Do you believe in ghosts? We do. Discover the paranormal at 5 of the most haunted places in America.

Eastern State Penitentiary – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Considered the world’s first true penitentiary, Eastern State opened its doors on October 25, 1829. Its cells held notorious bank robber Willie Sutton (from 1934-1945) and gangster Al Capone (1929-1930) as well as roughly 80,000 men and women during its 142 years of active use.Eastern State’s doors were shackled in 1971, only to be unlocked 23 years later, this time as a historical site. In its years as a prison, the penitentiary that would go on to inspire more than 300 similar institutions, saw its fair share of suicides, murder, madness, disease, and torture.

Photographer: Nicole Frankhouser

There are reports of prisoners being dunked in a water bath and then hung out on a wall in the wintertime until ice had metastasized on their skin. Others had an iron collar strapped to their mouth and their hands tied behind their backs – any movement could cause the tongue to tear and bleed. Those who were especially unlucky were subjugated to some quality time in ‘The Hole;’ a musty, damp underground cell with no light, human contact, exercise, toilet and very little food or air.

Many people have claimed to hear echoing voices and cackling coming from Cellblock 12, shadow figures in Cellblock 6, ghostly faces in Cellblock 4. There are also reports of a silhouetted man, thought to be a guard in one of the towers.

Eastern State has been visited by numerous paranormal shows including; Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, Most Haunted Live, Syfy’s Ghost Hunters and MTV’s Fear.

Paranormal activity aside, the old penitentiary also hosts a haunted attraction every Halloween season. Terror Behind the Walls consists of six haunted attractions to add to the already ominous reputation of Eastern State Penitentiary.

Guests may choose to take it a step further and enter the Remix: Lights Out at Terror Behind the Walls. Lights Out takes place on the last two nights of the show. Those who dare enter the prison, filled with a staff of monsters, will be left in the dark – with only ONE glow-stick to show them the way. They will be left alone to find their way through the pitch-black, narrow hallways and across the 10-acre fortress to escape Eastern State Penitentiary or join the other trapped souls that haunt its walls.

The LaLaurie House – New Orleans, Louisiana

The haunted history of the LaLaurie house’s roots are buried deep in the brutal and horrifying history of slavery in the US. The atrocities committed here are gruesome and not for the faint of heart. It is no wonder that this lavish 3-story mansion, located in the French Quarter of New Orleans, is considered one of the most menacing haunted houses in America.

Marie Delphine Macarty was born on March 19, 1787 to a large, wealthy and politically powerful family. Delphine was married three times; in 1800, 1808 and 1825. Her first two husbands tragically died, leaving her alone with five children. Her third marriage was to Leonard Louis Nicolas LaLaurie, a physician from France who was twenty years Delphine’s junior. After LaLaurie had impregnated Delphine, there was nothing to be done but marry her.

Delphine purchased the LaLaurie House at 1140 Royal Street in 1831. The house was known for its lively soirees. Madam LaLaure’s guests could not speak highly enough of their gracious and beautiful hostess and her lavish and impeccably designed home.

But what her guests didn’t know, was that Madam LaLaure was hiding a dark secret.

Hushed conversations could be overheard questioning the rate of turnaround among her slaves. Young slave girls would be replaced without any explanation, other slaves would just vanish without a trace. These whispers grew to rumors and speculation after a neighbor witnessed Madam LaLaurie, wielding a whip, chase a young slave girl up to roof of the mansion. The young girl, fearing punishment, flung herself off the roof and to her death.

But it was not until April 10, 1834, when a fire broke out at 1140 Royal Street, that the true horrors of the crimes of the impeccable LaLaurie were unearthed.

Locked in the utmost room of the mansion, police found a blood-soaked landscape of grotesquely mutilated, torn bodies. Slaves were found strapped to ‘operating tables,’ chained to the walls, locked in dog cages and body parts flung haphazardly around. Tales of the sight in the LaLaurie attic are conflicted, but there is one thing that remains – what police and doctors saw up there was nothing short of horrifying. When word got out, a mob gathered outside the house, but they were too late. A carriage carrying the LaLaurie family burst through the gate and into the night. There are those who believe the LaLauries escaped to Paris where the mistress of terror herself died at ripe the age of 69.

After the disappearance of the LaLauries, their once grandiose mansion was left unchanged, left to rot in the midst of the blooming French Quarter. In 1888 it was restored and served as a public high school, a conservatory of music, an apartment building, a refuge for young delinquents, a bar, furniture store and luxury apartment building. It is now a privately-owned residence and not open for tours.

Early occupants were plagued with strange noises, cries, and groans at night. Squatters who dare seek shelter behind its walls were never to be heard from again.

Haunted or not, the LaLaurie house has a dark and twisted history that attracts hoards of tourists annually. Until it’s doors are reopened to the public, these tales will only haunt our dreams.

RMS Queen Mary – Long Beach, California

The RMS Queen Mary ruled the North Atlantic seas from 1936 until it was retired in 1967. She left Southampton for the last time on October 31, 1967, and sailed to the port of Long Beach, bringing with her a rich history and ghostly secrets.

During the second World War, the RMS Queen Mary was converted to a troopship, nicknamed “The Grey Ghost,” and ferried allied soldiers to enemy territory. In her time as an army vessel, she transported an estimated 800,000 troops.

The ship now serves as a tourist attraction featuring a hotel, museum, and restaurants.

There have been 49 recorded deaths on board the RMS Queen Mary. Unexplained phenomena have been reported as early as the 1960s. Travelers have claimed to hear screams, growls, and disembodied voices. The boiler room is supposedly a hotbed of activity after reports that an 18-year-old sailor was severed in half by a heavy door.

Little Jacqueline (Jackie) Torin was 5 or 6 when she drowned in the ship’s pool. Some say they can hear her splashing, calling for help and even responding to questions. Others recall unwillingly playing a ghostly game of hide and seek.

Visitors have reported seeing a Woman in White slide across the floor in the Queen’s Salon, dancing along to a silent orchestra.

B Deck has had some of the most unexplained activity. The deck once contained small third-class cabins and is now used for hotel guests. Legend has it that a young woman named Dana and her family were murdered in room B-474. The killer is said to have strangled Dana’s little sister and mother on the bed before shooting Dana to death in the bathroom. Some say they have seen her spirit lurking with many of the other children in the second-class pool.

And then there is always stateroom B-340.

Known as the most haunted stateroom aboard the Grey Ghost, stateroom B-340 had so many complaints that it was closed for over 30 years. Guests have reported hearing knocking on the walls and door, the sink faucet turning on and off on its own and even a dark figure looming over their bed while they sleep.
Lucky for you, stateroom B-340 reopened this past Friday, April 13 for those guests brave enough to connect with the other side.

Every Halloween season, guests can experience a different kind of terror aboard the Queen Mary at Dark Harbor. This haunted attraction will scare guests starting September 27 and ending November 2.

Is it just me or does transforming a (supposed) hub of paranormal activity into a haunted attraction always felt like you were tempting fate?

The Stanley Hotel – Estes Park, Colorado

The Stanley Hotel was built and opened in 1909 by Freelan Oscar Stanley. The 142-room hotel is five miles from the Rocky Mountain National Park and catered to the American upper class at the turn of the century. Guests such as socialite Margaret Brown (also known as the ‘Unsinkable Molly Brown’ of the Titanic), Theodore Roosevelt, and the Dumb and Dumber cast have all stayed at the breathtaking hotel.

It is best known for being Stephen King’s inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in his 1977 novel, The Shining.

The story goes something like this: King and his wife took refuge at the Stanley to escape the bad weather. Upon checking in, they found out that they had arrived on the last day of the season and many of the Hotel’s staff had already left. It could have been the eerie feeling of being the only people there, the stormy night, or the nightmares he allegedly had, but it served as the perfect backdrop for one of his most beloved novels.

The Stanley Hotel is proud of their haunted history and provides guests with “Spirit Tours” of the property. While on one of these tours, the Mausling family may have knowingly captured a photograph of two little girls on a staircase –but the only problem was that there were no young girls on the tour that night. In fact, others have also reported seeing mysterious figures on the staircase.

Other visitor experiences include the sounds of children running up and down the halls, moving nightstands and shadow figures. There are claims that a former chambermaid named Elisabeth Wilson folds and puts away clothing and shows her disapproval for unmarried couples sharing a room.
It is even said the ghosts of the Stanleys still reside within the walls.

The Whaley House – San Diego, California

The Whaley House, built in 1857, laid atop an old graveyard and execution site – most notably the execution site of the thief, Yankee Jim Robinson.

The twisted bodies below did not bother Thomas Whaley when he moved his wife and six children into their new home. Not long after the move, Thomas Whaley Jr., suffered from Scarlet Fever and died in 1858 at only 18 months old. Around the same time, a fire engulfed the general store they opened adjacent to their home.

Two tragedies in such a short time convinced the Whaleys to pack up and move to San Fransisco –but they wouldn’t be gone for long. In 1885, Violet Whaley, depressed after a shameful divorce, shot herself in the chest at the age of 22.

Decades went by and the descendants of the Whaley family lived, and more notably, died in the house. With all of these deaths – and the executions that had occurred before them; visitors started to whisper about strange smells and sounds in the house.

Many say they can hear the little footsteps and giggles of little Thomas Whaley Jr. Others see a young woman on the second floor of the home (presumably, Violet) and feel sudden cold spots.

Thomas Whaley himself has allegedly been spotted on occasion. The most famous ghostly inhabitant of the home, however, is that of Yankee Jim Robinson himself.

Almost a century after the Whaley House was built, it was abandoned. The property now serves as a museum and hosts haunted tours of the property. Visitors report hearing strange sounds, feeling dark spots and seeing mysterious shadows.

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About the Author: Sepideh Nia