasses in the saloon.
If you listen to Alaskan legends, this is one of the most haunted places in America.
Clinton Road — West Milford, NJ
Locals in New Jersey can tell you that Clinton Road might just be one of the most haunted places in America. This road has allegedly seen a huge amount of mayhem in its time, including car accidents, KKK killings, mafia body dumps, and possibly even Satanic rituals. It's also fairly foreboding, which probably doesn't do much for its reputation.
The rumors surrounding this strange road have spiraled out of control, so it's never fully certain what ghosts haunt this place. You never really know what will happen until you're already on the road seeing it.
Many have claimed to see a ghostly truck that chases them until they leave the road. Others have claimed to see strange lights, while more have had their cars stall on the road for no reason. More claimed to have seen ghosts of KKK members, feel sudden dread, or feel something take control of the wheel.
At night is when the scariest stuff happens, so you might want to go then.
The Sallie House — Atchison, KS
The Sallie House has quickly gained a reputation as one of the most haunted places in America — at least, when it comes to violent hauntings. This is shocking, considering the hauntings only came to light in the 90s, thanks to Debra and Tony Pickman.
The first ghost they noticed was one of a little girl named Sallie, who quickly became their kid's "imaginary friend." Later on, the Pickmans found out that the "imaginary friend" matched the exact description of the late daughter of the former residents. Sallie, it appeared, was a ghost.
Sallie is described as a little girl who is occasionally seen peeking out from the hallways, or just standing in bedrooms. She also occasionally can be seen in visitors' dreams from time to time.
Over the years, the hauntings seemed to multiply. Paranormal investigators and the Pickmans both have noted the following things happening throughout the house:
- Ghostly Apparitions: Sallie aside, people who have spent time in the Sallie House claimed to have seen full-bodied apparitions of an older woman with a stern look on her face.
- Mysterious Scratches and Burns: Both the Pickman family and paranormal investigators have claimed to be attacked by unseen forces. Most often, it's claw marks down the back, or burn marks on one's arms. The majority of the attacks are towards adult men.
- Phantom Furniture: Can furniture appear and disappear? Not usually, but that's why the Sallie House is one of the most haunted places in America. Phantom furniture is a common occurrence — as are items that mysteriously appear and disappear.
- Demonic Noises: Many paranormal investigators and ghost hunters believe that the Sallie House is haunted due to the strange growls people hear. EVP's were also caught during a taping of Sightings done at the Sallie House.
- Mysterious Fires: Things have been known to spontaneously burst into flames in the Sallie House, as well.
The Sultan's Palace — New Orleans, LA
This beautiful building was once home to a very wealthy Turkish man, his personal harem, and his male friends. For a couple of brief months in 19th century, it was a home known for decadent partying, wild sex scandals, and plenty of visits from the upper crust of society.
However, it all ground to a halt due to a murder mystery that was never solved. All of the harem was found hacked to death, and the unnamed wealthy Turk was buried alive in the backyard. No one knows who killed them all — but it seems like at least the former owner never left.
Many women claim to feel groped by unseen hands, and men often feel like they're being watched. A ghostly figure of a shadow woman is spotted in one bedroom, often standing at the foot of the bed. Strangely enough, a Confederate soldier has been spotted on the premises as well.
The strange thing is that the tale of the Sultan and his parties might not actually be true — even though this still remains one of the most haunted places in America by reputation alone.
Even if it's not haunted by a sultan and his courtesans, it's still a very nice building to discover. At the very least, this could be one of the coolest haunted locations to visit on vacation.