Tales of spooks and specters, rattling chains and mysterious moans lurk in most cities across the U.S. But some places are spookier than others. Whether they're haunted by the unsettled spirits of Civil War soldiers, apparitions of voodoo priestesses or the ghosts of former insane asylum patients -- or whether such apparitions are merely the product of particularly active imaginations -- these 10 towns claim some seriously spooky ghost cred.
Click through to see our picks for America's spookiest places.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans just may rank as America's most haunted city. Locals claim NoLa's past has left restless spirits roaming, like the spirit of Marie LaVeau, the so-called "Voodoo Queen of New Orleans," a Creole woman who can reportedly be seen wandering the French Quarter.
Believers also cite paranormal activity in a variety of haunted graveyards, taverns, and mansions, though none has so gruesome a past as the LaLaurie Mansion, pictured here. The socialite Madame Delphine LaLaurie occupied the house until 1834, when firefighters responding to a small blaze discovered a secret torture chamber filled with LaLaurie's shackled and tortured slaves.
Frequent ghost sightings have been reported on the premises, including the spirit of a young slave girl said to have been murdered by LaLaurie.
The Civil War's deadliest battle, the Battle of Gettysburg was fought from July 1 to 3, 1863. When the smoke cleared after three days of bloodshed, an estimated 51,000 soldiers lay dead.
The horror of the battle is still palpable for some residents of the tiny town. They claim to experience frequent hauntings from soldiers killed in the fight. In fact, the ghostly sightings and experiences have led many paranormal experts to name Gettysburg the most haunted place in America.
While the majority of paranormal incidents have reportedly occurred on the battlefield -- some say they've heard the sound of musket fire -- other hot spots include various homes that served as morgues after the battle. By some accounts, paranormal activity occurs almost daily at the Jenny Wade house, which is the former home of a woman killed during the battle.
To discover many of the area's haunted spots, sign up for one of the many ghost tours.
Charleston, South Carolina
Despite Charleston's genteel charm these days, its history teems with sordid tales dating back to the 18th century -- the heydey of the notorious pirate Blackbeard. Ghost hunters should head to Battery Park, where in 1729, the bodies of 29 pirates were left to hang from oak trees in punishment for various crimes. Today their spirits are said to haunt the area.
Still, experts say that the Civil War remains the event that most greatly affected the town's paranormal presence. One of the town's most haunted sites is Fort Sumter, where the first shot of the war rang out. Today, ghosts of both Confederate and Union soldiers are said to wander about aimlessly, still in uniform. Some witnesses claim to hear explosions and cries near the old sea fort.
Many buildings in the city's older quarters are said to have frequent hauntings, particularly the old homes on Church Street, Chalmers Street and Old Meeting Street. Another haunted locale is the Dock Street Theater (pictured here) where the ghost of John Wilkes Booth's father, a former actor, is said to roam.
For a terrifying night's sleep, head to the Battery Park Inn, where guests claim to have seen mysterious lights and a headless torso floating above their beds.
True believers insist that Alcatraz, the former maximum-security prison in San Francisco Bay, sees the city's most terrifying paranormal activity.
By all accounts, life in the prison was grim. Many inmates were left in solitary confinement for months. Others were brutally murdered by other prisoners. Many people visiting the island claim to hear cell doors opening and slamming shut, footsteps in empty hallways, moans and cries, rattling chains and even ghostly banjo music.
While Alcatraz takes the creepy cake, other San Francisco sites are said to experience visits from beyond, like the San Francisco Art Institute, which was built on top of a graveyard where victims of the 1906 earthquake were buried.
For travelers curious about sleeping in proximity to ghosts, a few hotels are notorious for their hauntings, including the Nob Hill Inn and the Queen Anne Hotel.
Savannah charms visitors with its quaint squares, antebellum architecture and ubiquitous Spanish moss dripping from centuries-old oak trees. But the town harbors a bloody past, having played host to battles during the Revolutionary War, Civil War and War of 1812. Much of the fighting occurred at Fort Jackson, which is said to harbor numerous spirits and is a popular stop for visiting ghost hunters.
Savannah is also home to eerie sites said to run rampant with paranormal activity. Popular haunts include the Mercer Williams House, the setting for the murder scene in "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil"; the Marshall House Inn, which served as a hospital for yellow fever victims during the Civil War, and the Pirate's House restaurant, a favored hangout for 18th-century sailors of ill repute -- today, some patrons claim to hear the drunken singing of pirates at the bar.
Not surprisingly, ghost tours are a popular tourist activity; a number of companies offer tours, including trolley and horse-drawn carriage rides.
Key West, Florida
Before bellying up to one of Duval Street's rowdy bars on your next Key West vacation, consider the island's past as a haven for pirates, rumrunners and refugees who are now believed to haunt many island establishments.
Take, for instance, the spirits said to frequent Captain Tony's Saloon, once the location for the island's morgue. The tree growing in the middle of the bar served as the spot where many unsavory characters were lynched.
Another popular haunt is the Hemingway House, former home of famed writer Ernest Hemingway. Many employees and visitors have claimed to hear the clicking of typewriter keys still coming from inside the house.
Still, the island's creepiest spirit is said to inhabit an unusual object: a child's toy known famously as "Robert the Doll." In the early 1900s, the doll belonged to a young boy who claimed the possessed toy would throw furniture, threaten him and pace around his room.
Every ghost hunter loves a creepy, abandoned insane asylum, and the Athens Lunatic Asylum will leave even the most jaded paranormal aficionado shivering. From 1874 to 1993, the asylum housed patients, many of whom were violent; it was the notorious site of hundreds of brutal lobotomies.
Visitors claim to have seen the ghosts of former patients, and some say they've witnessed a reappearing bloodstain on the floor where one patient died, but the spookiness doesn't end there. The asylum also has a cemetery where nearly 2,000 former patients are buried.
That cemetery, as well as four others in the area, are believed to form a giant pentagon when dots representing them on a map are connected. One Ohio University building, Wilson Hall, lies in the center of the pentagon and is thought to be haunted by restless spirits.
Other tales from the area include the apparition of a headless train conductor seen near the Moonville Tunnel, pagan rituals, and the mysterious murder of livestock.
San Antonio, Texas
A hotbed of hauntings, San Antonio owes many of its ghost sightings to the bloody battle at the Alamo in 1836. Apparitions of Mexican soldiers in uniform are reportedly commonplace, and some say it's not unusual to hear the strumming of a fiddle, which some believe is played by the ghost of Davy Crockett. But the Alamo is the tip of the paranormal iceberg.
Ghosts of friars, including a headless one, have reportedly been seen at nearby 18th-century missions, in particular, the Mission San Jose; the spirit of a servant girl is said to have been spied wandering the halls of the Governor's Palace; and many claim to have seen Native American spirits at the Bexar County Juvenile Detention Center, which is believed to have been built over a sacred burial ground.
Visitors should also be wary of where they lay their heads at night -- many of San Antonio's hotels are said to be haunted. Most activity occurs at the Menger Hotel, a former haunt of Teddy Roosevelt. That's where a mysterious Lady in Blue, a murdered chambermaid and a 19th-century rancher are said to wander the halls.
Salem gained notoriety for its 1692 witch hunts, which led to the torture and execution of many young girls suspected of witchcraft.
Today, Salem has embraced its colored past, calling itself, "Witch City, USA," hosting a massive, citywide Halloween celebration and boasting numerous witchcraft-themed shops and museums.
If it all sounds a bit touristy, it is, but it's still good fun. You can see haunted spots like Gallows Hill, the site of many hangings of supposed witches, and visit the Witch House (pictured here). The latter is the 17th-century home of witchcraft trial judge Jonathan Corwin, said to be haunted by him, as well as some of the victims he sentenced to be killed.
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Chicago history includes the tragic Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which killed more than 300 people, and the notoriously brutal gangster culture led by the infamous Al Capone. Both are believed to contribute to the city's restless spirits.
For a walk on the eerie side, head to Bachelor's Grove Cemetery, the city's most haunted hot spot. This decrepit burial ground (pictured here) is believed to have been a favorite place for prohibition-era gangsters to dispose of murder victims. Brave souls should visit after dark, when spirits are said to wander the grounds and headstones mysteriously move.
Other haunted highlights include the Hull House, known for being home to the "Devil's Baby," a child said to have been born in 1913 with cloven hooves, scales and horns; the Murder Castle, the building where serial killer Dr. H.H. Holmes tortured and murdered his victims; the Excalibur Nightclub, built on the site of a building destroyed in the Great Fire; and the site of Fort Dearborn, where 148 people were brutally killed during the War of 1812.