Joshua Gill, DCNF
Ghosts and their stories will soon haunt America’s streets at October’s end, but for some places, specters are far more real than costumed kids and jump-scare attractions.
From defunct prisons and abandoned asylums to famous hotels and even ships, tales of hauntings abound in storied places around the country. While some may pass off the claims of supernatural encounters in these places as trumped-up stories or attribute them to excited nerves and overactive imaginations, nearly 30 percent of Americans claim to have felt or encountered the presence of a person who had already died.
The jury may still be out for many Americans concerning the existence of ghosts, but those who claim to have experienced them have seen all the evidence they need to cement their belief, and some places in this country seem to be consistent sources for such encounters.
Here are five places in the United States where visitors have repeatedly reported hair-raising supernatural encounters, allegedly contacting specters of those who should have gone to their final rest long ago. Visit them, if you dare.
RMS Queen Mary: Long Beach, California
This famous hotel in California boasts a unique history as a cruise-liner that was converted into a transport ship for allied troops in World War II. Nicknamed “The Grey Ghost,” the ship is now permanently docked in Long Beach as a museum and hotel, though guests have said it is phantasmic in more than just its name.
Overnight guests of the hotel have reported hearing screams and the sounds of violence coming from the boiler room, where a young soldier was once severed in half by a door. Guests also reported seeing the ghost of a woman in white dancing in the salon where the orchestra once played, and allegedly encountered the spirit of a young girl playing hide-and-seek.
Eastern State Penitentiary: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
This prison was the first to use solitary confinement and is widely believed to have caused mental illness among its inmates. The prison’s officials soon abandoned the system of solitary confinement due to overcrowding and it operated as a normal prison from 1913 to 1970, during which time it housed Al Capone and the bank robber Willie Sutton.
Visitors to the prison-turned-museum have reported disembodied laughter in Cell Block 12, a shadowy figure appearing in one of the guard towers, and hearing the wretched wails of those who were driven mad within the prison’s confines.
The Whaley House: San Diego, California
Thomas Whaley chose to build his family’s estate in 1857, perhaps unwisely, on the former site of the public gallows. Soon after he and his family moved in, they were confronted with a ghostly presence whom they came to know as the spirit of “Yankee” Jim Robinson — a drifter and thief who was hanged at the site four years before Thomas and his ill-fated family built their house. Robinson’s ghost may have been a portent of things to come for the Whaleys, as the family experienced a string of untimely deaths and suicides. Visitors to the house report that the spirits of some of the family members still haunt their estate, filling it with the smell of perfume and cigars.
Gettysburg Battlefield: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
What better hotbed of ghostly activity could there be than the site a site of past conflict and massive loss of life? The total casualties, including both Union and Confederate soldiers, numbers between 46,000 and 51,000. Most visitors who claim to have seen phantoms of those slain at Gettysburg say they see soldiers either marching from the woods, or standing alone at their posts as though forever keeping watch from the ethereal plane.
Visitors also claim that the National Soldiers’ Orphan Homestead, situated on the outskirts of the battlefield, is also haunted by the woman who ran the orphanage. The homestead was used to house Civil War soldiers and was later converted to an orphanage run by a woman known as Rosa Carmichael. Carmichael was rumored to be viciously abusive and allegedly killed some of the orphans. Her cruel spirit is rumored to haunt the rooms of the homestead as a dark shadow.
The White House: Washington D.C.
No list of American haunted houses would be complete without the presidential residence. The White House hauntings are unique, not only because of who is rumored to haunt the building, but also because of who has claimed to witness these specters.
First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln and President Harry Truman both claimed to have witnessed the ghost of President Andrew Jackson in the White House. The ghost of Abraham Lincoln was first spotted in the building by none other than Grace Coolidge, wife of President Calvin Coolidge. Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill also claimed to have seen Lincoln’s ghost, while Lady Bird Johnson claimed that she felt Lincoln’s presence.
Others who have spent time within the White House have reported seeing both the spirit of Abigail Adams carrying laundry toward the East Room and the ghost of David Burns, who sold most of the land on which the city of D.C. was originally situated to the government.
The list above of America’s haunted place is by no means exhaustive. Places fraught with sightings of the supernatural and encounters with mysteries beyond our physical world are pervasive throughout American history and present, more of which The DCNF will explore in the coming weeks as we slouch toward Halloween.
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