October is a magical month, filled with autumn colors, caramel apples, and the bewitching excitement of Halloween. And while it’s easy to find spooky haunts and fall activities in almost every city and town across the nation, there are a few destinations that take it to the next level. Here are the six best places in America to celebrate All Hallows Eve’. Some are filled with fun activities, others have been made famous by classic horror films, and some even have a terrifying past filled with secrets, murder, and purported hauntings.
Everyone knows the horrific history of Salem. Back in 1692, a group of young girls began having strange tantrums. They blamed these fits on a slave from Barbados named Tituba, claiming she had satanic powers, and soon the town was in a frenzy. The mass hysteria and attention from the townspeople only pushed the girls to lie more and more, leading to a complete breakdown of society. By the time the citizens had come to their senses, over 200 people had been accused, many were in prison, and 20 had died.
What many don’t know is that Salem has now become a pilgrimage for practicers of witchcraft and Wicca from around the world. The town’s streets are lined with shops that sell potions, spellbooks, wands, and crystals. The famous Witch House was the home of Judge Jonathan Corwin, who presided over the witch trials, and is now open for tours. Nearby is the Salem Witch Museum, which gives in-depth presentations about the events and modern-day critiques of what could have possibly led to such madness (one theory revolves around a bacteria that grows in rye and can cause hallucinations if eaten.) It’s a fascinating destination filled with history and horror.
St. Helens, Oregon
Many people don’t know St. Helens, Oregon by name – but they do know it as Halloweentown. The tiny Oregon town shot to fame after the 1998 Disney Channel Original Movie Halloweentown was filmed there. Now, every year, the town puts on a month-long celebration called Spirit of Halloweentown throughout October, all leading up to the massive dance party held in the front yard of the courthouse (which everyone who’s seen the movie will recognize.) Throughout the month, something is going on every single day. From street performances to costume contests, pumpkin patches, nighttime ghost stories, haunted houses, themed cafes, and more.
The film not only introduced a whole new generation to acting legend Debbie Reynolds, but it served as a popular Halloween tradition for kids everywhere. Now, with Oregon’s Spirit of Halloweentown, and the digital release of the movie on Disney+, the tradition can live on.
Estes Park, Colorado
Speaking of places made famous by movies, Colorado’s Stanley Hotel in Estes Park is now more famous for being the location of The Shining than it is for being a mountain retreat.
Auteur Stanley Kubrick filmed the movie adaption on-location at the resort, and Stephen King’s book itself was conceived right inside the hotel. Stephen King and his wife checked into the hotel on the final night of the season. That night, King had terrible nightmares that involved his son being chased through the hotel, screaming for his life. Little did King know that many others in the hotel have experienced strange phenomena, including having their hair pulled, hearing a piano, seeing strange mists, feeling cold spots in bed with them, and more.
The hotel now offers ghost tours, which introduce guests to the many spirits who still roam the halls (including Mr. Stanley himself) and artifacts from The shining can be found throughout the resort.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is a Halloween destination like no other. The city is filled with above-ground tombs and is surrounded by mossy, gator-filled swamps. It’s also home to voodoo, a form of folk magic that many believe is used to cause harm to others. For those wanting to learn more, the city is filled with voodoo shops and even a museum.
But while voodoo can be dismissed as folklore, New Orleans has had some very real, and very horrific events throughout its history. Most notable is the LaLaurie Mansion, which served as the inspiration for season 3 of American Horror Story. In 1834, firefighters rushed to put out a fire in the large French Quarter mansion. Upon entering, they discovered a black slave trapped in the kitchen, chained to a stove. She told the firefighters to rescue the others in the attic, and to their horror, the firefighters discovered seven more slaves, all near-dead and chained together with spiked iron collars. The home’s owner, Madame LaLaurie was a known sadist and was even rumored to have killed her former husband. After being discovered, she fled by boat, never to be seen again.
Ghost tours of the mansion take place nightly, but LaLaurie is far from the only haunted spot in town. There’s also the True Crime Tour which dives into the notorious Axeman, who killed several people with an axe and was never caught. There’s even a haunted bayou tour. The city is filled with history and haunts, making it the perfect getaway to dive into the Halloween spirit.
Sleepy Hollow, New York
The town of Sleepy Hollow is creepy…really creepy. For starters, it’s still quite small, having only around 9,000 residents. Furthermore, it’s still filled with historic Colonial Era buildings and is surrounded by woods. And there’s also that little old story about a headless horseman who stalks the town…That’s right, Washington Irving’s classic story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is actually based in Sleepy Hollow, New York.
Visitors can make their way to the Old Dutch Church, and its cemetery next door. The church was built in 1685 and is prominently featured in Irving’s story. In fact, the church’s cemetery is the Headless Horseman’s resting place. Irving himself is buried in the nearby Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
Throughout September and October, the town puts on numerous Halloween events including Sleepy Hollow tours and the yearly Pumpkin Blaze festival, complete with thousands of carved and lit jack-o-lanterns, Sleepy Hollow stories, fall snacks, and performances.
Savannah, Georgia is a town with its fair share of ghosts. For starters, the famous Bonaventure Cemetery is easily one of the creepiest cemeteries in the entire world, filled with old, weathered tombstones, and dangling weeping willows and mossy live oaks. If you’ve ever wanted to experience Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion ride come to life, this is the place.
The city itself has its fair share of haunted spots as well. The historic Marshall House hotel had to be turned into a makeshift hospital three times throughout its life. The first time was during the Civil War, where it was used as a hospital for Union soldiers. Then, on two separate occasions, the hotel had to be used to care for Yellow Fever victims. Countless people died within the hotel’s rooms (where guests now sleep) and visitors regularly experience apparitions and hear voices.
Other points of interest that have mysterious happenings and haunted pasts include the Gribble House and the Mercer Williams House, where the notorious events from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil took place.