Note: Since stories about hauntings have ambiguous authenticity, I’ll put them under urban legends just for convenience. In fact, some of them might be outright hoaxes but are part of the haunted American tradition just in case. Besides, I’m more interested in doing the places anyway than talking about the ghost stuff. Yet, I do think the ghost stuff is interesting even though I don’t believe in anything pertaining to the occult or paranormal.
As we all know Halloween is upon us and for many going to a haunted house is a long time tradition. Of course, there are plenty of people who pay to be scared by ghosts and monsters but I’m not one of them. However, there are plenty of places in the United States that have their own ghost stories and alleged paranormal activity that’s the stuff of urban legend and folklore. Some of these places are open to the public and can be visited by tourists with no problem. Some still remain private property and ask that horror afficionados keep out. Others are abandoned and wish tourists keep out just for their own safety. In this series, I’ll cover some of the most haunted locations in the country according to each state. And there’s a chance some might contain more frights than others. In each section, I’ll cover significant hauntings of ten states. This one, we look at a blast furnace in Alabama, a college auditorium in Alaska, an Old West titty bar in Arizona, a hotel and onetime ladie’s school and medical resort in Arkansas, a notorious prison in California, a hotel in Colorado, a mental institution in Connecticut, a fort in Delaware, a theater in Florida, and an old hotel that was used as a military hospital in Georgia. So for your reading pleasure, enjoy my first section of haunted sites in the United States.
Most Haunted Place: Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham
History: It was a pig iron blast furnace that operated from 1882-1971. Founded by Colonel James Withers Sloss in order to promote a railroad development. At one time, it produced 25% of the nation’s iron and steel. Given that it existed in an era of no OSHA regulations, you can imagine how dangerous working there could result in accidental deaths, loss of limbs, and other misfortunes.
Present Use: It’s the only blast furnace in the country to be preserved and restored for public use. It’s now a museum and has a nationally recognized metal arts program. Also hosts a barbecue cookoff, concerts, and Muse of Fire shows.
Sightings: It’s reported that screams, odd noises, apparitions, and even the malevolent ghost of a former foreman haunt this place. There are also stories of limbless ghosts.
Anyone Famous?: No.
Open to Tourists?: Yes, and it’s a big haunted attraction and hosts a ghost tour on Halloween.
Other Haunts: Boyington Oak, Gaineswood, Kenworthy Hall, Pickens County Courthouse, Prat Hall at Huntington College, Richards DAR House, Oakleigh, Adams Grove Presbyterian Church, Sweetwater Mansion, Auburn University Chapel, East Lake Park, Rocky Hill Castle, Sturdivant Hall
Most Haunted Place: UAA’s Wendy Williamson Auditorium in Anchorage
History: It was built in 1973. However, it’s said to contain odd features such as doors that lead to nowhere, unused elevator shafts, and a catwalk that serves no purpose. Other than that, it’s mostly what you’d expect of any college auditorium.
Present Use: Still very much used for the same purpose it was originally built for such as hosting events, lectures, and concerts.
Sightings: It’s said that footsteps and voices are often heard. Ghosts consist of a woman in a white dress, an aggressive man, a teenage boy, a local professor, and children. The aggressive man is reported to shove brunette women down stairwells or pull their hair. There are also reports of flying objects, exploding lights, disembodied voices, shadow figures, water and lights that turn on by themselves, etc.
Anyone Famous?: Well, in a local capacity. It’s said that its namesake John Wendell “Wendy” Williamson haunts there. He was a musician and professor of the school. He’s rumored to play piano in the lobby. Still, his haunting in the building is the most understandable.
Open to Tourists?: Not sure.
Other Haunts: Dimond Center, Red Onion Saloon, Historic Silverbow Inn, Golden North Hotel, Kennecott Copper Mines, West High School in Anchorage, Whittier, Ship Creek, Historic Anchorage Hotel
Most Haunted Place: Bird Cage Theatre in Tombstone
History: It was a theater, saloon, gambling parlor, and brothel that operated between 1881 and 1889, during the height of the silver boom. Had 14 cribs that hung from the ceiling. Owned by variety performers Lottie and William “Billy” Hutchinson who originally wanted to present respectable family shows like they saw in San Francisco. But the town’s economics didn’t support their aspirations so they basically made it a titty bar for the rough mining crowd. Saw 26 people killed in brawls with 140 bullet holes remaining in the building. Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, William Randolph Hearst, Curly Bill Broncius, Diamond Jim Brady, Bat Masterson, and Johnny Ringo all visited there. It wasn’t a place to bring your kids. After it closed in 1892, it wouldn’t be reopened or disturbed until 1934.
Present Use: It’s now a museum and sometimes a movie location.
Sightings: Visitors and staff have reported eerie music, laughter, and shouts echoing through the building as well as ghosts of cowboys and prostitutes. Some have reported they could still smell odors of cigars and whiskey.
Anyone Famous?: Curly Bill Broncius is most likely since he was killed there. And it’s said there were 26 male ghosts at the place.
Open to Tourists?: Yes. Opened year round from 8:00 a.m. until dusk.
Other Haunts: Boot Hill, Copper Queen Hotel, Gadsden Hotel, Monte Vista Hotel, Vulture Mine, NAU’s Morton Hall, Arizona State Prison Complex, Oliver House, Thornton Road Domes, Jerome Grand Hotel, Casey Moore’s Oyster House, Hotel San Carlos, Hermosa Inn, Hotel Congress, Canyon de Chelly, Fox Theatre, Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort, Crowne Plaza San Marcos, Hannagan Meadow Lodge, Hotel St. Michael, Pioneer Hotel, Connor Hotel, Sonoita Inn, El Tovar Hotel, San Xavier del Bac, Bisbee Courthouse, The Weatherford Hotel
Most Haunted Place: The Crescent Hotel and Spa in Eureka Springs
History: Opened in 1886 as a year-round resort hotel for rich people. It had its own in-house orchestra and hosted a lot of dance parties. It also held picnics, hiking, streetcar rides, and popular Tally-ho rides to Sanitarium Lake or some other attraction. Cost was $294,000. From 1908-1934, it was a college for rich girls. And between 1937 and 1940, it was operated as Baker’s Cancer Curing Hospital when it was owned by purple enthusiast, inventor, radio personality, and quack Norman G. Baker. He was later put in prison. In 1967, it was nearly burned to the ground. In 1997, its owner Marty Roenigk died in a car accident. His widow still owns the hotel to this day.
Present Use: It’s still operating as a hotel, but it’s open to everyone willing to pay.
Sightings: Seen as the most haunted hotel in America. It’s said to be haunted by several spirits including a young woman who died falling from the roof, a nurse pushing a gurney, a staff doctor, a stonemason who slipped off the roof, a cancer victim, as well as several former guests and owners.
Anyone Famous?: Well, it’s none other than owner Norman G. Baker. A millionaire entrepreneur, radio broadcaster, and inventor who secured fame as well as state and federal prison terms by promoting a supposed cure for cancer in the 1930s. Created the Tangley calliaphone, which is an air blown musical instrument. Owned a radio station in Iowa and Mexico. He’s probably the white haired one with hypnotic eyes wearing a white suit, lavender tie, and purple shirt. Said to drive an orchid color car and desecrate the Crescent Hotel’s walls with his favorite colors. Also known to be one of the most ruthless quacks in American history as well as a precursor to the radio “shock jock.” Hollywood needs to make a movie about this guy.
Open to Tourists?: Yes. You can even stay there (if you can afford it). You can even get married there if you want, too. They also have ghost tours.
Other Haunts: Fort Chaffee, King Opera House, Prairie Grove Battlefield, McCollum-Chidister Hotel, Powhatan Courthouse, Desha County Courthouse, Old State House, Rush-Gates House
Most Haunted Place: Alcatraz Island in San Francisco
History: It’s a small island with developed facilities for a lighthouse, military fortification, military prison, and federal prison. Named by Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala who named it La Isla de los Alcatraces or “Island of the Pelicans.” Was also a place for a major Native American protest in 1969-1970. Has the oldest lighthouse on the West Coast which was built in 1846. Was a military garrison in its early years when California was added to the United States and was home to Civil War prisoners as early as 1861. After the war, it was used as a military prison which housed Confederates caught on the West Coast, Hopi men in the 1870s, as well as POWs and conscientious objectors like Philip Grosser. While it was known for being harsh to hardened criminals, it basically functioned in a minimum security capacity during its military prison phase. In the event of the San Francisco Earthquake, it also housed the city’s criminals as well. From 1933-1963, it was designated federal prison which housed Al Capone, Robert Stroud, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Bumpy Johnson, Puerto Rican terrorist Rafael Miranda, Mickey Cohen, Arthur “Doc” Barker, James “Whitey” Bulger, Roy Gardner, Henri Young, and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis. Also provided housing for the prison staff and families. Saw several escape attempts with the possibility of 5 inmates being successful. It’s best remembered as a federal prison with an infamous reputation. Ceased federal penitentiary operations due to structural deterioration (saltwater damage and corrosion), government budget cuts, rising costs of running the prison, and diminishing security measures.
Present Use: Museum and film site. American Indian groups hold ceremonies there, particularly on Columbus Day and Thanksgiving.
Sightings: People have reported screams, sounds of violent fights, doors slamming, and people being shoved or scratched. C-Block is said to be haunted by a prisoner who was killed in the laundry room. It’s said that James A. Johnston himself is reported to see ghosts there. And prisoners have reported seeing ghosts of Native American prisoners and officials who perished during the American Civil War.
Anyone Famous?: Well, one park ranger claimed he heard Al Capone practicing his banjo in the showers. George “Machine Gun” Kelly and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis have also been sighted. One couple reported hearing canaries from Robert Stroud’s cell (despite that Stroud was never allowed to keep any birds on Alcatraz).
Open to Tourists?: Yes. You can even take a cruise there.
Other Haunts: USS Hornet, Mission San Jose, Preston School of Industry, Hotel Leger, Battery Point Lighthouse, Wolfe Manor, Amargosa Opera House and Hotel, American Idol Mansion, Barney’s Beanery, The Comedy Store, Fort MacArthur, Pico House, Hollywood, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Chateau Marmont, Lincoln Heights Jail, Linda Vista Community Hospital, Universal Studios, RMS Queen Mary, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Vogue Theater, Dominican University of California, Bodie, Point Sur Lighthouse, Tor House and Hawk Tower, National Exchange Hotel, Holbrooke Hotel, Mission San Juan Capistrano, Disneyland, El Adobe de Capistrano, Black Star Canyon, Yost Theater, Mission Inn, Old Sacramento, Hotel de Coronado, Whaley House, Casa de Estudillo, Mission San Miguel, Moss Beach Distillery, La Purisima Mission, Winchester Mystery House, Olivias Adobe, Elizabeth Bard Memorial Hospital, Glen Tavern Inn
Most Haunted Place: The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park
History: Originally a hotel for rich people that opened in 1909 and founded by F. O. Stanley who was famous for the Stanley Steamer after he was recommended to go out west due to suffering tuberculosis. Once had a golf course and an ice pond. Stanley also set up the town’s bank as well as developed a sewer, water, and power company. And he’s said to help restore wildlife to the area.
Present Use: It’s still a hotel but it’s also a museum, too. There’s also plans for a horror museum by the way.
Sightings: This place was the original inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining. Staff and guests often report hearing parties in the empty ballroom as well as someone playing the piano, thought to be the former owner’s wife. One room is said to contain ghosts of children and a housekeeper. Stephen King said he witnessed some of this while on vacation with his family.
Anyone Famous?: Well, F. O. and Flora Stanley are said to appear in formal attire on the main staircase and areas. Another is the Earl of Dunraven who previously owned the land before Stanley.
Open to Tourists?: Yes, if you can afford it.
Other Haunts: Hotel Jerome, Osgood Castle, Pioneer Park, Molly Brown House, Brown Palace Hotel, Central City Masonic Cemetery, St. Cloud Hotel, Imperial Hotel, Cheesman Park, Fitzsimons Army Hospital, Blackhawk, Stage Coach Country Inn, Onaledge
Most Haunted Place: Seaside Sanatorium in Waterford
History: Built in in 1934, it was one of the first institution designed for heliotropic treatment of children with tuberculosis. Since the 1940s, it’s been home to several different medical facilities, including an old folk’s home and the most notorious mental institution. The mental asylum exhibited a high suicide rate and was subject to a string of abuse cases. Designed by famous architect Cass Gilbert who also designed the building for the US Supreme Court.
Present Use: Currently none, since it’s been passed through the hands of a few developers from 1996. However, there have been plans to tear the place down (either to replace with condos or a state park). As of today, it remains abandoned and boarded up.
Sightings: There are plenty of apparitions and voices reported there. Spirit orb photos have also been taken.
Anyone Famous?: No.
Open to Tourists?: The grounds are open to the public, but the building isn’t.
Other Haunts: Bara-Hack, Dudleytown, Hartford Conservatory, New London Ledge Lighthouse, Remington Arms, Union Cemetery, Fairfiled Hills State Hospital, Norwich State Hospital, Little People’s Village, Gunntown Cemetery, Hanna Cranna’s Grave, Penfield Reef Lighthouse, Phelps Mansion, Mansfield Training School, Savoy Hotel and Majestic Theater, Sterling Opera House, Yankee Pedlar Inn, Downs Road, Hookman’s Cemetery, Midnight Mary’s Grave
Most Haunted Place: Fort Delaware in Pea Patch Island
History: A fortress where its military activity dates back to the War of 1812. It was designed by chief engineer Joseph Gilbert Totten. It was used by the Union Army during the American Civil War as a military prison for Confederate POWs, federal convicts, and privateer officers. It’s said that it held as many as 33,000 prisoners with 2,500 died. Disease was the leading killer. But people did try to escape. In 1878, it had been struck by a massive hurricane that destroyed the south side and partially damaged Trinity Chapel. In 1885, the post-war hospital was struck by a tornado. It continued military operations until 1947.
Present Use: It’s now a living history museum and state park.
Sightings: It’s said that many soldiers from the Civil War still haunt the fort with full body apparitions, footsteps, and voices all widely reported.
Anyone Famous?: No.
Open to Tourists?: Yes.
Other Haunts: Delaware Governor’s Mansion, Cooches Bridge, Belmont Hall, Deer Park Tavern, Camp Arrowhead, Memorial Hall, Dickinson Mansion
Most Haunted Place: Florida Theatre in Jacksonville
History: Built in 1927 and is said to be one of only 4 remaining high style movie palaces in the state. However, it later ceased operations as a movie house though but they also used it for live events, too. It’s said that even Elvis Presley performed there once in the 1950s.
Present Use: Used as a performance venue where they hold concerts and shows.
Sightings: It’s said that there were as many as 50 spirits reported there.
Anyone Famous?: No.
Open to Tourists?: Yes, but you won’t be able to see any movies there.
Other Haunts: Casa Monica Hotel, Bitmore Hotel, Fort Cooper, Leaf Theater, Veda Mound, University of South Florida Library, Ponce de Leon Hotel, Boston House, Royalty Theater, Orange Blossom Trail, Old Amelia Island Jail, Gibson Inn, Old Polk County Courthouse, Twin Ponds, Black Creek Cemetery, Coon Hill Cemetery, Krome Insane Asylum, Miami River Inn, Curtis Mansion, Oviedo, Sunland Hospital, Crampton Brewery, Timberchase Apartments, Harder Hall, Al Capone’s House, Anastasia Island Lighthouse, St. Francis Inn, Florida Sunshine Skyway Bridge, Umatilla Cemetery, Annie Russell Theatre
Most Haunted Place: Kennesaw House in Marietta
History: One of the town’s oldest buildings which was constructed in 1845. Though it was intended to be a cotton warehouse, it was turned into a hotel in 1855. Was where the Great Locomotive Chase began in 1862. During the American Civil War, it served as a Confederate hospital and was spared from Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign mainly because the owner was a Mason and his son-in-law was a Union spy. It was taken over by the Union Army instead (but the 4th floor did catch fire). In 1920, the first floor was converted into retail shops until 1979, when the top floors were converted into offices and the bottom became the Brickworks restaurant. The building would soon be turned over to the Marietta Museum of History who owns it to this day.
Present Use: Now houses the Marietta Museum of History.
Sightings: Hundreds of wounded Confederate soldiers have been reported to still haunt the place. One tells how a group in an elevator somehow ended up stopping at the basement where they saw soldiers in their hospital beds.
Anyone Famous?: No.
Open to Tourists?: Yes.
Other Haunts: Moon River Brewing Company, Springer Opera House, Colonial Park Cemetery, Sorrell-Weed House, Savannah’s Madison Square, Bonaventure Cemetery, Old Candler Hospital, Perkins & Sons Candlery, Old Pink House, Marshall House, Kehoe House, Willis-Jones House, Windsor Hotel, Booth House, Hay House, Ansley Park