Do you believe in ghosts? During the Halloween season, the politically correct answer is a resounding “Yes!” Even if you think hauntings are hokum, you might want to take the family on a fun outing that centers on ghosts and the paranormal. After all, it sometimes can be fun to get scared out of your wits.
Ghost tourism in the United States has been fueled of late by popular television shows such as “Ghost Hunters” and “Ghost Adventures,” but fascination with the paranormal is nothing new. Throughout the ages, literature has given us classic ghost stories, from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” to Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” to Stephen King’s “The Shining.”
Nowadays, many communities celebrate Halloween with ghost-story hour at the library, haunted houses populated by ghostly characters, and showings of classic movies whose main characters are ghosts. Or, head to the countryside to get spooked on a haunted hay ride or in a haunted corn maze. All of those activities make for great family fun.
If you want to scare it up a notch, you could search for the real (or unreal) thing – a genuine ghost. Some cities across the country have walking ghost tours that are based on local legends or historical events. You may hear compelling tales of the supernatural or find yourself on a walk with a real-life paranormal investigator. Such ghost tours may focus on a variety of venues including “haunted” homes, cemeteries and hotels, as well as former prisons and asylums.
Families fascinated by haunted America may want to take a trip to some of the country’s “most haunted” sites. Here are a few legendary places for ghost tours and other frightfully entertaining experiences:
Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado: Stephen King’s “The Shining” put the hotel on the map. When King stayed there, he claimed he experienced a number of strange occurrences, as have other guests. Among the reported odd happenings at the hotel: lights turning on and off, phantom children laughing and running in hallways, and music coming from an empty ballroom.
Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The prison, which closed in 1971, once housed 1,700 inmates, including gangster Al Capone. Guards were said to have routinely tortured prisoners, and it’s the souls of those tormented who allegedly now roam the place. The prison also is known for its architecture and has been named a National Historic Landmark. During Halloween season, Eastern State Penitentiary hosts “Terror Behind the Walls,” billed as “a massive haunted house in a real prison.”
The Queen Mary, Long Beach, California: This vintage ocean liner is said to have scores of resident ghosts, and sightings have been reported all over the ship. She made her maiden voyage in 1936, was subsequently used during World War II as a troop ship, and then returned to passenger service in 1947. The luxury liner retired to southern California in the 1960s and was transformed into a hotel. During its history, the Queen Mary has been the site of at least one murder and several accidental deaths. One death involved a crew member being crushed to death in the engine room by Door No. 13 as it closed during a drill. The floating hotel hosts ghost tours as well as regular tours, and a month-long Halloween event called Dark Harbor.
Gettysburg Battlefield, Pennsylvania: The site of the most famous battle of the Civil War is often visited by ghost hunters, and there have been reported sightings of both Union and Confederate soldiers. Some visitors claim to have heard screams of dying soldiers. All the paranormal phenomena are said to stem from the bloody 1863 battle that resulted in 51,000 people killed, wounded, captured or missing.
St. Louis Cemetery No.1, New Orleans, Louisiana: Some people call New Orleans the most haunted city in America. One site contributing to that reputation is St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. The city has many old cemeteries known for the faded beauty of their elaborate above-ground tombs. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the site of the tomb of renowned voodoo queen Marie Laveau and other colorful New Orleans characters. There have been numerous reports of paranormal activity, including sightings of Marie’s ghost and other haunting experiences.