There are two things I look for when choosing a travel destination. First, I scope out any and all vegan restaurants. And second, I go in search of anything haunted, dark, and historical that my chosen destination has to hold. I seek out the spooky and macabre in any city I might be traveling to: old cemeteries speckled with centuries old graves, antique shops overflowing with treasures, museum halls lined with ancient peculiarities, and monuments of morbid history.
When October approaches, there’s something in the air that makes my wanderlust all the more powerful. Perhaps it’s the chill or the trees shaking lose their leaves to reveal their bones. Perhaps it’s the ever thinning veil between our world and that of the unknown. These spooky road trip destinations will ease your wicked wanderlust and have you venturing into the world of the macabre just in time for All Hallow’s Eve.
Old Burying Point//Salem, MA
While Salem, MA is already on the travel itinerary for most darklings and witches, I feel it is necessary to highlight one of my favorite cemeteries, The Old Burying Point. Justice John Hathorne, whom presided over the witchcraft court and sentenced many of the accused to hang, is buried here. Otherwise, it has little to do with the Salem Witch Trials; many of the accused were buried in unmarked graves. However, it is the oldest burial ground in Salem, the second oldest in the country, and, nestled snuggly between the Salem Witch Trials Memorial and the famed Grimshawe House, it is a beautiful place to visit. The gravestones date back to 1637, and are still a remarkably preserved example of early colonial gravestone iconography, including a personal favorite, the “death’s head.”
The Stanley Hotel//Estes Park CO
The Stanley Hotel offers something for the history buff, the horror fan, and the paranormal investigator alike. In its early days, the hotel was a thriving destination for the wealthy, built and run by Freelan Oscar Stanley and his wife Flora. By the 1970s, the hotel had gained a reputation for being haunted by both Mr. and Mrs. Stanley. Flora’s Steinway piano is said to be heard playing in the middle night and the ghost of Mr. Stanley supposedly lingers in his favorite place, the Billiards Room. The hotel may not have been able to withstand the test of time, if it weren’t for a visit by renowned horror author Stephen King. One night in the Stanley Hotel and he was inspired to write The Shining.
Los Feliz Murder Mansion//Los Angeles, CA
On December 6, 1959, Harold Perselson killed his wife with a blow to the head with a hammer, then attempted do the same to his teenage daughter. When he was interrupted by his two younger children, he told them “Go back to bed, this is a nightmare!”, and then continued on to kill himself with a combination of Nembutal and 31 pills believed to be Codeine. Even creepier than the killings: the rumors that the house remained virtually untouched since that night in 1959, still decorated for Christmas, with a tree and wrapped presents set up in the living room. The house was inherited by new owners, however, they never lived there, and with the exception of curious trespassers, the house remained the same for nearly 60 years. Sadly, the house was recently cleaned up and put back on the market, but it still holds an eery and strange history.
The Lizzie Borden House//Fall River, MA
On August 4, 1892, Abby and Andrew Borden were violently murdered in their home. Between her contradictory statements and erratic behavior, their daughter Lizzie quickly became the prime suspect. Although she was acquitted, no one else was ever accused and she still remains the most likely murderer. The mystery behind the murders has inspired many theories and the well-known rhyme, “Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.” You can visit the Borden House, now a bed & breakfast, for a ghost tour or even an overnight stay. The house is historically preserved, and with its sordid past, it’s no wonder that many visitors feel an uneasiness upon entering. It is said to be haunted by the ghosts of Mr. and Mrs. Borden, Lizzie Borden, Bridget “Maggie” Sullivan (the maid), and Maggie’s cat, which was found in the basement with its head hacked off.
Mutter Museum//Philadelphia, PA
While the Mutter Museum does not hold a haunted history, it is still a must-see for anyone interested in the morbid and macabre. The museum is part of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the original purpose of the collection being for biomedical research and education. It now boasts an impressive display of medical oddities and instruments, skeletal and wet specimens, and even slides of Albert Einstein’s brain. The museum is a beautiful display of the history of medical science and the peculiarity of the human body.
Copp’s Hill Burying Ground//Boston, MA
Boston holds many hauntingly beautiful burial grounds, but this one holds rather captivating and intriguing stories within its walls. Cotton Mather, a man obsessed with the Puritanical idea of witches and the connection with the devil that he thought they had, is buried here. He strongly supported the prosecution of so-called witches, and was an influential force in the Salem Witch Trials. The first keeper of Boston Light, George Worthylake, is also buried in Copp’s Hill. He died at the lighthouse when his boat capsized in a storm, and there have been many reported sightings of his ghost, even in Coast Guard log books. This burial ground is also an example of a common problem in early urban burial. While there are only about 2,500 gravestones, there are about 10,000 bodies buried there. Many people could not afford gravestones, but they had to be buried somewhere, so they were often thrown in with those who could afford them. With so many people being buried, the ground literally started to rise. The ground could no longer contain the bodies, and so walls had to be built to keep them from spilling out onto the street. The burial ground has also been rearranged, perhaps stirring the spirits of those buried there.
Winchester Mystery House//San Jose, CA
Sarah Winchester was the wealthy widow of William Wirt Winchester, a mogul in the gun industry. After her husband’s death in 1881, Sarah was supposedly told by a medium channeling her husband that she must move west and continuously build a house for herself and the spirits of people killed by Winchester rifles. As long as she kept building, her life would be safe from these spirits. In 1884, she bought a mansion, hired a construction crew, and started continuously building, day and night, for 38 years. The crew worked with no architectural plan or guidance, and so the house features staircases and doors to nowhere, mystery rooms, and countless other design oddities. There are hundreds of reported paranormal experiences throughout the entire house. Perhaps Sarah Winchester really was building a beautiful home for these restless spirits to dwell.
The Saint Louis Cemetery//New Orleans, LA
New Orleans should be on the travel list of anyone interested in history, hauntings, and folklore. A trip there is not complete without a visit to the St. Louis Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in New Orleans, opened in 1789. This cemetery is unique because it is comprised entirely of above ground vaults. These vaults are often owned by families, and are used for the burial of multiple people. The well-known voodoo priestess, Marie Laveau, is reported to be buried here, in the Glapion family crypt. Legend says that upon visiting her grave, you should knock three times to awaken her, mark XXX on the tomb in chalk, knock another three times, make a wish, and leave an offering. Her ghost, as well as the ghost of her daughter, are said to roam New Orleans to this day, continuing to practice Voodoo magic, even in death.
Clinton Road//West Milford, NJ
This windy road stretching 10 miles from Route 23 in Newfoundland to Upper Greenwood Lake is rife with legends and lore involving ghosts, strange creatures, and creepy occurrences. There is a legend of a ghost boy on the bridge who will return coins thrown down into the water where he supposedly drowned. An old iron smelter dating back to the Revolutionary War has inspired stories that it is in fact a Druid temple, however this is definitely untrue. There are stories of phantom vehicles and headlights, that follow you to the end of the road and then disappear. Strange cryptozoological creatures have also allegedly been sighted in the woods. Is any of this based in fact, or does this long, creepy country road just inspire the imagination to run wild? Either way, it’s a very creepy place to explore.
Morbid Anatomy Museum//Brooklyn, NY
The Morbid Anatomy Museum declares to “explore the intersections of death, beauty, and that which falls between the cracks,” and this could not be more true. The museum’s permanent collection includes an extensive research library, memorial artwork, wax models, medical moulages, and a variety of other artifacts. The museum also hosts impressive temporary exhibitions. There is also some sort of interesting event at the museum every night. The events range from talks on history, medicine, horror, film, music, and culture, to taxidermy and articulation classes, to flea markets.
Grave of the Female Stranger//Alexandria, VA
The story of this mysterious grave begins in September 1816 when a man and a veiled woman arrived on an unexpected ship to Alexandria. The couple immediately headed to the City Hotel, staying in Room 8, where it was soon discovered that the woman was very ill. When her condition worsened, the man summoned a doctor, the hotel staff, and the owner’s wife, where they all had to swear to never reveal the identities of the man and woman. Of course, this created a lot of speculation and curiosity amongst the townspeople about who these people were. Shortly after, the woman died and the man commissioned an elaborate and beautiful tombstone, and then skipped town before paying for it, never to be seen again. This strange scenario inspired countless theories on the identity of the couple, from a kidnapped European princess, to Napoleon in drag, to con men, to aliens. These theories are wild and highly speculative, but whoever they were, they left behind a mysterious and beautiful grave. And according to stories, the Female Stranger may never have really left Room 8, as her ghost has supposedly been seen in the window, holding a lit candle.
Eastern State Penitentiary//Philadelphia, PA
The Eastern State Penitentiary is equal parts creepy, somber, and interesting. The prison opened in 1829 and was the first to rehabilitate inmates through the use of solitary confinement, which became known as the separate system or “Pennsylvania System.” The prisoner’s small cell opened up through a door into an individual yard with high walls, so even exercise was done in solitude. The prison is designed in a wagon wheel or radial shape, so when standing in the center, a guard could see down the entirety of every cell block. The prison held many notorious criminals, most notably Al Capone, whose cell block can be visited on a tour. The prison closed down in 1871 and now stands, in all its creepy splendor, as a reminder of the importance of prison reform. The audio tour is voiced by Steve Buscemi, which only adds to the experience as you tour the semi-ruin. There is rumor that the prison is haunted, with officers and inmates reporting strange occurrences as early as 1940.
The Museum of Death//Hollywood, CA
The Museum of Death was opened in 1995 in what the owners claim is the city’s first mortuary with the goal “to make people happy to be alive,” and stands as a testament to California’s murderous history. The museum now houses the world’s largest collection of serial killer artwork and letters, photographs from the Manson and Black Dahlia murders, a body bag and coffin collection, taxidermy, mortician instruments, and more. You can also view video of autopsies and serial killers, the Heaven’s Gate cult recruiting video, and Traces of Death, which features real footage of deaths. This museum gives a very real peek into death and morbidity, and is not for the weak of heart, but as they say on their website, this museum is for everyone…everyone dies.