With the approach of Halloween, it's natural for thoughts to occasionally dwell on ghosts, goblins, and things that go bump in the night. For the third of this year's four Halloween blogs, I'm talking about America's most haunted cities.
There are several lists of the most haunted cities in the United States, most of them basically naming the same cities in varying order. Here's one list of 10 cities that recently came to my attention.
10) Portland, Oregon: Portland has a reputation for being the most haunted city in the Pacific Northwest. It's a city of many haunts, both seasonal tourist attractions and historical happenings where the participants refuse to leave. One of the most famous…or more accurately, infamous…historical haunts are the Shanghai Tunnels. We've all heard the expression of someone being Shanghaied, meaning to be abducted. This is where it originated. In the Victorian era (around the 1870s), ship captains would put into Portland on the Columbia River looking for fresh crew members. Local middlemen drugged pub goers, dropped the bodies through trapdoors into the tunnels below where they were held captive until they could be carted to the waterfront and sold to the captain for $50/each. These ships were quite often headed for China, thus the term being Shanghaied. Many of these drugged unfortunates died while being held in the tunnels. Today, the Shanghai Tunnels have several ghosts, some menacing and others apparently confused.
9) San Francisco, California: A city of many haunted locations and happenings. One of the most interesting is Alcatraz. The island was a military prison during the Civil War. It was used off and on by many different groups to house various prisoners from that time until 1933 when it was officially turned over to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and used as a maximum security prison for the likes of Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly. On March 23, 1963, Alcatraz closed its prison doors for good. Over the one hundred plus years that the island housed prisoners of all types, many died in cruel and terrible ways. Those spirits still inhabit Alcatraz. Even today as part of the National Park system, tourists taking one of the park ranger guided tours report seeing and hearing strange things that can't be explained.
8) Chicago, Illinois: Chicago was the center of gangland activity during Prohibition, including the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Many gangsters of the era used Chicago as a body dumping ground. There were also six thousand Confederate soldiers and sailors buried during the Civil War at Oak Woods Cemetery which has ongoing paranormal activity. Chicago's most famous ghost is Resurrection Mary named for Resurrection Cemetery. She was killed by a hit and run driver on the street in front of the cemetery and now is often seen hitch hiking along that street.
7) Charleston, South Carolina: The downtown area known as The Battery was a protective artillery installation during the Civil War. The area is known for its ghost stories. The Battery Carriage House Inn is the city's famous haunted hotel where visitors often see strange happenings. The inn's two most famous ghosts are the gentleman ghost and the headless torso. The gentleman ghost is thought to be a young man whose family owned the house in the early 1900s and, for reasons unknown, jumped off the roof and killed himself. The headless torso is believed to be military from the Civil War. There is no evidence that he intends any harm, but guests have felt threatened when he has suddenly materialized in their room.
6) St. Augustine, Florida: The nation's oldest city and the first permanently occupied European settlement on our shores, dating back to its founding in 1565. Castillo de San Marcos is a star-shaped fort and is considered to be one of the most haunted places in a city filled with unexplained phenomenon. The construction of The Old Fort began in 1672 and took twenty-three years to build. Many strange sightings, including a Spanish soldier, have been reported. It is not uncommon for individuals to capture on film strange lights, orbs, rods, spheres, and even distinct apparitions composed of strange mists.
5) San Antonio, Texas: The home of the Alamo is regarded as the most haunted city in Texas. Prior to the Battle of the Alamo, the ground was a cemetery between 1724 and 1793. It's estimated that about one thousand people were buried during those years. On the morning of March 6, 1836, following the thirteen day Battle of the Alamo, one thousand six hundred Mexican shoulders lay dead along with the approximately one hundred forty-five defenders of the old mission. The remaining buildings at the Alamo as well as the surrounding area is one of the most haunted places in the nation. Tales of ghostly sightings have been reported for almost two centuries.
4) New Orleans, Louisiana: With a history of voodoo and slavery in its past, it's no wonder that New Orleans is considered a very haunted city. Its most famous ghost is voodoo priestess Marie Laveau who was buried at St. Louis Cemetery #1, considered one of the most haunted cemeteries in the country. New Orleans is well below sea level, so the dead are buried in above ground tombs or vaults resembling small architectural buildings. Located on the edge of the haunted French Quarter, this oldest still in service cemetery has been the setting for many Haunted New Orleans movies such as Easy Rider, Interview With The Vampire, and Johnny Handsome. But its biggest draw is the tomb of Marie Laveau.
3) Salem, Massachusetts: This site of the infamous Salem Witch Trials in the late 1600s certainly makes the list of haunted cities. Gallows Hill is believed to be haunted by the spirits of the nineteen women accused of being witches who were hanged there. It also shouldn't be surprising that Salem has one of the largest Halloween celebrations in the country for people of all ages.
2) Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: The Civil War battle at Gettysburg resulted in fifty-one thousand casualties. It is believed that nearly all forty miles of the Gettysburg battlefields have paranormal activity. Many of the ghosts show up in photos, including the ghost of Robert E. Lee. In July 1863, Gettysburg's living population was out numbered twenty to one by the dead.
1) Savannah, Georgia: Savannah was named "America's Most Haunted City" in 2002 by the American Institute of Parapsychology. The city was home to a Revolutionary War battleground and also the site of the Civil War capture of General Sherman. Savannah offers several different haunted tours and is also famous as the location of the bestselling book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that all of these cities offer ghost tours. Have any of you ever had any first hand experience with hauntings?