overlays: {bottom: true}

Monday 8 November 2021

Spooky Places to Visit in the USA

Hands up if you wish that the spooky season would never end? I've got both my hands up! 

October may be officially over and the Christmas decorations may be starting to appear all over, but it's still spooky season in my book. It's always spooky season in my book!

Admittedly, I did start writing this post well before Halloween and had every intention to get it out into the world while everyone was still thinking of ghosts and ghouls, but if you've been here a while you'll know that being on time isn't my strong suit. Or maybe I'm just really ahead and this post is inspiration for next Halloween. I'll let you choose!

Anyway, seeing as all things spooky are on everyone's mind at this time of year (or, you know, last week) I thought I'd share some places that we've visited over the years that have a bit of a scary vibe to them. Some are known for being haunted, some are known as places where terrible things happened, and others are just old and kind of creepy. 

Let's take a look...

Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, California
The Burying Point, Salem, Massachusetts
Alcatraz, San Francisco, CaliforniaQueen Mary, Long Beach, California
The Witch House, Salem, Massachusetts
Bodie State Park, California
The Witch House, Salem, Massachusetts
The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado

Winchester Mystery House
San Diego, California

Sunny California may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of spooky locations, but the Golden State is no stranger to haunted homes and ghost stories. Fans of grand mansions and all things spooky will enjoy visiting the Winchester Mystery House in San Diego. Built between 1884 and 1922 by Sarah Winchester, widowed heir to the Winchester rifle company, this grand home is full of mystery. Step inside the Winchester Mystery House and you'll soon discover that it's full of architectural aspects that make no sense at all. Think stairs that lead into the ceiling, a door that leads directly outside on the second floor (straight to a drop), false cupboards only an inch thick, staircases that go oddly up a few steps then down a few steps, expensive stained glass windows placed with walls blocking the sun, rooms that stayed boarded up in their damaged condition after the 1906 earthquake... It's definitely an odd place! What makes this home even odder is that apart from the grand ballroom, none of it was built with any architectural plans in place. Mrs Winchester was said to have nightly seances to consult with spirits about how to continue with construction. Plans constantly changed and rooms would be ripped down and rebuilt over and over. The home boasts some 160 rooms, but over the course of time around 600 rooms were built or rebuilt on the whims of the "spirit architects". Mrs Winchester continued construction of her home until she passed away in 1922. She paid her builders daily, and when she passed away work stopped because the builders knew that payment would also stop. Because of this many of the rooms have been left partially finished. 

Winchester Mystery House is a really interesting place to visit with a quirky, and rather spooky, story behind it. You can see our visit here.

For more information about Winchester Mystery House click here.

Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, California
Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, California

Alcatraz Island
San Francisco, California

Imagine being locked up in a prison on an island in the middle of a bay? Sounds like a pretty scary place to be, right? That's Alcatraz Island! It's been a long time since Alcatraz was used as a prison but the prison buildings themselves are all still intact and make for a great place to spend a few hours exploring. We visited Alcatraz twice when we lived in the Bay Area and I thoroughly enjoyed it both times, as did the kids. Visitors can tour the cells and learn about the criminals who were locked up here, the failed escape attempts, and even about the families who lived on the island. Yes, there were families who lived on the island and there was even a school for the children of the prison staff. Can you imagine living there? Some cells are even open for visitors to enter and test out the uncomfortable beds. While the prison has a spooky feel to it, a visit to Alcatraz Island isn't all scary. The island offers stunning views over San Francisco and the Bay, and the ferry ride out there is pretty fun. Just remember to layer up because, like anywhere in San Francisco, the weather can change in the blink of an eye and it gets pretty chilly when the fog rolls in.  
You can see our visits to Alcatraz here and here.

For more information about visiting Alcatraz Island click here.

Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, California
Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, California

Queen Mary
Long Beach, California

Who wants to take a ride on a haunted cruise ship? Ok, so you can't actually take a ride on it, but you can tour, dine in, and even stay aboard the Queen Mary cruise ship which is docked in Long Beach, just south of Los Angeles. This grand lady of the seas took her maiden voyage in 1936 and carried well to do passengers across the seas for nearly a decade before being transformed into a troop carrier during World War 2. At the end of the war "The Grey Ghost", as she was known, was converted back into a luxury cruise liner once more, and sailed the seas, so to speak, until her final voyage in 1967. Shortly after she was docked in Long Beach and converted into a hotel and tourist attraction. Ok, so where does the spookiness come in? As you can probably imagine, the Queen Mary saw a number of deaths on board over the years. In fact there were at least 49 reported deaths during her time as a luxury cruise liner, and many more during World War 2. Many visitors report experiencing ghostly encounters while aboard the Queen Mary. The most common encounters include seeing the ghostly apparition of the "Woman in White" near the first class lounge, hearing the laughter and crying of a young child who drowned in the second class pool, smelling the cigar smoke of the ship's final captain (who passed away decades after the final journey), paranormal activity in suite B-340 where it is said that a crew member was murdered, and seeing apparitions and greasy handprints around the boiler room where several crew members met their fate. Visitors can take part in nightly ghost tours aboard the Queen Mary. While I would've loved to have done this when we visited, the kids were still quite young so we did a self guided tour of the ship during the day after dining aboard.

You can see our visit to the Queen Mary here.

For more information about visiting the Queen Mary and her history click here.

Queen Mary, Long Beach, California
Queen Mary, Long Beach, California

Bodie Ghost Town
Bodie, California

Have you ever visited a real life ghost town? We have! 

The small town of Bodie, in California's Sierra Nevada mountain range is a popular tourist attraction today, but back in the late 1870s it was a booming gold mining town with a population as high as 10,000. Like many gold rush booms, this one didn't last awfully long and by the 1890s the population was already in decline. By 1910 the population of Bodie had decreased to just under 700 people and by 1920 it was only 120. The last of the mines closed in 1942 and shortly after this the only people left living in Bodie were caretakers to keep looters and vandals away. Much of the town was destroyed in a major fire in the 1930s and what remains has been left in a state of arrested decay. Houses are still furnished, stores still have their shelves stocked with canned and bottled goods from the 1930s, school rooms still have the teacher's writing on their blackboards, bottles and glasses line saloon bars under a layer of dust. It's a really interesting insight into how life was lived in a gold mining town. Visitors are welcome to walk around the streets of Bodie and take in the sights, but apart from a few, most of the structures can not be entered. The interiors can, however, be viewed through windows. The town cemetery also makes for an interesting visit. Bodie is part of the California State Parks and as such kids can earn a junior ranger badge when they visit. 
Given the mountainous location, Bodie is prone to sudden weather changes, so make sure to be prepared before any visit. Due to severe Winter weather, it is best to visit Bodie between May and mid-October. Winter visits are possible however access is only by skis, snow shoes or snow mobile, and there are no park rangers on site during this time.

To see our visit to Bodie click here. 
For more information about visiting Bodie and its history click here.

Stanley Hotel
Estes Park, Colorado

Time for a change of states! Let's head to Colorado and the grand Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. Fans of  Stephen King's The Shining will know the Stanley Hotel as the inspiration for The Overlook Hotel, the haunted hotel where the Winter caretaker goes just a little mad. Ok, a LOT mad! Stephen King was inspired to write The Shining after he and his wife found themselves as the only guests at The Stanley Hotel in 1974 just as it was preparing to close for the Winter. He used his room number 217 as the haunted room in the book. While the Stanley Hotel served as the inspiration for the Overlook Hotel, it was not used for the movie adaptation of The Shining. That was The Timberline Lodge in Oregon. You may recognize the Stanley Hotel from another movie though: Dumb & Dumber! Built in 1909, the Stanley Hotel has over 100 years of history and with that comes a history of paranormal activity. Visitors and staff have reported seeing the ghost of F.O. Stanley, the original owner of the hotel, as well as his wife Flora, and a housekeeper who was badly injured during an explosion while lighting lanterns in, you guessed it, room 217. There have also been reports of hearing ghostly children playing in the hallways - which definitely feels like something straight out of The Shining! Visitors to the Stanley Hotel can take part in nightly ghost tours as well as daytime history tours. We were not able to take part in a tour when we visited because the kids were not all old enough to join in. Instead we did a little self guided tour of the main lobby, the basement which includes a small museum, and the grounds. You can see our visit here

For more information about the Stanley Hotel click here.

Burying Point & Salem Witch Trial Memorial
Salem, Massachusetts

When most people think of spooky places in the United States, Salem in Massachusetts is usually one of the first places that comes to mind. Famous world wide for the witch hysteria that rocked the small community in the early 1690s and the subsequent witch trials of 1692, Salem is a popular place for history lovers and fans of all things spooky alike. We visited Salem a few years back over Summer and I was totally in my element there. One of my favorite places to visit was the Burying Point cemetery. I'm a total sucker for an old cemetery and this one's a good one. We spent our time there trying to find the oldest grave (found it!) and marveling at the designs and the strange spellings on the headstones. The grave pictured below is far from being the oldest, but it's one I liked the design of. Look at that winged skull!

Adjoining the Burying Point is the Salem Witch Trial Memorial which pays tribute to the sixteen women and four men who faced trial as witches in 1692. All bar one were tried, convicted and executed by hanging. Unlike his wife Marta who was also accused, Giles Corey, refused to enter a plea and could not be tried. Instead he was tortured by pressing, which involved placing heavy boards and rocks on his chest as he laid flat, and eventually died three days later. The memorial features a wall of twenty stone benches, each carved with the name of a victim of the Salem Witch Trials. 

You can see our visit to the Burying Point and Salem Witch Trial Memorial here

The Witch House
Salem, Massachusetts

The Burying Point and Salem Witch Trial Memorial are far from the only places worth visiting in Salem if you're interested in the Witch Trials or spooky history. The town is filled with museums, stores and kitsch attractions with a witchy feel to them, but in my opinion, the most authentic place to visit is The Witch House. Otherwise known as the Jonathon Corwin House, The Witch House is the only remaining building in Salem with a direct link to the witch trials. This house was home to Judge Jonathon Corwin who was one of the magistrates involved in the witch trials. Built somewhere between 1620 and 1642, it's not the oldest standing home in Salem but it is up there. The home has been restored as a museum and is furnished in the way it would have been when Judge Corwin and his family resided there. There's not much in the way of items related to the witch trials on display in the house, but it is incredibly interesting none the less and a great insight into what daily life would've been like (for a wealthy family) during the years of the witch hysteria.

You can see our visit here.

To learn more about The Witch House click here.

Granary Burial Ground & Kings Chapel Burying Ground
Boston, Massachusetts

More old cemeteries! I did say that I was a sucker for old cemeteries, right? Boston is a fantastic city to visit if you're a history buff like me. As an Australian living in America's West I don't usually get the chance to see much in the way of historical buildings and sites, so visiting Boston was such a treat. We visited several old cemeteries during our trip to Boston, but Granary Burial Ground and nearby Kings Chapel Burying Ground were my favorites. Both of these cemeteries date from the 1600s and are home to the graves of many notable Boston residents. Kings Chapel Burying Ground is the oldest cemetery in Boston, being established, along with the city, in 1630. It is believed that the first woman to step off the Mayflower is buried here. Granary Burial Ground was established in 1660 due to overcrowding in Kings Chapel, and is the resting place of Paul Revere, Mother Goose, Benjamin Franklin's parents (who have a 25ft tall obelisk as their memorial), five victims of the 1770 Boston Massacre, and three signers of the Declaration of Independence: Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Robert Treat Paine. While I didn't hear of any especially spooky stories relating to either of these cemeteries, I figure that a city with so much history must have some paranormal activity, right? And where better place for a little spookiness than a 350 year old cemetery?

You can learn more about Boston's historic cemeteries here. We also visited Central Burying Ground, Copps Hill Burying Ground and Bunker Hill Burying Ground in Boston. I told you I love an old cemetery!

Seattle Underground
Seattle, Washington

Let's head back across to the West Coast and to the city of Seattle. We've visited Seattle a couple of times and have always loved our time there. It's such a great city to visit for so many reasons. Those of you who like things on the spookier side will get a kick out of touring the Seattle Underground. Did you know that there is a network of tunnels underneath Pioneer Square, the oldest neighborhood in Seattle? These tunnels are not sewers or tunnels built for nefarious purposes (although they did have a pretty seedy past at one point) but rather, the original city itself. When Seattle was first built by early European settlers it was constructed at sea level and mostly out of wood. The settlers were not aware that this area was prone to flooding so it soon became a problem. Things became worse when a fire was sparked by a carpenter and the tinderbox city was set ablaze in 1886. When the city was rebuilt, the streets were raised and the new buildings were constructed out of stone and brick to avoid future fires. For a while there merchants operated their stores out of their original lower locations (if they had been spared from the fire) and residents found themselves going up and down stairs to shop. Eventually the stores all moved up to the new street level and the underground was abandoned. Or, at least it was abandoned by the city's legitimate businesses. The underground soon became home to illegal gambling houses, brothels and drug dens. The city made a concerted effort to clear out these illegal business in the 1940s and the underground was closed up and mostly forgotten. That is until they were reopened in 1965 as a tourist attraction. Visitors today can tour Seattle's underground, learn about the city's history and maybe spot one of the ghosts that have been seen lurking around the old bank and a brothel known as the Oriental Hotel. We didn't spot any ghosts during our visit but it was very interesting none the less. There are also paranormal tours available. If you've ever walked around Seattle and wondered just what the glass pavers imbedded in the sidewalks are, those are skylights for the underground below. 

You can learn more about Seattle Underground here.

We've also visited plenty of spooky places outside of the USA including the Tower of London, Paris Catacombs (tunnels filled with skeletons!), Glastonbury Tor and Glastonbury Abbey in the UK, and the Old Melbourne Gaol back home in Australia. "Gaol" is the English spelling of "Jail" for those who are wondering. Most of these places we visited back in the day before digital cameras, so I decided not to include these in this post and just stick with American locations. Scanning all those old pics is a big job and they tend not to be the best quality anyway.

I have so many more spooky places on my "must visit" list that I hope to get to soon. The whole city of New Orleans, Sleepy Hollow in New York state, the Timberline Lodge in Oregon (where the Shining was actually filmed), the Gettysburg Battlefield, the Myrtles Plantation in Louisiana, the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, and the Bell Witch Cave in Tennessee. Ok, I probably wouldn't be able to pluck up the courage to actually enter the Bell Witch Cave, but I certainly am intrigued!

Have you ever visited anywhere spooky? Maybe one of the places in this post or on my "must visit" list? I'd love to hear about it so drop a comment below.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...