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The most haunted places you can (but maybe shouldn't) visit this spooky season

Image of an old haunted estate

With all that has been going on in 2020, maybe this year has already been spooky enough for you. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the U.S.’s most haunted locations -- from “sleepy” towns to abandoned prisons -- that you definitely shouldn’t visit this October. Unless, of course, you’re looking to get seriously spooked.

Here’s a list of America’s most haunted towns and some suggestions for what you might want to see and do while you’re there. If you’re crazy enough to check these spots out, please remember to confirm COVID-19 travel restrictions and closures before visiting.

6. Sleepy Hollow, New York. Spooky meter: 6/10

Located in Tarrytown, NY, Sleepy Hollow is a village with a long, storied history of supernatural encounters. As the inspiration for the well-known “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” short-story featuring the Headless Horseman, this town is considered by many to be one of the most haunted places in the world. Not only does this town feature copious tourist attractions like haunted houses and scary hayrides, but it’s home to countless documented supernatural experiences.

A “woman in white” is often heard wailing at a spot near the river, awaiting her finance’s return from war. Another female spirit, Mother Hulda, has been seen wandering among tombstones in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery -- and those who have disturbed her grave have been known to be haunted for weeks after the encounter.

This place ranks in at number 6, however, because despite its malignant reputation, Tarrytown is actually a very cute spot. I’ve personally spent time in Sleepy Hollow, and when you’re not looking for trouble, this town is very benign -- there’s even some great places to hang out and grab dinner (I highly recommend Bistro 12). “Sleepy” is a perfect way to describe this village; it’s a quiet place -- unless you’re looking to get spooked. If so, try checking out a tour at the Lyndhurst Mansion or taking a walk through the infamous Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

5. Burkittsville, Maryland. Spooky Meter: 6.5/10

This tiny Maryland town, located in Frederick County, was put on the map as one of the country’s most haunted spots in 1999 when it was featured as the set of popular horror movie The Blair Witch Project. But this town is known for more than just cinematic buzz. In 1886, a group of small children were reported missing in a wooded area near Burkittsville, now known as Coffin Rock. The boys were later found by a search party -- completely dismembered. When the search team returned with additional reinforcements, however, the boys’ bodies were gone.

This is just one of several groups of young people to go missing in the woods near Coffin Rock.

Burkittsville is a town steeped in history. In addition to its haunted roots, Burkittsville was the location of several Civil War battles, including the Battle of Crampton’s Gap and the Battle of South Mountain. Somehow, this makes it way creepier. While this town may be lacking in attractions, it’s certainly not short on the scares. If you’re stopping through, try checking out the Civil War monuments in Gathland State Park, which are rumored to be haunted by the ghosts of dead soldiers.

4. Alcatraz Island, California. Spooky Meter: 7/10

This island, just off the coast of San Francisco, boasts a now-abandoned prison that housed some of the country’s most horrific criminals for nearly 30 years. While I’ve never been on Alcatraz Island, I’ve seen it from the coast of San Francisco -- and it’s particularly eerie when juxtaposed with the bright and upbeat city that sits just a little over a mile away.

It’s no surprise that this prison, which locked up a number of nefarious characters ranging from Al Capon to Alvin Karpis, is rumored to be haunted. It’s said that ghosts still run rampant in the prison, pacing among the prison cells, and visitors have often reported hearing slamming doors and unexplained footsteps. While the prison may have officially closed in 1963, you can still take a guided tour of this historic island.

3. Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Spooky Meter: 8.5/10

If you’re looking for a location that’s rich in haunted history, look no further than Shepherdstown. This small West Virginia town is 30 years older than the United States itself, and it's so haunted that it has earned its own TV series: “Ghosts of Shepherdstown”.

If you’re brave enough, you can join a number of guided ghost tours around of some of this town’s most haunted locations: including the Old English Cemetery who’s numerous ghosts are said to often interact with visitors, the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop Bakery that’s said to house a spirit named “The Colonel”, a historic museum that’s home to an infamous murder, and more.

2. Salem, Massachusetts. Spooky Meter: 9/10

It seems as though everyone has at least heard of Salem, Massachusetts. As the location of the infamous “witch trials”, this town is rumored to be inhabited by the spirits of the roughly 150 women and men who were “convicted” of witchcraft and put to death in horrendous ways. It’s no surprise that in a town with such a reputation for torment that there would be copious claims of haunted activity.

If you visit Salem, you can find a number of memorials and cemeteries honoring the men and women who died, in addition to a myriad of haunted attractions -- from costume parties and seances to haunted trolley tours.

1. My basement. Spooky Meter: 11/10.

Just hear me out, everyone. Why is the basement just understood as the creepiest place in everybody’s home? I’m not sure why it’s scary -- but every time I go down there, I feel like sprinting up the stairs like my life depends on it.

No bizarre history to report, but I’ve just got a feeling something weird is down there.

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