There’s a seed of the macabre in all of us, a morbid little something that drives us to horror movies, ghost stories, and occasionally, the use of a night-light. And what better time to indulge in that then while you’re on vacation? Here’s a handful of places with ghostly and ghoulish pasts that would make a great day (or night, if you’re daring) trip on your next vacation.
Beechworth Lunatic Asylum, Australia
Beechworth Lunatic Asylum opened in 1867, and was active as a mental hospital until 1995, for a full 128 years. At its height, the hospital housed 1200 patients and 500 staff members. Now, though, the grounds are managed by the local university, the mortuary on the grounds was converted into a chapel in the 1960s and is now used for weddings, and the gardens are open to the public from dawn to dusk. After dusk, though, it’s ghost tours, where people hope to catch a glimpse of Matron Sharpe, who wanders the old dormitories, or Tommy Kennedy, a former kitchen hand who reportedly tugs at visitors clothes or tickles them. Tours run seven nights a week, with two tours a night, costing $30-35 dollars per adult.
Eastern State Penitentiary, Pennsylvania
Once one of the most famous prisons in the world, the Eastern State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania was active as a prison from 1829 to 1971, and helped popularize the system of reform, instead of punitive-based incarceration. It also housed bank robber Willie Sutton and Al Capone in its walls, and even in the forties, guards and inmates reported having paranormal experiences. It’s since been considered as one of the most haunted locations in the U.S. It’s visited by nearly sixty paranormal research teams a year, including the ones that end up on TV, like Ghost Hunters, The Most Haunted Live Team and American Paranormal. And Eastern State capitalizes on this: when you buy your daytime tour pass, your audio tour guide discusses the ghost sightings at the prison- while you’re walking through it. Every fall it also offers the Terror Behind the Walls experience, a haunted-house extravaganza with six separate, Hollywood-grade attractions designed to terrify, even without the added chills of being set in a ‘real’ haunted prison.
The Stanley Hotel, Colorado
If you’ve seen the Stephen King-approved movie version of The Shining, you’ve seen the Stanley Hotel. King’s stay at the neo-Georgian hotel during a quiet period, when it was near-empty, reportedly inspired him to write The Shining. The hotel itself reports that the long-past caretaker, Ms. Elizabeth Wilson, who was injured in an explosion in 1911, occasionally unpacks bags of the guests in room 217, where the explosion took place. The fourth floor apparently houses a gaggle of ghostly children, who run, giggling, up and down the halls. Flora Stanley, F.O. Stanley’s wife, apparently still drops by to check in on the hotel and play the music-room’s piano as well. The team of the Ghost Hunters television show filmed at the Stanley, and reported items being moved as well as a heavy glass ornament being broken from the inside, leading them to declare the location haunted. The Stanley Hotel keeps a psychic on staff, to give the guests readings, and offers tours starting at $20 per adult. But if you want the full experience, you could always stay the night. Ask for room 217- it’s where Stephen King stayed when he was inspired. And if that’s not creepy enough, turn on the TV and flip to channel 42, where the Kubrick adaptation of The Shining is playing on a constant stream.
Stull Cemetary, Kansas
Stull is a small town in Kansas, and reportedly quite charming, as long as you don’t believe the legend that the town houses one of the seven gateways to hell. The stories claim that, somewhere in Stull’s little cemetery, there’s a hidden flight of steps, leading straight down to hell. The stories vary, some saying the stairs are only accessible on the equinoxes and Halloween night, while others say the stairs are always there, waiting. Another story claims that every Halloween the devil himself ascends that staircase to visit the cemetery. The locals, though, are apparently sick of these stories, since they’ve lead to vandalism of the cemetery, so any visitors need to be respectful, and behave themselves. After all vandalizing this particular cemetery might anger more than just the local constabulary.
The Tower of London, United Kingdom
As one of the most famous dungeons in the world, as well as the seat of the Norman British monarchy, it’s unsurprising that the Tower of London has its fair share of ghosts. Unlike some of the other places on this list, it’s unlikely you’re going to get any alone time to go ghost-hunting: home to the crown jewels, the tower ravens, museum exhibits and a Royal Mint display, it’s one of London’s biggest tourist attractions. But people still report ghosts. The most famous ghosts include Anne Boleyn, the mother of Queen Elizabeth I, who was executed for treason by her husband, Henry VIII, reportedly wanders the grounds near the spot of her beheading, head tucked neatly under her arm. There’s also the two little princes, Edward V and his younger brother Richard, who disappeared after being sent to the Tower of London, and are widely believed to have been murdered by their uncle, the Duke of Gloucester. Other reported hauntings include an unknown woman in white, who haunts the main tower and waves to small children from the windows, and guards experiencing crushing sensations near displays of King Henry VIII’s armor. So, next time you’re in London, keep an eye out for specters once you’re finished looking at the gemstones!
The Bell Witch Cave and Farm, Tennessee
This has been called the most famous haunting in America, and the locations can now be visited by those daring enough to brave the farm, cabin and cave instrumental to the infamous case. In the early 1800s, the Bell Family of Tennessee reported being tormented by an unseen force, focusing on the patriarch of the family, John Bell, and his daughter Betsy. The force eventually named itself ‘Kate’, and would take credit for the death of John Bell in December of 1820. Nowadays, you can visit a replica of the Bell Cabin, and the Bell Cave, where some believe the Bell Witch waited during the daytime, or call ahead and book a night time tour. The Historic Bell Witch Cave Incorporated has also turned October into a celebration of the spooky, adding psychics and haunted hayrides to their usual tours.
The Winchester House, California
The Winchester House was the living project of Sarah Winchester, after her husband, William Winchester (of Winchester Rifles) and her child died. She sought the advice of a spiritualist, who told her that the ghosts of those killed by Winchester Rifles were responsible for the death of her family members, and they would come for her too, unless she provided them with a house. In 1884, she purchased a farmhouse on the outskirts of San Jose, and put her $21 million inheritance to work. The eight-room house sprawled out into a one-hundred and sixty room house that underwent constant remodelling and expansion until Sarah Winchester’s death. Her obsession with constant construction lead to doorways opening onto walls, stairways that go nowhere, and windows to the outside blocked by the house. There’s also a single seance room, hidden away in the heart of the house, where Mrs. Winchester reportedly spoke to the spirits. And now, it offers tours, with special nighttime tours offered every Friday the 13th, as well as select days in October.