As humans, we are generally fearful of the unknown, including things that go bump in the night. And yet we are intrigued, excited even by morbidly thrilling looks at what lies beyond. If you are one who takes risks with Ouija boards, enjoys a good haunted house, or are addicted to horror movies, make a trip of it and visit one of the most haunted destinations in the country.
Winchester Mystery House - San Jose, CA
Seeming to be a beautiful, if gigantic, Victorian home set within the palm trees of southern California, the Winchester Mystery House holds a dark and unusual past. The builder was one Sarah Winchester, heiress and widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester. After her husband's death in 1881, Sarah became convinced that she was being haunted by spirits killed by her husband's guns. Through consulting a medium, she learned that she must move West and begin building a house that would never be finished. To confuse the spirits, Sarah built "mystery" rooms onto the house; stairs that lead to nowhere, upside down rooms, doors that open to brick walls, etc. Before Sarah's death, the Winchester House contained 160 rooms, 40 bedrooms, 2 ballrooms, 2 basements, and over 10,000 panes of glass. Tours of the grounds and mansion can be self-guided or not depending on your courage. Sightings and strange occurrences are certainly not uncommon in this maze of a house.
The most haunted city in the country had to be listed here in some capacity. It's history tracks back to the fact that it was literally built on the city's dead. From debilitating plagues of the flu and small pox to murders, the Civil War, and more, mass unmarked graves were interned in city squares and beneath antebellum homes that still stand.
But the most haunted places in this gruesome city has to include, first of all, the Moon River Brewery. Originally the City Hotel back in 1821, bar brawls often lead to unfortunate deaths. The hotel was closed in 1864 when General Sherman led his troops through the nearly abandoned city during the Civil War. Staff, visitors, and even paranormal investigators have reported seeing a white apparition in the upper floors as well as a rough and ready spirit named "Toby" who tries to start bar fights in the billiards room.
Another fascinating destination, and there are many we don't have room to mention, has to be the Kehoe House. Now a luxurious B&B, the Kehoe House was built by immigrant William Kehoe in 1892. Legend has it that two of the owner's children died while playing in a chimney, which were subsequently closed and decorated with angels. If you are brave enough to stay here, you may hear the sounds of children laughing and running up the stairs or awake to the feeling of a child's hand brush against your cheek. The Kehoe House only allows adults to stay, however, and perhaps for good reason.
Stanley Hotel - Estes Park, CO
The inspiration for Stephen King's The Shining, the Stanley Hotel has a reputation for housing more than just paying guests. Set in the stunning scenery of Rocky Mountain National Park, Stanley Hotel's curious apparitions may be attributed to the high altitude were it not for the frequency of sightings and their powerful energy. From the 1970s on, the hotel's reputation for hauntings has spread, eventually reaching the King of Horror in 1977. Over the years the inn has allegedly collected a wide assortment of translucent guests that roam the halls and knock on walls. Several ghost investigation teams have filmed shows at the hotel, including the Syfy channel's Ghost Hunters as well as the Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures. Staying here, or just touring, may put you in the path of the many ghosts that haunt this historic hotel. Perhaps you may even encounter the ghost that is said to haunt Room 217, purportedly a former maid who tends to fold guest's clothes for them or even the first owners, Flora and Freelan Stanley, as they descend the staircase in formal attire to welcome you home.
Fort Mifflin - Philadelphia, PA
The only remaining Revolutionary War battlefield, Fort Mifflin dates back to 1771 when it was built as a British fort. During the war, the rebel forces used it to defend against sea-bound attacks but was destroyed in 1777 along with nearly three quarters of the garrison. Twenty years later, the fort was rebuilt for use in the War of 1812 and was later used as a Civil War prison. Today you can see faint, nearly translucent figures lighting lamps and wandering the fort with alarming frequency. The Screaming Lady is the most recognizable phantom as she cries and wails from officer's quarters at piercing volumes. The police have even been called to investigate on a number of occasions, finding nothing. Other phenomenon include the sounds of a working blacksmith's shop with the clanging of hammers, eerie photographs of white apparitions, and the Faceless Man, an alleged ghost of a war criminal who was hanged with a black bag over his face, hence the name. Fort Mifflin is open for historic tours as well as ghost tours.
If your student group is brave enough to venture into allegedly haunted territory, you could do no better than these historic sites with a penchant for phantoms. Say Boo!