In the spirit of Halloween and all that is geeky, we’re going to delve into a few haunted places, movies, and haunted entertainment attractions over the next week.
There’s long been a fascination with spirits haunting the living. Often, there’s a connection to a specific place or structure, and this leads unwary inhabitants or visitors to experience an array of paranormal activities. Before the age of horror films and paranormal thrillers, stories, myth and legends told of haunted houses, battlefields, cemeteries, and Native burial grounds. People of the Victorian era were often obsessed with piercing the veil between the world of the living, and the realm of the dead. Séances and the use of Ouija boards to commune with spirits—those of loved ones and some-not-so-benevolent entities—were quite popular activities. Edgar Allan Poe’s work still makes hearts race.
Ghost hunting, paranormal investigation societies, and haunted house attractions have gained quite a dedicated following over the past few years, underscoring this long ancient fascination with the afterlife and those who cannot find eternal rest.
This week, let’s open the door to some haunted sites all over the United States. A few of these are places that I’ve personally visited, as Appalachia seems to have a high proportion of haunted places. Why this is the case may be attributed to factors such as a prevalence of oral folk storytelling, a keen interest in superstition, and a lifestyle that is quite attuned to accepting a sorrowful life – even after death.
Get your flashlights and EVP gear ready. (Big goofy Great Dane and hippy VW van are optional. I, however, prefer more of a Kolchak, the Nightstalker style.)
Although Antietam battlefield is home of the bloodiest single day of the American Civil War, the three days of ferocious combat at Gettysburg are the most recognized in the American conscious. 54,000 + men became casualties (wounded and killed) here, and even though the majority of the dead soldiers were re-interred in their home states or in the National Cemetery, some were never found. Even today, remains still come to the surface and are found by surprised visitors.
Because of the ferocity of this battle, the nature of death was traumatic or drawn out and painful. As such, it is one of the most haunted places in the country. The buildings and homes that served as makeshift hospitals all have their stories about seeing the apparitions of soldiers and some of the civilians who were killed during the battle. One such group I know thought they had come across some reenactors in the early morning fog. But the soldiers disappeared upon second glance. One might be tempted to say that the tourism industry there—that offers ghost walks and séances—has a lot to gain by perpetuating such stories, but having been on that battlefield and a visitor to the cemetery, the uneasy feeling of the sorrow of the place makes one want to believe…
Waverly Hills Sanatorium
Sadly, before modern medicine and mental health services, people who became afflicted with “incurable” diseases and mental illness were often sent to isolating institutions to protect society. But these people could sometimes be treated less than human, and were often subjected to all kinds of abuse. Such tortured souls who had the ill fortune of dying in these torturous pits of despair are said to roam the halls of the skeletal remains of the structures. You can take a tour to possibly meet them, if you dare…
Amityville, the ultimate among haunted houses
While Amityville often conjures up thoughts about an extremely demonically possessed house that has bleeding walls, and the gruesome murders that took place there, it’s based on true life occurrences.
Ohio University (Athens, Ohio)
Almost every new student here wants nothing to do with Wilson Hall, a residence at the university that is said to have a peculiar placement: right at the apex of a pentagram of cemeteries in Athens. In addition, it is said to rest upon an Indian burial mound. Multiple crazy events and deaths have occurred in this building. But this is just one chilling aspect about a place that has been called one of “the scariest places on Earth.” This part of Ohio is filled with mounds, as the natives who inhabited the area—Hopi, Adema, etc—had a tradition of using mounds for burials. One local resident has constructed a site about the area and the history that led to these stories.
Woodland Cemetery (Ironton, Ohio)
Ironton is currently a declining town, but was once a key industrial player in the United States. Its iron was the best in the country, and was used extensively during the Civil War for the production of warships, including the famous ironclad, the USS Monitor. The city also was a busy part of the abolitionist Underground Railroad network. Many of the city’s famous and well-to-do denizens were buried in Woodland Cemetery. For an interesting and chilling tour, watch this video from the Lawrence County Historical Society. The story of the statue of a woman that was said to have been slapped down their stairs by her husband, is one with many believers.
The Alamo (San Antonio, Texas)
Today, there isn’t much left of this complex that served as a last stand for the defenders of the Texas Republic against the invading Mexican force of General Santa Anna. But, ghost stories abound concerning the remaining mission structure and the grounds. Every defender was killed, and their corpses were desecrated and the remains tossed into mass graves. The killed Mexican combatants were also buried in the area, and a cemetery was established on the land surrounding the Alamo. This location is smack dab inside downtown San Antonio, so lots of graves have been disturbed over the years due to construction work. Remains still turn up every so often. It is said that the mission survived several attempts at demolition due to the efforts of a tremendous spirit that scared away anyone who attempted to harm the site. (This “spirit of the Alamo” is depicted on the Centotaph, which is a sculpture that honors the defenders.) Ghosts have also been reported over the years.
Moundsville West Virginia State Penitentiary
Even when I was a child, there were jokes among adults: “You don’t want to get sent to Moundsville.” I never really quite got what they meant by this. Now, I know that this was one of the most brutal and terrifying prisons in the country. It has the distinction of being an innovator for new torture methods, and was the location where all state executions were conducted. The structure was meant to detain around 500 inmates, but soon, this overcrowded human warehouse would hold almost five times that number. With so many violent and mentally unstable men living on top of one of another, beatings and murders abounded. This ghoulish specter of the past did not close until 1995.
The Bell Witch (Adams, TN)
This local legend inspired the making of the documentary-style, “The Blair Witch Project.” In this case, the source is much more frightening than the inspired…
Almost every local place has its own stories about haunted houses, and places that children are told not to go. What’s the story where you live or where you grew up?
A local Catholic cemetery near me has an eerie aura in the woods behind it at night, and some have seen the shapes of people in it, but there are no people upon investigation. There is a large cross in the center of the grounds. When one stands upon its base, the temperature drops and she can feel a chill.