Real haunted houses
You may have been one of those kids who used to muster up the courage to knock on the door of the creepy, rumored-to-be-haunted house in your neighborhood every Hallowen. Now it’s time to take it to the next level. Plenty of houses and hotels around the world claim to have supernatural happenings, but these seven are some of the absolute spine-tingling. While not all of these houses are open to the public, many are open to even stay the night. Just be prepared for some uninvited guests.
1. Woodchester Mansion — Gloucestershire, England
Abandoned by the last of various groups of builders in the mid-1860s, the Woodchester Mansion remains unfinished to this day. Inside the gargoyle-clad building you’ll find — amongst the strewn-about tools of Victorian-era workers — a dwarf-like ghost in the cellar, the see-through spirit of a little girl who runs up and down the stairs, and way too many bats for this place to not be haunted.
As can be expected, the mansion’s chapel experiences the most fear-inducing activity. Aside from the scent of recently extinguished candles that occasionally wafts through the building and the concerned apparition under the stained-glass windows, be wary of flying stones and other bits of rock that tend to be thrown across the room here.
2. Longfellow’s Wayside Inn — Sudbury, Massachusetts, US
The oldest continually operating inn in the United States, Longfellow’s Wayside Inn also houses the nation’s oldest cougar. Jerusha Howe, sister of one of the original owners of the Inn, continues to make her presence known in her old home, especially to men who opt to stay the night in her former bedroom.
According to local legend, Jerusha — also known as the Belle of Sudbury — died of a broken heart after falling in love with a British man who promised to return to America to marry her. He never did, and she died unmarried in 1842. Since then, she’s been hanging around the inn, still waiting for her lover to return and passing the time by playing on her piano, hovering over guest beds, and occasionally swooping under the covers to give unassuming men a little ghostly action.
3. Skirrid Mountain Inn — Monmouthshire, Wales
The ancient Skirrid Mountain Inn once doubled as a courtroom and execution space — a sure-fire way to encourage future ghostly hauntings. Over the course of a few hundred years, numerous accused criminals were hanged from the inn’s exposed stairwell beams.
In the mid-19th century, the inn finally decided to put away the noose and focus on actual hospitality, but the spirits of those executed here are still a bit displeased. Exacting their revenge, the ghosts at the Skirrid Mountain Inn have been known to slip invisible ghost-nooses around the necks of visitors, tightening them sharply enough to leave physical imprints on their skin.
To be fair, the inn also houses a few harmless apparitions as well, including a friendly clergyman and a mischievous lady who smells of perfume and enjoys levitating glasses (breaking several of them a week) and floating cash around the bar.
4. The Great House at Rose Hall — Montego Bay, Jamaica
The adopted daughter of a rumored voodoo priestess from Haiti, Annie Palmer was bound to become a scary story. After marrying a rich sugar plantation owner, she moved into her new digs in Rose Hall and promptly murdered her husband. She then married twice more, each relationship ending in another mysterious death. It wasn’t just husbands that experienced the wrath of Annie. During her time at the Great House, she regularly forced slaves to be her lovers, brutally killing them once she got bored of them.
Annie was eventually found smothered to death in her bedroom, ending her reign of terror over Rose Hall. Unfortunately, the ritual burial she was given went wrong and her spirit managed to escape. She now reveals herself as the true evil person she was by appearing in photographs as a smudgy face-shaped blob in a mirror.
5. Poveglia Island — Venice, Italy
Once a dumping ground for plague sufferers and dead bodies, Poveglia also served as an isolated mental hospital and retirement home for the indigent. Hundreds of thousands of people are said to have died in Poveglia, most of them alone and/or screaming. Their remains were typically shoveled into huge mass graves and unceremoniously burned. Understandably upset, their souls are said to still inhabit the island, where they moan a lot and stomp around the abandoned main building.
The island, now closed to the public, doesn’t attract too many visitors. Locals and water-taxis are reluctant to approach Poveglia and will likely think you’re crazy if you ask, so finding transportation can be a challenge. Perhaps you should just take that as a clue and stay away.
6. Gardette-LaPrete House — New Orleans, Louisiana, US
New Orleans is not short of spooky happenings, especially downtown, but one place in particular is worth planning a trip around. The Gardette-LaPrete House — often referred to as “Sultan’s Palace” — was once home to a mysteriously wealthy Turkish man, his large family, and a harem of young women and boys, many of which were rumored to have been held against their will. Known around the neighborhood for raucous sex parties, opium hangouts, and the piles of jewels and gold lying around the house, the Sultan’s Palace eventually became known for something much more gruesome.
The scene of one of the grisliest crimes in New Orleans history, the Gardette-LaPrete House was raided one night and every resident mutilated. The young Turk himself, however, was savagely beaten and buried alive in the courtyard.
While his gold and harem are long gone, the sultan still hangs around his mansion, leisurely floating by windows and burning incense. Don’t worry, only the occasional disembodied blood-curdling scream can be heard here from time to time.
7. Stanley Hotel — Estes Park, Colorado, US
Six miles from Rocky Mountain National Park, the Stanley Hotel is a scenic mountain-view property that would make for a terrific mountain retreat — if it weren’t for the dead kid in room 418 that likes to shake the beds of hotel guests and tickle them in their sleep. Or perhaps if the staff could do something about head chambermaid Elizabeth Wilson. She’s extremely helpful behind the scenes and always quietly takes care to help guests tidy their luggage and hang their coats. The only problem is that she’s kind of missing a pulse. Then there’s the ghost-perv in room 401 who likes to cop an occasional feel from women guests and has a gross habit of breathing heavily into the ears of the ladies.
The staff of the Stanley insists that its otherworldly visitors are of the friendlier, harmless variety. Nonetheless, we wouldn’t blame you for steering clear of any place on Earth that’s ever remotely served as inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining.
A version of this article was previously published on October 27, 2011, by Sarah Park and was updated on August 12, 2020, by Katie Scott Aiton.