updated on February 4th, 2023
Halloween is just around the corner! You could stay home and watch scary movies. Even better, you could get some real-life creepy experiences! There’s no shortage of spine-chilling locations that are perfect for Halloween day trips. Here are our choices for the best and the scariest:
The West Virginia State Penitentiary
If you believe in spooky phenomenon (and even if you don’t), there’s a reason some locations attract more ghosts than others- bad things happened there. if you’re looking for a place like this, you couldn’t find a better destination than the gothic-style West Virginia State Penitentiary. Built in 1866, the stone leviathan has seen its share of riots, fires, and daring escapes. To fuel your ghost hunt, thirty-six people were murdered in the West Virginia State Pen, and some of them have never left (insert spooky music here). Today, you can tour its haunted hallways any time of year—but on Halloween, the management has a special (and very scary) haunted house exhibition that’s fun for the entire family.
Deadwood, South Dakota
Made famous by a popular HBO series, Deadwood was an enormously popular tourist destination even before the TV show. The history of Deadwood is peppered with frightening stories, from murders (including the shooting of Wild Bill Hickok), fires, and drug trafficking. That infamous history is the perfect backdrop for the town’s annual “Deadweird” celebration. Visitors are treated to a wide range of spooky events, including Monster’s Ball, the Zombie Walk, costume contests, and lots of scary stories told at the famous Adams House Victorian Mansion.
The Whaley House
Residents of San Diego, California know all about the Whaley House, with its reputation as one of the most haunted places in America. That’s not surprising, given stories like the much-publicized suicide of Violet Whaley and the hanging of Yankee Jim Robinson.
Those events, according to people who’ve been inside the house, are among the reasons visitors to the Whaley House often report spooky encounters. It’s also one of the reasons the house has been the subject of numerous paranormal investigations, including one conducted by the Travel Channel’s series, “America’s Most Haunted.” If you visit the Whaley House, you might be one of the lucky few to experience unexplained disembodied voices, thumping footsteps, banging walls, the ghostly apparitions of Thomas and Anna Whaley.
Boston’s Omni Parker House
Constructed in the late 19th-century, the Omni Parker House is Boston’s best-haunted hotel. In its heyday, the Omni hosted the likes of Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Oliver Wendell Holmes, but also some infamous characters, like John Wilkes Booth. It’s also where John F. Kennedy announced his candidacy for Congress in 1953.
The Omni has long been famous for ghost sightings, so much so that its room 303 became the basis for the Stephen King short story (and later feature film), “1408.” That room is now walled off to guests, but that hasn’t stopped visitors from seeing the ghost of the hotel’s first owner, Harvey Parker. Most former guests claim to have seen Parker as a misty apparition, but some say he appeared in clearer form. Even more guests have experienced the Omni’s flashes of light, weird sounds, and mysterious sensations. Fact or fiction? You’ll have to find out yourself.
The Menger Hotel
The Menger Hotel, located within earshot of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas is reason enough for visitors to conjure up spooky images—but that’s not the reason it’s acquired its reputation as the most haunted hotel in the state. Hotel guests have reported seeing 32 different ghosts over the years. The most famous is President Teddy Roosevelt, who’s frequently seen taking a drink at the bar. Other visitors to the Menger report seeing Captain Richard King, one-time owner of the King Ranch. He’s reportedly been seen entering the suite where he often stayed. You might even be treated to seeing the ghost of Sallie White, a hotel maid, who was murdered by her husband.
The Winchester Mystery House
If you’ve never heard of the Winchester Mystery House, you’re missing out. The house was constructed in 1884 by Sarah Winchester after the death of her husband, William Wirt Winchester. Work on the house continued until Sarah’s death in 1922.
Why would anyone want to spend nearly 40 years having their house built around them? Mr. Winchester held a prominent position with the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Convinced that the ghosts of those who’d been killed by Winchester Rifles haunted the house, Sarah continued to have rooms added on to her home. The mansion is a maze of confusion. Rooms boast windows that don’t allow an outside view, stairways and doors lead nowhere, and it takes an expert to navigate the jumbled floorplan. In fact, there was only one shower with hot water in the entire house, just for Sarah. It’s also said that she slept in a different room every night as an attempt to keep the ghosts from finding her.
When Sarah passed away in 1922, construction on the home ceased. However, it wasn’t long before the home became a haunted attraction. In 1924, an article was published about Harry Houdini‘s visit to the Winchester Mystery House, and the mansion quickly became a popular tourist destination.
Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast
Yes, you’re reading that correctly! Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast is a great visit if you’re looking to take a walk on the creepy side. This home holds the unsolved mystery of a brutal axe murder.
In 1892, Mr. and Mrs. Borden were found murdered in their home. The weapon was an ax and the suspected killer was Lizzie Borden, Mr. Borden’s daughter. Brought to trial for her suspected crime, she was later acquitted of the charges. No one else was ever charged.
The home has since become an attraction for ghost hunters and those just curious about its dark history. In an episode of The Dead Files, the home was toured by a psychic claiming to see and sense things even deeper and darker than already alleged, while a detective explored facts surrounding the case. We may never fully understand what events happened in this house. Even now, the home is equipped with ghost cams for those who can’t make the trip but want a chance at seeing something spooky.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
The name alone sums up how eerie this place is. Previously known as the Weston State Hospital, this site was the home of thousands of mentally ill patients starting in 1864. By the time it finally closed in 1994, hundreds of people had died there.
Reportedly built to house only 250 people at a time, occupancy peaked at over 2,000 by the 1950’s. Not only was it overcrowded, the conditions were so poor that it was finally closed in 1994. The home had started out with the best of intentions with a structural design that allowed sunlight and fresh air to flow freely. It ended up a crumbling disgrace and poor representation of how those with mental illness were treated.
In the earlier stages of the building’s construction, it was also used during the Civil War by both sides. Changing hands between the north and south, it’s said that the invading Confederates not only stole money, but the food and clothes intended for the first groups of patients staying there. When the war ended, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was completed.
This is just a small sampling of America’s haunted places. You’ll find a lot more in some of the top books on the subject, like Colin Dickey’s Ghostland: an American History in Haunted Places. Better yet, plan to visit one or more of these spooky locations this Halloween, and tell us what you saw!