8 of the Creepiest Place to Visit

From haunted hotels to abandoned asylums with a few clowns for good measure

You don’t need to wait for Halloween to visit a haunted house. There are plenty of sites and ghost towns that are reportedly haunted year-round in America. Every state has its own urban legends and places where only the brave tread (and ghosts are reported to patrol). We’re talking old state hospitals, murder sites, homes with talking dolls, and hotels so disturbing they’ve served as the setting for some of the most iconic horror movies.

No matter what scares you, there is a place to freak you out. Whether you want to take a guided tour or a bone-chilling solo walk into the darkness, I’ve got the spots for you. Here’s where you can go to truly embrace the Halloween spirit this year—no costumes required.

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jerome Grand Hotel, Jerome, Arizona

Located in the scenic hillside town of Jerome—an old gold mining hub once known as the Wickedest City in the West and today, one of Arizona’s coolest small towns—is the Jerome Grand Hotel formerly known as the United Verde Hospital. Originally built in 1917 (and rebuilt in 1926 after a mine explosion destroyed the first), the Great Depression caused the hospital to take a serious downturn; by 1950, it had been abandoned entirely.

The hospital sat essentially dormant until it reopened as the Jerome Grand in 1996. Much of the building’s original structure and facilities have been restored and many of its spirits still linger: the specter of a maintenance man found dead in the basement in the 1930s, human-shaped figures that roam the hall, children who run and laugh in the corridors, and even the spirit of a cat who scratches at guests’ doors at night begging to be let in.

The Clown Motel, Tonopah, Nevada

Long a destination for people who can’t say no to a dare, this old-school motel is home to a collection of 2,000 clown figures and some seriously ghostly vibes (owner Hame Anand says he’s seen ghosts but most of them are friendly, if that helps).

That’ll happen when you park a decades-old motel next to a dilapidated cemetery in a small town dotted with mining ruins. But hey, there’s a bonus: When Anand bought the motel a couple years ago he did some renovations to make the rooms more comfortable so at least you’ll be wetting a very comfortable bed. He also embraced the scariness by converting some rooms into horror themes, in case clown motel in the middle of the desert wasn’t creepy enough

Mount Washington Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Omni Mount Washington Resort, Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

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 five-star accommodations. The four-poster bed she slept in remains in the room where you can still hear her voice, some say.

Newport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Horse Tavern, Newport, Rhode Island

Like many a campfire tale, this one begins with two drifters. They showed up at the tavern in the 1720s looking for a room. 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 mysterious death. There have also been encounters with a colonial-looking dude in the upstairs bathroom and mysterious footsteps all over the place. 

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas

It might seem like an obvious pick but the Alamo is far more than just a place elementary school kids’ visit on field trips. During the infamous siege of 1836, thousands of men were killed and their bodies dumped unceremoniously into mass graves so it’s no wonder a few of their disembodied spirits remain pretty pissed off.

Several security guards have reported hearing footsteps in the middle of the night, some have seen a small blonde-haired boy wandering the gift shop, and a ghastly John Wayne—yes, that John Wayne—reciting lines from his 1960 film on the subject.

USS Lexington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

USS Lexington, Corpus Christi, Texas

Known locally as the Blue Ghost—a nickname originally given to the ship during its service in World War II—the Lexington has long been considered by Corpus residents to be occupied by spirits. An engine room operator who was killed during one of the ship’s battles is said to roam the boat at night and visitors claim to have witnessed doors slamming and lights flashing on and off at random.

That’s right—flickering lights in a 75-year-old ship with absolutely no explanation whatsoever. Luckily, this national treasure doesn’t shy away from allowing curious guests to explore the grounds so be sure to check the website for admission times and safety precautions while the truly brave can even snag an overnight reservation via a special one- or two-night program.

Yuma Territorial Prison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yuma Territorial Prison, Yuma, Arizona

Yuma Territorial Prison‘s population was made up of thieves, murderers, and the occasional polygamist and over 111 inmates died here making it one of the more ghoulish state parks in Arizona. To this day, guides at the park report feeling a cold chill when passing by Cell 14—where John Ryan imprisoned for crimes against nature committed suicide.

Even more unnerving is The Dark Cell which is exactly what it sounds like: a dark crypt where rowdy convicts were sent for acting up. Accounts cite that two inmates who were literally chained to ring-bolts up here had to be urgently transferred an insane asylum upon their release from isolation. More recently, one reporter tried to spend two days in the Dark Cell. She didn’t make it past 37 hours and cited she felt she wasn’t the only one in the chamber.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg. Virginia

As an early American settlement, numerous historic houses in Colonial Williamsburg are believed to be haunted by past residents. One such property, the Peyton Randolph House housed the Peachy family who rented the property to many guests during their residency including a young unnamed soldier attending the nearby college, William & Mary.

Unfortunately, the young man fell ill during his stay and never recovered. He died in the home and today there have been multiple accounts of visitors spotting a young man walking sadly through the house or hearing heavy footsteps above their heads even though no one is upstairs. Take a complete tour of Colonial Williamsburg’s creepiest locations on the Colonial Ghost Tour, a roughly hour and a half moonlit tour of the haunted historic grounds.

Worth Pondering…

Her beauty climbed the rolling slope, it came into the room, rustling ghost-like through the curtains.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is the Night