By Andrea Nordstrom Caughey
It may surprise you to know that many cities and towns have a haunted past. Many of these spots have a strange history behind them, perfect for ghost hunting enthusiasts. If you dare, explore a few of the following otherworldly destinations.
Ghostly St. Augustine
As the oldest city in the U.S., St. Augustine, Florida has historic roots that also seem to spur paranormal activity. Two popular “haunts” include: the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, with rumored sightings of girls who drowned there in the 1800s, and Castle Warden, a Moorish-style estate (now a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum).
Feeling especially brave? Explore St. Augustine’s Old Jail for a dose of the supernatural. Built in 1891 under inhumane conditions, the jail held dangerous criminals — some were hung from the gallows.
Filled with historic buildings and deserted cemeteries, Savannah deserves its reputation as the most haunted city in America. Check out The Hamilton-Turner Inn, memorialized in the best seller Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. A tour reveals stories of laughing children, a cigar-smoking man on the roof and other secrets.
Cap off the day with an IPA and the latest tall tale on a tour the Moon River Brewing Company, also featured on various ghost tours in town.
Plan an overnight stay the Marshall House, dubbed by USA Today as one of the country’s most ghostly hotels. Since 1851, this hotel has been used as a hospital three times – once for Union soldiers and twice for 19th-century yellow fever epidemics.
Chicago’s raucous history has netted compelling spots for current day ghost hunters, whether marking the antics of storied crook Al Capone or the seedy past of legendary serial killers.
One of its most famous spooky spots is the site of the city’s so called “Murder Castle,” a mixed use building by Exposition Park owned by H.H. Holmes, considered to be the country’s first serial killer. He is believed to have killed possibly hundreds of victims there, although the hotel has since been razed.
For another dose of possible paranormal energy, visit the infamous site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, staged in a Lincoln Park garage in 1929 by Al Capone. Here, paranormal buffs say ghosts of the victims still roam the site and visitors have reported unexplained mists, voices and lights.
Already renowned for its quirky, artsy, irreverent attitude, New Orleans gives off a ghostly vibe, too. Its haunted churches, period homes, vintage stores and watering holes have stories to tell.
Literature buffs can channel the spirit of author William Faulkner, thought to frequent his former home-turned-bookstore Faulkner House Books.
Just looking for a unique libation? The Old Absinthe House, a legendary saloon circa 1800s, purports to be haunted by a Voodoo practitioner, Andrew Jackson, and pirate Jean Lafitte, among others.
Ghost tours abound in Portland. However, you can piece together your own explorations, too, including investigating the city’s best known ghost magnet — the Shanghai Tunnels. When Portland was an international port in the late 1800s, underground tunnels moved products and illegal goods across the city. Lore has it that bar patrons above ground were swooped down below and transferred to ships as part of kidnapping plots.
While San Francisco’s colorful past has produced lots of paranormal legends, perhaps the most famous is the reputed haunting of Alcatraz prison. Mysterious voices and footsteps tailing visitors (with no one around) create a spooky experience in an equally eerie complex.
Golden Gate Park is also known for ghostly experiences, thanks to the “white lady” at Stow Lake. It’s been told that more than a century ago a woman lost her baby in the lake and drowned trying to rescue it. People report nighttime sightings of her and her baby ever since.
True adventurers can also visit the Neptune Society Columbarium, a late 1800s domed building used as a burial site for ashes. Some have claimed to see the ghost of a young girl, while others have felt the touch of a small hand.
(Go Magazine Online exclusive, Sept. 2021)