There's something about human nature that makes us attracted to the macabre, the unexplained, and the tragic. Perhaps it's because so many of us try to find answers to things we can't explain, or perhaps it's because potentially seeing a haunting gives us a bone-chilling scare that makes us feel glad to be alive.
No matter what the reason, people around the world make trips to places that are purportedly paranormal in nature every year. Most of these places are on private property, which often means that would-be UrbEx travelers often end up getting led out in cuffs.
If you want to play it safe while dipping your toes in the paranormal, we suggest you check out paranormal hotspots you can legally visit. After all, the following terrifying stories about legally explorable venues definitely do prove that legal entry doesn't mean boring or fake by any means of the word.
The Angeles National Forest - Los Angeles, CA
If you've ever read books like Missing 411, then you already know that there are many people out there who believe something evil and undiscovered lurks in the heart of the untamed wilderness. Throughout the United States, many people who visit national parks never actually make it home alive — and they often seem like they vanish without a trace.
The Angeles National Forest has become rather notorious among paranormal circles because of its unsettlingly high rate of child disappearances. In fact, among paranormal researchers, they call a portion of this national park "The Forest of Vanished Children."
For the past 50 years, police and forest rangers have witnessed the same story unfurl over and over again. Almost every decade has had at least one child who visited the park vanish into thin air. In most cases, the bodies of the children were never found; it was as if they simply ceased to exist.
Some of the children who disappeared were linked to a serial killer by the name of Mack Ray Edwards. However, not all of them could have been done by him alone. Is there a serial killer on the loose, or is there something more paranormal afoot?
Strange as it is, The Angeles National Forest is actually one of the few paranormal hotspots you can legally visit...and camp out at. Most visitors who go there don't realize the ominous and foreboding history involving child disappearances — which makes it all the spookier if you really think about it.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium - Louisville, KY
Few paranormal hotspots you can legally visit have as morbid and terrifying a history as Waverly Hills.
Once upon a time, Waverly Hills was considered to be one of the finest, most advanced tuberculosis wards in the United States. Designed with large, accommodating hallways and plenty of windows for fresh air, the Waverly Hills Sanatorium was built to help fight the 'white death" using new theories in medicine.
Unfortunately, the tiny hospital quickly got overwhelmed with the sheer number of TB patients. This caused the hospital to become victim to crowding, which in turn made the disease spread. Doctors and nurses began to get stressed and low on resources, which made the death rate skyrocket.
More ominously, Waverly Hills was a self-contained community. It was its own city, with its own farms, its own dormitories, post office, and morgue. Once you went there, you never really had a chance at coming back out — unless you died first.
It continued to be a TB clinic until 1961 when cures for tuberculosis were found. Waverly Hills seemed sure to close...until the government decided to convert it into a psychiatric hospital.
As bad as the tuberculosis hospital was in terms of death rates, the sanatorium took on a brand new level of horror. It quickly became overcrowded. Doctors, nurses, and orderlies often would use physical force, abuse, and downright horrifying experimental treatments on patients.
Patients in the hospital rarely knew what they would be subjected to, and never consented to the torture they received. Every patient was left in their own squalor and was never really given the safety they needed to avoid sexual abuse from other patients — or even staff members.
Much of the forms of treatment were experimental in name, but torture in reality. Patients would be sprayed with ice water then left outside "to calm down." Others were lobotomized, and even more were put into electroshock therapy. In many cases, the treatment would become fatal.
By the 1970s, news groups began to document the abuse the mentally ill suffered at the hands of Waverly Hills employees. By the 1980s, Waverly Hills was shut down and called a prime example of what patient abuse could cause.
All the remaining patients were sent to other facilities, but the ones that died there seem to remain. Shadow people regularly walk the interior and exterior of the grounds. Objects left inside the second story are said to move by themselves, especially if they are toys. Disembodied voices are heard by groundskeepers and visitors alike on a fairly regular basis. The ghost of a nurse who hung herself in her dormitory can be seen on moonlit nights.
Most amazingly, this is one of the most haunted paranormal hotspots you can legally visit in the United States. If you book ahead of time, you can even spend the night there — if you're brave enough to do so.
Bobby Mackey's Music World - Wilder, KY
Some places just seem to be vortexes of evil and suffering, and that's why they end up being reportedly haunted places. Such was the case with the land at Bobby Mackey's Music World, one of the most terrifying paranormal hotspots you can legally visit in America.
Bobby Mackey's was built on top of a slaughterhouse where pigs saw the end of their days. The slaughterhouse was prolific and actually had to build a well to keep all the blood, guts, and drippings from the animals that were slaughtered there.
All the pain those animals suffered allegedly left a dark mark on the area — one which was only made worse by rumors of cult activity going on near the well. This bad energy quickly led to a number of murders, including the decapitation of a young woman by the name of Pearl Bryan, a number of mafia-related hits during Prohibition, and a tragic murder-suicide of a love gone wrong.
The sorrow, tragedy, and suffering that existed here allegedly caused a portal to hell to open up near the well that contained the animal parts. Bobby Mackey's was built on top of this area, and high strangeness has been reported throughout its 40-year run.
Bar goers often see shadow people out of the corners of their eyes. Some get pushed and scratched by unseen forces. Phantom footsteps can be heard from a set of stairs that lead nowhere. The headless ghost of Pearl Bryan sometimes is seen walking through the area, and ghostly smells are the norm.
Overall, it's a pretty terrifying place to be, and though it is a popular country bar, it still has a foreboding and morbid pall to it. Many paranormal TV shows have also investigated the area, often with serious results, too. So, it's safe to say this one's legit.
Bell Rock - Sedona, Arizona
Sedona is one of the very few cities in America that is purportedly fully paranormal in nature. This area has long been discussed in Native American folklore for being spiritually charged.
According to legend, Sedona was the homeplace of all Native American tribes of Turtle Island (North America). Bell Rock, which is where most of the energy is centered, also was said to be the place where underground tunnels can lead to another dimension.
In the past, lore suggested that other people knew of these tunnels and that a group of "Star People" came to visit. Not much is known about the Star People,
Unlike other paranormal hotspots you can legally visit, Bell Rock actually isn't dark or creepy in terms of atmosphere. In fact, it's a very uplifting and rejuvenating area.
According to people who go near the Red Rocks and Bell Rock, you'll begin to feel a strange vibration inside you, and that vibration is described as "refreshing." Some also claim to have seen strange lights at the top of the rocks — possibly visions from another world?
This is one of the few paranormal hotspots that has scientific backing in terms of being an area of high strangeness. So, if you're looking for something that's scientifically strange, this is the place to go.
The Stanley Hotel - Estes Park, CO
There are many paranormal hotspots you can legally visit that have been turned into hotels and tourist spots due to their haunted nature. However, very few hotels are as highly recognized for being as heavily haunted as the Stanley Hotel.
This beautiful, sprawling mansion of a hotel has been around since 1909, and in those 100-plus years, it's seen quite its fair share of strangeness. Much of its ghost story lore has to do with the strange happenings on the premises in the years before.
In 1917, a chambermaid by the name of Elizabeth Wilson was tending to the room when a gas leak caused a major explosion. She survived, and the owners of the hotel gave her a promotion the following day.
She became head chambermaid and worked until her death in 1950. Apparently, she really liked her job — since she never wanted to leave. Nowadays, people who stay in Room 217 wake up to clothes folding themselves and the room literally tidying itself up.
But, Wilson isn't the only ghostly tenant of the hotel — not by a long shot. Room 418 also has been a longtime paranormal hotspot of the hotel, with many guests calling the front desk to complain about disembodied children's voices and the sounds of kids running through the hallway. Not much is known about the ghostly children.
Another room, 407, regularly has guests who see a face in the window. The same room also has been known to be prone to poltergeist activity and unexplained footsteps.
In the basement is the ghost of a little girl who occasionally appears to talk with others. She's described as a small blonde child with a sweet demeanor.
Due to all the ghosts and hauntings associated with the Stanley Hotel, author Stephen King used the hotel as inspiration for his hit book, The Shining.
Bachelor's Grove Cemetery - Bremen, IL
Some of the more obvious paranormal hotspots you can legally visit will involve graveyards. For the most part, graveyards are legal to visit as long as it's during the daylight. With most graveyards, this means that you probably won't see anything paranormal, since daylight seems to ward away ghosts and bizarre happenings.
This is not the case with Bachelor's Grove.
Often considered to be the most haunted graveyard in America, Bachelor's Grove regularly sees ghostly apparitions during the night and daytime. Over the years, more than 100 officially reported instances of high strangeness have been recorded.
What's really strange about Bachelor's Grove is that it used to be a strange hybrid of a park and cemetery. People would regularly go to swim, play, and have picnics at the cemetery — then later, visit the graves of loved ones.
Over the years, something seemed to change in the cemetery. It became darker, more prone to vandalism, and finally, began to be considered a major paranormal hotspot. Some suggest that this could have been due to black magic practitioners in the area, since police had begun to find desecrated graves and animal bones throughout the region.
Nowadays, this isn't the kind of place you would want to visit at night. The most common things people see include floating orbs of light and women dressed in white who disappear behind grave stones. It sounds like standard fare for ghost stories, but then it gets stranger.
Police also have had reports of a horse pulling a man on a plow emerging from the lake, only to vanish when lights are shined on them. Local legend has it that a farmer and his horse drowned in a nearby lake.
Perhaps the strangest ghost might not even be a ghost at all, but an entrance into another universe. A number of people have claimed to see a phantom farmhouse on the property. According to those who saw it, it's a two story home with a warm porch light and seems like it's a totally normal house.
When you try to approach the farmhouse, it seemingly gets further and further away — until it suddenly vanishes in the blink of an eye. Legend has it that if you enter the farmhouse, you never come back out.
Of all the paranormal hotspots you can legally visit, this one might be the most perilous. Some people have claimed to feel a strong urge to wander into the lake and not come back out. And, if you do find that house, be careful...it could lead to you vanishing along with it.