The Arlington Hotel
Long reputed to be haunted, this grand, 93-year-old hotel is a fine place to let your imagination run off with you. It’s so big and so old and so ornate, it’s probably where you’d choose to stay a while, if you were a ghost. History weighs on the place, and on your mind: four presidents have stayed here, plus the likes of Babe Ruth and Al Capone. Right outside, in the dark, the old-timey lamplight guides your walk through the Downtown spring-fed spas that have drawn visitors to this resort town for decades. Echoing against stone buildings and set against a steep backdrop of inky forest, even the sound of burbling fountains takes on an unexpected note of the ominous. -- Sam Eifling
Heaven’s Gate mass suicide site
Rancho Santa Fe
The golf course-strewn San Diego suburb of Rancho Santa Fe regularly makes “most expensive zip codes in the USA" lists. So it came a stunner in 1997, when the world learned it was home to Heaven’s Gate, a cult whose 39 members drank poisoned Kool-Aid as the Hale Bopp comet passed Earth, believing that aliens behind the comet would rapture their souls to Heaven. Even weirder than the mass suicide were their preparations: their bodies were found dressing in black sweatshirts and sweatpants, Nike sneakers, faces covered with purple cloth, and carrying $5.75 in one pocket -- a toll, people speculated, to catch a ride on the comet. Each member had taken shifts, serving vodka and phenobarbital cocktails and tying plastic bags over fellow members' heads before submitting to the ritual themselves. The group's founder, Marshall Applewhite, took his own life only after making sure everyone else was dead.