You’ve heard of some houses that are purported to be haunted but did you know that some cities are more prone to visitors from the past?
There are two main reasons why some cities may be more haunted than others, said Andrew Nichols, the executive director of the American Institute for Parapsychology.
First, if it’s an old city with a tremendous amount of history – a lot of southern cities fit this category – it may have a lot of, ahem, spirit.
“Locations and objects have memories, just like people have memories,” Nichols explained.
The other is geology.
“Areas that have unusual magnetic field properties are particularly conducive to ghosts and hauntings,” Nichols said.
An unusual magnetic field can be caused by everything from high-voltage power lines to the presence of seismic fault zones, flowing underground water and large concentrations of iron ore – like the red sandstone in parts of Arizona such as Sedona.
Are you ready for a spine-tingling journey through streets, alleys and cemeteries where the undead roam? Click through for Rent.com’s list of The Top 10 Most Haunted Cities in America, some of the hot spots – or, rather, cold spots – and who it is that might still be hanging around.
By Cindy Perman
Posted 12 Oct 2010
There are several fault lines under Portland, Ore., which is also situated on the Columbia River – two criterion that make it a perfect haunting ground.
Plus, there’s a lot of history there – some of it, a tortured history.
The Shanghai Tunnels, which run beneath the buildings and streets of Portland, were used in the 1800s to kidnap people and ship them off to Asia as slaves and prostitutes. A saloon owner may get you properly drunk, the lore goes, and then send you down a secret hatch -- never to be seen again.
Some say those spirits still roam the tunnels and during tours, visitors have reported hearing whistling, smelling fragrances – or even being touched.
One of the city’s most famous haunts is the White Eagle Café, a former brothel, hotel and boarding house . Its employees have reported smelling smoke when there is no fire, being overwhelmed by the smell of cheap perfume, and even flying objects.
San Francisco, like Portland, has fault lines and water working in its ghostly favor.
The Cameron House in Chinatown, once a hiding place for immigrants to escape the brutality of the police, was burned down with people inside – and some say they remain trapped there, even turning up in photographs now and again.
A police officer is said to roam Golden Gate Park and a former head mistress is thought to be presiding over her old girls school, now the Queen Anne Hotel.
And at Alcatraz, the damp, punishing island prison where some of the most notorious prisoners were sent, some say there are inmates serving not just life – but eternity. Visitors have reported hearing voices – and the sounds of cell doors closing.
Chicago, where gangsters and Confederate soldiers once roamed, sits on several fault lines as well as Lake Michigan, which makes it a perfect corridor for the paranormal.
Gangsters used to like to dump the bodies here and some say you can still hear screams from the Clark Street Bridge. The Clark Street Bar, near the site of the former warehouse where Al Capone’s notorious Valentine’s Day Massacre took place, is also said to be haunted.
There are over 6,000 Confederate soldiers buried at Oak Woods Cemetery during the Civil War, and strange figures have been reported there.
If you’re traveling on Archer Avenue, beware the famous “vanishing hitchhiker.” Since the 1930s, men driving northeast on the road have reported picking up a female hitchhiker, often described as blond, blue-eyed and wearing a white party dress, but when she asks to be let out at Resurrection Cemetery, she steps out of the car – and vanishes.
Charleston is one of those good ‘ol Southern cities, where there’s so much history – from the Civil War to pirates and voodoo -- the ghosts never want to leave. Plus, two rivers run through it, providing liquid fuel for a ghostly fire.
At the Boone Hall Plantation, the ghost of a Civil War soldier has been spotted, and it looks like he’s trying to remove a bullet from a fallen comrade. At the Brick House and the Thirteenth Step, legend has it that the ghosts of scorned lovers linger.
The downtown area, known as The Battery, was an artillery installation during the Civil War. Guests at the Battery Carriage House Inn may find their room already taken – some male guests have reported waking to see a man standing by their bed, while some female guests have reported a male ghost, ahem, in their bed.
The Dock Street Theatre is also said to have two eerie visitors from the past – the ghost of actor Junius Brutus Booth, the father of Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, and the ghost of a prostitute the locals call “Nettie.”
In all, there are more than 20 places thought to be haunted, and sure to send a tingle up your spine.
St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest city, has a “long history and reputation for being haunted,” Nichols explained.
Not just because of its history, but also because of its geography: There is a lot of limestone, which is porous, letting water – and the spirits – pass through.
One of its most famous haunts is the Castillo de San Marcos, a star-shaped fort, where the spirits of soldiers – and a love triangle past – may still roam. A colonel’s wife was apparently having an affair with his chief officer and when the colonel found out – the lovers were never seen again. Years later, they found bones in a dungeon. And, to this day, some people still see the ghost of the woman, Delores, and smell her rose-scented perfume – the very perfume that may have given her love away. It is also said that if you put your ear to one of the walls – you can still hear the sounds of battle – and blood-curdling screams.
The St. Augustine lighthouse is a world-famous haunt, where a former caretaker is said to roam its spiraled stairs, along with two children who may have died there.
After St. Augustine, San Antonio is one of the oldest cities in the U.S., and ghost stories have been floating around for hundreds of years.
The Alamo, the site of the famous battle between Mexican and Texan troops that claimed the life of Davy Crockett, has seen many deaths and some still claim to see apparitions patrolling the roof and hear prisoners moaning.
Many buildings along the river walk are said to be haunted, including the Alamo Street Restaurant and theater. Former actress Margaret Gething is said to watch performances from the balcony in a long flowing dress. A young boy named Eddie is said to bang around the kitchen and enjoys playing pranks.
A section of railroad tracks just south of San Antonio, near the San Juan Mission, is said to be haunted by the ghosts of children who were killed more than 50 years ago when their bus stalled on the tracks. It is said that any car that stops near the tracks, will be pushed by unseen hands across the tracks – to avoid a similar fate.
New Orleans has voodoo and slavery in its roots, and limestone in its geography, creating a perfect elixir for the spirit world.
“Various wars, slavery, torture and murder have taken place there,” Nichols said,” so there is just about any type of ghostly legend imaginable.”
Antoine’s Restaurant is one of the French-Creole restaurants that put New Orleans on the culinary map, and proprietor Antoine Alciatore, who opened it in 1868, is said to still preside over its various dining rooms, wearing a tuxedo.
Marie Laveau, “The Voodoo Queen of New Orleans,” is thought to be the city’s most famous ghost. She is buried in the St. Louis Cemetery on the edge of the French Quarter, and if you need to ask her for a favor, legend has it that all you have to do is knock on her crypt three times. Some people leave her money, alcohol, flowers or other items to win her favor.
Famous for its vicious witch trials in the 1600s, Salem is thought to be haunted by the spirits of 19 “witches,” who were put to death for their alleged crimes.
Some say their spirits linger at Gallows Hills, the site of their executions, while others roam elsewhere.
The spirit of Bridget Bishop is said to haunt the Lyceum Bar and Grill, where she used to own an apple orchard. And the spirit of Farmer Giles Corey, also accused of witchcraft, is said to haunt the Howard Street Cemetery – a sighting is considered an omen of something bad to come.
Today, the town has become a kitschy tapestry of witch tales and tours but visitors say they get an eerie feeling when they visit some of its historic sites like “The House of 7 Gables,” the inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tale exposing the witch trials his grandfather presided over as hypocrisy and injustice.
Gettysburg is the site of one of the most massive Civil War battles that resulted in 51,000 deaths, and all 40 miles of its battlefield are thought to have paranormal activity.
Ghosts are said to turn up in photos taken in the town from time to time, including the ghost of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
“So much emotional energy was expended at Gettysburg, you have to think that some of it must remain,” Mark Nesbitt, an author and historian, said in a television documentary.
Civil War buffs have reported ghost sightings and the sounds of phantom cannon fire there during re-enactments. Imagine how confusing that must be for the ghosts – their spirit energy is trapped there, and now they find the war is still raging on nearly 150 years later!
One of the most eerie tales from Gettysburg comes from two school administrators at the offices of Gettysburg College, which was once the site of a field hospital. It was nearly midnight when they were leaving. They pressed “1” on the elevator, but it took them to the basement. When the doors opened, they saw the field hospital – with amputations in progress. One of the orderlies looked up at them, chilling them to the bone.
There are many ghost tours, which are great for learning the local lore, but Nichols suggests that, as a general rule of thumb for ghost hunting, spending the night in an inn thought to be haunted is a good way to increase your chances of an encounter. Gettysburg has many of these, including the Quality Inn at General Lee’s headquarters and the Cashtown Inn & Restaurant.
Savannah is one of the cities the American Institute of Parapsychology gets the most reports about. It has that perfect combination of a deep history – and a lot of underground water, that make it a perfect place to stick around.
The Mercer House was the home of Jim Williams, a voodoo-practicing antiques dealer and the main character in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” The home is said to be haunted by the man he allegedly killed in a heated argument, though he was acquitted in three separate trials.
In nearby Bonaventure Cemetery, the spooky, Spanish moss-draped cemetery where the famous bird girl statue is from the cover of the book, visitors report hearing laughter and conversations and a pack of ghost dogs that haunt its grounds.
Several ghost sightings were reported at Fort Pulaski, a Civil War fort, during the filming of the movie “Glory.” The Pirate’s House restaurant, thought to be one of the inspirations for “Treasure Island,” is said to be haunted by a gruff sailor and a pirate named “Captain Flint.” And Anna Powers, a scorned lover is said to be a permanent resident in room 204 of the 17Hundred90 Hotel.
Visit them… if you dare!