Everyone knows someone who loves a great haunted house story! The creepier the better! Even if you didn’t like them, almost everyone has heard one or two eerie ones in their day. Most of them are tall tales, just stories meant to get a scare. However, there are plenty of real-life haunted house stories that can’t be so easily dismissed. These aren’t urban legends, but cases of actual documented occurrences and uncanny activities. The paranormal is being taken more seriously now more than ever as many of these spooky goings-on have been reported over and over for years and then documented by investigators.
Throughout the world, you will find buildings, houses, even castles, from all different eras that share a history of the paranormal. These haunted places aren’t necessarily terrifying and the activities reported have not necessarily been evil, despite the negative connotation of the word "haunted." Many a haunting simply involves the reported spirit or spirits of former residents, many benevolent, who have trouble letting go of their former existence. Maybe they came from high society, maybe they left loved ones without saying goodbye, or maybe they were wronged so horribly that they simply can’t let it go. This type of spirit can manifest itself in the most upsetting of ways, including lashing out violently towards visitors or new occupants of places the spirit believes to be theirs. Regardless, these spirits remain to manifest themselves whenever they see fit in their favorite locales. Here, in no particular order, I present a list of fifteen of the most documented haunted places in the world. See if you have the nerve to spend the night in any of them!
15 The White House, Washington, D.C.
One of the most famous homes in the world, the White House is the residence and office for the President of the United States, and has been since 1800. It has been the focus of haunted activity for generations. With so much history and historical figures having lived in and visited this grand estate, it is little wonder that the place is arguably the most haunted home in America. Many have reported witnessing the ghost of Abraham Lincoln, including Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and even Winston Churchill. More recently, the Obamas have admitted to have heard bizarre sounds emanating from the house in the middle of the night.
Two of the most haunted locations in the house are the Lincoln Bedroom and the Rose Room. On one occasion, when he was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Winston Churchill was staying in the Lincoln Bedroom. He had just finished a bath and was walking back when he saw what he swore was Lincoln himself standing by the fireplace. Others, such as former president’s Teddy Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover, and former first lady’s Jackie Kennedy and Lady Bird Johnson have also reported seeing the ghost of Lincoln by that same fireplace. Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was staying nearby in the Rose Room when she answered a knock at the door in the middle of the night. She was astonished when she opened the door to find the ghost of Lincoln standing in the hallway. These are only some of the strange reports from visitors. The hearty ghostly laughter of President Andrew Jackson has been heard, as has his violent swearing, plus sudden cold spots, disembodied footsteps, knocks, screams and some have even seen the apparition of former First Lady Abigail Adams floating through the East Room.
14 Myrtles Plantation
Built in 1796, by Gen. David Bradford, the Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana is considered one of the most haunted places in America. Legend tells that nearly a dozen deaths have occurred on the property, some from illness, but some were the victims of murder. Former residents and visitors have reported numerous strange occurrences, such as moving furniture, disappearing jewelry, mysterious handprints, and a grand piano that plays by itself, among other things.
One story of the plantation tells of a slave, Chloe, who had one of her ears cut off by her master for eavesdropping. In revenge, Chloe baked a poisonous cake intended for her master. However, the plan backfired as two of the master’s daughters ate the cake instead and died. Chloe was hung for her crime. Many say that the ghosts of Chloe and the girls she killed still haunt the plantation. They say Chloe is easily identified by the turban she has been seen wearing, which when alive helped cover her missing ear. If you are brave enough, the Myrtles currently operates as a bed-and-breakfast and offers creepy night tours, or, for the not-so-brave, daylight tours throughout the grounds of the plantation.
13 The Lemp Mansion
Built in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1868, this mansion was owned by wealthy brewer William J. Lemp Sr. and his family. Four Lemp family members of various generations committed suicide, three in the mansion itself. William was intent on passing on his brewery to his son, Frederick. Those plans were dashed when Frederick died suddenly in 1901, due to illness. In 1904, William committed suicide by shooting himself. In 1920, daughter Elsa shot and killed herself, as well. Two years later, William Jr. committed suicide in the same manner. The last Lemp to kill himself, Charles, also a son of William Sr., shot himself inside the mansion in 1949. In 1970, the last remaining son passed way and his will ordered that all family heirlooms be destroyed. The mansion was sold and turned into a boarding house, though that didn’t last long due to continued reports of eerie voices being heard. The mansion has since been opened as an inn and restaurant.
Strange occurrences inside the mansion have almost become commonplace as disembodied footsteps, knocking on doors, slamming of doors, and the odd sensation of being watched are often reported. Ghostly apparitions have been sighted, including a little boy who is often reported asking visitors to play with him. Guests also report, that while sitting at the bar, their drinks will stir themselves, while others say their glasses are moved and broken. The inn now offers paranormal tours and murder mystery dinners. There is even an annual Halloween party for those daring guests who wish to spend some time with the Lemp family, who most investigators believe never left the mansion.
12 Battery Carriage House Inn
This 19th Century home has a beautiful view of the waterfront battery and White Point Gardens in Charleston, South Carolina’s historic district. The main house is still a private residence, but the rear Carriage House has been opened to the public as an old-fashioned bed-and-breakfast. In its early years, this historic area was witness to both pirate hangings as well as the Civil War. This may be why the Carriage House has been reported as a hotbed of paranormal activity.
In Room 8, male guests often report being accosted by a coarse-looking ghost who likes to surprise and pester them, without being overly antagonistic. Usually seen only from the torso up, this ghost likes to slam chairs against the walls and is sometimes described as having a cruel sense of humor. Room 10 is home to the ghost of a slender man who makes his presence known mostly to women. One mother and daughter captured the sound of his heavy breathing and tapping on a camera that they left recording overnight, along with his shadowy manifestation that incessantly passed in front of it. The final room with the most reported activity is Room 3, where bizarre lights have been seen and electrical devices operate on their own volition, such as powering on by themselves even when unplugged or turned off.
The infamous Suicide Forest! Located at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan, Aokigahara, also known as the Sea of Trees, has become globally notorious due to huge amount of suicides that occur there. Hundreds of people have ventured into the dense forest only to kill themselves. In fact, so many people have killed themselves there that the police routinely conduct searches to remove any bodies. The police no longer even publish the number of bodies that are recovered for fear of actually encouraging others to commit suicide in the forest. In 2004 alone, 108 people killed themselves there. Police have posted signs throughout the forest imploring visitors to reexamine their lives: “Your life is a precious gift to your parents” and “Please consult with the police before you decide to die.”
Due to the uncanny allure of the forest to those seeking to end their lives, many people believe the forest is forever haunted by the numerous souls of those who have died there. Others say that the forest’s history is why so many end their lives there. According to legend, in Ancient Japan, when families couldn't feed themselves due to famine, some members would be abandoned in Aokigahara to die of starvation. Whatever the reason, many curious people every year hazard their way into the forest only to come face to face with the sad spirits that are said to inhabit this tragic area.
10 Raynham Hall
The United Kingdom is home to tons of haunted locales, none more so than the infamous Tower of London, but have you ever heard of Raynham Hall in Norfolk? It is home to the ghostly Brown Lady, so called due to her appearances wearing a brown decorative dress. This ghostly lady is believed to be the apparition of Lady Dorothy Walpole (1686-1726). She was the sister of Robert Walpole, the first prime minister of Great Britain. Legend tells that she carried on an affair with a local Lord Wharton. When her husband, Charles Townshend discovered the affair, he locked her away inside Raynham Hall. Another story claims that it was Lord Wharton’s wife who arranged to have her secluded. Either way, Lady Walpole was locked away inside house, where she died, leaving her soul free to haunt the Hall.
She’s been spotted many times in Raynham Hall, the first in 1825, by guests returning to their rooms after a Christmas party. The most famous sighting was on September 19, 1936, when she was sighted descending a staircase and quickly photographed. The photo appeared in Country Life magazine and then Life Magazine, making the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall famous! For over 400 years, Raynham Hall has been home to the Townsend family, with the current owner being Charles, 8th Marquess Townshend.
9 Eastern State Penitentiary
Built in 1829, Eastern State Penitentiary is a former prison in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is famous for instituting what was referred to as the Pennsylvania System, introducing the idea of solitary confinement. Governed by Quaker principles, the prison had very strict rules of isolation and punishment. Prisoners would spend their times in solitary confinement as a form of rehabilitation. They would be completely isolated, living, eating, and even exercising alone. Whenever they would be brought out of their cells, a black hood would be placed over his head to assure he would have no contact with any other prisoner, not even being allowed to see them. The only source of light for a prisoner was a skylight, believed to bring the prisoners “the light of God.” Needless to say, this type of prolonged isolation drove many prisoners insane, and as a result the Pennsylvania System was discarded in 1913. From that point, the prison operated under normal standards and even held such luminary criminals as Al Capone and the infamous bank robber, “Slick Willie” Sutton.
Paranormal activity has been reported since the 1940s, but increased when the prison was closed in 1971. Shadowy forms that quickly turn and disappear when approached, a dark figure seen lurking in the guard tower, and mysterious ghostly figures descending down the walls of the cell blocks are just a few of the occurrences being claimed. There’s even been malevolent cackling heard emanating from Cell Block 12, with disembodied footsteps and cell doors banging having also been heard. Visitors are allowed to view the prison grounds during the day and there is also a special Halloween haunted house setup this time of year, if you have the guts.
8 Waverly Hills Sanatorium
The Waverly Hills Sanatorium, in Kentucky, was first built as a two-story wooden building in 1910, however it was remodeled in 1926, and that is the building that stands today. It originally served a hospital that specialized in treating tuberculosis, at a time when the disease was at its worst with as many as 63,000 patients dying there. There were rampant rumors of the death numbers being partly due to mistreatment and reportedly questionable experimental medical procedures. Wrap that all together and you have a prescription for one of the most haunted places in America. One of the most haunted areas is the Body Chute, or Death Tunnel. This was where a rail car would transport dead bodies through the hospital in such a way so as other patients would not to see them.
Over the years, Waverly Hills’ reputation for being haunted as grown as more and more people have been allowed to investigate for themselves. One set of investigators caught a figure on thermal imaging that seemed to walk across a hall, appearing to be about 3 feet tall. It was only later that they learned of the story of a young boy whose ghost has been spotted lurking around quite often. Other reports have been made of full-bodied apparitions, moving shadows, disembodied screams and footsteps, as well as unexplainable cold spots. For those brave enough, a visit can be arranged ahead of time to view the sanatorium, but be warned that there is no electricity in the dreaded Death Tunnel, so bring some flashlights and whole lot of courage.
7 The Island of the Dolls
It’s called La Isla de la Munecas (“the Island of the Dolls”), located on Lake Teshuilo in Xochimilco, Mexico. In the 1950s, a man named Julian Santana Barrera relocated to the island as a recluse. Barrera was unaware of the legend about a young girl who drowned there in the 1920s, while playing near the gloomy waters. Locals say that ever since her death, the young girl’s spirit has remained on the island and haunted it. Barrera went there to be alone and soon found out why no one would go near it. He claimed that as soon as he moved to the island he began hearing a little girl’s voice speaking to him. The spirit said she was trapped on the island.
Barrera began to bring dolls to the island to keep her company. He later told his nephew that it was becoming increasingly harder to satisfy the spirit. He was afraid that she wanted him to join her in the spirit world. Later that very same day, the nephew discovered his uncle face down in the same waters reportedly where the little girl drowned over seventy years prior. Ever since Barrera’s death in 2001, the island has become a haunted destination with tourists bringing dolls to the island as an offering to the spirit. Some visitors report they see the doll’s eyes following them, and even hear a girl’s whispers at night. Others say Barrera’s spirit resides on the island as well keeping the little girl company in death as he did in life.
6 The Queen Mary Hotel
This former ocean liner ran the North Atlantic for decades beginning in the 1930s. Her ocean-going days now behind her, she has been moored at Long Beach, California since the 1970s. The Queen Mary is now run as a hotel, possibly one of the most haunted hotels in America. Numerous ghostly encounters have been reported there, with the liner having many areas reputed to be haunted.
The most popular of these reports stem from the First Class Swimming Pool. Reportedly, two women drowned in that pool, separately, decades ago. Since then, their ghosts have been sighted on numerous occasions in that area. Then there is the story of the ethereal woman in white that has been reported quite often in the Queen’s Salon; the shadowy gentleman in formal 1930s attire in the First Class suites area; or, the ghosts of two young children that have been seen, and heard, playing near the storage room. If that doesn’t get you intrigued, then there’s the claims that the ghost of a young woman has been often seen walking through the Tourist Class Swimming Pool.
There appears to be a ghost for every occasion aboard the Queen Mary. One area that is no longer available for viewing is Cabin B340. There were numerous reports of strange activities taking place in that room, however it is no longer available for rent. Whether this is due to the ghostly experiences or not is unknown; Queen Mary management isn’t saying…
5 St. Augustine Lighthouse
The St. Augustine Lighthouse was built in 1874, and remains an active lighthouse and museum in historic St. Augustine, Florida. It has long been reported that the lighthouse and the surrounding buildings are haunted. Many people from throughout the years have claimed that the ghosts of two little girls inhabit the grounds, and are most often seen on the tower catwalk. The spirits are believed to be the daughters of Hezekiah Pittee, who led the construction of the lighthouse all those years ago. His two daughters reportedly died during the construction in a tragic accident. There have also been reports of a ghostly woman standing alone on the stairway of the lighthouse or walking around the outside grounds. Visitors claim they have heard her voice, most often crying for help.
Other disembodied conversations, shadows, and even the sound of footsteps have been heard coming up the lighthouse steps. Another ghost that has been reported is believed to that of Civil War hero and former lighthouse keeper, William A. Harn. His ghostly figure is most often seen in the lighthouse basement. Paranormal researchers have investigated the lighthouse in the past and are convinced that the area is a hot-spot of ghostly activity. One group of investigators captured a tantalizing video of what looked like a ghostly woman observing over the railing on the lighthouse staircase. Shadowy figures and even an EVP (electronic voice phenomena) of a woman crying for help have been recorded at the lighthouse. This historic building is truly a must-see destination for any brave enough to venture inside.
4 Castle of Good Hope
Built in the 17th century by the Dutch East Indies Company, the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town, is South Africa’s oldest colonial building. It was originally a resupply station for ships passing through the Cape. The first reported paranormal activities began around 1915, when people began seeing a ghostly apparition of a tall man around the castle battlements. A rash of sightings was reported again around 1947, when he was seen regularly over a two week period, sighted jumping off the side of the castle wall, and also walking between castle bastions.
There have been other stories told about the castle, including one about the former governor Pieter Gysbert van Noodt. He died on April 23, 1728, the very same day he had seven soldiers executed for desertion. They say one of the condemned soldiers cursed the governor and demanded that he be present to witness the executions. When he didn’t come out to view the grisly scene, his staff went to his office and found him dead slouched over his desk with a look of horror on his face. Another famous story is of the Lady in Grey, observed running through the castle crying uncontrollably. During a recent excavation, a woman’s body was found and given a proper burial. Since then, there have been no further reports of a woman’s spirit haunting the castle. Then there’s the story of the 1700s soldier that was found hanging in the bell tower, which overlooks the castle entrance. The tower has been sealed ever since but still, to this day, the bell has been known to toll on its own.
3 Dragsholm Castle
A grand palace, Dragsholm Castle in Denmark was originally built in 1215. During the 16th century, parts of the castle were used to imprison those criminals who held noble or ecclesiastical rank. The castle was then rebuilt in a Baroque style after 1694. It is reputed to be haunted by at least three distinct ghosts. One of which is a former prisoner, James Hepburn, the 4th Earl of Bothwell, who was a husband of Mary, Queen of Scots. This ghostly lord has been seen riding through the courtyard in his stately horse and carriage. Another of the ghosts is the Grey Lady who is not seen as much but is believed to have been a former servant who famously suffered from a toothache. Her toothache has long subsided, she now returns to the castle occasionally to make sure all of the guests are in good health.
The most famous of the ghosts is the White Lady. Legend says she was born to a noble family but fell deeply in love with a commoner who was employed at the castle. When her father learned of the disgraceful relationship, he reportedly sealed his daughter in her chambers for the rest of her life. Centuries later, a construction crew discovered a small female skeleton hidden behind a castle wall. Her skeleton was dressed entirely in white and is long believed to have been the imprisoned daughter. Ever since the skeleton was found, the White Lady roams the halls of Dragsholm, thought to be searching for her long-lost lover. Today, Dragsholm Castle has been renovated and serves as a hotel and restaurant.
2 The Old Vicarage of Borgvattnet
Borgvattnet is a small village in Jämtland County, Northern Sweden. It is home to one of the most famous haunted houses in the whole country, renowned throughout at The Old Vicarage. It was originally built in 1876, as a home for clergy (or, vicars). The first documented occurrence of any paranormal activity was in 1927, when Chaplain Nils Hedlund was living in the building. Among the strange things he experienced, the most chilling was when he went up to the attic to collect his laundry. He said he witnessed the laundry being torn from the line by some unseen force. Later, in the 1930s, Rudolf Tangden, a priest who was staying in the home, watched as an old lady dressed in grey materialized in a room. Tangden followed the ghostly woman as she walked away, but she soon vanished right in front of his eyes. Then in the 1940s, Tangden’s successor, Otto Lindgren reported hearing strange sounds and witnessing objects moving on their own.
Once, a woman was staying in a guestroom and awakened in the middle of the night by three old women sitting adjacent staring at her. She quickly turned on the light to find that the women were still there though now their appearance seemed blurred. Another occupant, Erick Lindgren, moved into the building in 1945, and kept a journal where he documented his strange experiences. On numerous occasions he claimed he had been thrown out of his chair by some invisible force. Currently, the Old Vicarage is a restaurant with a guest house. If you have the courage to stay an entire night, they’ll issue an overnight-stay certificate to prove it.
1 Edinburgh Castle
One of the most haunted places in the United Kingdom, the site in Scotland where Edinburgh Castle sits has a long history dating back to the Iron Age. It was the site of many bloody battles and has been surrounded by claims of shadowy figures roaming the halls, strange lights, cold spots, eerie unexplained mists, and guests being overcome with sudden feelings of sadness and despair. This castle is well-known for being the haunted locale that could change the mind of many a sceptic. There have even been reports from as far back as 1650 of a headless drummer pacing the halls, and the ghost of Lady Glamis, burned at the stake for witchcraft in 1537, is said to haunt the castle at night.
Not too many years ago, a paranormal investigation was undertaken involving 240 volunteers. They were asked to spend ten days in and around the castle grounds. They reported feeling as if touched by unseen hands and many claimed they saw the same ghost wearing a leather apron in the castle at different times. Over the years many guests, as well as staff, have reported the same paranormal occurrences as others have in the past: feelings of being touched, wandering apparitions, and even the apron-adorned man and the headless drummer. A spooky destination no matter when you visit, Edinburgh Castle is now a very popular tourist spot, with several restaurants and shops, as well as historical displays and an educational center.