There are some famously scary spots like Sleepy Hollow in New York, or Salem, Massachusetts, but what if you serendipitously stumbled upon a surprisingly spooky place?
Some people love purposefully spooky vacations with spirited stops at haunted houses and strolls through haunted cities. However, some of the most popular tourist attractions around the world just happen to be haunted too without most visitors knowing it.
While there's no way to verify that any of the following ghost stories are actually true, they certainly enhance a tour of these attractions. Beware: You might see more than you bargained for. From haunted hotels with guests that never leave to spine-tingling castles and theaters, we bet you never knew these places were haunted.
Palace of Versailles (Versailles, France)
France's opulent royal residence from 1682 to 1789, the sprawling Palace of Versailles was the supposed setting for a ghost sighting in 1901. During a visit to the Petit Trianon, a garden hideaway on the palace grounds, two academics, Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain, claimed to have seen several people dressed in 18th century clothing, including gardeners and Marie Antoinette herself. While it remains unclear if their tale is true, the sighting was chronicled in the bestseller "An Adventure" in 1911.
St. Augustine Lighthouse (St. Augustine, Florida)
America's oldest port is also the site of supposed paranormal activity. Some claim they've heard footsteps and seen shadowy figures along the 219 steps it takes to get to the top of the still-working St. Augustine Lighthouse. Multiple people reportedly died on the property when the lighthouse was under construction in the 18th century, including three children who accidentally drowned and a lighthouse keeper who fatally fell when the scaffolding he was standing on collapsed.
St. Augustine Lighthouse, located in Florida, has been featured on Syfy's "Ghost Hunters" show, and nighttime ghost hunting tours are offered on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Participants can bring their own equipment or rent electromagnetic field meters, which, according to paranormal experts, can measure the presence of spirits.
Screaming Tunnel (Niagara, Ontario, Canada)
This 125-foot limestone tunnel in Niagara, Ontario, exists under the Canadian National Railways track, and it's allegedly haunted, travel site Atlas Obscura reports. The small passageway was built in the 1900s as a means of draining water from above to avoid flooding the train tracks. Farmers could also conveniently pass through with their animals and equipment to avoid oncoming locomotives.
So, where does the name come from? Legend has it a girl's screams can be heard from within the tunnel. Some say she was escaping a nearby fire, while others speculate she was attacked and murdered. Alternatively, the screams might come from the spirit of a woman who, after fights with her husband, would flee to the tunnel to let out her frustration. No matter which version is true (if any), visitors can allegedly experience the phenomena if they walk halfway through the tunnel at night without a flashlight and light one single, wooden match, which will mysteriously self-extinguish before the screams begin.
The Omni Parker House (Boston, Massachusetts)
This hotel chain owns some of the most haunted hotels in America, including its location in Boston, Massachusetts. For more than 160 years, The Omni Parker House has seen guests come and go, but it seems some never leave. People have reported floating orbs on the 10th floor, the sound of rocking chairs (though there are none on the property), unexplained whispering, elevators called to the third floor without a button being pushed and a shadow in a top hat. Others claim they've seen the hotel's dead founder, Harvey Parker. One morning, a young girl staying in Room 1012 with her mother awoke to the hotelier in 1800s garments standing at the foot of her bed. He smiled and said, "Are you enjoying your stay?"
New Amsterdam Theatre (New York, New York)
Theatergoers coming to see "Aladdin the Musical" may see an unlikely cast member at the famed New Amsterdam Theatre in New York City's Times Square. Playbill reports that Olive Thomas, a former Ziegfeld Follies chorus girl, is believed to be one of the most active ghosts on Broadway. She died of mercury poisoning in 1920 - though the theatre itself notes it may have been accidental, murder or suicide - and now, ushers and security guards often feel someone tapping them on the back, but when they turn around, no one is there.
Thomas also allegedly threw a stack of DVDs across the room when staffers discussed whether or not she would've liked the Oscar-winning film "The Artist." This apparition is so active that when workers arrive each day, they blow kisses or wave at framed photos of the starlet that have been placed at all the entrances to the theater. Audience members can do the same at the public entrance on West 42nd Street. Thomas is the last photo on the right.
Alcatraz (San Francisco, California)
This maximum-security prison in San Francisco, California, is considered one of the most haunted places in the world, and late gangster "Scarface" Al Capone supposedly torments the place. After serving 4 1/2 years at Alcatraz for tax evasion, he got in a fight with an inmate who stabbed him with a pair of shears. Capone developed symptoms of syphilis (which he'd reportedly had for years, but avoided treating), and in 1939, he was transferred to Federal Correction Institute Terminal Island to serve the rest of his 11-year sentence. Although he didn't die at "Hellcatraz," many modern visitors claim they've heard him playing the banjo from the now-defunct prison's shower room.
But Capone's ghost isn't the only one who's still locked up. Back when the prison was still running (it closed in 1963), guards claimed they heard sobbing and moaning coming from empty cells. They also experienced cold spots and pungent smells, like smoke in the laundry room that made them gasp for air but disappeared in minutes. On one occasion, which is perhaps among the most terrifying, a prisoner began screaming that something with glowing red eyes was in the cell with him. The next day, he was found dead with hand marks around his neck - and they weren't self-inflicted.
Gettysburg Battlefield (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania)
The Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania is one of the most historic places in America, so it's not particularly shocking that this national military park would be haunted by any of the 5,000 horses and some 50,000 men who died there in 1863. One of the town's most active sites for paranormal encounters is a large maple tree at the center of a field where six injured soldiers were propped and left to die. People from all walks of life show up after dark with their cameras in hopes of catching a real-life spook on film - and sometimes, apparently, they do.
Forbidden City (Beijing, China)
The Forbidden City served as a home for emperors and also as a center for the Chinese government from 1420 until 1912 when China's last emperor was forced to abdicate. Today, the massive complex is part of the Palace Museum, which saw more than 17 million visitors in 2019.
The Forbidden City is reportedly haunted by the countless people who were executed long ago for disobedience and betrayal. According to the Beijing Municipal Culture and Tourism Bureau, jealous concubines would regularly commit murder, as would guards and servants looking to move up the ranks. Today, people claim to hear crying from the concubine quarters, and one man even allegedly saw a crying woman wearing white walking the grounds.
Edinburgh Castle (Edinburgh, Scotland)
Edinburgh Castle is said to be one of the most haunted places in Scotland. Deep in the network of secret underground tunnels that connect the castle to the Royal Mile is the ghost of a bagpiper, who was instructed to walk the passageways while playing music so those above could track him. Legend has it that halfway through his journey, the music stopped. Rescue crews rushed in but never found him. Folks say they can hear the piper's music in the castle or on the streets above the very place he vanished. Other witnesses have supposedly experienced a headless drummer boy, a phantom dog and other unexplainable presence.
Colosseum (Rome, Italy)
Considering thousands of slaves, gladiators and wild animals died at the Colosseum, it's almost expected that people would report some spooky stuff here, including shadowy figures floating along the stairs, a ghostly Roman soldier guarding the grounds at night, growls and screams. The tunnels below this top European landmark, once crowded with people preparing for combat, are particularly chilly at times - even in the middle of summer.
Big Nose Kate's Saloon (Tombstone, Arizona)
Big Nose Kate's is one of the oldest bars in America, and the center of ghoulish activity in the spookily named town of Tombstone, Arizona. Rumor has it, the hotel's janitor known as "The Swamper" hid silver somewhere in the building and stayed long after his death to protect it. Staff, locals and tourists have seen him show up in photos and many have even caught glimpses of him in the halls and stairways. Female employees claim they feel as if they're being pushed off the last step in the basement, and one has even felt cold, clammy hands around her throat. Other ghostly sightings include cowboys at the bar, in doorways and in the basement; an apparition singing and talking in empty rooms; moving mannequins; doors opening and closing on their own; and silverware flying off tables.
Washington Square Park (New York, New York)
Today, Washington Square Park is bustling with artists, street performers, pigeons and people throwing pennies in the fountain, but when everyone was coming down with yellow fever in the late 1700s and early 1800s, the land was used as a mass grave. It's reported that approximately 20,000 corpses were laid to rest beneath the park because their families couldn't afford a proper burial - and they're all still there. There's also an old elm tree on the property that locals call the "Hangman's Elm," which was allegedly once an execution spot. Visitors here have reported mysterious disappearing shadowy figures.
Wrigley Field (Chicago, Illinois)
Chicago is one of the most haunted cities in America, and Wrigley Field, supposedly hosts three famous ghosts. The first is that of legendary broadcast announcer Harry Caray sitting in the press box. The second is folk singer Steve Goodman, who wrote many songs about the team and had his ashes scattered at the stadium. People have claimed to see him sitting in the seats behind home plate. The third ghost is former team manager Charlie Grimm, who led the Cubs to the 1932 World Series. Security officers say they have seen a figure resembling Grimm walking through the park and its hallways at night.
Buckingham Palace (London, United Kingdom)
Queen Elizabeth II's grand royal residence was built on land that once held a monastery. It's alleged that the ghost of a monk who died in his cell wanders the rear palace terrace at night, wearing his brown cowl. A first-floor office is also reportedly haunted by Major John Gwynne, King Edward VII's former private secretary, who shot himself in the head after he was shunned from the upper class for divorcing his wife. Over the years, palace staff have claimed to hear the sound of a gunshot coming from the office.
Hollywood sign (Los Angeles, California)
The Hollywood sign in California is one of the most famous landmarks in America, but many who ogle at it don't know its dark history. In 1932, a struggling 24-year-old actress named Peg Entwistle drove to the iconic Hollywood Hills site, climbed to the top of the letter "H" and jumped to her death. In the aftermath, people have reported seeing what they thought was a lost hiker on the darkened path. Described as a frightened-looking blonde in vintage clothing, they often find that she disappears as soon as they see her.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina and Tennessee)
Many places in the Smokies are occupied by a handful of characters, including Spearfinger. Local news site Thegreatsmokies.net notes this is a bloodthirsty spirit who haunts the Noland Creek Trail and allegedly feasts on wayward children. There is, however, a good ghost in the area too. A man who died looking for his daughter now appears as a guiding light for hikers, helping lead them to safety.
In another ghost story, recalled by historian Joseph S. Hall, the mayor bribed a young stranger with $500 to spend the night in an old decrepit church that was rumored to be haunted. The man took him up on the offer. When the sun went down, apparitions came out - some mangled and bleeding. They floated over the pews, shrieked, moaned and rattled chains. The man was terrified, so he made a run for the door. Before he was able to reach it, he found himself surrounded by howling skeletons, so he grabbed a nearby wooden bowl to defend himself and they slowly faded away. The man was able to escape, and even though he technically didn't stay in the church for an entire night, he still got his $500.
The Great Wall (Northern China)
Perhaps one of the most famous ancient landmarks in the world, the Great Wall of China is also among the most haunted. Estimates vary widely, but it's likely that at least a million workers died building the 13,000-mile-long structure, and many were buried within it. Because of that, The Great Wall is often regarded as "the longest cemetery on Earth." Travel Channel reports that visitors have claimed to see ghosts walking along the paths of the wall, and some even report hearing footsteps. Tourists have also complained of sudden nausea, headaches and other abrupt body pains.
Grand Canyon (Arizona)
The Grand Canyon is one of the most beautiful places in America's national parks during the day, but there's something spooky about the isolated Arizona outback at night. Rumors that the park is full of ghosts have been circulating for years. One of the most famous is about "the Wandering Woman," who has been searching for her family ever since she died in a hiking accident in the 1920s.
There are also reports of encounters in the Grand Canyon Caverns, where at least eight people have died or been laid to rest within the last half-century. According to the website for the tourist attraction, guests and workers have seen and recorded paranormal activity. The most active apparition is believed to be a man named Walter Peck, who onlookers have observed opening and closing doors in the elevator shaft. The site is also reportedly a former burial ground for Native Americans. Some people claim they can hear whispers and distant chants, while others say they've seen shadowy figures dance in a circular formation.
Grand Central Terminal (New York City, New York)
This iconic New York City train station is believed by many to be haunted by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's dog Fala, who frequently accompanied Roosevelt on trips to the city. The two rode in an armored locomotive on a now-closed private track below Grand Central Terminal to get to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where Roosevelt often stayed.
In 1944, a congressman reportedly accused the former president of leaving Fala in Alaska and using taxpayer money to retrieve him via battleship. Some say the resentment kept Fala from resting peacefully. Workers claim they've seen the Scottish Terrier roaming the station late into the night.
Pirates of the Caribbean (Orlando, Florida)
One of the best rides at Magic Kingdom is supposedly haunted. Disney cast members claim that a ghost named George haunts the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Walt Disney World. According to NJ.com, the staffer allegedly died while working on the attraction and in the afterlife, he reportedly began stopping the ride while it was in motion, making phone calls from a control room and showing up on security footage. Current employees say goodnight to George at the end of each shift, and if they don't, they sometimes experience "difficulties" when they return to work the next day.
It's been said that guests feel a sudden chill when they get to the burning city part of the ride, which may be the exact area where George was killed, and cast members often have to close a door that often opens on its own. It's since been renamed "George's door."
David Roark/Walt Disney World News
Trunk Bay (St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands)
Trunk Bay, widely considered one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, is home to Jumbie Beach - and "jumbie" is Creole for "ghost." Today, this secluded spot is trafficked mostly by scuba divers, but it's supposedly haunted by slaves who were brutally murdered by a master from the nearby Denis Plantation. It's also said that during the slave revolt of 1733, local plantation owners were "carved into pieces, which were then gleefully thrown into a nearby well." Their souls reportedly haunt the shores of Jumbie Beach.
Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)
If you are looking for a truly spooky experience, you should check out what is often referred to as the most haunted natural wonder in the world. Keep an eye out for any weird shadows. National Parks Traveler reports the cave was used as a burial ground for local Native American tribes and explorers. The most famous ghost is that of Stephen Bishop, a slave and cave guide who was buried nearby. There was also a tuberculosis hospital here in the 1800s, which may be why some people hear coughing.
Eiffel Tower (Paris, France)
According to popular legend, a man asked his girlfriend to marry him at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately, she declined and told him she actually wanted to break up. In anger, he pushed her off the top of the tower. Another story goes that a man proposed to his girlfriend, who was so excited that she screamed, backed up to the edge and fell. Some locals say they can hear her screams on the anniversary of her death.
The White House (Washington, D.C.)
U.S. presidents have long reported paranormal activities at the White House. Abraham Lincoln reported seeing his son Willie, who died from typhoid fever at age 11. First Lady Grace Coolidge said she saw Lincoln, and others have claimed to see first ladies Abigail Adams (with arms outstretched, presumably doing the laundry) and Dolly Madison (tending to the garden). Even world leaders who have stayed at the White House, like Winston Churchill, have reported frights in the night. Guess no one told them they would be sleeping in a place that offers a stay as hauntingly memorable as the ones at these real haunted hotels and houses.
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