The 12 Most Haunted Towns in the U.S. Too Scary to Visit
Spend a spooky weekend in one of these towns... if you dare.
It seems that every town has its own ghost story, but some are more haunting and believable than others. While some travelers go out of their way to avoid these sorts of places, others clamor for them, centering trips around haunted locations. From towns with old battlefields where thousands were killed, to abandoned locales that invite people to create their own lore, to hotels filled with spirits that spread an ominous feeling throughout the whole community—there's something for every thrill seeker on this list. Read on for the 12 most haunted towns in the U.S.
Head out west to explore the haunted haven of Tonopah, Nevada. According to Bryn Culbert, travel expert and content strategist at travel booking platform Wanderu, this town earns its distinction due to its "chilling accommodation options."
"'America's Scariest Motel' is the Clown Motel in Tonopah, a roadside motel adorned with clowns both cute and creepy," Culbert tells Best Life. "In 2015, the motel was featured on 'Ghost Adventures,' with recordings of spooky voices and even a clown doll moving itself."
Making things even scarier, this "peculiar landmark" is located right next door to Tonopah Cemetery."The cemetery only welcomed new residents between 1901 and 1911, but those buried there sure have reason to haunt," Culbert says. "Victims of the 1905 Tonopah Plague (of pneumonia) and the 1911 Belmont Mine Fire make up most of the graves."
Per Culbert's recommendation, a more "refined" but still haunted spot is The Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah, which opened in 1907 and became known as "The Jewel of the Desert."
"A year-round resident of the hotel, known simply as the 'Lady in Red,' appears to have never checked out. She lived (and likely worked) on the fifth floor of the hotel until a jealous ex stabbed and strangled her," Culbert shares. "The mysterious lady's spirit lives on at The Mizpah, where guests report whispered voices in the elevator and other strange phenomena."
If you're ready to spot some ghosts and be immersed in a spooky atmosphere, look no further than Savannah, Georgia. While it's technically a city, it still has that small-town Southern charm—and according to Jolene Ejmont, international travel expert, planner, and founder of Wanderlust Storytellers, Savannah is also a "hotspot for paranormal enthusiasts."
"The Mercer House, once owned by voodoo-practicing antique dealer James A. Williams, is rumored to be haunted by a man he was acquitted of killing," she says.
The famous Bonaventure Cemetery is another must-see spot, thanks to its iconic statue, but be forewarned that there's more than meets the eye.
"[The cemetery] is said to echo with ghostly laughter and conversations, as well as sightings of ghost dogs," Ejmont says.
St. Augustine, Florida
As the oldest European settlement in the contiguous United States, the city of St. Augustine, Florida, has a lot to offer visitors. The coastal spot was ranked one of the best small towns to visit in the country by U.S. News & World Report for its century-spanning history, so it's safe to say that St. Augustine has racked up a few ghost stories as well.
"There are some different ghost tours you can take in St. Augustine, which will introduce you to some of the most haunted places in the city," says Isabella Diaz, the founder and site manager of travel website Rubalkhali. "One of the most popular is the St. Augustine Lighthouse Ghost Tour, which takes you to the lighthouse that is said to be haunted by the ghosts of three young girls who died in a fire."
Another highlight of a visit to St. Augustine is a visit to Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth Archeological Park, the supposed original landing spot of Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon, and the presumed site of the Fountain of Youth that de Leon was looking for. While the freshwater source of water promises eternal life, that wasn't the fate of de Leon, whose ghost is said to haunt the area, according to Diaz.
It makes sense that Gettysburg is one of the most haunted towns in the United States: Located in southern Pennsylvania, it is the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War.
"Gettysburg was the scene of a vicious three-day battle in 1863 that resulted in more than 51,000 casualties," says author, travel blogger, and Gettysburg native Jessica James. "The battle raged in the streets and the farmland surrounding the town, and the wounded were treated in every house, church, barn, and building that could be found."
Since the battle, the town has developed a reputation as one of the most haunted places in the country, and nearly every building can be associated with a ghost story.
"Some of the most haunted sites include the battlefield itself, where there are plenty of stories of sightings of Civil War soldiers who appear and disappear like a mist," James says. "The Farnsworth House and Cashtown Inn bed and breakfasts both have their most haunted rooms for those who want to try to sleep in a building that was used as a Civil War hospital."
Nowadays, the battlefield is a part of the National Military Park system, where car and bus tours of the park can be booked in advance.
It took less than 50 years for Bodie, California, to go from a gold rush boomtown to being described as a ghost town. The mining town, which produced more than $100 million worth of gold, formerly had a population in the thousands. That population dropped to zero by 1950, and now, Bodie serves as a historical landmark.
The ghost town designation isn't the only spooky thing about the town: People claim that it is not only haunted but also cursed.
"It's not shocking that there are several accounts of paranormal activity in this area, including ghost sightings and music coming from bars with their doors closed," says Matthew Bowley, a marketing manager at travel website Solmar Villas. "Additionally, it is said that anyone who takes anything from Bodie, even a rock, will be cursed with misfortune and health issues once they leave."
Any serious fan of horror novelist Stephen King fan knows that the author behind Carrie and It sets most of his work in his home state of Maine. While you can't go out and visit King's fictional towns like Derry or Castle Rock, you can visit Bangor, which serves as the inspiration for many of the author's works. Fans can take Stephen King-based tours of the city, which stop at places King has lived and locations that have inspired his stories.
But King's connection to the city isn't the only reason that it ended up on this list. Bangor is also home to the Hill House, a historic home that is said to be haunted by the ghosts of former residents Samuel and Matilda Dale, who purchased the home in 1846.
Sleepy Hollow, New York
It's up for debate whether or not the Headless Horseman is actually riding around the village of Sleepy Hollow annually, but that doesn't mean that the town, which was immortalized in Washington Irving's 1820 short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," isn't still a spooky locale.
"Visit Sleepy Hollow Cemetery to view the final resting places of Washington Irving and other famous individuals including Andrew Carnegie, William Rockefeller, Walter Chrysler, and even the notable Elizabeth Arden," says a representative for the New York State Department of Tourism. "It has been said, on more than one occasion, that an apparition has been seen among the graves and many who have walked through the cemetery say they hear silent whispering."
While you're in Sleepy Hollow, stop by some of the many other landmarks from the short story to encounter the Headless Horseman or other spectral sights.
You might not instantly think of ghosts when you think of Kansas, as the state is more widely known for its connection to The Wizard of Oz and college football. But take a trip to Atchison, and you might change your mind.
Located along the Missouri River, Atchison is well-known for being the birthplace and hometown of Amelia Earhart, the aviation pioneer who mysteriously vanished over the Pacific Ocean in 1937. But it's also known for its legendary haunts (literally!) as it's home to several haunted buildings that attract ghost hunters from all over.
"Atchison is widely regarded as the most haunted town in Kansas," says Wesley McDermott, the owner of Haunted Rooms, a travel website that specializes in haunted locations. "The town is so haunted that the Travel Channel did a special segment called 'Haunted Town' that depicts many of the most haunted locations, including the Sallie House, McInteer Villa, McPike Mansion, and Benedictine College."
According to Atchison's website, there have been ghost stories told about different spots in the town since the late 1800s and they currently offer a Haunted Trolley Tour that takes visitors to some of the town's most eerie sites.
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Salem, Massachusetts, is pretty much synonymous with "spooky," thanks to its somewhat sordid history. The Massachusetts city was home to the Salem Witch Trials, a series of hearings and prosecutions in which 25 people were killed either by hanging, being stoned to death, or dying in jail after being accused of witchcraft by other members of the community.
One of the reportedly most haunted places in Salem is Old Burying Point Cemetery, which is the resting place of many of the people involved in the trials, including a memorial to those who were killed during the Witch Trials. It's also the second-oldest cemetery in the country.
The city is also home to the Salem Witch Museum, which houses sets that allow visitors to relive the experience of the Salem Witch Trials, as well as an exhibit on how the perceptions of witchcraft have changed over time.
Wilmington, North Carolina
The Cape Fear River, which runs through Wilmington, wasn't named for the residents of the area's fear of ghosts. But since the port city is known for its haunted historic district, maybe it should've been.
"One of the most historic and haunted locations in Wilmington is that of the Cotton Exchange, which is now a thriving complex of restaurants, gift shops, and art galleries," says Hannah Almeter, a communications and PR specialist at Wilmington and Beaches. "The ghost stories of the Cotton Exchange date back to the 1700s to late 1800s when Paddy's Hollow (now the location of the Cotton Exchange) was known as a collective area for undesirables causing chaos and violence. In 1886, a fire devastated the north end of Wilmington, including Paddy's Hollow."
For travelers who are into more fictional frights, Wilmington is also a filmmaking hub where movies like Halloween Kills, Firestarter, and The Black Phone were filmed.
Estes Park, Colorado
Mostly known as the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park is a mountainous town that's perfect for outdoor adventure lovers. But that's not the only thing it's known for. Towering above the town is the more-than-a-century-old Stanley Hotel, which has been the fodder for ghost stories, including a pretty well-known one called The Shining.
After spending time at the hotel with his wife, Stephen King was so inspired by his spooky stay that he wrote the horror novel. The hotel capitalizes on its hauntings by offering its own ghost tour. You can also book a night in room 217, the room King stayed in that's reportedly one of the most haunted at the hotel.
With a downtown area dotted with Victorian homes, Georgetown, Texas, is charming and historic, as well as allegedly haunted by ghosts.
One of the buildings churning up the most ghost stories in the city was the restaurant Gumbo's North (it recently closed), which was formerly home to the local chapter of the Freemasons. Visitors to the building when it was owned by the Freemasons said that they experienced cold spots, feelings of uneasiness, and doors that would open and close on their own.
There are several ghost tours held each month by The Williamson Museum, including the museum's First Friday tours, which go over the history and ghost stories of the area, and another tour which allows tour-goers their own opportunity to use ghost hunting equipment in searching for spirits throughout the museum.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story misattributed quotes about Sleepy Hollow. The story has been updated to reflect this.
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