For a Haunted Good Time
It was a dark and stormy night...
America is filled with spooky little hidden corners and old colonial towns accompanied by legends, ghost stories and the like. Old spirits, energies, tales, impressions - whatever you want to call them - even inhabit our wide open spaces.
So if you're itching for a little rush of adrenalin and a few bone-chilling history lessons this Hallow's Eve, or any time of year for that matter, you may want to look into one of these American "haunts" (pun intended):
Black Warrior and Tombigbee Lakes
The Black Warrior-Tombigbee Lake system is home to six beautiful lakes on the Tombigbee River. On March 1, 1858, a fire destroyed the Tombigbee River steamboat Eliza Battle on the river. The disaster was the worst in the river's history. Sightings of the ghostly burning ship permeate Alabama folklore.
Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve
Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve is our largest National Park and home to the abandoned town of Kennecott, where the Kennecott Copper Corporation (later the Kennecott Minerals Company) mined the richest known concentration of copper in the world. The company processed nearly $200 million worth of copper from 1911 to 1938, when as many as 600 people worked in the company mill town and in the mines. Persistent stories of hauntings, especially along the old railroad tracks, are common.Learn more...
Tonto National Forest
Jerome and Mesa
This national forest surrounds the once notorious old mining town of Jerome and the Jerome National Historic District. Jerome is the home of the reportedly haunted Grand Hotel, originally a hospital built in 1926. Since the 1930s, people have reported ghost sightings there - the old nurses called one vision, in particular, Clyde or Scotty. And if you don't get enough of Halloween, mark your calendars for the annual "Halloween in July," when the Tonto's tubing concessionaire, Salt River Recreation, encourages tubers on the Salt River to capture the Halloween spirit by dressing up as goblins, witches and cartoon characters.
Eureka Springs Historic District is home to the 1886 Crescent Hotel, reportedly haunted by former owner Dr. Norman Baker, who died in 1958. The hotel embraces its ghostly legends with ghost tours and spooky productions in its 4th floor theater. If you prefer to stay somewhere with a less ghostly reputation, try Dam Site Lake or Dam Site River campgrounds on Beaver Lake, less than 10 miles from Eureka Springs. Still, there are lots of dark, spooky caves in the area.Learn more...
Golden Trout Wilderness
Inyo National Forest
In the late 1800s, Sam Lewis and his wife ran sheep up on the Kern Plateau of the Golden Trout Wilderness - it was Mrs. Lewis' favorite place. When she died, Lewis had her body cremated and spread her ashes there. By the 1920s, people began to report strange happenings in the area. More recently, campers and backpackers have reported odd goings on: their stuff rearranged in the morning, noises, a woman's voice, glowing entities and the like. One can only attribute these happenings to Mrs. Lewis herself.Learn more...
The Presidio and Alcatraz
An abandoned Army hospital, built in the 1890s and once filled with wounded soldiers, now sits, boarded up and spooky, in San Francisco's Presidio district. Many of the soldiers died there and word has it their ghosts still haunt the area.Learn more...
And for more creepy thrills, venture into dark corners of the infamous Alcatraz Island, home to the prison that held some of the worst hoodlums in American history, like George "Machine Gun" Kelly, Al Capone and the Birdman of Alcatraz. It's also said that Native Americans once avoided the island entirely, believing it to be cursed.
Limited to just a few hundred visitors, the Alcatraz Night Tour programs offered by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy include special topics, tours, and activities not offered during daytime hours. Visitors can tour the old prison island at night, giving it a very spooky feel. Check it out online or call 415-561-4700 for more information.
Ironton Ghost Town
Uncompahgre National Forest
The town of Ironton in southwest Colorado was a major transportation junction between Red Mountain and Ouray, in addition to having some of its own mines. Settled in 1883, it had three hundred buildings in roughly three weeks. Ironton had a peak population of over 1,000 and had two trains arriving daily from Silverton. Ironton suffered the same fate as many other Colorado mining towns when the silver market crashed. The town lived into the first part of the 20th century but then faded away. Ten minutes south of Ouray on Highway 550, the town site can be found approximately 1/3 mile down a gravel road (walk or take a high clearance vehicle) or via a groomed Nordic-ski trail in the winter.Learn more...
Fort Pulaski National Monument
One of the most ghostly places in America, Savannah's got a haunted heritage that perhaps stems from its rich, antebellum history and, simply, the creepy atmosphere; low-hanging Spanish moss, weeping willows and that dreamy, warm breeze. Stories of aggravated spirits and peculiar tales pervade this Southern town. Make sure to spook yourself silly at one of the historic cemeteries or visit one of the buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1862, Union forces surrounded the fort and asked for surrender. Confederate Colonel Charles Olmsted initially refused, then later surrendered after a 30 hour bombardment by Union rifled cannons. Olmsted's decision to surrender haunted him for decades.
However, Olmsted is not the only one haunted by events at Fort Pulaski. Stories and legends of the Fort now include unsubstantiated sightings of ghostly young men in Confederate uniforms.Learn more...
Daniel Boone National Forest, Laurel River Lake and Mammoth Cave National Park
Winchester, London and Mammoth Cave
In fall when the leaves change to gold and red, spirits seem to fill the rugged landscapes of Daniel Boone National Forest and Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area. The spirits of Blackfish, Chief of the Shawnee tribe and Daniel Boone dwell along the Sheltowee Trace. Chief Blackfish captured Boone in 1778 and called him Sheltowee or "Big Turtle." The Sheltowee trail skirts the edge of Laurel River Lake, an area of spooky caves and reports of ghosts.
But Mammoth Cave National Park is perhaps the spookiest place in Kentucky - if not the spookiest of all the U.S. federal lands. The world's largest known cave system, with its vast chambers and complex labyrinths, emits a spine-chilling feeling not only because of its eerie atmosphere, but also because of all the secrets it holds. Stephen Bishop, Melissa and Floyd Collins are only a few names of ghosts who supposedly haunt this place.Learn more...
Salem Maritime National Historic Site
The historic buildings, wharves and reconstructed tall ship at this 9-acre National Park tell the stories of the sailors, Revolutionary War privateers and merchants who brought the riches of the world to America - and with that much history lining the streets of any town, ghost stories are bound to follow. Not to mention Salem's notoriety for its Witch Trials of the late 1600s.Learn more...
Minute Man Historical Park
Minute Man National Historical Park preserves not only the battlefields and structures associated with the first battle of the Revolutionary War, but also the Wayside Home of Authors, where Nathaniel Hawthorne and other American authors once lived. One of Hawthorne's ancestors was a judge involved in Salem witch hysteria of 1692, more than a century earlier. The kinship with the judge influenced Hawthorne's writings such as the spooky House of the Seven Gables as well as chilling short stories. Hawthorne is also buried in Concord. The park celebrates the area's literary legacy with a Halloween storytelling event each year, when park rangers share traditional New England ghost stories in the barn behind Hartwell Tavern. This year the event will be on Saturday, October 20th starting at 7:00 p.m.Learn more...
Sleeping Bear Dunes
Arguably, Gordon Lightfoot's haunting song makes the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald the most well-known shipwreck on the Great Lakes, but ghost legends and rumors surround dozens of Great Lakes shipwrecks. Sleeping Bear Dunes is a great place to learn about the history the Manitou Passage, one of "the busiest and most dangerous shipping channels on the Great Lakes." In October, you can join a ranger-guided beach patrol program and learn about the old U.S. Life-Saving Service whose members knew fall as "shipwreck season" or visit the ghost towns of North Manitou Island.Learn more...
Vicksburg National Military Park
The town of Vicksburg held the key to controlling the river during the Civil War. As if the specter of the battle and the soldiers buried here were not enough, Vicksburg is also home to McRaven House, who some claim is "the most haunted house in Mississippi." McRaven is one of the oldest buildings in Vicksburg and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.Learn more...
Ozark National Scenic Riverways
Most people know that the Ozarks are full of "haints" and ghost stories. Ozark National Scenic Riverways presents The Haunting in the Hills each October with storytelling, traditional music, and historical exhibits.Learn more...
Bitterroot National Forest
From June through October, the Bitterroot offers monthly Walks by the Light of the Moon based on Francis Hammerstrom's "Walk When the Moon is Full." During October's "Ghost Moon at Lake Como" walk, you'll meet historical Bitterroot Valley ghosts, and hear stories of their lives and untimely deaths.
Toyaibe National Forest
This site near Ely, Nevada, is what ghost town explorers live for. The Belmont Mine and Mill were worked early in this century by the Tonopah Belmont Development Mining Company. Judging by the ruins that are left, this fun little camp must have given the White Pine Mining District it's last breath of life. Silver-lead ore from this mine was processed at this mill and then shipped off to Eureka Nevada. For more information on this and other ghost towns in the area, visit elynevada.net.Learn more...
Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Although UFO sightings may have helped Roswell become a household name, nearby Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge supports a wide variety of creatures that are native to Earth. The refuge offers Endangered Species Tours the first Saturday of every month from October through May. Then post up at camp and scour the night sky for unearthly visitors. Dispersed camping (first-come first serve) is available at Haystack Mountain Off-Highway Vehicle Area or at eerie Bottomless Lakes State Park, with it's odd geology and water chemistry and unusual plants and animals.Learn more...
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Decorative bats are as common as jack-o-lanterns on Halloween night. Not only do bat decorations scare trick-or-treaters, but most bats also eat loads of insects (like mosquitoes) and some species act as pollinators. Bats benefit from the good "PR" they get at places like Carlsbad Caverns, where rangers dispel bat myths at nightly bat flight programs from Memorial Day weekend through mid-October.Learn more...
Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
On Howl-O-Ween, come to the Alligator River for an adventurous attempt to hear the haunting sounds of the refuge's captive red wolves. Learn about the life history and behavior of these endangered wolves at the only place in the world where they still exist in the wild.
Audubon National Wildlife Refuge Complex
As dusk creeps across the autumn sky and the afternoon breezes relax, for some wild critters, the day is just beginning. Night life is awakening on nature's wild side and families are invited out for an afternoon and evening of Halloween programs and crafts about the animals active mostly at night, such as owls, bats, coyotes and creepy crawlers.Learn more...
Heceta Head Lighthouse, Siuslaw National Forest
Take a tour of the lighthouse or the haunted lighthouse keeper's home at Heceta Head, on the Siuslaw National Forest. The lighthouse is arguably the most photographed lighthouse in the world, and the lighthouse keeper's home also operates as a bed and breakfast .Learn more...
Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site
Why do so many ghost stories surround railroads? During October at Allegheny Portage Railroad (APRR), park rangers portray the Ghosts of the Summit Level and the Ghosts of Staple Bend Tunnel. The "ghosts" will share, in their own words, the darker side of life, hardship and death on the Portage Railroad. You can see the Summit Level and the Staple Bend Tunnel any time of year by hiking (or biking portions of) the Inclines Ten to Six trail or the Staple Bend Tunnel trail,which both follow the APRR route of the 19th Century.Learn more...
Gettysburg National Cemetery
This is the site of that famous three-day battle between the Confederate and Union armies - and the brutal deaths of thousands of men. Naturally, ghost stories abound here. And word has it, if you try to snap a photograph on the field at Gettysburg, your camera will either malfunction or you may capture the semblance of a specter that could haunt you for months.Learn more...
Independence National Historical Park
Remember how many terrifying dead people Haley Joel Osment saw in The Sixth Sense? There's a reason that film took place in the City of Brotherly Love. Some people call Philly, "America's most historic city;" others claim it's America's most haunted. You won't hear about paranormal experiences from Independence National Historical Park rangers, but along the old city's cobblestone streets you might still get wind of ghostly tales. And of course, the "Spirit of '76" is always alive at Independence Hall, Carpenters' Hall, Old Pine Street Church and Cemetery, Christ Church Burial Ground, and the "ghost structure" marking Ben Franklin's home.
You can also visit the Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Site, where the morbid writer spent six of his most productive years. Relive spine-chilling tales like The Tell-Tale Heart, The Fall of the House of Usher and Murders in the Rue Morgue. The park offers forty-five minute house tours Wednesday through Sunday during regular hours. Ask to see the creepy cellar that inspired The Black Cat.Learn more...
Big South Fork National River Recreation Area
At Big South Fork National River, visit the Blue Heron Mine at night when the "ghost structures" - built by the Army Corps of Engineers - appear especially eerie. The structures mark the outlines of the abandoned town's buildings and help visitors understand the town's story. You can visit Blue Heron Mine in the fall or anytime year-round. Consider chugging there on the Big South Fork Scenic Railway, one of the "Ghost Railroads of Kentucky." The Railway offers fall trips that include the Blue Heron Ghost Train, the Trick or Treat Train or the scarier Haunted Hollow Express. You can hear more scary stories at the park's Annual Haunting in the Hills Storytelling Festival. There are also campgrounds to stay at nearby.Learn more...
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park offers Full Moon Hikes throughout the year. Free tickets are required and distributed at the park (tickets are not available online). This is ideal UFO territory so watch the night sky for some extra-terrestrial activity.Learn more...