To boost tourism, America’s cities tout their history, restaurant scene, funky neighborhoods, entertainment venues, and sports teams. They usually aren’t shy about mentioning paranormal activity, either. Tours of murder scenes and other supposedly haunted sites are popular in towns across the country – and some places claimed to have experienced more spectral episodes than others. (You might want to give a wide berth to America’s most infamous murder homes.)
To find the most haunted towns in America, 24/7 Tempo gleaned information from sources such as Haunted Rooms America, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, and CNBC. We focused on those locations that have reported the most examples of extraordinary paranormal activity.
In a CNBC story on haunted cities, Andrew Nichols, the executive director of the American Institute for Parapsychology, said there are two main reasons why some cities may be more haunted than others. An old city with lots of history has what Nichols said are many locations and objects with memories – like people have memories. He also pointed out that some areas have unusual magnetic-field properties conducive to ghosts and hauntings.
Many Southern cities have reported paranormal goings-on, and six of them are on our list. Much of this is attributed to traumatic Civil War experiences, and the souls of the enslaved that are said to haunt former plantations. St. Augustine in Florida and New Orleans in particular have singular historical and cultural pasts that might contribute to eerie phenomena. St. Augustine is America’s oldest city, founded by the Spanish, and visitors report still seeing Spanish soldiers at the city’s old fort. New Orleans, home of gothic writer Anne Rice, was once the property of the French and Spanish, and its association with voodoo has marked it as a place of restless spirits. (Around the world, these are the most mysterious places on earth.)
Immigration has played a large role in the development of cities such as New York and Los Angeles, and the sometimes tragic outcomes experienced by newly arrived people are allegedly why they continue to haunt sites in those cities. The ghosts of historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln, meanwhile, are said to inhabit rooms of the White House, while Benjamin Franklin’s spirit has allegedly been spotted at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
> Notable haunted sites: McPike Mansion, First Unitarian Church, the Milton School
> Population: 25,217
Alton, on the Mississippi River, has a reputation as one of America’s most haunted small towns. Key locations believed to be haunted include the McPike Mansion, the First Unitarian Church, and the Milton School. These sites have reportedly been the settings for numerous unexplained events, and there are numerous “haunted” tours in the vicinity.
> Haunted sites: Ghost sightings, music playing from shuttered bars
> Population: 0
A ghost town nestled near Mono Lake, Bodie is famed for its paranormal phenomena. During the gold rush of the 1870s and ’80s, the population peaked at 10,000, but is now abandoned. Mysteries abound with reports of apparitions and spectral music echoing from the town’s closed-down bars, according to CN Traveler.
> Haunted sites: Omni Parker Hotel, King’s Chapel Burial Grounds
> Population: 650,706
Boston is renowned for its numerous haunted sites. The Omni Parker Hotel is allegedly home to the spirit of Harvey Parker, its founder, who guests claim to have encountered in their rooms. Another eerie location is the King’s Chapel Burial Grounds, which is said to be haunted by a headless woman.
> Haunted sites: Garden of Colonel C.C. Pegues’s house, graveyard
> Population: 22,629
The ghost town of Cahawba, once a bustling river town and the former Alabama state capital, was abandoned after the Civil War. It is renowned for its alleged paranormal activity. One prominent tale recounts a luminous floating orb appearing in the garden of Colonel C.C. Pegues’s house, following his death in battle. A graveyard near the site of a grand mansion is said to contain restless spirits.
Charleston, South Carolina
> Haunted sites: Boone Hall Plantation, Battery Carriage House, Dock Street Theater
> Population: 153,672
Charleston is famous for its paranormal activity. Ghostly apparitions of soldiers and spectral lovers are often reported at Boone Hall Plantation. The Battery Carriage House Hotel and Dock Street Theater are other hotspots for ghost sightings. The latter is believed to be haunted by the spirit of Junius Brutus Booth, father of John Wilkes Booth.
> Haunted sites: Nederlander Theatre, serial killer H.H. Holmes’s house, St. Valentine’s Day Massacre location
> Population: 2,665,039
Chicago’s haunted history includes H.H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer, whose property, though demolished, is said to be the site of paranormal activity. Additionally, the location of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre is believed to be haunted by the victims. The Nederlander Theatre is alleged to host spirits of those killed in a 1903 fire.
> Haunted sites: Cheesman Park, Lumber Baron Inn, Buckhorn Exchange
> Population: 713,252
Cheesman Park in Denver, built over a burial ground, is reputed to be the source of mysterious whispering and moaning sounds. Further adding to Denver’s paranormal reputation is the Lumber Baron Inn, notorious for the unresolved murders of two women and reported inexplicable footsteps and apparitions of a young woman. Another site, the Buckhorn Exchange, is also said to experience paranormal activities.
> Haunted sites: Battlefield, hotels, inns, barns
> Population: 8,558
Gettysburg, one of America’s most haunted towns, is steeped in Civil War history. Reports of spectral soldiers roaming the battlefield and doctors and nurses tending to wounded in hotels, barns, and inns that were turned into hospitals abound in Gettysburg. Other sites include the Daniel Lady Farm, the Tillie Pierce Inn, the Cashtown Inn, and the Gettysburg Academy – just a few of the sites where the wounded were tended, and where some believe their spirits still might roam.
Los Angeles, California
> Haunted sites: Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Pico House, Colorado Street Bridge, Hotel Cecil
> Population: 3,822,238
The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel is reputed to house the spirits of Marilyn Monroe, Carol Lombard, and Montgomery Clift among other stars. Pico House, where a tragic massacre occurred in 1871, is believed by some to be haunted by the victims. The Colorado Street Bridge, a site of numerous suicides during the Great Depression, has reported paranormal occurrences. Finally, the Hotel Cecil, infamous for its connection to serial killers and numerous suicides, is also known for its unusual activity.
New Orleans, Louisiana
> Haunted sites: Faulkner House Books bookstore, Old Absinthe House, Tableau Theater
> Population: 369,749
New Orleans is reputed to be one of America’s most haunted cities, with several famous specters. The ghost of author William Faulkner is said to haunt Faulkner House Books, while the Old Absinthe House is associated with voodoo queen Marie Laveau. The Tableau Theater is reportedly haunted by the spirit of a woman who took her own life.
New York City, New York
> Haunted sites: One if by Land, Two if by Sea restaurant, Ellis Island, Grand Central Terminal, Merchant’s House Museum, Manhattan Well
> Population: 8,335,897
The restaurant “One if by Land, Two if by Sea” is said to house around 20 ghosts, including those of former vice-president Aaron Burr and a Ziegfeld Follies girl. Other paranormal hotspots include Ellis Island, once a bustling immigration hub, and the historic Grand Central Terminal. The Merchant’s House Museum’s 19th-century inhabitants are believed to linger in the afterlife, while the tragic history of the Manhattan Well on Spring Street has inspired ghostly tales.
> Haunted sites: Eastern State Penitentiary, Independence Hall, Physick House, Mount Moriah cemetery
> Population: 1,567,258
Philadelphia is renowned for its rich history and haunted locales, with Eastern State Penitentiary being a notable site. It’s reported that spirits of deceased guards and inmates lurk within its walls. Additionally, one of Philadelphia’s iconic figures, Benjamin Franklin, is said to haunt Independence Hall. Physick House (also known as the Hill-Physick-Keith House) is allegedly inhabited by the spirits of former patients of pioneering surgeon Dr. Philip Syng Physick, as well as his former wife. The Mount Moriah cemetery is considered one of the most haunted locations in Philadelphia.
> Haunted sites: Shanghai Tunnels, Pittock Mansion, Hollywood Theatre
> Population: 635,067
Shanghai Tunnels and Pittock Mansion in Portland are hotbeds of paranormal activity. The tunnels, once used for transporting goods, some illicit, are now reportedly haunted by kidnap victims spotted in local pubs and music venues above them on street level. Meanwhile, the Pittock Mansion is known for seemingly self-moving paintings. Alleged ghostly sightings have been reported at the Hollywood Theatre – a man roaming around the upstairs lobby and of a woman pacing down the hall puffing on a cigarette.
> Haunted sites: Turner’s Seafood at Lyceum Hall, House of the Seven Gables
> Population: 44,722
Notorious for its 17th-century witch trials, Salem is among the most haunted towns in America. It’s reputedly possessed by the spirits of 19 people executed for alleged witchcraft, including Bridget Bishop, said to haunt Turner’s Seafood at Lyceum Hall. Another notable haunted site is the House of the Seven Gables, which inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel of the same name. This historic house has been involved in numerous accounts of paranormal activities, adding to Salem’s eerie reputation.
San Antonio, Texas
> Haunted sites: The Alamo, Emily Morgan Hotel, San Fernando Cathedral
> Population: 1,472,909
The Alamo, site of the battle between Texans and the Mexican army in 1836, is a historic mission and fortress, and renowned for sightings of apparitions of wandering soldiers. The Emily Morgan Hotel, which at one time housed a psychiatric ward and morgue, is alleged to host a female specter. In 2015, USA Today listed the hotel as the third-most haunted hotel in the world. The San Fernando Cathedral, built in 1936, has been a hotbed of unusual activity. During its construction, uniforms and belongings of what are believed to be the defenders of the Alamo were found.
San Francisco, California
> Haunted sites: Alcatraz, U.S. China Camp State Park, USS Hornet, Cameron House, Mare Island Naval Shipyard
> Population: 808,437
San Francisco is another major city renowned for its numerous haunted sites. Topping the list is Alcatraz, where visitors claim to have seen the spirit of infamous gangster Al Capone, a onetime inmate. Other notable locales include China Camp State Park, the USS Hornet, the Cameron House, and the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, each with its own chilling tales of spectral sightings.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
> Haunted sites: Alto Street, Laguna Pueblo Mission, burial grounds
> Population: 89,008
Local folklore tells of a headless horseman who rides to the river along Alto Street in the New Mexican capital. Another site of interest is the Laguna Pueblo Mission, where it’s rumored that a murdered priest’s coffin mysteriously reappears sometimes. Parts of the city were paved over burial grounds, and the souls interred there are allegedly restless.
> Haunted sites: Eliza Thompson House, Olde Harbour Inn, 17Hundred90 Inn, Bonaventure Cemetery
> Population: 148,004
Savannah is notable for alleged paranormal activities at several locations. The Eliza Thompson House, the riverside Olde Harbour Inn, and the 17Hundred90 Inn – known for its ghostly inhabitant “Anne” – are among the sites frequently visited by ghost hunters. Reports of spectral figures and unexplained phenomena, particularly in room 204 at the 17Hundred90 Inn, add to their allure. At Bonaventure Cemetery, visitors claim to hear the sounds of crying babies.
St. Augustine, Florida
> Haunted sites: Lighthouse, Castle Warden, Castillo de San Marcos
> Population: 14,581
The lighthouse of St. Augustine, the oldest city in America, is rumored to be haunted by a drowning victim, adding an eerie aura to its coastal charm. Castle Warden, now home to a Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum, is alleged to host spirits. The whispers of ghostly Spanish soldiers and pirates supposedly waft through its centuries-old streets. People claimed to have seen soldiers looking out to see from the ramparts of the 17th-century fort the Castillo de San Marcos.
> Haunted sites: White House, Capitol Building, Octagon House
> Population: 671,803
The White House has a reputation for paranormal activity, with presidents Abraham Lincoln and William Henry Harrison among the reported apparitions. Some former first ladies are said to have been spotted there. The Capitol Building is said to be haunted by the spirits of past congressmen and the ghosts of officers who served in the American Revolutionary War. Another paranormal spot is the Octagon House, built by a friend of George Washington and residence of President James Madison after the British burned the White House during the War of 1812. Strange activity was reported on the spiral staircase, the garden, and some of the bedrooms.
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