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posted on October 31st, 2016

Haunted history

Cobwebs and skeletons hang on every house and storefront this time of year. If you’re looking for something a little creepier than your neighbor’s front-yard Jack Skellington, though, the history of North America is full of ghoulish landmarks. Here’s our collection of the spookiest sites to get your scare on this season.  

Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, CA

Widow of the wealthy creator of Winchester rifles, Sarah Winchester built this home after losing both her daughter and husband to illnesses. A medium instructed her that she must build a home for the souls of those killed by Winchester rifles to appease them, and never cease building. Until her death, construction continued on the Winchester Mystery House, and today it’s a maze of stairs that end in ceilings, doors that open into walls, and stretching hallways that seem to lead nowhere.

Moundsville Penitentiary, Moundsville, WV

With over 1,000 estimated inmate deaths at this Gothic-style behemoth of a building, the Moundsville Penitentiary is rife with hauntings. Since executions began in 1899, 94 men were put to death here, and many more died of natural causes or prisoner violence. The famous Shadow Man is said to lurk in the hallways, and the ghost of a maintenance man stabbed to death by inmates in the basement never left. Tour the property after dark for the spookiest experience.

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Craigdorroch Castle, Victoria, BC

Now a museum, Craigdorroch Castle looks just as it did in the Victorian era. It’s said that former resident Joan Dunsmuir, of the Dunsmuir business empire, haunts the property — visitors have laid claim to smelling burning candles coming from her room, and it’s been said that she’s even appeared in photographs taken at the castle. Though the owners don’t claim that it’s haunted, the rumors don’t stop with Joan — reports have been made of apparitions of a little girl and a maid, a woman’s feet running down stairs, and strange music that seems to come from nowhere.

Alcatraz, San Francisco, CA

Isolated Alcatraz, also called The Rock, was home to some of the nation’s most dangerous criminals. Al “Scarface” Capone, who went insane when stricken by syphilis, feared other inmates were plotting against him and spent recreation periods playing banjo alone. Today, guards claim to hear distinct banjo music coming from his favorite spot after visitors have left. Cell 14D also holds a creepy history: known as “the hole,” it was used for solitary confinement. One prisoner sent there screamed of a creature with glowing red eyes in the cell with him, and was found strangled to death the next morning, with wounds the autopsy said couldn’t be self-inflicted.

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St. Augustine Lighthouse, St. Augustine, FL

Even sunny Florida isn’t immune to ghouls in its landmarks. The cheerfully striped St. Augustine Lighthouse belies an ominous past: legend says that the daughters of the Superintendent of Lighthouse Construction drowned, and haunt the building today. Visitors have claimed to hear the daughters giggling at night, and some have reported seeing the eldest daughter in the clothes she wore the night of her death. Besides the young girls, a keeper named Joseph tumbled to his demise from the lighthouse, and three others died from illness within the building.

Virginia is equally enamored with words and globetrotting. Whenever possible, she likes to combine the two through travel writing to help other wanderers discover and fall in love with the world.