Everyone loves a good ghost story. Especially when it’s Halloween. If you’re an avid traveller, you know that a haunted location isn’t very far from any place you travel to. Think spooky castles and palaces, eerie hotel rooms, ghost tours and misty hilltops where holidaymakers are warned not to venture to!
And while the United States is known for many things, it also plays home to hundreds of hauntings and UFO sightings. Not to forget urban legends where ghosts take up residence in cinema halls, hospitals and even opera houses!
While this list gives you some of the spookiest places and experiences in the US, it also includes a few more from other parts of the world. We’ve also made certain to include experiences that allow for a dollop of fun, so that even the faint-hearted can enjoy these events. Even if we’re talking ghosts and hauntings, it doesn’t all need to be terrifying.
Our list starts with haunted places and hotels, goes on to include ghost tours, and then, we also have family fun events!
Be sure to save this piece for your travel bucket-list inspiration.
Hearst Castle, SLO CAL, California – Ghostly footsteps when no one is around!
One of California’s most spectacular properties, Hearst Castle is a sight to be seen year round. Designed and built by art collector and newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst, the meticulously preserved hilltop estate was once an enchanted escape for the rich and famous, with impressive parties held on a regular basis. Today, some would say the property is haunted or spooky, as estate caretakers claim to hear footsteps, music and laughter, as if the party still goes on. Starting again this October, experience the historic property illuminated at night on a seasonal evening tour, as a guide will take you throughout the main rooms of the property, passing docents in period dress as they move silently through the glamorous rooms of Casa Grande. Evening tours last 1 hour 40 minutes and tickets start from £18.50 for a child and £38 for an adult.
The Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite Mariposa County California – Get a feel of ‘The Shining’
The Ahwahnee was built in the 1920s by American architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood with the specific goal of attracting well-to-do clientele. In the following century, it has more than fulfilled that ambition, hosting presidents, royalty and a few ghosts. If guests have seen the film ‘The Shining‘ they might get a familiar feeling when they step inside. While the Stanley Hotel was the inspiration for Stephen King’s bestselling book, the recognisable interior sets of the hotel in the movie, The Overlook, was heavily influenced by Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel. Inside the lobby, visitors will find the cavernous ceilings, Native American-inspired patterns, and even the frightening red-doored elevators from the movie.
Hyatt Santa Barbara, California – Paranormal activities abound
Now considered as one of California’s most haunted hotels, the beachfront Hyatt Santa Barbara was once a WWII hospital. Employees and guests have witnessed various paranormal activities in the hotel including sightings of grey shadows, flying objects, lights flickering on and off, and ghostly footsteps.
Bodie Ghost Town, Mammoth Lakes, California – Don’t steal a souvenir from here!
Bodie State Historic Park, located close to the mountain town of Mammoth Lakes, is a California gold-mining ghost town and one of America’s most atmospheric. People flocked to Bodie in 1875 and transformed it from a town of a few dozen to a lawless wild west, where brothels, shootouts and killings were rife. Winter used to bring 100 mph gusts, 20-foot snow drifts and single-digit temperatures, which only adds to its eerie image. Interiors remain as they were left and stocked with goods.
Designated as a National Historic Site and a State Historic Park in 1962, the remains of Bodie are being preserved in a state of “arrested decay”. Today this once thriving mining camp is visited by tourists, howling winds and an occasional ghost… Bodie visitors will want to leave every nail, rock, and stick exactly as they see it. People have been known to experience a string of nightmare events after helping themselves to Bodie souvenirs!
Maroka Castle, Fukui prefecture, Japan – Bad tidings when you break a promise
From the sunny climes of California, we transport you to Japan. Maruoka Castle in Japan’s Fukui prefecture is an ancient three storey castle surrounded by 400 beautiful yoshino cherry trees blossoming each year. However, the castle has a deeply dark history. The lord of Maruoka tried to build a new castle on this site in the 16th century, yet the story goes that every time the stone walls were built, they would collapse. Eventually, a human sacrifice was decided as the fix to this, and a local widow came forward asking for her son to be elevated to the samurai rank in return. The widow was buried alive under the central pillar of the castle and construction went ahead smoothly. However, the lord did not keep his promise to the widow, and each April the castle moat flooding is said to be the widow’s tears.
Pioneer Square Ghost Tour, Seattle, Washington
Discover Seattle’s spooky history after dark with the Pioneer Square Ghost Tour.
Guided by paranormal investigators who have gathered stories and evidence in Seattle for over 30 years, visitors will explore Seattle’s oldest neighbourhood and learn about its haunted history. Both believers and sceptics are welcome, with guides guaranteeing that all visitors will discover something which shocks or excites them.
Old Sacramento Living History’s Ghost Tours, Sacramento, California
With a theme of murders, mayhem and tragedies this year, the eerie and ever-popular one-hour Ghost Tours provide Old Sacramento Waterfront guests with the opportunity to relive 19th century lore.
This year, the tours will take place at the riverfront, inside and relatively close to the Sacramento History Museum, as daring and inquisitive guests revisit stories of pestilence, mayhem, quacks and fraud through the darker side of Sacramento’s fascinating history. Along the way, tour guests may encounter wayward miners, murder victims and other Gold Rush characters.
Please note that tickets are £23 per person. They are not recommended for children ages 8 and under. Tours depart from the Sacramento History Museum every half-hour.
Halloween at Tremblant, Quebec
On 30 October, Tremblant ski resort will transform its pedestrian village into a Halloween wonderland that’s fun for all the family. Little ones are encouraged to dress up in costumes and visit each of the activity stations, where there’ll be live music, sweets, face painting and more. The event is free for all ages to attend. Find out more at www.tremblant.ca
Halloween Science Kids Cruise, Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades, Florida’s Paradise Coast
In the run up to Halloween, this family friendly cruise and show will combine Halloween-themed science fun with scenic views of the Gulf of Mexico. On 22 October, Naples-based tour company, Pure Florida, is offering this unforgettable experience for children to wear their scariest costumes and get involved with the show’s interactive fun and science experiments. After the show, enjoy a 90-minute open air boat ride around the coast and Marco Island.
Halloween in Yosemite’s Tuolumne County, California
Halloween makes for the perfect time to visit Yosemite’s Tuolumne County. With the leaves turning red, gold and copper, the county is not only perfect for leaf-peeping, but full of fun events for the whole family. Kids will love the Halloween-themed train ride at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park and ghost tours at Columbia State Historic Park, while adults can sample seasonal treats at Indigeny Reserve and Covers Apple Ranch. Find out more at www.visittuolumne.com
Why spooky places and events make for fun travel experiences
- You will discover a newer side to a city or town
- A ghost tour or a drink in a haunted pub will equip you with so many stories to share with friends and family — imagine a bonfire night full of storytelling
- Some ghost tours are offered at night-time and you end up seeing historic neighbourhoods and cemeteries in a new light
- You can be a tourist in your own city
- They don’t have to be scary — some events are family friendly, meaning you can wear costumes and have a good laugh over it all