Feel that chill in the air? It might not just be the changing of the seasons.
It's October, the month when the veil between this world and the next is said to be the thinnest. What better time to get out and explore the darkness? Here are seven of our favorite spooky spots to add to your autumn itinerary. From a murder-tinged bed and breakfast to a psychiatric hospital turned shopping/residential space, sometimes, the truth is scarier than fiction.
Before you go, be sure and let someone know where you’re headed—and when you’re supposed to return.
1. Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
This month, the haunted house at Eastern State Penitentiary will, indeed, scare the bejeezus out of you. But, really, you can count on your skin crawling in the daytime, year round, when visiting this crumbling prison. Formerly the most expensive prison in the world, and a model for hundreds of prisons that were built after its opening in 1829, Eastern State Penitentiary was home to infamous criminals such as Al Capone, “Slick Willy” Sutton, Morris “The Rabbi” Bolber and others. For the price of admission, you’ll get to open a cell, climb into a “punishment” cell, visit the surgical space, walk down death row and more. Hello, heebie jeebies!
2. Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum, Fall River, Massachusetts
You’ve likely heard the poem, at some point in your life: “Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41.” What you may not know is Lizzie Borden was acquitted of the 1892 murder and the crime was never solved. Think the ghosts know whodunnit? You can ask them yourself if you book a room and/or tour of the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum in Fall River, Massachusetts. There, you can choose to stay in one of the rooms bloodied by murder, or opt for more peaceful accommodations.
3. The Stanley, Estes Park, Colorado
Looking for the perfect spot to read Stephen King’s new novel, Dr. Sleep? Book a room at The Stanley, the hotel that inspired King to write The Shining. The majestic—but spooky—hotel, which opened in 1909 in Estes Park, Colorado, is proud of its haunted history. So much so that it offers a “Ghost Adventure Package,” complete with accommodations in a fourth-floor room, a K2 meter to measure electromagnetic activity, and a REDRUM mug. Ghostly bartenders and visions of creepy dead kids not (necessarily) included. (Hint: Request an upgrade to room 217, where King stayed, if you dare.)
4. The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, Traverse City, Michigan
The sprawling series of Victorian-Italianate buildings that make up The Village at Grand Traverse Commons seem peaceful, surrounded by lush grass and trees. Filled with shops, condos, restaurants and more, it’s a redevelopment project worthy of marveling. Especially when you consider that this used to be the home of the Traverse City State Hospital (aka the Northern Michigan Asylum and the Traverse City Regional Psychiatric Hospital), an asylum that was also the state’s largest building back in 1885, when it opened. Beneath the shiny veneer, there are still many traces of its spooky history. The greatest thing about this place is you’re free to walk around and explore—and there’s a ton of exploring to do. Wander into the trees a bit, and you’ll see a grave, marked Traverse Colantha Walker, for the hospital’s champion milk cow (1916-1932). Across the property, development is taking place just slowly enough that you can still catch a glimpse of some blocked off areas, surrounded by rusty fences and overgrowth. It’s enough to make you wonder if it was just the wind that made that grass blow….or something more powerful?
5. Devil in the White City Tour, Chicago, Illinois
In 1893, the stage was set for The World’s Columbian Exposition (aka The Chicago World’s Fair) to take place in Chicago. At the same time, serial killer H.H. Holmes used the fair as a front to lure unsuspecting parties to his World’s Fair Hotel, where he brutally murdered them. Eric Larson wrote about the two intertwined dramas in The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, and now, with the H.H. Holmes Tour, you can see for yourself the landmarks that remain from the fair, and learn about the ghosts that may still lurk in and around the Windy City.
6. The Queen Mary, Long Beach, California
When the Queen Mary departed on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England, in 1936, she was one of the grandest ocean liners the world had seen. Because of her size and speed, duty called during World War II, and the Queen Mary became known as the Ghost Ship, blending with the gray waters while transporting thousands of troops to battle. In 1942, the Queen Mary unintentionally sank a ship that was escorting her, and hundreds died. Other stories abound about men, women and children perishing on the Queen Mary. Find out for yourself if they’re still around by renting a room on the ship. It’s now a hotel, with plenty of options for ghost walks, séances, paranormal investigations and more.
7. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans, Louisiana
Maybe it’s the above-ground graves, the tomb of voodoo queen Marie Laveau, the crumbling crypts, or the fact that there are not one, not two, but three St. Louis cemeteries, but this place has the potential for some hair-raising goosebumps. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest in the city of New Orleans, dating back to the 1700s. A maze of tombs and graves, it’s no surprise that a variety of tours are available in this historic graveyard, which was featured in the movie Easy Rider. From history tours, to ghost and voodoo tours and free tours, there’s just about something for everyone.