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Haunted Houses & Creepy Roads

Johnna Kaplan

America is full of places—homes, hotels, roads, and even whole towns—that have a reputation for being mysterious, frightening, or just downright creepy. Some of these spots are associated with tragic events or curious legends from long ago; others are known for strange and inexplicable occurrences. Many of these scary sites have long attracted visitors eager to see whether they live up to the haunted hype. If your idea of fun includes investigating the paranormal or just scaring yourself a bit, here are 11 spooky destinations that should be right up your dark, foreboding alley.

Borden House, Massachusetts

In New England, it seems like you can hardly walk a block without spotting a supposedly haunted historic house. Of all of them, the Lizzie Borden House in Fall River, Massachusetts may be the best known. Morbid curiosity has surrounded this Greek Revival home since Abby and Andrew Borden were brutally murdered here in 1892. Lizzie Borden was accused of killing her father and stepmother, and although she was acquitted, suspicion clung to her for the rest of her life (and beyond).

More than 100 years later, true-crime fans still haven’t tired of debating theories about the unsolved double-murder, and visitors have reported paranormal activity in the house. Today, the Lizzie Borden House is a museum and bed and breakfast, painstakingly recreated in the Victorian style with added macabre touches like replicas of the Bordens’ skulls. Visitors can tour the crime scene and then spend the night to see whether ghosts really roam the halls.

Lemp Mansion, Missouri

New England doesn’t have a monopoly on creepy old homes, of course. There are plenty in the heartland as well. The Lemp Mansion in St. Louis is said to be one of the most haunted houses in the Midwest, if not the nation. The Lemps, who struck it rich brewing beer, lived here from 1876 to 1949, during which time three family members committed suicide in the home.

As if that wasn’t enough to give the building its eerie atmosphere, there’s also a story that William Lemp, Jr. kept an illegitimate son locked away in an attic. That history, real or rumored, no doubt played into later stories of apparitions and strange voices.

These days, the Lemp Mansion is a popular restaurant and inn, part of the funky and history-rich Cherokee Antique Row area. Visitors can take tours and attend special events like ghost hunts and holiday meals, and there’s also a museum and gift shop.

St. Augustine Lighthouse, Florida

Any sort of house can host a ghost—even a lighthouse. Lighthouse fans know it’s not unusual for these beacons of light to come with dark stories. One haunted lighthouse that’s easily accessible to visitors is located in St. Augustine, Florida. Several untimely deaths occurred here, including those of a lighthouse keeper and three young girls. Some claim their spirits can be seen and heard on the property today.

Today, the striking black and white St. Augustine Lighthouse is a working lighthouse and a maritime museum. Visitors can climb the spiral staircase to the top and learn about the history of the lighthouse and its role in what’s proudly called the Nation’s Oldest Port. They can also indulge their fascination with the supernatural on special ghost-themed tours.

RMS Queen Mary, California

Although haunted hotels are common enough, it’s not every day you come across a haunted hotel that started out as an ocean liner. The RMS Queen Mary, in Long Beach, carried well-heeled passengers across the sea from 1936 to 1967—except during World War II when she transported troops. After the ship was repurposed as a hotel, guests claimed to witness all sorts of unearthly activity—not surprising, given that during its seafaring days, the liner was the scene of a murder, the accidental death of a sailor, and the drowning of three small children.

These days, the Queen Mary Hotel offers guests a chance to stay in what was once a luxury stateroom. The hotel also hosts a wide variety of special events, from music festivals to Sunday brunches. And of course, there are tours that highlight the ship’s paranormal aspects, held during the day or, for braver visitors, at night.

Sloss Furnaces, Alabama

If you’re tired of haunted houses and hotels, this haunted former workplace in Birmingham cranks up the creepy factor to a whole new level. In the 19th century, the men who toiled at the Sloss Furnaces produced pig iron as they worked in hot and harrowing conditions. Their cruel boss, James Wormwood, forced them to take risks that lead to the deaths of 47 workers. Eventually, even Wormwood himself fell into a vat of iron ore. Visitors to what has been called one of the most haunted places in the South say his ghost still prowls the pipes and smokestacks.

The Sloss Furnaces is now a National Historic Landmark and open to the public. Classes and special events are held here, and there are also guided and self-guided tours for anyone who wants to learn about this chapter of America’s industrial history—or to look for ghosts.

Archer Avenue, Illinois

Many thoroughfares are associated with local legends, but this Chicago-area road is known for so many uncanny events that it frequently turns up on lists of the scariest roads in America. Drivers on Archer Avenue say they’ve seen ghoulish monks, spectral horses, and a hitch-hiking ghost, as well as something called the “gray baby.” The stretch of Archer Avenue between St. James Catholic Church and Resurrection Cemetery is said to be the area where visitors are most likely to spot something scary.

Gold Brook Covered Bridge, Vermont

It can be frightening enough to drive across an old and narrow covered bridge, but the one that carries Covered Bridge Road across Gold Brook in Stowe has an added danger: a ghost named Emily. This phantom woman is said to have either committed suicide or died in an accident at this bridge after being jilted at the altar in the 1920s. Some say Emily can be heard screaming here, and blame her for scratching nearby cars.

If you visit this place, also known as Emily’s Bridge, be respectful—the scariest thing about this residential area might not be a spirit, but a bunch of neighbors fed up with rowdy ghost hunters!

Graffiti Highway, Pennsylvania

This road in Centralia isn’t visited by apparitions or possessed by demons—it’s eerie for a different reason. This mile-long stretch of Route 61 was abandoned in the 1990s, and a new road was built around it, when the anthracite coal fire that had been burning in underground mines for decades buckled the pavement beyond repair. Afterward, people reported that the asphalt felt spongy and steam could be seen shooting from the cracks.

Today, visitors come to see the colorful words and pictures that graffiti artists have spray-painted across the road. Residents of Centralia don’t mind, simply because there are none; the slow-burning town was evacuated for safety reasons and its buildings torn down.

McCarthy Road, Alaska

The ramshackle ghost town of Kennecott, a mining town abruptly abandoned in 1938 when the copper mines shut down, is now a part of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, the largest national park in the country. To get there, visitors drive 60 miles through the wilderness, down the gravel McCarthy Road, along the old Copper River and Northwestern Railway tracks.

Paranormal activity has been reported along the abandoned tracks for decades. Some claim to have seen old tombstones along the route, which vanish by the time they make their return trip. Others have reported hearing disembodied voices and phantom children laughing. There’s also a story that a 1990s construction project here was halted after workers were scared away by spooky sounds and inexplicable events.

Pine Barrens Byway, New Jersey

There’s not just one hair-raising route through southern New Jersey’s Pinelands. Many roads in this sparsely-populated area have been called weird, creepy, or flat-out haunted. The Pine Barrens is the traditional home of the Jersey Devil, an ugly winged creature said to have been born to a human couple in the 1700s. If the possibility of a Devil sighting isn’t enough, the area’s abandoned mills and ghost towns add to the sense that there’s something unusual about this place.

If you don’t want to drive through a million acres of Pinelands without a plan, the 130-mile Pine Barrens Byway takes drivers through five counties, past rivers, forests, wildlife preserves, and historic towns. And if you hear flapping wings and eerie cries, or spot strange footprints, don’t worry—the Jersey Devil is believed to be harmless.

Ghost Road Scenic Drive, Texas

Unlike many haunted roads that are known for a variety of apparitions, the evocatively-named Ghost Road Scenic Drive, located outside of Saratoga in Hardin County, is associated with a singular legend: the Saratoga Ghost Light, also known as the Big Thicket Light. Drivers on this road, an eight-mile dirt strip enclosed by a canopy of trees, say they’ve spotted mysterious lights that randomly turn on and off throughout the night. There are all sorts of theories about what causes the light show, from scientific to supernatural.

No matter where you live or where you plan to travel, there’s sure to be a spooky place or two nearby. Just be careful if you do go exploring, especially when driving on back roads or through abandoned places. If you’re heading out on a creepy road trip soon, now is a good time to make sure that your vehicle is in good shape and that you’re happy with your car insurance.

And while you’re at it, why not evaluate your homeowners insurance, too? You might love a house with a scary story, but it’s best to leave the drama for the haunted houses and keep your own home boring and safe.

READ MORE: How to Plan the Best Road Trip Ever

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