Middle America’s Most Haunted Places
Why is the mid-west so haunted? Well, did you know that after the Civil War, this great nation was a mess? The history books sort of glance over that part.
“If we are to have another contest in the near future of our national existence, I predict that the dividing line will not be Mason and Dixon’s but between patriotism and intelligence on the one side, and superstition, ambition, and ignorance on the other.”
Lincoln was dead, the nation was divided, and mass graves churned the landscape. Lincoln, a man with not only vision but incredible foresight, had predicted that the real challenge would begin once the smoke cleared. Why? Because, well, now we had to work on the logistics and the actual day-to-day of running the nation, one that would uphold the beliefs and values for which the Civil War was fought. He was confident that although the South might have surrendered, its proud people and individuals wouldn’t like a Yank telling them what to do. Although the North wanted peace, petty rivalries and familiar anger, with gruesome revenge schemes, would tarnish his vision of a prosperous America. The nation was a powder keg. And then, to make matters worse, that old joke was coined and made its debut: “well, aside from that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” The man slipped into immortality, and Grant had to drop, at least for a few hours, his bottle of whiskey and take the baton. He went and found Lincoln’s playbook and created what would be called the Reconstruction Era. The goal? Protect the Civil Rights of recently freed slaves in the South — something that due to Jim Crow laws would fail miserably. But, the other attack front for unification was westward expansion. The concept was simple. Since the North and South were already tarnished and swamped in bad blood, not to mention a truckload of political scandal, let’s promote the idea that the West – with all its virgin land – is a blank slate. No past, nothing but a bright future brimming with possibilities. And, it was in this context, one of wishful thinking, that the biggest carrot – one that lured everyone into this idea or delusion, depending on your take – was unearthed. Quite literally. We started to stumble on piles and piles of gold.
Folks flocked to the West, and pioneer towns, lawless, with nothing more than a whore house and a saloon, started to pop up like weed all over the place. Our better angels took a back seat, and collectively, we gave the wheel to our ambitious, lustful, greedy, no-good-for-nothing, demons. The West was ravaged and picked clean to the bone; leftovers of our ambitions decorated the land. Bandits, wars against the natives, genocide, battles against the Mexicans, desperados, legends like Billy The Kid and the OK Coral; in less than 30 years, we as a nation had soaked the land in as much blood as those of two wars — The Civil and the Revolutionary. So, why is the West so haunted? Because the ground is baked and spiced with all the corpses and massacres, our Manifest Destiny greed allowed us to rationalize. And, all those cadavers, and mass graves, are still riled up – littered with corpses, ghouls, curses, and other nasty bits.
Sleepy Hollow Road, Jefferson County, Kentucky
This Kentucky back road has nothing to do with the headless horsemen; its legends are even more gruesome.
Local lore says victims who venture down this pitch-black road late at night will see a pair of headlights in their rearview mirror, quickly drawing closer. It’s a haunted hearse known for sending innocent drivers hurtling down a 30-foot embankment to their deaths. If they avoid the hearse, they’re sure to hit Cry Baby Bridge, where mothers are said to have thrown their unwanted or illegitimate children over the rail to be free of them. Babies’ cries and the wailing of mournful women still echo through the night.
Finally, those fortunate drivers who manage to avoid both the hearse and Cry Baby Bridge might find that they traveled through a time warp. What feels like ten minutes on Sleepy Hollow Road can turn into hours. That little tidbit — combined with its isolation, violent curves, and steep drop — makes this stretch of pavement one of the most dangerous haunted roads in America.
Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield, Ohio
This former prison is so haunted that it’s become a training ground for up-and-coming paranormal investigators.
Constructed in the late 1800s, the Ohio State Reformatory originally housed minor offenders. The hope was that they would be “reformed” through reflection, religion, and education, but those progressive ideals were thrown out the window when the facility transitioned to maximum security.
The influx of violent criminals led to overcrowding, stricter rules, and severe punishments. At least 200 inmates died during the prison’s 104- year run. Some died from diseases caused by the horrid conditions. Others died by suicide or murder. Their bodies remain at the prison cemetery, and many people believe their spirits are trapped there too.
Sallie House, Atchison, Kansas
When Tony and Debra Pickman moved into 508 N. 2nd St. in 1993, they noticed their dog started growling at nothing. It was odd, but not concerning. Little did they know, far worse things were about to happen. Fires started spontaneously, objects moved on their own, there were cold spots in the house, and they could hear voices. Tony was personally attacked by the energy haunting the house. It would scratch his chest and abdomen but never touch his wife or baby. It seemed to especially hate men.
The Atchison home is said to be haunted named by a girl named Sallie, who was tortured and killed by a male doctor who attempted to remove her appendix without anesthesia. Others believe there’s an even angrier spirit lurking within the walls. The trauma of the Pickmans’ experience is still so fresh that visitors have to sign a waiver in case of injury.
Stone Lion Inn, Guthrie, Oklahoma
Not all ghosts are seeking revenge. Some just want to have a little fun, like the ghost of the Stone Lion Inn. Guests at this century-old inn are often visited by a childlike figure tucking them into bed at night. The young spirit also likes to play with toys, cause a raucous, and jump on beds in empty rooms.
The 3-story Greek Revival served as the Houghton Family mansion before being turned into a funeral home, a boarding house, and eventually a bed and breakfast. Augusta Houghton, who was still a child when the family’s nursemaid accidentally poisoned her while treating her whooping cough, is said to linger on the property. Her mournful father, F.E. Houghton, can also be seen from time to time.
Old Idaho Penitentiary, Idaho
The penitentiary began in 1870 as a one-cell house to later expanded into a complex of buildings enclosed by a big brickwork wall. More than 13,000 inmates have been prisoners in this penitentiary and many have died in it. In the entire state’s history, only 10 out of 11 executions were carried out in the prison. Inmates suffered inhumane conditions in the place. There was no plumbing and the cells were either too hot or too cold, depending on the season. Between 1971 and 1973, riots broke out. As prisoners burned several buildings, they were moved to another jail south of Boise. In December 1973, the penitentiary closed, and the buildings were left untouched after the disturbances. The most infamous inmate was Raymond Allen Snowden; a man nicknamed “Idaho’s Jack the Ripper.” He was convicted of murder in 1956 and sentenced to death by hanging.
There have been many reports of paranormal activities in the prison complex. Guides and visitors testify to hearing strange sounds and disembodied voices and seeing dark shadows lurking near the cellblocks of the Old Idaho Penitentiary. Some believe that Snowden’s spirit haunts the place since his execution, especially near 5 House, the building where he was hanged. Footsteps are heard when no one is around. Guests who have taken the tours have felt watched and touched by unseen hands.
The Fairweather Inn, Virginia City, Montana
The Fairweather Inn was known as the Anaconda Hotel and Saloon. In 1890, Frank and Amanda McKeen bought the saloon and added hotel rooms, a restaurant, and a bowling alley in the basement. When Prohibition struck in 1918, things started to get rough for the couple. Sadly, Frank died in 1919. Amanda couldn’t bare her life without her husband, so she committed suicide. The Anaconda Hotel changed owners over the years until the 1940s. Charles and Sue Bovey bought the place and renamed it the Fairweather Inn, after the man who detected gold in Alder Gulch, Bill Fairweather.
The inn is rumored to be haunted by several entities. Guests report being spooked in the middle of the night by doors opening and closing on their own. Also, ghostly playful children appeared at night in the first-floor guest rooms of patrons with children. Visitors who have stayed in Room 10 have witnessed the most activity at the hotel. Unexplained whispers can be heard, and the sensation of not being alone overwhelms the visitors to the point of leaving in the middle of the night. In the empty halls, the sound of the rustling of an old-fashioned dress can be heard in the quiet night, as well as heavy footsteps.
The Clown Motel, Tonopah, Nevada
The Clown Motel is a clown-themed Hotel located next to the historic Old Tonopah Cemetery —-a spot where many earlier silver mine workers who died in mining accidents were laid to rest. The motel has been named “America’s Scariest Motel” due to its closeness to the cemetery. The motel holds 31 rooms and was opened in 1985 by Leroy and Leona David to honor their dead father who had a collection of over 150 clown figurines and worked at the mines. The statues are used to embellish the property. The motel later passed from owner to owner until Bob and Deborah Perchetti. They ran the motel for 22 years until 2017 when Bob placed it for sale. In 2019, it was purchased by Vijai Mehar, who assigned his friend, Hame Anand, as CEO and current administrator of the motel. The motel underwent renovations and the clown collection was increased to over 2,000 pieces.
Being that the motel is just a few feet from the cemetery, it is a hotspot for paranormal activities. Guests report hearing unexplained laughter throughout the halls and full-bodied clown apparitions in rooms 108, 111, 210, and 214. The staff has also described feeling anxious in all the guest rooms as doors shut by themselves and an eerie presence is felt. The owner has also seen ghosts in the adjacent cemetery.
Sidewinders Bar and Grill, Murtaugh, Idaho
The building where Sidewinders Bar and Grill stands today was built in 1908. At that time, nearby Milner dam, irrigation, and Union Pacific workers suffered severe losses and difficulties. For many years, this building represented a general meeting spot for the town of Murtaugh. It has been a message center, a saloon, a massage parlor, a gambling joint, a brothel, and today a bar and grill.
Over the years, this restaurant has reportedly been haunted by numerous occurrences. Many have witnessed unexplained shadowy figures lurking in the corners of the establishment. Others have heard a burst of ghostly laughter coming out of nowhere, strange whispers, or a saloon’s piano playing at a distance. The most frequent paranormal activity described is of the jukebox whose volume maxes out without being touched. However, none of these hauntings are considered harmful or threatening.
Casey Moore’s Oyster House, Tempe, Arizona
William Moeur and his wife Mary constructed their home in 1910. After the couple died, the house remained empty for years. In the 1950s, the abandoned home became a boarding house and brothel frequented by young adults. They used the house to throw parties, drink, and do drugs. Stories of assaults, murders, and suicides were also part of the house. One horrific story involved a young woman who lived on the second floor. She was assaulted and murdered by a male friend because she resisted his sexual advances. In 1973, the house was bought and transformed into a restaurant called Ninth and Ash. In 1986, it was sold again and turned into an Irish pub named Casey Moore’s Oyster House. The pub is frequented by students from the nearby ASU school campus.
The restaurant houses ghosts that frequently make themselves known to guests and staff members. Residents have seen a couple dancing in the second-floor window at 4:00 a.m. when the place is supposed to be empty. Many suspect them to be the ghosts of William and Mary Moeur. Also, the full-body apparition of the young woman murdered years ago has also been seen prowling the restaurant. She usually appears during business hours and stares at guests until they turn and meet her eye, then she vanishes. She is described as a graceful dark-haired and light-eyed ghost. The staff has also witnessed silverware thrown onto the floor inexplicably and tables and chairs rearranged overnight. There’s also a picture that is tossed across the restaurant as if an entity had lifted and thrown it.
Asylum 49, Toole, Utah
Asylum 49 is a haunted tourist attraction where the former institution called the Old Tooele Hospital existed. This hospital was originally constructed as a family residence by Samuel F. Lee back in 1873. In 1913, the Lees moved out, and the County transformed the house into an elderly facility and later into the Tooele Hospital. This facility served as a healing place for the sick and mentally ill. However, a new nearby hospital was built in 2001, and the Old Tooele Hospital closed its doors. Later, half of the hospital was used as an elderly residence and the other half as Asylum 49, a haunted attraction for Halloween. The nursing home is no longer in business.
The tourist attraction holds unique paranormal activities reported by guests and old staff members. A ghost named Wes, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, haunts the corridors, accompanied by a very dark presence. Nurses who worked at the nursing home reported being spooked by entities at night. Old patients have described being cared for by a nurse dressed in white. But the nurses on staff never wore white. Other hauntings at Asylum 49 include shadowy figures that crawl up onto the ceiling, orbs, and whispering voices. A spiritual portal, guarded by a spirit named Maria, is said to exist at the hospital and has been confirmed by mediums investigating the site. Also, Samuel Lee’s ghost is said to dawdle about, sometimes escorted by his young son Thomas who loves playing tricks on visitors. Other spirits, named Richard, James, Ned, Peter, and Jessica, are said to haunt the location as well. Guests have heard their voices and experienced closed encounters.
Wyoming Frontier Prison, Rawlins, Wyoming
The Wyoming Frontier Prison opened in 1901 with a lack of electricity, running water, and effective heating. Prisoners included aggressive inmates and convicts of lesser crimes. Soon, overcrowding became an issue, with an overcapacity of approximately 13,500 inmates. New cell blocks, buildings, The Old Hole, The Death House, The Dungeon House, and a hydrocyanic acid gas chamber were built among the prison’s walls. From 1912 to 1933, condemned prisoners were forced to hang themselves in The Death House using The Julien Gallows technique. The inmates stood on a trap door, and a torrent of water started, causing the trap door to open and the condemned to drop and break his neck. The prison was closed in 1981 and became a museum under the administration of the Old Pen Joint Powers Board.
During tours, apparitions appearing out of nowhere is quite common. In The Dungeon House, an angry spirit menaces anyone who dares to enter certain cell block sections. Visitors felt pressure on their chests and anxiety as they climbed the stairs towards The Dead House. Other hauntings include a reflection of a man’s spirit with a brimmed hat in the room where numerous condemned died by this bizarre hanging device. One of the most famous hauntings of the prison is that of the “Pie Lady.” A woman from the town of Rawlins that used to bake pies for the inmates and brought them weekly to the prison. One inmate was freed under parole and looked for the “Pie Lady”; he then assaulted and murdered her. He was readmitted to the prison and found hanging from the second-floor balcony days later. Other inmates took it upon themselves to avenge the “Pie Lady.” Some visitors say they have seen the ghostly scene of the perpetrator being punished by fellow inmates.
Moon Lake, High Uintas, Utah
Moon Lake is a beautiful campground in the High Uintas with beautiful scenery. Visitors who have camped at the spot have had an incredibly spooky experience. For example, in broad daylight, a young weeping 7-year-old girl constantly approaches campers and asks for their help. She seems to have fallen into the lake as she is soaking wet. She appears pale with blue lips and shaking. When vacationers agree to help her and then turn to collect their belongings, she disappears into thin air. She is also seen walking through the woods, around the lake, sitting on the benches, and fishing.
This ghostly girl has been appearing to campers for years. Some don’t see her but hear her moaning around the woodlands. No one is to be found when visitors try to locate where the sound came from. As night descends, things get even spookier. As visitors lie in their tents, they have reported hearing sinister screams, followed by the sound of splashing in the water nearby as if someone had been tossed into the lake. Minutes later, the sound of footsteps running across the campsite is heard. It is believed that the haunting spirit belongs to a girl who drowned in the lake years ago. Moon Lake is also rumored to host an enormous waterborne cryptid – a giant serpent similar to Nessie – which many investigators have identified.
Dawson Cemetery, Cimarron, New Mexico
On two separate occasions, the town of Dawson was struck with mining tragedies. On October 22, 1913, an explosion originated in the Stag Canyon Mine No. 2 when a dynamite flame burnt the coal dust; of the 285 miners, only 23 were rescued. An improvised burial site was built on the hillside to bury the dead, and each grave was marked with a white iron cross. Later in 1923, in Mine No. 1, the coal dust was ignited again by an ore car that jumped the tracks. This time 123 men lost their lives. Again, more graves were dug, and more white crosses were added. In 1950, the town was abandoned when the Phelps Dodge Corporation decided to close all the mines. Even the cemetery was completely forgotten until 1991, when two brothers with metal detectors discovered it. The old town was turned into a private ranch, and only the cemeteries remain as proof of the town’s existence.
Nowadays, locals and visitors to the cemetery testify to seeing spectral lights moving as if they were the headlamps of the miner’s helmets. People have also seen ghostly figures wandering the graves. When living souls approach them, they just vanish. Sometimes low voices can be heard close to the graves, and lament wails late at night in the moon’s azure glow.
Jerome Grand Hotel, Jerome, Arizona
The Jerome Hotel stands where an old hospital named The United Verde Hospital once stood in 1926. Phelps Dodge Mining Corp. bought the hospital’s holdings in 1935 and operated it until its closing in 1950. The hospital was maintained intact for almost 20 years, but most of the furniture was removed between the 1970s and 80s. A caretaker was hired, or the premises were leased to a family to keep the grounds from vandalism. After the caretaker’s suicide in the 1980s, the property was closed and guarded by the police. In December 1993, Phelps Dodge sold the property to Larry Altherr of Phoenix, Arizona. On May 29, 1994, Altherr took possession of the old hospital and turned it into the Jerome Grand Hotel he still runs.
Paranormal activities abound around the hotel. Guests have reported hearing voices and the sound of hospital gurneys in the third-floor empty hallways. This floor used to be the old operating room. However, room 32 is the one with the most hauntings. This room was a former hospital guest room with a beautiful balcony. And the site of two possible suicides. First, a former miner limited to a wheelchair allegedly climbed over the balcony and jumped, and then a businessman shot himself there. Their specters can be felt and seen almost every night in this room. Other spooky stories are of the caretaker’s ghost — the fella’ killed himself in the boiler room. Also, people have reported continuous calls by a spine-chilling voice to the front desk from an unoccupied room or unexplained shadows around the hotel.
Pioneer Saloon, Goodsprings, Nevada
Clark Gable, an old miner, and an unlucky gambler, are among the spirits said to haunt this 109-year-old saloon. The Good Springs restaurant and bar look like something out of an old western, with three bullet holes in the wall. Newspaper clippings state that a cheating gambler was shot during a card game in 1915. The wall fared better than he did. It could be his spirit that at least one bartender has seen sitting at the end of the bar — or maybe it’s famed actor Clark Gable.
In January of 1942, Gable spent three days smoking and drinking at the saloon as he waited to find out if his wife, Carole Lombard, had survived the Mount Potosi plane crash. Both he and Carole are said to linger at the Pioneer, where employees have turned part of the back dining room into a memorial in his honor.
Bell Witch Cave, Adams, Tennessee
Most of the haunted locations in America are known for vague paranormal activity: odd noises, odors, and moving objects. Sometimes it’s a guess as to who the spirit is. That isn’t the case with Tennessee’s Bell Witch Cave. The infamous Bell Witch tortured the Bell Family from 1804 until 1820, focusing most of her curses and abuse on the patriarch of the family: John Bell.
The stories of her torment were so widely-known that then-future president Andrew Jackson stayed on the property to investigate. He reportedly said, “I had rather face the entire British Army than spend another night with the Bell Witch.” After John Bell’s death, the witch disappeared for several years but promised she would be back. Odd happenings have occurred on the farm, on and off, in the centuries since — specifically in the cave where she’s said to reside.
The Drish House, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Pay attention to the tower of this old Tuscaloosa home. You might see Mrs. Drish burning candles late at night, mourning her long-lost husband. Dr. John Drish was a notorious gambler and alcoholic, and it was the alcohol that led to his tragic death one night in 1867.
Mrs. Drish placed lit candles around his casket and told her servants she wanted the same candles placed around her casket when she died. When that day came — 17 years later — the candles were nowhere to be found. A short time after her funeral, a local called the fire station to report a large fire in the Drish House tower. When they arrived, nothing was burning. The phantom fire has appeared several more times over the years.
Poasttown Elementary School, Middletown, Ohio
Visitors who walk down the empty hallways of this former school often feel strange, like someone is watching them. What’s responsible for the activity? Many people believe the spirits are tied to two train crashes that happened near the property — one on July 4, 1895, and the other on July 4, 1910.
The 1910 crash killed 24 people. Dozens of others were treated at a makeshift triage center in the field that would eventually house the school. Others, like Darrell Whisman, believe the spirits are friendly former students who have passed on. Whisman bought the school, which was closed in the late 90s, in 2004. Regardless, ghostly encounters are so every day that Poasttown Elementary has its slogan: “When you leave, you believe.”
The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado
Wilson was the Chief Housekeeper of the hotel in 1917 when she suffered a terrifying injury in Room 217. She was lighting the acetylene lantern when it exploded, causing her to fall through the floor and break both ankles. Modern-day visitors have seen Wilson’s ghost enter the room at night to tidy up.
Almost 60 years after the lantern incident, famed horror author Stephen King booked the same room for himself and his wife, Tabitha. They were the lone guests at the hotel, and their experiences inspired the 1977 book and 1980 classic film, The Shining.
Lemp Mansion, St. Louis, Missouri
Stay overnight at this bed and breakfast, and you’re sure to run into at least one member of the Lemp Family. Three of its members — William Sr., William II, and Charles — died by suicide in the former mansion. William II’s illegitimate son also passed away in the house. He had been locked in the attic all his life due to his shameful parentage and the fact that he had Down Syndrome.
The spirits of all four men have been spotted lurking in different areas of the inn, spying on unknowing female guests and kicking at the door of William Sr.’s old bedroom. In fact, the sheer amount of paranormal activity has landed the restaurant and inn on several “most haunted” lists over the years. William II’s unnamed son is the tamest of the ghosts. He can often be seen looking out the attic window mournfully, still yearning for freedom and love, even in the afterlife.
Mizpah Hotel, Tonopah, Nevada
The Mizpah Hotel was initially opened in 1908 at the height of Tonopah’s silver boom in Tonopah, Nevada. By that time, it was the first luxurious hotel in the state. For years, the hotel changed owners until Frank Scott from Las Vegas bought it in 1979. The hotel was renovated but kept its original antiqueness. As time passed, several murders took place in the hotel, so it had to close in 1999. In early 2011, the hotel was bought by Fred and Nancy Cline from Sonoma, California, who renovated and reopened it in 2011.
Even though the hotel holds its charm from 1908, it also retains a ghostly side and the whole town. A ghost named “the Lady in Red” haunts the hotel’s fifth floor, specifically today’s room 502. Legend says that the spirits belong to a high-class prostitute who was strangled by a jealous ex-lover who wanted her to quit her job. The room was named “The Lady in Red Theme Room,” and guests can book it. There is also an unknown soldier who prowls the third and fourth floors. A pair of children have been seen playing games on visitors who stay on these floors. Giggling and slamming doors are associated with their spirits. Finally, the specters of two bank robbers who died during a theft by their other partner lurk in the basement. The staff have heard screaming and seen flickering lights coming from the room.
Villisca Axe Murder House, Villisca, Iowa
Around 7:30 a.m. on June 10, 1912, Mary Peckham grew concerned that her neighbors — the Moore Family — were being eerily quiet. After a series of phone calls, Marshal Hank Horton entered the house. When he walked out, he said he had found “somebody murdered in every bed.” Despite the odd and gruesome clues left at the scene — and the crazed confession of a traveling reverend — no one was ever convicted of the crime.
In the 109 years since that fateful night, the house has played host to many overnight guests — from paranormal investigators to skeptical journalists hoping to debunk Iowa’s most haunted location. Odd occurrences are common. One tour guide reported hearing footsteps, slamming doors, and people talking upstairs when the house was empty. He’s also seen objects move on their own, including a rocking chair.
While the members of the Moore Family were “eerily quiet” that morning in 1912, they haven’t been in the years since.
Delve deeper into America’s Most Haunted places
America’s haunted history is as vast and complex as the country itself, and this list only scratches the surface.
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