From urban legends passed down for centuries to real-life harrowing tales, America’s closet is filled with skeletons. These cities will put a chill down your spine and make your hair stand on end with their history and folklore. Indulge your morbid curiosity and explore some of America’s spookiest places.

1. Bannack, Montana

When you think about quintessential ghost towns in western movies, you think of a places like Bannack. Abandoned by its residents and forgotten by time, it’s a place full of tragic stories hidden inside the dilapidated, rotting walls of its buildings.

With the major discovery of gold in 1862, Bannack was established and the hope of a thriving city emerged. Soon, though, things went horribly wrong. The sheriff, Henry Plummer, was a well-known criminal and leader of a gang accused of over a hundred murders.

Cut off from the rest of the world, with the only way in or out of the town being the Montana Trail, residents of Bannack abandoned their homes by the 1970s. Today, travellers can visit this ghost town and explore the abandoned buildings as a reminder of a dark place in America’s history.

Image by Richard Cassan on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

2. Estes Park, Colorado

Nestled deep in the mountains of northern Colorado, the town of Estes Park is best known as the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. Yet amid the alpine attractions is one structure that lures your eye with eerie fascination: the legendary Stanley Hotel.

 

Best known for its role in Stephen King’s The Shining, this behemoth has spooked more than a few guests and staff members since its opening in 1909, and today is reputed to be one of America’s most haunted hotels.

Spend a night in this lavish estate, and you could find yourself among guests both living and dead, including the spirit of Flora Stanley, the late wife of the original owner. Supposedly, if you listen closely at night you can sometimes hear her play her cherished piano.

Image by Cocoabiscuit on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

3. Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston is one of America’s prettiest towns, boasting a historic district packed with multicoloured homes and a sedate palm-lined waterfront. But look beneath the surface and you’ll find a darker side to this popular destination.

The infamous Old City Jail housed many of Charleston’s most dangerous criminals – including America’s first female serial killer, Lavinia Fisher. A few blocks away, St Philip’s Graveyard is said to be haunted by the ghost of Sue Howard, a woman who tragically died shortly after giving birth in 1888. Legend has it that in 1987, a local photographer snapped a photo of Howard’s ghost roaming the cemetery.

4. Salem, Massachusetts

The Salem witch trials were one of the deadliest witch hunts in American history. From 1692 to 1693 many residents of Salem were accused of witchcraft and 19 were executed by hanging on Gallow Hills, now said to be haunted by their ghosts.

Another notable landmark is the House of Seven Gables, built in 1668 by sea captain John Turner, which is said to have a secret room where he could hide his sisters from the overzealous witch hunters that often frequented a nearby tavern. Today it’s open to visitors to explore if they dare – many believe the house to be haunted.

Image by James Walsh on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

5. Savannah, Georgia

Thanks to the Spanish moss that clings to the trees throughout Savannah, this city ceratinly looks spooky. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find it’s not all about looks.

A stop at the haunted Old Candler Hospital will bring visitors to the infamous morgue tunnel, which runs from the hospital under the neighbouring park. It once held the recently-deceased bodies of victims of the city’s many Yellow Fever epidemics. Today, a tour through the tunnels is bound to chill even the living.

Image by Y Nakanishi on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

6. Seattle, Washington

The Great Seattle Fire of 1889 destroyed most of the city’s business district, and when it came to rebuilding, they simply did so on top of the ruins. But all that is lost is not forgotten.

The underground tunnels became hangouts for gangsters, prostitutes, and opium addicts. The city soon had to condemn the subterranean community as it became a breeding pit for diseases. It was only decades later in the 1960s that the tunnels opened up again for tourism and a few areas are reputed to have become paranormal hotspots.

Image by Eric Fidler on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

7. Sleepy Hollow, New York

This quiet town about an hour’s drive north of New York City is the setting for the Headless Horseman’s hauntings in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.

With its ominous appeal, it’s no surprise the town comes alive during the late fall. From The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze to the absolutely horrifying Horseman’s Hollow, this may just be one of the spookiest places to celebrate Halloween.

Image by cgc76 on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Explore more of the USA with the Rough Guide to the USACompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you go.

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