1. The Mütter Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Mütter Museum, of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, is home to two floors full of preserved human specimens (on racks, in glass cabinets, in jars) and a number of medical tools that look more like torture devices. Included among the museum’s vast array of fascinating, disturbing, and sometimes scary items are a 9-foot human colon, and a corpse called “Soap Lady.” You’ll figure out why when you go.
2. The Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, California
The Winchester Mystery House began as a project for the grieving widow Sarah Winchester, who tragically lost her infant daughter to marasmus, and then her husband to tuberculosis 15 years later. After their deaths, Sarah visited a medium, who told her that her family had been cursed by the roving spirits of people who’d been killed by Winchester rifles (designed by Sarah’s late husband, and the source of her enormous fortune). It’s said that Sarah was instructed to move west and build a great house to keep the spirits — and that her own life would be safe so long as she never stopped building. Sarah purchased the then-unfinished farm house in 1884 and got to work. By the turn of the century, the house was seven stories high, and featured a number of odd features: extremely long hallways, staircases leading into solid ceiling, and doors that open right into walls. Strange sights and sounds were reported in the house during Sarah’s lifetime, and have only continued since her death in 1922.
3. Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, Weston, West Virginia
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, later called Weston State Hospital, is an inactive hospital and sanctuary for the mentally ill that was in operation between 1864 and 1994. The hospital soon suffered from overcrowding and poor sanitation. Patients that could not be controlled were often locked in cages. Due to the real suffering experienced by people who lived and were treated at the facility — and due to reports of strange sights, voices, and events — many believe the building to be haunted. The facility now hosts overnight ghost tours, which run for $100.
4. Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, Chicago Suburbs, Illinois
The abandoned, fairly small Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery contains just 82 plots, many of which are unoccupied. The cemetery’s first official burials began in 1840. Over a hundred years later — in the 1950s through the 1970s — reports of hauntings in the cemetery reached an all-time high. Witnesses have reported seeing a phantom farmhouse, a two-headed ghost, figures dressed in monk robes, a black dog, and a woman in white — the latter of whom may have been captured in this famous photograph, taken by Judy Huff Felz in 1991.
5. The Villisca Ax Murder House, Villisca, Iowa
On the morning of June 10, 1912, the Moore family — two parents and their four children — as well as two houseguests, were found bludgeoned to death, presumably the night before. Investigators determined that the murders had taken place between 12 and 5 a.m., with all the victims but one asleep at the time: Lena Stillinger, one of the guests (and friend to the Moore children), was found lying crosswise on the bed and had a defensive wound on her arm. Though several suspects were named and tried for the crimes, the case is considered unsolved. Today, the house offers ghost tours as well as overnight stays.
6. The Grave of the Female Stranger, Alexandria, Virginia
The legend of the Female Stranger is one of Alexandria’s — if not the nation’s — most creepy, as well as one of the least understood. In 1816, a 23-year-old woman died and was buried by her husband under total anonymity. The young couple had only landed in Alexandria a few months earlier, coming ashore from the “Four Sons,” which diverted to let them off ship because the young wife was very ill. From the moment they stepped foot on land, the young woman wore a thick veil. The couple rushed to the town’s largest tavern. A physician was called, but was made to swear that he would never reveal the woman’s identity. Two women who were also houseguests at the hotel, who acted as the lady’s nurses, made the same promise. Each kept their oath; when the lady died, her husband buried her himself so that nobody might see her face. To this day, no one is sure who she was — though many have said they’ve seen her wandering the area.
7. The Museum of Death, Los Angeles, California
The Museum of Death, founded in 1995, is not for the faint of heart. According to its website, the museum features “the world’s largest collection of serial murderer artwork, photos of the Charles Manson crime scenes, the guillotined severed head of the Blue Beard of Paris (Henri Landru), original crime scene and morgue photos from the grisly Black Dahlia murder, a body bag and coffin collection, replicas of full size execution devices, mortician and autopsy instruments, pet death taxidermy, and so much more!”
8. The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado
Made famous by Stephen King’s The Shining, the Stanley Hotel was built in 1909. It has 140 rooms. Many believe the hotel to be haunted — of particularly high-spook factor seems to be the infamous ballroom. (When the crew from Ghost Hunters investigated the hotel, they were able to explain many of the seemingly paranormal incidents they and others encountered, but found strange experiences in the ballroom to be unexplainable.) Bolstering the hotel’s haunting cred was a 2013 decision to dig up a pet cemetery next door. And as everyone knows, disturbing a grave site (no matter what’s buried there) is one of the top ways to provoke ghosts.
9. The Saint Louis Cemetery, New Orleans, Louisiana
The Saint Louis Cemetery is the name given to a group of three Roman Catholic cemeteries in New Orleans. The cemeteries are unique for their above-ground vaults, most of which were constructed and laid there in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many notable people are buried here, but none inspire more spooky stories than Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. It’s said if you knock three times upon the tomb (to wake her from her slumber), mark the tomb with XXX in chalk or brick, and knock three times again, she’ll grant your wish — if you leave her an offering.
10. Clinton Road, West Milford, New Jersey
Clinton Road has been said to be the “most haunted road in America.” Drivers along the 10-mile stretch have reported everything from strangely dressed wanderers, to ghosts, to evidence of satanic rituals, to phantom trucks that chase them to its end. The strip of road also features, naturally, a dead man’s curve. Take extra caution at the Ghost Boy Bridge — it’s said that the spirit of a little boy who lives underneath it will do his best to draw you into the water and never let you out.
11. Waverly Hills Sanatorium, Louisville, Kentucky
The Waverly Hills Sanatorium opened in 1910, and was intended to house 40 to 50 tuberculosis patients. But a tuberculosis outbreak hit Jefferson County soon afterward, spurring construction of an expanded hospital — one that could hold over 400 patients. Once the antibiotic used to prevent tuberculosis was invented, there was little need for the hospital, and it closed in 1962. While urban legend holds that over 63,000 people died at the sanatorium during the time it was in operation, average death rates for the hospital suggest the total number would be closer to 8,212. Still, the sanatorium has gained a reputation for being one of the most — if not the most — haunted places in the United States. The building offers tours and opportunities for paranormal investigation.
12. Lemp Mansion, St. Louis, Missouri
The Lemp Mansion was home to the Lemp family, whose William J. Lemp Brewing Co. beer grew to dominate the St. Louis beer market and earned the family a substantial fortune. Tragey struck the family when William’s favorite son, Frederick, died mysteriously in 1901. William shot himself three years later. His son, William Jr., took over. But the brewery business began to falter, and the arrival of the Prohibition era ultimately forced the plant to close. William Jr.’s sister Elsa committed suicide in 1920. Two years later, the brewery was sold at auction, and William Jr. shot himself too. Many years later, William Jr. and Elsa’s brother Charles would also commit suicide by gunshot. The immense amount of tragedy that took place in the mansion has contributed to its haunted reputation; the house now operates as a hotel, restaurant, and event venue.
13. The Lizzie Borden House, Fall River, Massachusetts
In 1892, Lizzie Borden’s father and stepmother were murdered with an axe. Though the case remains technically unsolved, Lizzie is widely considered to be responsible for the murders. She was said to have behaved erratically during questioning, offering contradictory versions of events, and remaining curiously poised and calm. It’s also said that she burned a dress in her oven a few days after the murders — though she claimed it was only because she’d gotten paint on it. Lizzie was tried and acquitted; nobody else was ever charged for the murders. Lizzie moved to another house after the trial, remaining in town for the rest of her life despite being ostracized by the Fall River community. (The house now operates as a bed-and-breakfast.)
14. St. Augustine Light, St. Augustine, Florida
Built in 1874, St. Augustine Light is the name of the active lighthouse at the north end of Anastasia Island in St. Augustine, Florida. The original building, established in 1824, was the first lighthouse built in Florida; that building crashed into the sea in 1880 due to coastline erosion. The collapse had been anticipated, though — construction on the new building (the one that stands today) began in 1870. Many visitors to the lighthouse have reported witnessing paranormal activity including shadows and voices. People have also reported seeing two young girls standing on the lighthouse catwalk. (The girls are said to be the daughters of the man who was superintendent of lighthouse construction during the 1870s; both drowned in an accident that took place during the building of the second lighthouse structure.) The lighthouse offers “Dark of the Moon” tours that included guided paranormal investigation of the premises.
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