25 Real Life Places in America That Many Believe Are Cursed
Whether or not you believe it is a whole other story.
If you’re on the hunt for your next haunt, there are plenty of destinations across the U.S. that contain enough tales of terror to inspire chills in even the bravest visitors. Whether you’re an amateur ghost hunter or just looking for a great story to tell at your next dinner party, you’ll want to hear the fascinating histories of sites such as the LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans and the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast in Massachusetts. Just make sure you’re ready to meet these place’s past residents before you go. Rumor has it, they’re a lot closer to this side of the veil than you might think. And if you really want to spook yourself, here are the 23 Urban Legends that are Totally True.
Devil’s Tramping Ground, North Carolina
Image via Wikimedia Commons
The devil is lurking in a wooded area about 50 miles south of Greensboro, North Carolina. According to local legend, there’s a 40-foot clearing in the pine woods of Chatham County that has allegedly been devoid of vegetation for 300 years. Called the Devil’s Tramping Ground, it’s believed that the devil comes to this patch of dirt each night to plot evil deeds. (Making things creepier is the fact that scientists have tried to understand why plants don’t grow here, but haven’t found anything wrong with the site’s soil.)
One Greensboro journalist wrote, “I have heard that boy scouts spent the night there and woke up with their tents a few miles away. There were also some guys who tried to stay up the whole night there, but were lulled to sleep by a soft voice.” The site remains a fairly popular camping spot, although it’s said that those who stay the entire night are never sane again. If that sounds like something you’re interested in, you can always hitch up your tent and wait for the action to begin. Don’t live in North Carolina? Learn the Weirdest Urban Legend in Your State.
The LaLaurie Mansion; New Orleans, Louisiana
If you’ve seen American Horror Story, then you’re likely familiar with the story of Madame Delphine LaLaurie, a New Orleans socialite accused of torturing and killing slaves at her home in the city’s French Quarter. That’s until 1834, when a fire broke out at the residence. Officials who responded to the scene discovered LaLaurie’s mutilated slaves, who’d been trapped in the attic during the blaze. When the townspeople caught wind of LaLaurie’s crimes against humanity, they stormed the mansion in retaliation, forcing her to retreat to France.
Almost immediately, neighbors claimed to hear the phantom screams of LaLaurie’s victims coming from the attic, as well as the image of a young girl fleeing across the mansion’s roof. Centuries later, visitors to the city can still tour the outside of the home at 1140 Royal Street, although many report fainting or becoming nauseous as they pass by. If you’re still planning a trip to New Orleans, you’ll want to learn the 15 Weirdest Mardi Gras Rituals.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1; New Orleans, Louisiana
With its unique above-ground graves, New Orleans has earned its nickname “City of the Dead.” And while it might seem fruitless to rank this city’s cemeteries, locals might tell you that the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the eeriest of them all.
The 1788 site is the final resting place of Madame LaLaurie (experts guess she either returned to New Orleans after her retreat, or that family members had her body shipped to the city after her death), as well as the renowned Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau.
Leveau’s tomb is easily recognizable, thanks to the hundreds of red Xs that cover its facade—a sign that visitors have made a wish and requested Leveau’s help. Believers also say that the Queen of Voodoo appears once a year on St. John’s Eve (June 23) and can be identified by the knotted handkerchief she wears around her neck. Despite her watchful eye, vandalism became such a problem at this historic cemetery (a group once even tried to exhume Leveau from her grave in 1982) that since 2015, visitors are required to be accompanied by a tour guide.
The Shanghai Tunnels, Portland, Oregon
In the early part of the 19th-century, Portland, Oregon, was considered one of the most dangerous parts of the country due to shanghaiing, a form of human trafficking. According to local legend, swindlers would prey upon unsuspecting young men in saloons, which were often outfitted with trap doors for the victims to be directly disposed into a network of underground tunnels.
Once in these underground tunnels, the men would be drugged, held captive, and eventually sold to ships as unpaid laborers. Centuries later, these tunnels are still intact underneath the Old Town Chinatown neighborhood and are said to contain the ghosts of the men who died while being held captive.
San Fernando Cathedral; San Antonio, Texas
The San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio is the oldest church in Texas, thought to have been built in 1868. According to numerous reports, these grounds are plagued with rumored paranormal activities—something that can possibly be linked to the 1936 discovery of bones, nails, and tattered military uniforms thought to belong to three soldiers from the Alamo.
Figures in hooded, monk-like clothing are supposedly spotted on the premises on a regular basis, as well as the presence of a man dressed in all black who walks casually through the interior of the building. The church is still open for business—so stop by to attend a service if you dare. And be sure to look at the walls on the backside of the church. According to San Antonio Magazine, visitors frequently see faces in them.
The Stanley Hotel; Estes Park, Colorado
As the inspiration for Stephen King’s 1977 book The Shining, The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, is considered one of the most haunted places in the world. Rumor has it the original owners of the hotel, F.O. and Flora Stanley, haven’t left the residence since they opened it in 1909.
According to guests who have stayed at the hotel, Mr. Stanley frequently shows in up in photographs, Mrs. Stanley can sometimes be spotted playing the piano, and, obviously, if you listen closely enough, you can often hear the sound of children’s laughter echoing through the hallways. To catch a glimpse of the spirits yourself, you can book a room at the hotel, or, if you’re too scared, you can take a tour during the light of day.
Pine Barrens, New Jersey
During the colonial period, this section of land, which spans more than a million acres in southern New Jersey, was full of paper mills and sawmills. However, it was all but deserted in the mid-19th century once coal was discovered in nearby Pennsylvania. The most prominent legend here is that of the Jersey Devil, a character that plagues the entire state.
According to local lore, the devil was born when Pine Barrens native Deborah Leeds found out she was expecting her 13th child. Leeds cried out, “Let this one be the devil!” And when the child arrived, it was. The Jersey Devil has leathery wings, a goat’s head, and hooves. Since its birth in 1735, residents and visitors have reported seeing the creature in the trees and on the sides of the highway. He kills livestock and terrorizes motorists. At one point, as much as $100,000 was offered for his capture. And for more wild trivia, check out The Craziest Fact About Every U.S. State.
Gettysburg National Military Park; Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
The Gettysburg Battlefield witnessed the deadliest battle of the Civil War, with more than 50,000 men meeting their fate over course of the three-day conflict. Since most of these soldiers were never given a proper burial, it is believed that their souls still haunt the current-day Gettysburg National Military Park.
In 2016, one park ranger even published a blog post about the fact that the park’s rocks are cursed. Apparently, the park occasionally gets packages in the mail from tourists returning rocks they took from the site (a violation of federal regulations that can result in a hefty fine).
One letter was from a young couple who took three small stones from the park, only to have their “lives fall apart.” They lost their home, saw their marriage crumble, and were plagued with health problems. Another visitor wrote that since taking a few rocks in 2006, “I’ve had nothing but horrible times, injured on the job, several successive relationship failures, etc.” This is one cursed piece of land that you probably don’t want to mess with.
St. Augustine Lighthouse; St. Augustine, Florida
While the St. Augustine Lighthouse is visited by thousands of guests reveling in its beauty each year, there are a few visitors who stop by to catch a glimpse of the spirits that haunt the premises, due to the high number of tragic events that have taken place there since it was built in 1871. For example, in 1859, one lighthouse keeper fell to his death while painting the building, and in 1873, three young girls fell into the ocean and drowned after a cart they were playing in broke apart.
Now, guests can still spot these unfortunate souls roaming the vicinity. One tour guide told the St. Augustine Record, “I’ve had a few arm hairs plucked off me in the basement of the keeper’s house. Rather recently I had my ankle grabbed. That was pretty amusing since it was in the middle of my tour so it looked like I just randomly tripped over air.”
Trans-Alleghany Lunatic Asylum; Weston, West Virginia
Since the Trans-Alleghany Lunatic Asylum opened in 1864, hundreds of patients have died in conditions that were deemed inhumane upon its closing in the 1990s. At one time during the 1950s, 2,400 patients were crammed into a facility meant for just 250 people. The facility was also known for performing lobotomies and electroshock therapy on its patients. Perhaps that’s why former patients of the Trans-Alleghany Lunatic Asylum appear as shadowy figures, forever cursing the premises.
Moon River Brewing Company; Savannah, Georgia
The Moon River Brewing Company originally opened as a hotel in 1821, until it was converted into a makeshift hospital for Yellow Fever patients during the Civil War. Many people believe these Yellow Fever victims, the majority of them children, still haunt the second floor of what’s now a popular brewing company. Unfortunately, visitors can’t seem to drink their beer in peace without poltergeists like “Toby” taunting them. Stick to the main level to avoid the non-alcoholic spirits at this establishment.
Myrtles Plantation; St. Francisville, Louisiana
The Myrtles Plantation, built in 1796 by General David Bradford, was actually constructed atop a Native American burial site. But those aren’t the only spirits to still curse the land. The most infamous apparition is that of a former slave girl named Chloe, who, after getting her ear cut off for eavesdropping, poisoned a birthday cake and killed two of the plantation owner’s daughters. After she committed the murders, she was hung by her fellow slaves for her crime. Currently, guests to the plantation can catch a glimpse of her ghost, as well as several others who are still seeking justice for their deaths.
Winchester Mystery House; San Jose, California
The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, is the brainchild of Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester Repeating Arms rifle fortune. After a series of tragedies, including the deaths of her daughter and husband, Sarah visited a psychic to ask for help. The spiritualist told her that her family was being killed by the ghosts of gunshot victims and that the only way to escape them was to build a mansion full of booby traps. Sarah took this advice to heart and set off to build a sprawling estate that now features doors that open to 12-foot drops, staircases to nowhere, and sealed off rooms. It’s a disturbing sight to behold and is said to be cursed by Sarah’s spirit. After all, if you spent your entire life building a maze-like residence, you’d want to stay there, too.
Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast and Museum; Fall River, Massachusetts
While the case remains officially unsolved to this day, it is believed that on August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden bludgeoned her parents, Andrew and Abby Borden, to death with an ax. Decades later, guests can pay a visit to the famed residence, which now serves as a bed and breakfast where guests can take view photos from the gruesome crime scene and stay in the room where Abby Borden was murdered. Though apparently, these restless spirits can be bribed to leave you alone, too. To keep Mr. Borden at bay, all you’ve got to do is place a few coins on his bedroom bureau, writes New England Today.
Eastern State Penitentiary; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia was the first to subject its prisoners to solitary confinement, beginning in 1829. Hundreds of prisoners languished in these conditions. Some even had hoods placed over their heads as punishment for moving around their cells. Though the prison closed in 1971, tours are now offered year-round for those who would like to visit the souls who have stayed way longer than their original sentences. For an added thrill (or chill), head to the penitentiary during the fall for its Terror Behind the Walls, one of the top haunted houses in the country.
R.M.S. Queen Mary; Long Beach, California
The R.M.S. Queen Mary, a retired ocean liner, sailed the Atlantic Ocean from 1936 to 1967, first serving as a luxury ship which carried guests like Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn, and then as a World War II troopship. According to the lore surrounding the ship, it’s still haunted by the spirits of those who died aboard, including one sailor who was crushed to death by a door in the engine room and another who was murdered in cabin B340. For a truly immersive experience, guests can book a room on the Queen Mary, which also houses a restaurant and plenty of other spooky excursions.
Hotel Monte Vista; Flagstaff, Arizona
At the Hotel Monte Vista in Arizona, guests have detailed numerous accounts of paranormal activity. In fact, even actor John Wayne was reported to have spotted a ghost here. Built in 1927, this hotel has remained a focal point in Flagstaff’s culture—which might explain why other celebrities like Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, and Anthony Hopkins have come to see the legendary establishment for themselves.
For the past few decades, there have been numerous sightings of ghosts in the hotel—including two women who were thrown from the third floor who now try to asphyxiate male guests, and the “Phantom Bell Boy” who knocks on guests doors in the middle of the night to talk. The hotel is still open for business—so grab your paranormal tools and go check out this haunted premises.
This famous ghost town and first capital of Alabama was abandoned at the end of the Civil War—leaving the town of Cahawba full of empty buildings and creepy cemeteries. (During the war, it was used to house some 3,000 Union prisoners of war.) Now serving as an epicenter of paranormal activity in Alabama, Cahawba offers ghost tours year-round. And even that is somewhat of a miracle. In 2006, the town’s fledgling visitor’s center was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. Linda Derry, the town’s historical archaeologist, says the area has been struck by lightening an inordinate amount. “They call it the curse of Cahawba,” she told the New York Times.
Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Illinois
Chicago’s most popular tourist destination is also one of its most haunted, according to locals. And that’s because it wasn’t always a zoo—it was a cemetery. Back in the 1840s and ’50s, the area was the final resting place for more than 35,000 souls—most of whom were moved to another cemetery after the original one proved to be too close to the city’s water supply (eek!). As you might imagine, disturbing the peace of thousands of bodies did not go over well. One parapsychologist stated that it is “without a doubt the most active site I’ve investigated.” Since the zoo opened shortly after the bodies were moved, guests have reported significant levels of paranormal activity.
Mizpah Hotel; Tonopah, Nevada
Home of the famous ghost, the “Lady in Red,” the Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah, Nevada, opened in 1907 as one of the first luxury hotels in the state of Nevada. According to local legend, the Lady in Red was murdered in the fifth-floor hallway of the hotel and has continued to haunt the premises ever since. Since its renovation in 2011, guests have been able to stay in the Lady in Red Suite or order the Red Lady Bloody Mary at the hotel’s restaurant.
Sleepy Hollow, New York
As the setting of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Sleepy Hollow, New York, is a must-see destination even if you’re not there for the ghosts. One of the more infamous spirits to haunt the town is the Bronze Lady. According to local legend, this statuesque woman sits in the local cemetery and can either haunt you forever or comfort you—depending on how you treat her.
Pittock Mansion; Portland, Oregon
Yet again, Portland proves to be one of the creepiest destinations in the U.S. In 1909, Henry and Georgiana Pittock built their dream mansion—though they only enjoyed for it a small amount of time before they both perished within a year of each other just a decade later. Now a public landmark, visitors have reported smelling roses in rooms without the presence of flowers and the fact that a childhood painting of Henry seems to move on its own throughout the home. Pay a visit to the current-day museum to witness the Pittocks come to life before your eyes.
Queen Anne Hotel; San Francisco, California
Before it was a hotel, the Queen Anne Hotel in San Francisco initially served as an etiquette school for girls from 1890 to 1896. Those who stay in room 410 can perhaps catch a glimpse of the school’s late headmistress, Miss Mary Lake. When guests wake up in the morning, they often find that Lake has unpacked their clothes and made their bed. Even in the afterlife, she displays an astounding amount of etiquette!
Bullock Hotel; Deadwood, South Dakota
First established as a hardware store by Seth Bullock in 1876, the Bullock was converted to a luxury hotel following a fire at the store in 1894. And apparently, Mr. Bullock hasn’t left the premises since. According to hotel employees, Bullock, who died of cancer in 1919, is primarily there to ensure the hotel is still run in accordance with his values. Paranormal activity increases when staff members stand idle or start whistling. If they do, he’ll shake the plates and glassware and turn the showers on and off. Sometimes, staff will even hear their name called out by a male voice when no one else is present. How’s that for an overbearing boss?!
Salem Burying Ground; Salem, Massachusetts
First established in the latter part of the 17th-century, the Salem Burying Ground in the storied Salem, Massachusetts, is rife with the spirits of those involved in the Salem Witch Trials. Although none of the 19 executed “witches” are buried here (it was a common practice at the time to bury their bodies near the point of execution), it’s still plagued with paranormal activity. One of the most infamous hotspots is the area of the cemetery closest to Murphy’s pub and restaurant on Derby Street. Past owners of the pub have reportedly seen a Victorian-era woman in a powder blue dress, as well as the apparition of a boy with a picnic basket. Here are more of the 30 Most Fascinating Unsolved Mysteries in America.
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