K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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If Halloween is one of your favorite holidays, you might want to plan a trip around one of these attractions. These spooky sights are said to be among the most terrifying in the United States and, in some cases, the entire world. From a haunted ship in California to a penitentiary in Tennessee, fans of spooky sites should add this to their bucket list.
The Queen Mary is known as one of the most haunted sites in the world. Strange happenings have been reported throughout the ship – and to add to the terror, join one of the many spooky tours that are offered. If you really want to get in the Halloween spirit, take part in the Paranormal Ship Walk or Paranormal Investigations.
The West Virginia State Penitentiary held inmates from 1866 until its closure in 1995. It was well-known for its poor conditions, overcrowding and abuse of inmates. The Gothic-style prison was also the site of countless executions by electric chair and hanging, as well as multiple murders. For the Halloween season, the facility hosts the Dungeon of Horrors, where visitors are introduced to one of the scariest places behind bars. You’ll experience the fright of being locked in a cell, the fear of being lost in a maze, and the terror of walking through the dungeon of horrors. In addition to the Halloween tours, you can also book a Ghost Adventures Tour, in which you and your group can enjoy a 90-minute tour and then stay on your own until morning.
This long-time Atlanta attraction has been terrifying visitors for two decades and has been featured on CNN, the Travel Channel and countless other media outlets because of its chilling attention to detail. Owned by television and movie pros, the costumes, makeup and acting at the Netherworld Haunted House are incredibly realistic. It hosts two walk-through haunted houses staffed with 100 actors and is probably unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.
One of Southern California’s scariest, the Haunted Trail, takes over San Diego’s famous Balboa Park with a mile-long nightmarish walk through the woods. You’ll stroll through gnarled oaks and twisted pines in a maze that’s so disturbing you’ll probably wish you’d never entered. The freak-infested terror includes incarcerated lost souls that stalk your every move – and you’ll be tasked with finding your way out before you end up becoming one of their “experiments.”
In many buildings, there isn’t a 13th floor; it’s completely skipped, with floors going straight from 12 to 14, due to the superstitions surrounding the No. 13. Legend has it that these buildings actually do have a 13th floor, but it can’t be accessed because the souls of the dead live there. That’s the theme of Phoenix’s 13th Floor Haunted House, the largest of its kind in the city. It’s described as a ‘visceral manifestation of humanity’s most crippling fears” where the walls will “bring to your knees in terror as you encounter ghastly humanoids, deranged clowns and maniacal beasts – each determined to torment your mind and soul.”
This Baton Rouge attraction is also up to movie-quality horror. The massive 40,000-square-foot 13th Gate haunted house features underground tunnels, a real snake swamp, and a prehistoric ice cave. It also has its own New Orleans-style cemetery, The Necropolis, that hosts voodoo shows, zombies, and more. Guests must pass through it to reach the attraction’s exit, and every year, they come up with something new and more frightening, like being forced to wade through a flooded sewer full of Jack the Ripper victims.
The Historic Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary was once a maximum security prison that was referred to as the “end of the line,” holding some of the most dangerous inmates in Tennessee. Not surprisingly, it’s said to be haunted, with reports that include everything from voices of disembodied spirits being heard to being lightly touched when no one is there. While tours are provided during the day throughout the year, for Halloween, you can take the overnight paranormal tour to play Ghosthunter if you dare. A guide will explain how the equipment works, share stories about the prison, and then let you investigate on your own.
The McRaven House is widely regarded as the most haunted house in Mississippi. It isn’t one that’s set up to make it look scary with costumed people lurching out around every corner. Rather, it’s an authentic, pre-Civil War home that’s said to be haunted by at least 14 ghosts. Lavishly furnished and decorated, the grounds include three acres of lush gardens. This was once a Confederate campsite and field hospital, and after a rainstorm, bones have been regularly resurfacing. Visitors can enjoy a thrilling Halloween by taking the haunted tour to learn the stories of past residents who’ve decided to linger in the afterlife. Once a month, public ghost hunts are offered, too.
The Akron Haunted Schoolhouse and Laboratory has been a staple for Halloween haunts for nearly a half-century. It’s jam-packed with chills and thrills, including seven floors of combined terror. The schoolhouse features three floors for a journey through the librarian’s scariest stories, and in the Haunted Laboratory, a team of scientists is working away at containing a vile virus that transforms its victims into a horde of tortured creatures. Your goal is to escape before you’re contaminated.
The 1870s Chadbourne Carriage House in Fremont’s Williams Historical Park carriage house has been playing host to the Candle Lighters Ghost House since 1969. It’s the only building left on what was the 143-acre 19th-century Chadbourne Ranch. For decades, it’s been a favorite of Bay Area residents, complete with scary witches, ghosts, and the undead to those daring enough to enter. At one point, it was almost demolished, but thanks to the efforts of the Candle Lighters and others, generations can continue to experience it with a different theme each year. In 2022, it will return on October 13 with “Witches Through Time!” allowing visitors to “fly through history with witches from olden times through today.”
The Blue Heron Mining Community is an abandoned coal town that’s nestled in the heart of Daniel Boone National Forest. It was restored to provide historic mining tours, but for Halloween, there’s a special Ghost Train tour. It’s the best time of year to check out this shuttered town, with passengers transported to a time when coal mines were well-known for poor conditions that led to numerous fatalities. You’ll enter the dark and dim passages of the abandoned camp with flashlights while listening to spooky tales from the hollows and hills of the Cumberland Plateau. Combined with the breeze echoing through and strange noises from the creaky building, it’s enough to make anyone’s hair stand on end.