In order for a location to be creepy, it does not necessarily need to be haunted. In some cases, the history of the location and its current condition is enough to get the creepy feeling radiating throughout the body. However, most of the best creepy historic sites in America do have paranormal activity and encounters associated with them.
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania if often referred to as one of the most haunted places in the country. The area is home to many monuments and historic sites associated with the Battle of Gettysburg. Mark Nesbitt, author, historian and paranormal investigator, lived in Gettysburg for nearly 30 years and has become very familiar with the haunted sites in the area. He coined the phrase “acre for acre, the most haunted place in America.”
While he was writing “Civil War Ghost Trails,” Nesbitt had the opportunity to visit every major Civil War battlefield in the country. He also visited some prisoner of war camps and other small towns related to the war. After visiting all of the other locations, he still finds Gettysburg to be one of the most haunted historic sites in the country.
“I have heard no less than five separate witnesses to the famous ‘Phantom Regiment’ which marches and then vanishes before their eyes leaving no trace,” he said. “These all happened between the Wheatfield and Little Round Top.” That is just one popular paranormal encounter visitors and residents witness. “Also, I have no less than four participants who rode an elevator in a modernized former field hospital down into a spectral reaction of a wartime hospital scene, complete with wounded soldiers and surgeons operating,” he continued.
Other creepy sites in Gettysburg include Devil’s Den and Triangular Field. However, there are so many stories associated with different landmarks in the area, making Gettysburg one of the creepiest among historic sites in America.
Spooky stories in Fredericksburg, Virginia cover historic events dating back to the 17th century when John Smith explored the area. Stories in the area include ghostly tales from the Rising Sun Tavern, which was built by George Washington’s brother, and the Mary Washington House, which was purchased by Washington for his mother. Though many of these stories go back in time to when settlers were first coming to the area, many of the hauntings are believed to be associated with the four Civil War battles that were fought within miles of the town.
Several police officers and historians have reported seeing unexplainable ghostly figures in the town and Nesbitt shared that one historian (among others) reported seeing a woman dressed in blue come through his house on Charlotte Street. “The disconcerting part is,” he said, “that she was missing her head.” A guest on one of Nesbitt’s Ghosts of Fredericksburg tour recently sent him a picture taken near Charlotte Street of a blue wispy figure and you can see background lights where a head should be.
There is no questioning why Antietam, Maryland is haunted, especially since it is home to the bloodiest single day in all of American history. Spooky encounters in Antietam include phantom footsteps in private homes and a hand emerging from the bottom of the Bloody Lane trying to trap an unsuspecting reenactor. Ghost tours and frightening tales are associated with John Brown’s attempt to lead a slave insurrection in 1859.
A recent investigation by Hopkins County Paranormal Society revealed several unexplained occurrences while investigating the former Old Meade Jail, which is now called The Jailhouse Pizza. “We have been told that we have captured the best evidence ever from there,” says Bill Payne, a paranormal investigator with Hopkins County Paranormal Society. “We captured a video of a blanket being pulled out and down.” He said that they also captured some audio of what sounds like a little girl, several footsteps and a faint scream. From the sounds of it, there are many unexplainable occurrences happening at The Jailhouse Pizza.
San Jose, California
San Jose is home to The Winchester Mystery House, which has several architectural features and spooky stories that make this historic site very creepy. The Winchester Mystery House was built with mile-long hallways, staircases that lead to nowhere and several doors that open up into walls. It is a Victorian mansion designed like a fun house by Sarah Winchester, the widow of William Wirt Winchester, son of the creator of the Winchester repeating rifle.
After losing both her daughter and husband, Sarah sought guidance from a spiritual advisor, who warned her that the family had a terrible curse put upon them. She was told that her family would be haunted by the ghosts of those who had lost their lives because of the Winchester rifle. Construction workers worked 24 hours a day for 38 years, building the maze of a home. She believed the endless hallways, stairways to nowhere and false doors would trick ghosts, making it difficult for them to haunt her.
Those brave enough to enter can explore the Bell Witch Cave. This is the site where it is reported that a ghost often referred to as the Bell Witch tormented John Bell and his family. A neighbor of the Bell family started torturing them, including physically abusing Betsy, the youngest daughter. It is also believe that she placed a curse on John. She did all of this because of a land dispute. To this day, visitors claim that any objects removed from the cave have the curse attached to them and have reported being confronted with an unforeseen violent force.
Adding to the creepiness of the Bell Witch Cave is that no piece of technology works there. Cameras malfunction when trying to capture images and other pieces of technology, including cell phones, have reportedly stopped working when visitors go to use them.
Another location that is associated with the Bell Witch events is the Joel Bell Cabin, owned by the son of John. “We had some great experiences there,” Payne said as he shared his experiences from an investigation at the cabin. “I had a chair thrown down next to me and when I was upstairs in the attic, the attic door was slammed shut on me.” He said his group of paranormal investigators also captured a really creepy male laugh, various footsteps throughout the cabin and they could hear things being moved around.
Related: America’s Most Haunted Places
Weston, West Virginia
A former state hospital, Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was home to the mentally insane and has become one of the most haunted historic sites in the country. This hospital is believed to be haunted by ghosts of Civil War soldiers and the spirits of former patients. Looking at the deserted hospital and its two and half miles of hallways is creepy enough, but things look and get spookier once the sun sets.
Many visitors have claimed to witness things being moved, feelings of being watched and several occurrences of being touched. Guided tours are available, including a night-time flashlight tour, which is probably one of the creepiest tours you will ever take.
The Stepp Cemetery in Benton is famously known for being one of the most haunted cemeteries in the country. Approximately only two dozen grave markers remain, many of which are unreadable and crumbling apart. Several creepy stories including those of cult activities, sacrifices and grave robbing are associated with Stepp Cemetery. Many visitors have claimed to see a woman dressed in black, weeping over a what appears to be the remnants of a grave.
The history of the St. Augustine Lighthouse could explain the many paranormal occurrences visitors and investigators have experienced. Throughout its history, residents, family members and workers have died at the site of the lighthouse and the inn keeper’s home. Unexplainable occurrences include creepy shadows, strange noises, someone walking high in the tower when no one is in the lighthouse and sounds of a little girl laughing at night. Some reports claim a young girl, believed to be the daughter of the Superintendent of Lighthouse Construction who had drowned, appears in front of guests wearing the same clothing she wore the day she died.
Fall River, Massachusetts
Tragic and untimely deaths occurred on August 4, 1892 at what is known today at the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast. This home is the site of where Mr. and Mrs. Border were killed with a hatchet and it is believed that the daughter of Mr. Border was the culprit. The overall feel of the home combined with its history and strange paranormal occurrences are enough to make any visit to the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast a creepy experience.
There are many ghost stories associated with Savannah, Georgia, including those coming from the Sorrel-Weed House. This historic site has often been referred to as the most haunted building in Savannah. Claims include figures appearing in windows, sounds of disembodied voices and feelings of being touched. This house has a lot of history both in the home and throughout the property, which is why it has been named as a State Landmark in Georgia. Ghost tours are available for those daring enough to enter the most haunted location in the city.
Estes Park, Colorado
The Stanley Hotel is known for many strange occurrences that are creepy enough to get many guests staying at the hotel to request a room change and/or check out early. Paranormal occurrences experienced at the Stanley Hotel include sounds of a party happening in the ballroom when no one is there and a man standing over a bed before disappearing into the cupboard. Other strange happenings include an apparition who likes to steal jewelry and other personal belongings, ghosts in rooms and sounds of a piano playing.
The Stanley Hotel offers accommodations for those who dare to spend the night and guided tours are also available.
Featured on many reality shows showcasing paranormal research, Eastern State Penitentiary is still home to many of history’s criminals who believe they are still serving time behind bars. Informational tours about the site’s past, as well as spooky Halloween activities, give visitors firsthand experiences of just how creepy Eastern State Penitentiary truly is. This location is just as creepy in the daytime as it is at night.
Paranormal claims include apparitions, being touched, strange noises and so much more. There are so many paranormal claims at the penitentiary that all guests are required to sign a waiver before entering and taking the tour.
From the outside, Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery appears peaceful and unimportant. However, once you pass through the fence into the cemetery, you will see that the cemetery is falling apart and has suffered a lot of damage due to age and vandalism. Many of the gravestones in Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery are dismantled, some completely destroyed. This site used to be a dumping ground for the mob back in the early 1900s until they stopped burying the dead in the 1960s.
Paranormal occurrences include sightings of the White Lady ghost, who, dressed in white, roams the graves in search of her missing baby. Other sightings include those of a two-headed man and the random appearances of a ghost house on the grounds.
Nesbitt said that there three elements historically associated with a haunting. These elements include youthful death, unexpected death and unfinished business. All of the spookiest sites listed above have at least one of these elements, many of which have all three. Before going to explore some of these sites, take some time to do your research and learn more about the history associated with each site. That might be just enough to make these historic sites even creepier when you go for a visit.
Heather Landon is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has combined two of her passions – writing and travel – to share her experiences with others. You can read more of her articles at Examiner.com.