Superstition, or an unfounded belief in an object or event, causes fear among people. Another important aspect of superstition is that it is a very capable innovator. It can innovate from trifles and can create a lifelike imagery of things and occurrences in accordance with one’s beliefs. Haunted cities are those which are frequently visited by bodiless beings, variously named as ghosts, spirits, apparitions, visitations, specters, phantoms, wraiths, and a multitude of similar terms. Parapsychology, a branch of science, looked down upon as a pseudoscience, though, by some scientists, continues to study haunting and attributes it to the spirits of the dead and the violent or tragic events or brutal mass killings in a city. In a Gallop survey in 2005, 40 percent of the British expressed the belief that houses could be haunted. Next only to the British were the Americans, 37 percent of whom opined similarly. According to James Matthew Barrie ‘Ghosts were created when the first man woke in the night.’
1. Salem, Massachusetts
Salem, Massachusetts is known as the witch city of the USA on account of the infamous witch trials conducted there in 1692. Three girls were arrested on charges of witchcraft, and on their confession that they practiced wizardry about 150 other people were arrested on charges of witchcraft. Most of them were unmarried women. Confessions were coerced, and 19 of the accused were hanged or burned at the stake. Gallows Hill, the site of the hangings, is considered the most haunted spot in Salem. Another brutal case was the killing of an old man, Giles Corey, who denied any confession was killed by being crushed under a heavy stone in order to extract a confession. Joshua Ward is another haunted location. It is built on the former residence of the infamous Sheriff of Salem, George Corwin, who was at the helm of the affairs during the witch trials. People believe that spirits of Corwin, Core, and those who were hanged haunt the city till today. Salem attracts many visitors during the Halloween festival.
2. Key West, Florida
Ernest Hemingway, the Nobel Laureate, had a residence in Key West where he wrote Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, and The Snows of Kilimanjaro. He loved his pet polydactyl cat having an unusually excessive number of toes. As many as 60 descendants of his famous cat are still there in his residence. Hemingway committed suicide in Ketchum, Idaho, but the Key West residents believe that his spirit haunts the city even today. They say that he is at time seen walking there or the sound of his typewriter is heard in the night. Hemingway’s residence is open to the public. Captain Tony’s Saloon is another haunted attraction in Key West.
3. Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina is considered one of the most haunted cities in U.S. It is also known for a number of its skyline churches. It was a place of strategic importance for the military during the Civil War. There are numerous haunted places and legends associated with them. It is said that the city is frequently visited by the ghost of a student who committed suicide and by the ghost of a prostitute who was electrocuted. The Battery Carriage House is considered a haunted spot. Dock Street Theater is another haunted location. People speak of having seen strange lights and a headless ghost that appears near the bedside of the visitors at midnight. A red vampire is also reported to thrive upon the energy of the sleeping residents of Charleston.
4. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is best known for the Battle of Gettysburg of the American Civil War fought from July 1st-3rd, 1863. More than 150,000 soldiers were involved in the battle, and 50,000 of them were killed. The residents of Gettysburg had to bury the dead and look after the wounded. Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous ‘Gettysburg Address’ here on November 19, 1863. The ghost of Jenny Wade, the woman who was killed by a stray bullet while she was cooking in her kitchen, is said to haunt her residence daily. Devil’s Den is a haunted location where a dead body was photographed, and it is said any photographs taken in its vicinity are either out of focus or become unusable for one or the other reason.
5. Savannah, Georgia
In 2002, Shannon Scott and The American Institute of Parapsychology named Savannah, Georgia as America’s Most Haunted City. It was due to its being a battleground. Bonaventure cemetery in Savannah is considered the most haunted location, and the inscription on her gravestone explains ‘Little Gracie Watson was born in 1883, the only child of her parents. Her father was manager of the Pulaski House, one of Savannah’s leading hotels, where the beautiful and charming little girl was a favorite with the guests. Two days before Easter in April, 1889, Gracie died of pneumonia at the age of 6. In 1890, when the rising sculptor, John Walz, moved to Savannah, he carved from a photograph this life-sized, delicately detailed marble statue…’
6. New Orleans
Saint Louis Cemetery of New Orleans is one of the most haunted locations in the U.S. It is famous for its above-the-ground graves. All the graves here are above the ground in vaults, and the cause for this unique mode of burial is not the water table. It is said to be haunted being a site for the malpractices of voodoo and slavery. Both the cemeteries, number one and two, are on the list of Louisiana’s African-American Heritage Trail. The cemetery was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. It is believed by the residents of New Orleans that the city is haunted by the ghost of the famous voodoo priestess, Marie Laveau, who is also known as the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans.
7. Louisville, Kentucky
Waverly Hills was a T.B. Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky. As many as 60,000 T.B. patients died at this place. Many parapsychologists consider it as the number one haunted location in the world. None of the reports are supported by sufficient evidence, though it is frequently heard that people had seen strange lights. They believe that these lights are carried by the ghosts of the dead. Residents believe that these are the ghosts of the patients and the investigators who died here. The area attracts tourists from distant locations during the Halloween festival.
8. Easton, Connecticut
Easton, Connecticut is known for the Union Cemetery which is more than 400 years old. It is the burial place of the White Lady who is said to haunt the city and is seen not only in the cemetery but also at other locations. She has even been reported to have been accidentally hit by some travelers. Not much is known about the White Lady with some fair degree of reliability. Many photographers have reported weird appearances in their photographs which they had never seen while they photographed the cemetery. Residents also speak about frequent visits by some misty visitations.
9. Clovis, California
Anthony Andriott built a private residence, The Wolfe Manor, at Andleberry Estate in Clovis. The owner went bankrupt, and it was converted into a sanitarium for the terminally sick. It was later renamed as the Clovis Sanitarium and was licensed to treat the mentally sick who were, instead, mistreated. Deaths were too frequent at this spot. Due to the supernatural events, the employees of the facility left it, and Todd Wolfe purchased the building in 1997. Many parapsychologists opined that the place was haunted. Residents say that it is haunted by an elderly woman called Mary, a younger girl Emily, and a weird figure named Baby. Considered as risky for visitors, the facility has been closed by the city’s authorities.
10. Ohioville, Pennsylvania
Ohioville is shrouded in thick layers of mystery, particularly relating to its Kelly Road. It is said the forest alongside the road is haunted, and specifically one mile of the road is noted for supernatural activities. It is said that even the pets go wild when left in this stretch, and the wild animals go mad and chase one another fiercely. Many are killed by their wounds, and the forest is frequented with unusual voices.
In addition to unnatural events like murders, suicides, or burning at the stake, some natural environmental phenomena also contribute towards haunting. An example is marsh gas, which is also known as a Will-o-the Wisp, ignis fatuus, Jack-o-lantern, hobby lantern, and hinkypunk. Seen over marshes, bogs and swamps, this ghostly light is said to recede on approaching and misleads the travelers by night. Carving pumpkins into Jack-o-lanterns is a typical, festive Halloween activity.