The Best Place to Scare the Crap Out of Yourself in Every State

the best place to scare yourself in all 50 states
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

October’s the only time of year when people applaud you for showing up to a party with an ax in your head. It’s an entirely themed month, in which normally mousy drugstores fill with Dracula puppets shriek-laughing like the Count on an endless loop, and when fun-sized Snickers constitute legit breakfast. It’s also the best time of year to step beyond mere horror movies to try and scare yourself silly, just ‘cause you can.

Every state has its spooky spots, and we're not talking spooky haunted mazes where chainsaw-wielding teenagers pop out at you to try to make you pee. We're talking old mental hospitals, valleys filled by ghosts, cemeteries, historic hotels -- no matter how you scare, your state has a place to freak you out. We hit up our team of travel writers across the country, and they told us the most haunted places and best spots in each state to live the scary story you’ve waited all year to experience.


Maple Hill Cemetery
Old cemeteries are inherently creepy, but your average coffins filled with dust don’t really trip the pants-shitting meter too much. No, what makes the site of our favorite 'Bama urban legend so creepy is… a playground. In 1985, somebody decided to open a playground adjacent to Maple Hill, Huntsville's oldest cemetery -- probably so the children of parents mourning at graves had something to do. But ever since it went up, people report seeing orbs of light going down the slide, swings swaying with nary a breeze, and even hearing giggles. And it's not just the graveyard spirits occupying the playground… some locals believe that the victims of a rash of child murders in the '60s were buried nearby, their spirits now having eternal playdates with the cemetery's official residents. -- Andy Kryza


The Alaskan Hotel
If you’re not into scaring yourself with a long, dark walk through bone-cold and ONLY ONE MATCH, well, good, fine, just scare yourself in the fully heated, bear-free Alaskan Hotel, the state’s oldest operating hotel and a legendary haunted spot. The most famous ghost to roam these halls is that of a gold miner’s wife who lived here while waiting for her husband to return. When he didn’t, she began supporting herself by working as a prostitute... until he did return. Not exactly thrilled with her new career choice, he killed her, and now guests and staff regularly report encounters (no, not like that) with her ghost. -- Matt Meltzer


Yuma Territorial Prison
Ask yourself whether, during the westward expansion, you’d want to be locked up in anything called a “territorial prison,” and then jump ahead a hundred years to you haunting the hell out of the place if, like 100+ inmates, you’d died inside those walls. Not one to shy from a rep of locking people into hot, dark places, Arizona has designated this a state historical park -- easily one of the creepiest in the nation, and one of the most haunted spots in AZ. Guides report feeling chills when they pass Cell 14, where an inmate doing time for “crimes against nature” killed himself. In the so-called dark cell, prisoners in pitch-black solitary went mad chained to ring-bolts in the walls. -- Lauren Topor

The Arlington Hotel
The Arlington Hotel, Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas | DMS Foto/


The Arlington Hotel
Hot Springs
Long reputed to be haunted, this grand, 94-year-old hotel is a fine place to let your imagination run wild. 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, too. History weighs on the place, as well as on your mind: four presidents have stayed here, plus Babe Ruth and Al Capone. Outside, the old-timey lamplights guide your walk through the Downtown spring-fed spas that draw visitors to this resort town. Echoing against stone buildings and set against a backdrop of steep, inky forest, even the burbling fountains sound ghostly and 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 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 was 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.

The grisly death pact took place in a multi-million-dollar mansion, later torn down after the property became a macabre tourist attraction. The town also changed the street name from Colina Norte to Paseo Victoria. The still-vacant lot remains a pilgrimage site. Visitors can also check out an exhibit dedicated to the cult suicide at the San Diego Sheriff's Museum in Old Town. -- Jackie Bryant

Stanley Hotel
The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado | Sean Xu/


The Stanley Hotel
Estes Park
If you’ve read or seen The Shining, you’ll know the feel of this often snowbound hotel: It’s the location Stephen King based his Overlook Hotel upon. It may not look like the film -- unless you watched the 1990s made-for-TV movie version, which was actually shot here -- but it holds are rumors of haunted rooms and service workers who still wander the grounds. Be warned: There's a much more sinister danger. The hotel has such an extreme elevation that just walking to your room can drain you, so one stiff drink may have you seeing ghosts. -- Brock Wilbur


Curtis House Inn
Fearsome celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay once featured Connecticut’s oldest inn on his appropriately-titled reality show Hotel Hell, bringing a paranormal investigator to corroborate what locals and visitors have been claiming for centuries: the joint’s haunted. Ramsay’s unsettling difficulty exiting his room during a five-day stay could have been due to faulty hardware, but try telling that to the guests who’ve reported disembodied voices, mysterious footsteps, and unwelcome otherworldly bedfellows throughout the inn’s 265-year history. Apparent entities are believed to be the former inn owners, guests, and -- perhaps most terrifying for anyone who works there -- former employees who clocked in, but never clocked out. -- Amber Sutherland-Namako


Fort Delaware
Delaware City
Civil War prisons were a particularly unpleasant place to be incarcerated back in the 1860s, what with the rampant gangrene, amputations, and war-induced psychosis. The spirits of the beleaguered Confederate soldiers interned at this former Union prison are said to haunt the imposing granite-and-brick behemoth, that sits a short ferry ride from Delaware City on Pea Patch Island. During October weekends, the Diamond State Ghost Investigators lead a three-hour tour of the fort at 6:30pm and 9:30pm, where you’ll use ghost-sensing equipment to search for paranormal activity. Tickets are $50. -- MM


Fort East Martello Museum
Key West
Florida's horrors are seemingly endless, from haunted lighthouses to abandoned jails to whatever shows up in your newsfeed. But Key West's Fort East Martello Museum contains the OG macabre Florida Man, Robert the Haunted Doll. The inspiration for Annabelle, Robert was a gift given to the late artist Robert Eugene Otto. As a boy, Otto would blame the doll for all sorts of mischief, but the whole thing morphed from a cute little Calvin & Hobbes riff into something far more sinister. Some say the raggedy, weathered little sailor doll is cursed, the cause of endless pain and suffering for those who disrespect him by taking his photo -- which sucks because he's, you know, the centerpiece of a goddamn museum. Others claim the possessed doll changes facial expressions, and he's prone to giggling when backs are turned. Regardless, he's creepy as shit, so go pay him a visit… just maybe don't take a picture. -- AK

Oakland Cemetery
Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta, Georgia | Flickr/Pherit


Oakland Cemetery
Everyone loves an old, eerie cemetery, especially one steeped in Civil War history. Built in 1850, Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery -- the city’s oldest, largest cemetery, and among the most haunted places in Georgia -- is home to Maynard Jackson, Bobby Jones, and Margaret Mitchell, among many others. The cemetery includes a Confederate branch where visitors insist they’ve seen uniformed soldiers wandering the grounds and even hanging off of trees. Creep in as far as you dare, but be warned: Some have alleged that they’ve heard Confederate Army roll call among the tombstones and sworn that their name was called amid the list. -- Amy Schulman


Waipio Valley
Big Island
Ahhh, Hawaii. Home to fiery luaus where island dancers welcome you with pounding drums, native chants, and blazing torches. All of which are awesome when those dancers are actually alive. Not so awesome when they’re ghosts of ancient warriors marching through the islands armed to the teeth. But those are the night marchers, legendary spirits who roam the islands at in an eternal march to battle. Most longtime locals have stories about encountering them, mostly in specific spots spread throughout the islands. The creepiest is the Waipio Valley on the northern shore of Hawaii. Though the park has some of the most scenic lookouts in the state, the pounding beats and chants of the night marchers echo especially loudly through the valley when the night marchers decide to join you for a hike. -- MM

The Old Idaho Penitentiary | Old Idaho Penitentiary


Old Idaho Penitentiary 
This prison, built way back in Idaho's pre-tater tot days days of 1872, was closed for nearly 50 years. Today it’s a full-stop tourist attraction, not unlike Alcatraz; you can tour the place, see where prisoners were held in solitary confinement, and even get a peek at the gallows from the very windows where some of the West's most notorious criminals waited to meet their maker. So, yeah, this place is haunted AF, largely by the prisoners who helped build it and ended their life sentences in the very walls they erected. Visitors report voices, a feeling of heaviness, and seeing apparitions, both with their eyes and in photos. With respect to the World's Largest Potato, you can’t get that kind of experience with other Idaho attractions. -- AK


Raven's Grin Inn
Mount Carroll
Have you ever wanted to wander through the mind of a madman? The owner of this haunted nook, the name of Jim Warfield, is mad in all the right ways. He's turned his house -- he does actually live there -- into a maze of his spooky art, prop gags, and a not-so-safe-but-exhilarating three-story slide into the haunted wine cellar. You'll laugh as much as you scream as he guides you through his ever-changing life's work. Fall is the busiest time of year, naturally, but Raven's Grin is open year-round for when the spirited mood strikes in April. There's not much else to do in tiny Mount Carroll, so plan a pit stop at the corner bar before you venture inside. Tours are $15 and no reservations are necessary, though there may be a wait during the busy season. -- Lacey Muszynski


Historic Hannah House
This 24-room mansion hosts a range of ho-hum events: Easter egg hunts, Civil War reenactments, weddings, corporate gatherings. It’s also reputed to be haunted as a mutha. We’re talking disembodied footsteps; cold spots; weird noises; strange smells ranging from roses to rotting flesh; shadowy shapes darting about; and a man in a black suit suspected to be the structure’s builder and namesake, Alexander Hannah. Oh, and the unquiet spirits of a group of runaway slaves who reportedly died there in a basement fire. Regular tours are available, and there’s even a Hannah House Paranormal Day Celebration, which for some reason takes place in August instead of October. But that’s OK. Because if the stories are even a wee bit true, every day is Paranormal Day at Hannah House. -- Sam Stall

Villisca Axe Murder House
Villisca Axe Murder House, Villisca, Iowa | Flickr/Jennifer Kirkland


Villisca Ax Murder House
For a truly one-of-a-kind night away, book in at the Villisca Ax Murder House, the aptly named home where eight people were ax-murdered in their sleep, back in 1912. The case is still unsolved, but the main suspect was a traveling minister who had taught at a nearby church that night and left town early next morning. Tours and overnight stays are offered in the very rooms that were the scene of a bloody massacre -- you’ll probably get the best sleep of your life, right? -- AS


Stull Cemetery
Locals know this tiny cemetery in an unincorporated Kansas township as a portal to Hell that the devil comes through twice a year. As outlandish as that sounds, the ruins of a nearby church and the bizarre architecture will have you half-believing the rumors. No Satanic sightings have been confirmed, and anyone caught trespassing in the private cemetery can face a $1,000 fine. But that only makes it a more appealing dare for the jumpy teens and courageous stoners looking to make the trip. Twice, in my case. -- BW


Sauerkraut Cave
While it got its name because it once served as a fermenting cavern for sauerkraut, Sauerkraut Cave earned its legend because it was located beneath the Lakeland Asylum for the Insane, an institution marred by accusations of overcrowding and mistreatment of patients. The cave beneath the now-razed asylum is believed to have been an occasional escape route for inmates, but there are also rumors of bodies being buried there and the cave being used as a discarding place for infants born in the asylum. Strange visions and ghostly voices have been reported by many who have explored it; find it behind the archery range in E.P. “Tom” Sawyer Park. Guided tours are offered, but you can use your own judgment. -- Kevin Gibson

The St. Roch Cemetery and Chapel
The St. Roch Cemetery and Chapel, New Orleans, Louisiana | Siouxsnapp/


St. Roch Chapel, Yellow Fever Shrine
New Orleans
In the 19th century, a yellow fever epidemic swept New Orleans, but Reverend Peter Thevis, the pastor of the Holy Trinity Catholic Church, had a plan. He prayed to St. Roch (who is most identified with good health and healing), asking for members of his parish to be shielded from the disease, and promising to build a shrine for the saint in gratitude. While 40,000 New Orleanians died in the epidemic, no one in Father Thevis’ community perished. Today, pilgrims still visit the St. Roch Chapel, leaving offerings around the shrine. Among the artifacts: children’s polio braces, crutches, rows of prosthetic legs, plaster feet, false teeth, and fake eyeballs -- in other words, it’s a true-life haunted house. -- AS


Mount Hope Cemetery
You know who grew up in Maine? Stephen King. Aka the dude who wrote Pet Sematary, which makes it no surprise the 1989 film adaptation was filmed here. For extra scares, watch the movie before a nighttime stroll through this creepy 181-year-old cemetery and see if you can find the spot where Gage was buried. On the way, you’ll see some of the first Civil War monuments ever constructed, and grave markers that date back to 1836. If you’re not skeeved enough yet, Bangor is also the location of King’s house, fronted by wrought iron gates decorated with bats. Both are part of several Stephen King tours, which take you to sites around Bangor that inspired his novels. -- MM


Coffin Rock
Near Burkittsville
The Blair Witch Project, one of the creepiest films in low-budget Hollywood history, still pulls tourists to Burkittsville, Maryland. To find where most of the film was shot, though, you need to head into Black Hills Forest about 20 minutes west of town to find Coffin Rock. It’s a large flat rock near a creek in the middle of the woods. And in history, it’s where a Maryland search party went missing in 1886 in an attempt to find missing 8-year-old Robin Weaver. The kid eventually returned to town; the search party did not. A second search party found disemboweled bodies, bound at the hands and feet, on Coffin Rock. Those bodies later vanished when the search party returned with backup help. Local legend attributes all of this to the so-called Blair Witch. You can, of course, retrace those steps in history … just bring a flashlight and a good pair of running shoes. -- Tim Ebner


Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast
Fall River
You’ve likely heard the children’s rhyme: "Lizzie Borden took an ax / Gave her mother 40 whacks / When she saw what she had done / She gave her father 41." Well, you can not only visit the scene of that famous 1892 double homicide, you can also sleep at the Bordens’ home, eat their last meal (Johnnycakes -- a thick, cornmeal pancake -- and eggs), and spend the night in the bedroom where the body of Lizzie’s stepmother Abigail was found. After a stay there, I can attest: This home painstakingly furnished to look exactly as it did on the morning of the murders will creep you right out. Daytime tours accommodate lame-o wusses. Better, though, the 175-year-old property hosts up to 20 overnight guests, one of whom will invariably pull out the house ouija board after the evening guide departs and try to contact Lizzie. I did not sleep a wink. -- Camille Dodero

South Manitou Island, Leland, Michigan
South Manitou Island, Leland, Michigan | John McCormick/Shutterstock


South Manitou Island
If there’s one island that comes packed with its very own creepy legends and haunting history, it’s South Manitou Island, 16 miles offshore from the Leelanau Peninsula. Featuring 300-foot sand dunes, deserted shoreline, and empty campgrounds, it’s about as terrestrially creepy as you can get in Michigan. One legend suggests that a ship of cholera-stricken passengers stopped at the island, and sailors buried them in a mass grave while some were still alive. If that alone doesn’t stir you to set sail to the island, there are two cemeteries, a cedar forest where unbodied voices are often heard, and off the coast is the shipwreck of the SS Francisco Morazan, where a young boy is rumored to have died after an attempt at exploring it on his own. Fair warning to all who seek refuge. -- AS


Wabasha Street Caves
St. Paul
Our favorite Minnesota haunt, Forepaugh's Restaurant, recently closed. Luckily, Minnesota is home to as many haunts as it is lakes. One of the creepiest, and most accessible, is Wabasha Street Caves. This is one of the liveliest places on the list, an underground speakeasy from the '30s that still hosts weddings and parties so good that the original folks never seem to have left. That apparently includes the ghosts of three gangsters who, in the caves' bootlegging days, skipped out on their check by getting murdered and buried in the floors. To this day, people report seeing uninvited, very dapper guests roaming the halls, along with the ghost of a bartender and a madame. Tours are offered, and big band nights are the norm, making this the kind of haunt you don't have to trespass to get to. Just be wary of any potential dance partner whose get-up looks a little too period accurate. -- AK


University of Mississippi Medical Center
This gothic-ass state loves scary legends -- the devil roaming Delta crossroads, ghosts haunting the mansions in Natchez -- but a very real site of horror resides here in Jackson. Back in 2014, construction workers beginning a parking lot came across a mass grave of about 7,000 former Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum residents, buried around the turn of the century. The asylum closed more than 80 years ago, but it wasn’t uncommon in those days to inter deceased patients together in unmarked graves. Estimating that the cost for outside contractors to remove and rebury the remains would cost an extra $21 million or so, officials decided to let them rest in peace until they can exhume the bodies through university channels and build a historical center where the parking lot would have stood. Until then, it’s one hell of a spooky place to pay your respects to the anonymous thousands of dead. -- Andrew Paul


Main Street
St. Charles
This multicolored main drag looks like the perfect setting for a Midwestern horror movie: charming, peaceful Main Street USA that’s actually haunted by dozens of roaming spirits. The legend dates to 1853, when the old Borromeo Cemetery was moved and a number of the graves they dug up had no bodies in them. Those spirits are rumored to haunt the shops at 700 South Main Street, where objects vanish inexplicably and mysterious cooking smells emerge -- as does, apparently, a deep French-speaking voice. The town is also home to a haunted community college, a haunted high school, and a haunted forest. -- MM


The Fairweather Inn
Virginia City
If you’ve ever been borderline homicidal because the kids in the next hotel room won’t shut the hell up, steer clear of the Fairweather Inn. The lone hotel in this former gold mining town is said to be haunted by the ghosts of children who get into all manner of shenanigans. They move your luggage, turn the lights on and off, and generally annoy the bejeezus out of you. The city’s now-closed Bonanza Inn was also said to be haunted -- by the ghost of an old nun, who was presumably better-behaved. -- MM


Seven Sisters Road
Otoe County
We all get mad at our family members. Most of us get over it and just get them crappy Christmas presents. We do NOT, however, take all seven of our daughters out to separate hills and kill them, as one deranged Nebraska man did over a century ago. The road that runs between the site of each gruesome crime is marked as County Road L on the map, but colloquially it’s named after the sisters who died there. Cars driving through routinely report headlights going dim, or electrical systems failing completely, leaving their cars stalled in the eerie darkness, with the screams of young women echoing through the hills. Perfect choice for a pleasant drive on All Hallows’ Eve. -- MM

Zak Bagans’ Haunted Museum | Zak Bagans’ The Haunted Museum


Zak Bagans' Haunted Museum
Las Vegas
Nevada is full of ghost towns like Rhyolite, Pioche, Nelson, Goodsprings, Belmont, St. Thomas, Gold Point, Paradise Valley, Delmar, Blair, Unionville… there's a lot. All of them are spectacularly spooky, but for the purposes of naming the scariest place in the state, that distinct honor needs to go to Zak Bagans' Haunted Museum, a collection of macabre curiosities curated by the "paranormal investigator" and host of the Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures. Housed in a (supposedly haunted) historic old mansion built in 1938, the 11,000-square-foot museum is stuffed with assorted paraphernalia paying homage to death in a variety of forms. The Haunted Museum has over 30 rooms of terrifying objects, including Jack Kevorkian's "death van;" the Dybbuk box (a wine box said to be haunted by a demon from Jewish mythology); Bela Lugosi's cursed mirror; an exhibit featuring the demon-possessed rocking chair that Bagans was previously forced to shut down (it's open again); Charles Manson's bone fragments, toe tag, and several other items associated with the murderous cult leader; prescription pill bottles found at the scene of Truman Capote's death; Peggy the possessed doll; items from the notorious "Demon House" in Gary, Indiana; and hundreds of other items. Even if you're skeptical regarding the supernatural provenance of some of these items, there is something seriously spine-tingling about just being inside this house (and, skeptical or not, the serial killer memorabilia is very much real). On weekends through November 2 this year, the Zac Bagans' Haunted Museum will also present the "Carnival of Souls," a macabre circus held in a tent in the museum's parking lot.  -- Nicole Rupersburg

New Hampshire

Mount Washington Hotel
Bretton Woods
For a real-life version of Stephen King’s Room 237, look no further than the Mount Washington Hotel. The tale of Carolyn Stickney sounds like the worst Disney princess story ever: she married the hotel's founder, who died right before construction was completed. She then remarried into European royalty, but alas, she too passed soon after. She never checked out of Mount Washington, though; she appears in people’s photos as a hazy apparition, floats around the hallways, and is a regular fixture in room 314, apparently her favorite place to challenge the notion of 5-star accommodations. The four-poster bed she slept in remains in the room, where you can still hear her voice, some say...

The Devil’s Tree
The Devil’s Tree, New Jersey | Daniel Case/Wikimedia Commons

New Jersey

The Devil’s Tree
181 Mountain Road, Basking Ridge
Out of context, the tree’s silhouette alone is enough to inspire nightmares: a warped, half-dead oak looming in the middle of a lonely field, with dozens of ax marks lining its trunk. Then there’s the gruesome history. A purported meeting place for the KKK, notorious suicide site and rumored gateway to the depths of hell, the Devil’s Tree is infamous among locals and has evolved into a chilling tourist attraction. Legend has it, anyone who harms the tree will suffer swift and violent retribution -- so naturally, it has become a tradition for ballsy teens across the Garden State to pee on its trunk. But do so at your own risk -- you might just lose your life (or your manhood) to the tree's sinister curse. Also, that's just unsanitary. -- AS-N

New Mexico

Dawson Cemetery
There are tons of ghost towns around the Southwest… usually as a result of the Depression, or because they were cut off by highways. Dawson is… different. Once a boom town thanks to the coal mine therein, things took a turn in 1913 when an explosion killed 250 or so workers -- one of the biggest industrial disasters in American history. Dawson forged on for 10 more years, when another accident claimed 123 workers. Today, all that's left is a cemetery, which of course is considered one of the most haunted places in America, a magnet for people actively seeking to be scared shitless. Many report seeing eerie lights -- you know, the kind you'd see on the front of mining helmets -- floating around the gravestones, with others see dirty spectres with very outdated clothing roaming about.  -- AK

New York

United States Military Academy
West Point
If the Tudor-style architecture and all-around dismal creepiness of this campus don't give you the heebie-jeebies, then the school’s reported ghost sightings will. Back in 1972, cadets claimed to have seen a ghost in an antiquated school uniform, roaming around Room 4714 -- a room no longer in use. Other ghost stories have made their way into the school’s colloquial chatter, most notably the ghost of former superintendent Colonel Thayer’s Irish maid, Molly, who haunts the basement of Quarters 100, tousling the bedcovers in an otherwise orderly room, and borrowing and moving guests’ possessions. -- AS

The Biltmore Estate
The Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina | Flickr/Jennifer Boyer

North Carolina

The Biltmore Estate
The largest private residence in the entire country is of course housing some ghosties up in those 135,280 square feet. The former vacation home of George Washington Vanderbilt II is now considered one of the most haunted places in North Carolina. George himself has been spotted chilling in the library, and his late wife Edith wanders around calling out his name. There’s also a headless orange cat roaming the gardens, echoes of laughter and and splashing water in the empty pool, and disembodied voices heard throughout the 250 rooms. A day pass to visit the grounds starts at $40, with overnight options available. -- KP

North Dakota

The Haunted Fort
When you suffer one of the most famous military defeats in US history, there’s only one thing to do: go back home and brood about it, even after you’re dead. That’s one possible explanation for the paranormal activity around the Custer House -- of Last Stand fame -- at Ft. Abraham Lincoln. Staffers have reported hearing strange voices and footsteps coming from within after dark. But during weekends in October, it serves as the finest haunted attraction in North Dakota. Visitors start at the house (where monsters and ghosts pop out from every corner), then move through a granary of creepy clowns and barracks filled with zombies; you may be instructed to lie down in your own grave. -- MM

Ohio State Reformatory
Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield, Ohio | ehrlif/


Ohio State Reformatory
Ohio has its fair share of creepy shit, but this massive stone castle is basically hell disguised as Hogwarts. The majestically spired campus housed over 200,000 inmates over its history from 1896-1990. A tour through here on a normal day is grim, but during scare season it transforms into the biggest prison-based haunted attraction in America: Escape From Blood Prison. The cells and hallways are filled with undead inmates and faucets dripping blood, turning the already creepy reformatory into a bona fide nightmare. It runs Thursday-Sunday through November 3, and costs $25 and up. -- MM


Hex House
This intense immersive haunted attraction is based on a disturbing true story from the 1940s, when a woman named Carolann Smith mind-controlled two young women into living in her unheated basement, doing her bidding, and giving her all their money. Smith’s brick house became a popular Halloween destination in Tulsa until it was torn down in the 1970s. Hex House takes that tale and runs with it, with hair-raising special effects designed to put you in a hypnotic trance. It runs through November 3rd, mostly weekends and Halloween. Admission starts at $25. -- MM


The Shanghai Tunnels
The first things you notice when you enter the creepy, dank, labyrinthine tunnels underneath Portland's bustling Chinatown are the shoes. Piles and piles of shoes, covered in centuries worth of dust. According to lore -- which some claim is bullshit -- they were taken from kidnapped victims to prevent their escape across the glass-strewn floors. See, back in the late 1800s, Portland was a hot spot for Shanghaiing -- a human trafficking technique in which unsuspecting people were drugged and dragged into these tunnels (originally built to keep goods dry while hauling them to the Willamette River port). Accessible through many of Portland's downtown bars and restaurants, the tunnels are eerie enough on their own, but the sight of cells scattered around, plus areas formerly used as underground opium dens, takes it to the next level. There are guided tours available… they're a little corny, but the eerie aura mostly drowns out the cheese.

Eastern State Penitentiary
Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | Zack Frank/Shutterstock


Eastern State Penitentiary
Known locally as ESP (already a creepy touch), the 1829 prison intended to value reform over punishment, at a time when Puritanical America was embracing the penitent foundation of the penitentiary. Instead, this became a real house of horrors and the testing location for a number of "reform" techniques that included paranoia-inducing “panopticon” oversight, now synonymous with a constant threat of surveillance. The mix of weird science, gigantic brutal architecture, and famous inmates like Al Capone and bank robber Willie Sutton serves as a perfect staging ground for the nighttime haunted tours. If that doesn't do it for you, there's plenty of other haunts in PA to freak you out. -- BW

Rhode Island

White Horse Tavern
Let us begin this tale like basically every ghost story you told at sleepaway camp: with a pair of drifters. Two men showed up at the tavern in the 1720s looking for a room for the night. The next day, the owners found one dead by the fireplace and the other completely vanished. A specter now chills by the fireplace, daring people to solve his freak death. There have also been encounters with a colonial-looking dude in the upstairs bathroom, and mysterious footsteps all over the place. Coincidentally, there's another White Horse Tavern in New York City with high ghost-hunter interest. It's where poet Dylan Thomas drank himself to death, and he still hasn't learned his lesson, as he occasionally pops up at his regular table.  -- AK

South Carolina

Baynard Plantation Ruins
The South is crawling with ghosts, especially on former plantations -- both of slaves, and of the overseers who are rightfully damned to walk the grounds for eternity. But unlike the historically preserved plantations that can be toured throughout the region, the Baynard Plantation is in ruins. The dilapidation itself is enough to get your stomach in knots, even before the creepiest part: Apparently, if you stick around at night, a freaky-ass funeral procession for namesake William Baynard will pass by. Maybe you'll hear it. Maybe you'll see it, or feel it. Either way, this place isn't known for its (living) repeat visitors. -- AK

Sica Hollow State Park
Sica Hollow State Park, Sisseton, South Dakota | Flickr/Angela Smith

South Dakota

Sica Hollow State Park
Sica Hollow is admittedly gorgeous -- full of wildlife, waterfalls, and beautiful trails -- but it takes a special kind of hubris for the State Parks division to make it a recreational area when the name literally means "bad" or "evil" in the Dakota language. Iron deposits at Sica -- pronounced “SHEE-chah” -- tint the streams red, but it's not just the blood color of the water (especially at night in the fall) that make it so eerie. According to Dakota legend, one winter long ago a stranger named Hand came into the Hollow. He showed no respect for the land and for the traditions of the tribe, who decided to banish him once spring arrived. Hand did not go quietly, and was ultimately destroyed by Thunderer, the messenger of the Great Spirit, whom the Dakota had called upon for help. Though defeated in death, Hand’s evil lingers in the Hollow. People also report hearing drums and seeing figures along the Trail of Spirits therein. So, um, yeah, enjoy the leaf-peeping. -- AK


The Bell Witch Cave
Every kid in Tennessee grows up scared of the Bell Witch, daring each other at sleepovers to say “I hate the Bell Witch” 100 times in front of the bathroom mirror to summon her malevolent spirit. In the early 19th century, “Kate” the Bell Witch ghost tormented the Bell family in Adams, Tennessee, residing in a cave behind their property. Besides pinching, pulling hair, and taunting their visitors with strange sounds, she repeatedly tried to choke patriarch John Bell. For 12 bucks you can tour the spooky cave, which has been placed on the National Historical Register, and according to the tour guides visitors have felt sensations of being pushed, touched, or held down by a heavy weight. The famous haunting even spooked Andrew Jackson when he visited: "By the Eternal, I saw nothing, but I heard enough to convince me that I'd rather fight the British than to deal with this torment they call the Bell Witch." -- Chris Chamberlain

Yorktown Memorial Hospital, Yorktown, Texas
Yorktown Memorial Hospital, Yorktown, Texas | Flickr/Nicolas Henderson


Yorktown Memorial Hospital
Yorktown (about 75 miles from San Antonio)
For Texas scares this Halloween, you have options: take a turn through one of the Texas Chainsaw-themed haunted houses in Houston, see the Marfa Lights (they’re aliens, 100%), or have a drink with the ghost of Teddy Roosevelt in the Menger Hotel bar. Or, if you’re really serious, visit Yorktown Memorial Hospital, abandoned since 1988 and one of the most haunted places in Texas. Over 2,000 patients died there, and old beds, gurneys, mirrors, chairs, and other medical equipment are still inside. Visitors have described inexplicable apparitions, whispers, shadowy figures in the hallways, wheelchairs rolling unpushed, and a particularly terrifying talking doll in the nursery that asks, “Do you love me?” So um. Go check it out! The owner allows for regular tours and paranormal investigations. -- Keller Powell


Castle of Chaos
Until 1998, the Utah State Mental Hospital in Provo hosted an annual haunted house staffed by actual patients -- but that was rightfully deemed “barbaric” and “dehumanizing.” These days, people in Utah get their creepy kicks at the Castle of Chaos in Midvale, the only completely underground haunted attraction in the state. It’s a labyrinth of vampires, zombies, disorienting fog and escape rooms -- and you can choose from five levels of fear, the way you choose how spicy you want your burrito. It’s open every night through November 3rd; tickets start at $25. -- MM


Lake Bomoseen State Park
There's an old saying in Vermont that we totally just made up: "Every inn is basically haunted." That means for something to truly freak you out, it has to be more than the disembodied spirit of some old-timey specter watching you eat eggs benedict on high-thread count sheets. The abandoned town of West Castleton is like Vermont’s answer to the ghost towns of the Old West: Once a big industrial boom town, it's now empty except for a few ghostly residents that refuse to leave, among them a boatman that’s been spotted rowing across the tranquil lake, leaving no ripples in the water en route to a happy hour at a tavern that will never open. These days, that lake is part of a beautiful state park where the ruins of old industrial operations still stand, meaning you can visit it whenever you please. Just maybe don't take any unsolicited boat rides. -- AK

Bacon's Castle
Bacon's Castle, Surry, Virginia | Flickr/Jim_McGlone


Bacon’s Castle
There’s no shortage of spooky and sinister places to visit in Virginia -- after all, old battlefields are some of the most haunted grounds anywhere. But if it’s a haunted house you’re after, Bacon’s Castle -- built in 1665 and the oldest brick home in the country -- is it. People have reported encountering disembodied voices and wails, floating heads, books flying off shelves, rockers a’rocking, and unwanted visitors being pushed around. In addition to regular tours, the castle hosts Historic Haunt Nights when you can take a candle-lit ghost hunt with the Center for Paranormal Research and Investigation. The final one is October 27th; tickets are $30. -- KP

Northern State Mental Hospital
Northern State Mental Hospital, Sedro-Woolley, Washington | Flickr/Selbe Lynn


Northern State Mental Hospital
The abandoned remains of this old farm, once home to as many as 2,700 mental patients, is one of the creepiest places in Washington. The self-sustaining asylum ran from 1912 to 1973 and had a lumber mill, a library, a greenhouse, a bakery, canning facilities, and other amenities. Now it’s essentially a ghost town. Remnants of the buildings are said to be haunted by patients who died during trans-orbital lobotomies. Some buildings are still in use and off-limits, but you can view the shells of others and an adjacent cemetery at any time. The isolated compound is a short distance off Highway 20 -- the perfect spot for a late-night Halloween walkabout. -- MM

Washington, DC

Congressional Cemetery
1801 E Street SE
Capitol Hill’s Congressional Cemetery dates all the way back before the Civil War and serves as the final resting site for tons of government honchos, including a vice president, Supreme Court justice, six cabinet members, 19 senators, and 71 representatives. The first director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, and Marine Corp band director John Philip Sousa are also on the premises. You can visit the cemetery during its 9 to 5 business hours, or better yet attend a spooky “Soul Stroll.” The guided tours are offered at twilight and 10pm on the weekends before Halloween, and VIP ticket holders get to drink in a Prohibition-style speakeasy that’s popping up in the cemetery’s main vault. -- TE

West Virginia

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
Known these days as the Weston State Hospital, this massive gothic asylum housed many of West Virginia’s mentally ill from 1864 to 1994. Though designed for 250 people, it once held 2,400. That kind of overcrowding made for some truly miserable souls, many of whom are purported to still haunt the hospital. Paranormal tours of the main building are offered at all hours, but for the spookiest Halloween activity in West Virginia, head over for the Asylum After Dark through November 2 for an amped-up flashlight tour and haunted house-style freak-fest. -- MM


The Pfister Hotel
When a bunch of tough-guy pro baseball players refuse to stay in a hotel, there's probably something weird afoot. The Pfister is among of Milwaukee's finest hotels, which is why many visiting sports teams put their players up here. It also happens to be among the most haunted hotels in the world, and so many MLB players have complained about ghostly encounters -- strange knocking and pounding noises, TVs turning on and off, their belongings inexplicably moved -- that many now refuse to stay there. Even Joey Lawrence has a Pfister ghost story. So in the words of former MLB player Michael Young, "Oh, fuck that place." Of course you can book yourself a room and hope for apparitions, but if you just want to visit, you won't look odd sipping on a Bloody Mary in the Lobby Lounge. -- LM

Wyoming Frontier Prison
Wyoming Frontier Prison, Rawlins, Wyoming | Nagel Photography/


Wyoming Frontier Prison
Wyoming’s first state penitentiary was about as miserable as you’d expect a stone prison on a cold, whistling prairie to be. It didn’t have hot water until 1978. It did have something called the “punishment pole,” to which prisoners were handcuffed, then whipped with rubber hoses. It’s been closed since 1981, but guided tours allow you to get up close and personal with the “death house” (which housed inmates on death row), the gas chamber, and offices left exactly as they were. October is the best time to visit, when the prison hosts midnight tours in the days leading up to Halloween. Tickets start at $17. -- MM

If you're a complete fright fiend, check out our other guides to find the Best Haunted Houses in Atlanta, ChicagoDenver, Houston, MichiganNew Orleans and Virginia and the Most Haunted Places in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

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