The Most Haunted Cities in America and the Ghosts That Call Them Home
Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.
From the sun-soaked shores of California to the bustling cities in the Northeast, the U.S. has countless destinations worth exploring. Some travelers look for cities with thriving food and nightlife scenes, while others seek out beautiful national parks, but the most intrepid travelers choose their next vacation destination based on the likelihood of a paranormal encounter. Ghost hunters flock to the most haunted cities in America, known for spirit sightings at eerie locations not typically found in guidebooks. Tragic past events have allegedly caused ghosts to linger in hotels, restaurants, parks, and more in these cities, but even if you don’t experience any paranormal activity, you’ll at least have a memorable time learning about the area’s dark history.
Here are 10 of the most haunted cities in America.
Related: More Halloween trip ideas
1. New Orleans, Louisiana
With dozens of reportedly haunted places, New Orleans is one of the country’s most haunted cities. By paranormal standards, New Orleans really has it all: churches haunted by the spirits of former priests, former hospitals visited by soldiers who died but never truly passed on, and homes filled with ghosts of residents who died on the premises — not to mention all the vampire stories. The city also has its share of notable ghosts, including author William Faulkner, whose spirit is sometimes spotted at his former home-turned-bookstore Faulkner House Books. Old Absinthe House, open since the early 1800s, is supposedly haunted by Voodoo practitioner Marie Laveau, Andrew Jackson, and pirate Jean Lafitte, among others. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is another paranormal hot spot, said to be haunted by hundreds of ghosts. These are just a few of the many spooky spots in New Orleans.
2. Chicago, Illinois
A disastrous fire, a notorious serial killer, and mob history all led to Chicago becoming an allegedly haunted destination. Nederlander Theatre was the site of a tragic fire killing hundreds in 1903, and some say the alley behind the theater is still haunted by those unfortunate patrons. H.H. Holmes, the country’s first serial killer, murdered dozens (if not hundreds) of women in the infamous “Murder Castle,” and while that building was replaced, some workers still report odd experiences while working in the new building’s basement. The site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, often attributed to Al Capone, reportedly has some residual paranormal energy, too. These are just a few of the many haunted sites in the Windy City — check out a ghost tour for more.
3. Savannah, Georgia
Savannah, Georgia, is often ranked among the most haunted cities in the U.S. Historic homes, inns, and restaurants are rumored to house the spirits of former residents and visitors. In fact, those looking for a thoroughly spooky weekend in Savannah can opt to stay at an allegedly haunted hotel and eat at the restaurants still frequented by spirits that never fully left the earthly realm. Moon River Brewing Company is known as the most haunted place in town, featured on both Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters. Guests have reported seeing a lady in white on the stairs and spirits have been known to mess with the staff. The Pirates’ House, now a family-friendly restaurant, was once a boarding house popular among sailors, but some were kidnapped from its basement and forced to sail aboard ships against their will, so some say their spirits still visit the restaurant today. Finally, The Marshall House is known as one of the most haunted hotels in the U.S., thanks to its history as a hospital during the Civil War and yellow fever epidemics. Guests have reported seeing apparitions in the hallways and hearing ghost children running down the halls at night, among other mysterious happenings.
4. St. Augustine, Florida
The oldest city in the U.S. is bound to have a residual spirit or two, and lucky for paranormal seekers, St. Augustine is a hotbed of ghost activity. The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is one of the historic city’s hot spots, supposedly haunted by girls who drowned there in the 1870s. Visitors have also reported paranormal experiences at Castle Warden, a Moorish-style home built in the 1880s that now houses the first permanent Ripley's Believe It or Not! museum, established in 1950. The city has several other haunted locations; you can explore the darker side of St. Augustine on a ghost tour — some even bring along EMF meters to track paranormal activity.
5. Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon, might be best known for its incredible craft beer scene and artsy vibes, but the city is also one of the best destinations for ghost hunters. The Shanghai Tunnels are perhaps the most notoriously haunted site in the city — in the late 1800s, the city was a major international port, and underground tunnels were created to transport (often illegal) goods across Portland. According to local lore, residents hanging out at local bars were kidnapped and taken through the tunnels to waiting ships, never to be seen again. Some say the victims’ souls still haunt the bars above ground — you can even take a ghost tour to learn more about the city’s gritty past.
Related: 30 Most Haunted Places in the World
6. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Areas where historic tragedies took place are often considered paranormal hot spots, and the site of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle is regarded as one of the world’s most haunted places. Some report seeing the ghosts of soldiers on the battlefield, and inns and a farm in the area are haunted, too, according to the Travel Channel. Visitors can take a ghost tour to learn more about the history of Gettysburg and the tragic spirits still said to wander these grounds.
7. Washington, D.C.
Our country’s capital has seen its fair share of history, so it makes sense that Washginton, D.C. is the setting for several ghost stories. In fact, many say the White House is one of the most haunted houses in the U.S., haunted by the ghosts of former residents. President Lincoln’s ghost has been spotted in the Lincoln Bedroom; President William Henry Harrison, who died in the White House, is said to have returned in the afterlife; and first ladies Dolley Madison and Abigail Adams supposedly still linger, tending to the home. D.C. ghost tours take visitors through other allegedly haunted locations, including the National Building Museum, the Congressional Cemetery, and official government buildings.
8. San Francisco, California
A storied past and prominent landmarks with dark histories make San Francisco one of the most haunted cities in the U.S. China Camp State Park, the USS Hornet, and the Mare Island Naval Shipyard are all said to be haunted, but the number one San Francisco hot spot has to be Alcatraz. According to the Travel Channel, there are a few ghosts still lurking in the infamous prison, but the spirit of Al Capone is perhaps the most notorious — some say you can still hear him playing his favorite banjo tunes.
9. Salem, Massachusetts
Perhaps best known for the Salem witch trials that resulted in the execution of 19 people, Salem, Massachusetts, is said to be one of the most haunted cities in the U.S. Some say the ghosts of those killed during the trials still linger in Salem to this day — Lyceum Hall (now Turner’s Seafood) is allegedly haunted by the first victim of the trials, Bridget Bishop, according to Atlas Obscura, and Howard Street Cemetery is haunted by Giles Corey, who was tortured to death after being accused of witchcraft, according to CNBC. Learn more about Salem’s spooky side on one of the many ghost tours offered.
10. San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio is considered one of the most haunted places in Texas because of the city’s history. The Battle of the Alamo led to thousands of casualties, and Alamo visitors and employees have reported seeing the ghosts of soldiers and hearing mysterious rally cries. The nearby Emily Morgan Hotel is one of the country’s most haunted hotels, too. The property was once a hospital, and some guests now report seeing the apparition of a woman in white in the halls.
Elizabeth Rhodes is an associate digital editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her adventures on Instagram at @elizabetheverywhere.