13 of America’s spookiest places

Peeking into the dark side at some of the scariest places

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As Halloween creeps up, cobwebs start to spread across front porches and jack-o-lanterns light the way. There’s a spookiness in the air—you’re jittery and jumpy, and scaring yourself silly is all part of getting into the Halloween spirit.

You think you’re tough enough to come face to face with real spirits and fantastical productions, but you’ll second guess your sense of bravery when you visit the 13 most haunted cities on our list. Too petrified to scream, you’ll have goosebumps covering your skin as you wait for paranormal activity in haunted buildings and run for your life at the goriest fear festivals around. Do you have what it takes to make it out alive?

1. New York City, New York

NY Haunted Hayride via Yelp/Ny H.

A city with so many stories is bound to have some skeletons in its closet, and New York City certainly delivers. To discover NYC’s most eerie haunts, brave a Boroughs of the Dead ghost tour of Greenwich Village and East Village. The tour begins at the haunted St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery, leading you on a hair-raising route, while revealing the city’s history and relationship with the paranormal.

Apparitions are nothing when you face the demented clowns and horrific monsters on the New York Haunted Hayride. Anything but a friendly pumpkin ride, this terrifying wagon makes your worst nightmares come alive as it winds around pitch-black bends infested with murderers, devils, and demons. Sure, it’s all pretend—but good luck tellin’ yourself that as you white knuckle your best friend’s hands.

2. Long Beach, California

Queen Mary via Yelp/The Queen Mary's Dark Harbor

Long Beach is a prominent port city in SoCal, but few know the creepy story behind the Queen Mary. Docked at the port, the ship is said to be haunted by several ghosts, including children that died in the ship’s pool. To bring the scariness up a notch, the Queen Mary hosts Dark Harbor, in which the ship showcases your worst fears. Between the demonic circus and more than 200 monsters and revenants, the ship’s real ghosts suddenly don’t seem so bad.

When the sun goes down on sunny Long Beach, the undead start to rise at Rainbow Lagoon. Hundreds of rotting zombies are invading—and you can join them in your own gruesome get-up. Stagger along in the zombie walk, stumble through the haunted maze, and join contests and workshops with fellow glassy-eyed ghouls at the infamous Long Beach Zombie Fest.

3. San Diego, California

Whaley House via Yelp/Ryan C.

Old Town San Diego Historic Park is home to some of the city’s oldest buildings, and we all know what that means: ghosts. Old Town’s Whaley House is considered one of the most haunted spots in not only the city, but the country, too. Some say the historical house is haunted by a convict who was hung on the property when it was a court house, while others believe it’s the Whaley residents themselves who visit the home more than 100 years later. Whoever it is, listen for the sound of heavy footsteps and look out for Victorian-dressed spirits wandering the halls.

Don’t be fooled; this Southern California city can put on quite the show, too. Downtown San Diego hosts the Haunted Hotel, where you’ll test your limits in the Hellevator and scream your way through zombie-ridden hallways. You’ll be shaking in your boots as you navigate your way through hellish scenes beyond your imagination, from the Clown Subway to the Twisted Torture Temple.

4. Phoenix, Arizona

Hotel San Carlos via Flickr/sean horan

More than 10 Phoenix locations are said to be haunted, including the San Carlos Hotel and Orpheum Theater, so this Arizona town has earned its right to host some epically eerie events. Take the 13th Floor Haunted House, a terror-inducing nightmare filled with two haunted attractions, The Deadhouse and The Frenzy, all in one harrowing night. After all the screaming you’ll do, we’ll be surprised if you still have a voice once you make it out.

Crops of corn aren’t the only things you’ll find in the fields of Fear Farm. This bone-trembling farm features attractions that will have you numb with terror, from the flesh-craving monster in the Slaughterhouse to the psychotic clowns in the Mouth of Madness. Only the bravest souls will step up for the hayride, which ventures down a dark path teeming with the undead.

5. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Skirvin Hotel via Yelp/Skirvin Hotel

Every city has its share of legends, but the story of the Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City is too creepy to ignore. According to the story, in the 1930s, a hotel maid, with her child in her arms, jumped to her death after being locked in a room due to an affair she had with the hotel owner. Even after renovations and many years later, guests still complain of hearing children crying and female voices propositioning them in the night. We wouldn’t count on getting much sleep when you stay at one of the most haunted American hotels.

If you make it through a night at the hotel, you might be conditioned for the monsters and beasts at Frontier City Frightfest. After night falls, this kid-friendly attraction takes a turn, as the 30-room haunted house ignites your deepest fears. Prepare to be traumatized as you sneak past the 3 Pigg Brothers Slaughterhouse and try to stomach the FreakShow Deluxe stage performances.

6. Manitou Springs, Colorado

Cliff House Inn via Flickr/Kari Sullivan

If you’ve been to this town, you’ve probably heard the story of Emma Crawford, who is said to haunt the town since her passing in 1891. The legend has inspired the town’s annual Emma Crawford Coffin Races, in which teams dressed in costumes charge down the street with homemade coffins, complete with their own renditions of Emma Crawford inside. Cheer on your favorite coffin wielding team—and don’t be shocked if the real Emma Crawford makes an appearance.

Instead of waiting for the spirits to come to you, hunt them down yourself during one of the Paranormal Investigation walks at the Manitou Springs Heritage Center. Led by the Haunted Dimensions Team, you’ll wander through the dark with investigation equipment and learn the technique of tapping into the spiritual realm. If you still haven't had your fill of the afterlife, the Cliff House Inn is said harbor a few ghosts of its own. Book a room, and look out behind you!

7. Pontiac, Michigan

Like any city getting into the Halloween spirit, Pontiac hosts a number of freaky haunted houses. But how many places can say their haunted house is actually… haunted? Enter the Realm of Darkness, a 45-room performance of seriously scary action—and then there’s the show that nobody controls. Paranormal investigators have confirmed supernatural activity in this mansion, and now you can enter a contest to stay overnight for the chance to win the grand prize—if you make it until morning.

Even if it’s strictly fictional horror, every hair on the back of your neck will tingle as you force yourself to walk through the bloody four-story haunted house at Erebus. Previously rated the Largest Walk-Through Haunted Attraction by the Guinness Book of World Records, this attraction is designed to make you squirm and scream. Good luck to you, my friend.

8. Lee and Candia, New Hampshire

Haunted Overload via Yelp/Eric L.

A two-for-one package, these two nearby towns take the number eight spot for their ghastly attractions that some sickos like to call entertainment. First up, is Lee, the small rural farm town (isn’t that the setting for nearly all scary stories?), which hosts Haunted Overload. Not suitable for the faint of heart, this haunted trail lures you into the forest to roam amongst the most frightening beasts that only come out at night.

Nearby Candia serves up its own thrills and chills at Haunted Acres. Its theme, Area 51, is enough to give us the shivers, but just wait until you step onto the course. The Maze from Hell and the Graveyard of the Damned are enough to keep you sleeping with the lights on. Think that’s nothing? Brave the Haunted Acres in the pitch dark and you might be screaming a different tune.

9. Sandusky, Ohio

Cedar Point via Yelp/Elizabeth R.

When your city sits on the shores of a lake with the word “eerie” in it, you can expect some spooky legends to swirl around. Get your blood pumping and your adrenaline spiking as you discover the stories about this lakeside spot at Lake Eerie Fearfest. It’s no walk in the park, as you’re invited to make it through five terror-filled haunted houses in the dead of night.

If one night of horror isn’t enough, fewer than 4 miles away you’ll be shocked at Cedar Point’s grueling display. Halloweekends transform a fun-loving theme park into a death-defying experience. With mazes like the Eternity Infirmary and Zombie High School, combined with Blood on the Bayou and Cut Throat Cove scare zones, you’ll wonder why you ever thought this attraction was a good idea.

10. Los Angeles, California

Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights via Yelp/Joe B.

Los Angeles is known for its movie stars and star-worthy productions, so it’s no shocker that this city puts on a legendary Halloween performance. Seven deadly mazes await you at Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights, where you’re invited to try to make it out alive. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre maze introduces you to the hungry cannibal family, while the Krampus maze unleashes the devilish European version of the anti-Saint Nicholas, who takes care of the naughty children.

NYC’s Hayride actually took a page out of LA’s original version of the Haunted Hayride, which has been traumatizing Californians for eight years. This year, it’s even eviler, as riders must leave the confines of the wagon to face their fears on foot. Hay riders are judged and sent down one of two paths as part of initiation into the Secret Society. Do you have what it takes?

11. Salem, Massachusetts

Salem graveyard via Flickr/Robert Linsdell

Salem has a fascinating, yet dark history—the kind that you may not want to hear, but you can’t stand not to listen to. Embark on the Bewitched After Dark tour to discover all the macabre and hauntings associated with this historic town. Covering everything from the witch trials and 1692 Hysteria to haunted locations and present day witchcraft, you’ll leave feeling well educated with a good case of the spooks.

While you’re in town, tap into your sixth sense and head out on the Salem Wax Museum’s Candlelit Ghostly Walking Tour. You’ll receive tips on ghost photography as you stroll through the most haunted areas, from Howard Street Cemetery to the Old Salem Prison. Who knows what kind of paranormal images might show up on your film the next day!

12. Chicago, Illinois

Another city with a colorful past, Chicago has its fair share of grim and unexplainable happenings. Discover some of the city’s darkest secrets and mysteries on a Chicago Haunted River Tour. You’ll send shivers down your spine as you float along the Chicago River and hear about the city’s legends and supernatural events. Be prepared; you may never look at the city the same again.

After the sun sets, drive 50 minutes in the dark and arrive at the fictional Statesville Haunted Prison® and City of the Dead, where the prisoners have gone mad. The challenge lies in making it through the 23 maximum security cells that are crawling with more than 100 ghastly criminals. If you manage to escape the horror rooms, you’ll still have to make it through the City of the Dead, where deceased prisoners were laid to rest—but are no longer resting.

13. Bristol, Connecticut

The best scary stories are those that have been around for centuries, and Bristol has a few of them up its sleeve, as the town dates back to 1781. Uncover more of Connecticut’s legends with the Trail side Tales tour at Harry C. Barnes Memorial Nature Center. The trail guide will lead you along a lantern walk, meandering on dark paths, while telling local legends.

Step up to the challenge and see for yourself if you can make it through an entire mile filled with bloody antics, evil witches, and the grisliest goblins. Did we mention it was through the Haunted Graveyard? This excruciatingly scary attraction leads you through 14 themed houses over the span of 45 minutes, which may end up feeling like an eternity.

Where have you experienced the spookiest attractions?

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Chloe Mulliner

As a staff writer for Expedia, Chloe Mulliner is dedicated to providing top travel tips for your jaunts around the world. She believes there are adventures to be had on every inch of the globe from surf spots on the Peruvian coast to the charming villages of the English countryside. Chloe specializes in showcasing all the must-see attractions on your travel wish list. She lives by the belief that every adventure is a story worth sharing.

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