Instead of staying home this Halloween, make plans to head out to some of the top spooky vacation destinations in the country, where you may have your very own paranormal encounter.
During Halloween, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania hosts a variety of special events, including author autograph sessions, lectures and special tours. These are events that are not normally offered throughout the year or included with regular ghost tours of the area. Mark Nesbitt, author, historian and paranormal investigator, lists Gettysburg as a must-see destination for Halloween.
“Gettysburg is notorious for haunted venues because of the way men died, were buried and revered after the battle,” he said. “Some elements for a haunting include sudden death, youthful death, unfinished business, unexpected death, violent death, unconsecrated burial and prolonged for the dead. The Battle of Gettysburg had all of those elements — it provided the ‘perfect storm’ for creating ghosts.”
According to Nesbitt, must-see haunted locations in Gettysburg include:
- National Park
- Devil’s Den
- Triangular Field
- Field of Pickett’s Charge
- The Wheatfield
- Spangler’s Spring
Nesbitt has heard stories from others and has experienced unexplained occurrences himself at the above listed locations. However many of the area’s paranormal activity occurs in other areas of Gettysburg where the battle was fought. These locations include Gettysburg College, the Lutheran Seminary campus and many private homes and businesses, including Nesbitt’s building – the Ghosts of Gettysburg Headquarters. Keep in mind that the private homes and businesses are off limits.
St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine, Florida is the oldest town in America and has a ghost story on just about every street of the city. Ghost tours are available for those wanting to hear about the haunted history of the area and explore the paranormal side of the city.
The Old Jail has been referred to as one of the most haunted locations in St. Augustine. It is listed on the Florida and National Register of Haunted Places. The Old Jail was originally built in 1891 and housed some of the most dangerous criminals. This area is prime for a haunting because of the inhumane conditions and treatment of prisoners, including the hanging of eight men from the gallows. Claims of paranormal activity at the Old Jail include loud banging noises and glimpses of a ghoulish presence.
Castillo de San Marcos is the largest masonry structure of its kind in America. After surviving more then 300 years of battles and major storms, there is no doubt this 17th century fort is haunted. Nesbitt said there have been stories of mysterious lights where there is no electricity, the sighting at sunset or sunrise of a Spanish soldier and cold touches felt in the dungeon.
He also suggests visiting the Spanish Military Hospital, which was built upon an ancient Indian burial ground, where there have been many strange occurrences. Another haunted location is the Old St. Augustine lighthouse, where there have been reports of children’s voices being heard when there are no children around. Other haunted locations in St. Augustine include the Huguenot Cemetery and the Casablanca Inn.
Halloween and witches go together like peanut butter and jelly. That is why Salem, Massachusetts made this list of spooky destinations to visit for Halloween. More than 150 people were accused and prosecuted for practicing witchcraft back in the early 1690s. Some were hanged and others crushed to death by heavy stones, all of which adds to the spookiness and tales of paranormal activity in the area. Salem celebrates Halloween for a majority of October, featuring parades, ghost tours and other spooky events.
“I haven’t been to Salem since before the ‘ghost craze’ has swept America,” Nesbitt said. “But according to Rosemary Ellen Guiley in ‘Haunted Salem’ (Stackpole Books, 2011), Salem has numerous haunted sites.” When asked why, he responded that it is believed that many of those hanged for being witches left curses on the town.
It is believed that Giles Corey, an accused witch who was “pressed to death,” had placed a curse on all of the future Salem sheriffs and currently haunts the site of her death – the Howard Street Cemetery. Other haunted locations in Salem include Gallows Hill, numerous bed and breakfasts, restaurants and Salem’s most haunted street – Essex Street.
Everything from pirates to the second bloodiest battle of the American Revolution and the slave trade to several Civil War battles all contribute to the paranormal activity in Savannah, Georgia. Modern crimes, such as those told in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” also contribute to the amount of paranormal claims in the area. Nesbitt co-authored the “Haunted Crime Scenes” series of books with Katherine Ramsland. An entire chapter is devoted to the murders in Savannah and the paranormal claims associated with those crime scenes.
Some of the haunted locations in Savannah include:
- The Cemetery
- Sorrel Weed House
- Perkins and Sons Ship Chandlery on River Street
- The Old Herb House
- The Pirate’s House
San Antonio, Texas
Just like Gettysburg, San Antonio, Texas, the site of the Alamo, has all of the factors needed to create ghosts. Once of the biggest factors that helped create ghosts in the area include recent historical evidence that suggests a number of the defenders had survived the battle only to be massacred upon their surrender. Their bodies were thrown into huge pyres and were cremated without the honor of a proper burial.
“Years later, modern hotels were built upon the sites of the fires,” Nesbitt said, “which may account for the sightings of defenders of the Alamo in the hallways.” Nesbitt also suggested that all ghost-buffs need to visit the Menger Hotel, where Teddy Roosevelt organized the Rough Riders.
Asheville, North Carolina
Those looking for a lesser-known haunted venue should look into visiting Asheville, North Carolina, where there are a number of places with paranormal stories associated with them. Nesbit suggests that ghost-seekers in the Asheville area should take time to explore the following locations:
- The Grove Park Inn claims of the ghost of a young woman dressed in pink is seen roaming the grounds. This ghost is believed to be the one of a woman who tragically died at the Inn.
- The Battery Park Hotel is the scene of a bloody murder and “several jumpers.” “Thomas Wolfe, an Asheville native, stayed there a number of times,” Nesbitt said. “And some of the strange happenings there are attributed to him.”
- The Biltmore Estate is said to be haunted by George Vanderbilt of one of the richest families in America.
Before planning your vacation to one of the spookiest locations for Halloween, it is important to do your homework. Read some of the ghost books about the area you plan to visit and you will discover that not all ghostly claims are visual. Be prepared for the fact that you may not see a ghost, but that does not mean you will not experience something spooky.
“According to the data gleaned from my ‘Ghosts of Gettysburg’ series,” Nesbitt said, “only about 10 percent of the stories involve ‘visuals,’ some 60 percent are auditory in nature, but all the senses – smell, touch, sometimes taste – are involved.”
Knowing this, you are sure to have a spooky time this Halloween visiting some of the most haunted places in the country.
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.