The 7 Most Haunted Cities in the U.S.
Conjure up spine-tingling fun — ghosts, graveyards and dungeons — at these spirited sites.
The Civil War's bloodiest battle sets the stage for otherworldly tales and sightings.
Thrill: After Dark Investigations leads car caravans on a paranormal activity hunt and uses digital recorders to communicate with spirits (afterdarkinvestigations.com). You might spot long-departed residents on the Farnsworth House's daily stroll through haunted attractions and its weekend tours (farnsworthhouseinn.com). Family-friendly walking tours near the battleground and around town are available from Gettysburg Ghost Tours (gettysburgghosttours.com) and Ghosts of Gettysburg (ghostsofgettysburg.com, kids under 7 free for most tours).
Chill: The Eisenhower Hotel shares property with the mysterious Hoffman mansion, a former field hospital for the Union Army (eisenhower.com, from $89). Downtown, the Gettysburg Hotel features a Ghostly Encounter package (hotelgettysburg.com, from $164).
Find out whether phantoms still roam the streets of this "bewitching" Massachusetts colony.
Thrill: The witch trials come to life at The House of the Seven Gables' theatrical performances (7gables.org). Purchase a Halloween Pass at the Salem Wax Museum to explore The Haunted Neighborhood's ominous castle, witch village and shadowy graveyards (salemwaxmuseum.com).
Chill: At the Salem Inn, ask for room 17 in the Captain West House if you dare (saleminnma.com, from $235). Take refuge at the Salem Waterfront Hotel, which has an indoor pool and midweek specials (salemwaterfronthotel.com, from $169).
Don't let the city's renowned Southern charm fool you—this is one ghoulish spot.
Thrill: Bulldog Tours leads you into a dungeon, inside old cemeteries and through a haunted jail (bulldogtours.com). It's said you may encounter the ghost of John Wilkes Booth's father at the Dock Street Theatre. Unexplained mysteries abound aboard the World War II aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (yorktownghosttours.com, for age 12 and older).
Chill: The Francis Marion Hotel, named after a Revolutionary hero, is located in the historic district. Feeling brave? Stay on the 10th floor (francismarionhotel.com, from $189). The souls of former cadets and officers are rumored to lurk about the Old Citadel, which is now the Embassy Suites (embassysuites3.hilton.com, from $209).
This Oregon city definitely keeps it weird.
Thrill: Discover why the Travel Channel lists the gloomy Shanghai Tunnels among the most terrifying places in America: Ghost Tours operate all year, with special Halloween Tours conducted October through early November (shanghaitunnels.info, best for those over 5). Trek aboveground and below using real ghost-hunting equipment on a Beyond Bizarre tour (portlandwalkingtours.com; the 7 p.m. walk is for all ages). The Haunted MAiZE winds through a 4-acre cornfield Fridays and Saturdays in October (portlandmaize.com).
Chill: Fall asleep in class at Kennedy School, an elementary school turned hotel and restaurant, where some say you may run into a long-departed pupil (mcmenamins.com/kennedyschool, from $115). Some "guests" at the Benson Hotel are supposedly not of this world (bensonhotel.com, from $149).
Sinister San Francisco
Things go bump in the night throughout the Bay Area.
Thrill: Local volunteers lead free Ghost Walks through City Hall and the gorgeous but haunted Palace Hotel in October (sfcityguides.org), while SF Chinatown Ghost Tours scope out an old underground gambling den year-round (sfchinatownghosttours.com). For a daytime outing, visit the now-closed federal penitentiary on Alcatraz (nps.gov/alca). The San Francisco Ghost Hunt exposes unnerving tales of romance gone wrong (sfghosthunt.com, best for those over 8).
Chill: Wake up to Golden Gate Bridge views at the Inn at the Presidio, within the historic and sometimes eerie neighborhood that was once military installation grounds (innatthepresidio.com, from $215). Investigate reports of strange occurrences at Union Square's Chancellor Hotel (chancellorhotel.com, from $229).
The spirits of the Wild West live on in this legendary Arizona locale.
Thrill: Walk in the footsteps of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday during a Gunfighter and Ghost Tour (tombstone-ghost.com). Or hop aboard a trolley weekend evenings for a 3-mile Ghost and Murder Tour to visit Boothill Graveyard and the hanging gallows (visittombstonearizona.com). For a more rugged adventure, travel the old stagecoach route out of Tombstone in a Jeep to explore graveyards, jails, rock houses and adobe ruins in a Ghost Town Trail Tour (intothewestjeeptours.com).
Chill: Listen for the sounds of mysterious music at the Larian Motel (tombstonemotels.com, from $79). Guided trail rides and meals are included at the Apache Spirit Ranch (apachespiritranch.com, from $200).
Nail-Biting New Orleans
Voodoo, vampires and aboveground tombs make for a macabre mix in Cajun Country.
Thrill: All ages can enjoy free ghost and cemetery tours (freetoursbyfoot.com/new-orleans-tours), Gray Line's Ghosts & Spirits walking tour (graylineneworleans.com) and a cemetery/voodoo tour (tourneworleans.com, 5 and under free), while teens might prefer a vampire tour (hauntedhistorytours.com).
Chill: The haunted Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter has an All About Kids package that includes admission to two non-ghostly attractions plus a disposable camera, for capturing ethereal images elsewhere (hotelmonteleone.com, from $189). In the quieter Garden District, the streetcar in front of the new Hotel Indigo conveniently whisks you to scary sites (gardendistricthotelneworleans.com, from $199).
You don't have to roam the country zombie-style to get in the Halloween spirit.
Whatever your scare of choice—corn mazes, scarecrow and pumpkin festivals, haunted houses, hayrides—there is a ghastly event happening near you. Some creepy celebrations are year-round, like 5k zombie races (runforyourlives.com, multiple locations). To find a fright night (or day) close to home, check out these sites:
Originally published in the October 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.
This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings and availabilities are subject to change. Please contact each hotel and attraction for up-to-date rates and information before taking your trip.