There are few things I enjoy more than a good ghost tour. I love the combination of historical fact and creep-factor. But it’s not always easy to find a good ghost tour (and the bad ones…are REALLY bad), which is why I’ve started exploring some of the creepiest literary places from of my favorite stories on my own. I haven’t personally experienced anything paranormal, but that doesn’t stop me from looking. Here are a few of my favorites! Have I missed any? Let me know which ones you’ve explored in the comments.
Edgar Allan Poe’s House
203 N Amity Street, Baltimore MD [Image Source]
One of a few of Poe’s former residences that are now open to the public, the Edgar Allan Poe Baltimore house is the seminal collection of literary artifacts from his life. The home is largely unfurnished, but exhibits include his writing desk, telescope, china, and glassware that the writer used throughout his life. Still, walking down the same set of stairs and across the same floors as Poe is pretty cool. According to internet sources (very reliable, I’m sure), guests to the house have heard noises, seen shadows, and taken pictures inside the museum with unexplainable shadows. Can’t make it in person? Take a virtual tour here.
For the creepiest Edgar Allan Poe tales, check out Complete Tales & Poems.
14 West 10th Street NY, NY [Image Source]
This house is a staple on many a New York City ghost tour. Nicknamed the House of Death, some claim this location hosts up to twenty-two ghosts, including Mark Twain himself. Though Twain only lived in the building for about a year, more than a few visitors to the building claim to have seen him standing at the top of the stairs in a white suit. Others have reported seeing the ghosts of a woman, a little girl, and a gray cat. The house’s dark history progressed past Twain, though, after it was converted into apartment buildings. Many residents have said they’ve felt an eerie presence and “monstrous moving shadow” in the apartment that was formerly the servants quarters. But it was in the late 1980s that the building finally earned its macabre nickname when criminal defense attorney Joel Steinberg murdered his six-year-old step-daughter in their apartment inside the historic building.
Twain wasn’t exactly known for writing paranormal or ghost stories, but he does have this one humorous short story that pokes fun at the typical ghost story tropes.
Triangle Shirtwaist Factory
23-29 Washington Place, NY, NY [image Source]
Moving on down the street from the House of Death, one would find the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. At the height of sweatshop labor in New York City, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory experienced a devastating tragedy. In an effort to keep workers from leaving work or taking breaks, management locked all entrances and exits to the factory, which was located on the upper floors of the building. When fire broke out on March 25, 1911, many workers were trapped. Those who did manage to make it outside to the fire escape didn’t fare much better–the overcrowded and poorly secured structure collapsed. The fire resulted in 146 deaths but lead to a movement for workers’ rights and modern safety standards. The original building, now an historical landmark, still remains and is now owned by New York University. Students have reported seeing dark figures and hearing whispers, footsteps, cries for help, and women’s voices on the eight, ninth, and tenth floors of the building, which is where the fire took place.
Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix tells the story of three women involved in the fire told from alternating points of view.
The Edinburgh Vaults
South Bridge, Edinburgh, Scotland [Image Source]
According to the United Nations, Edinburgh is the “City of Literature,” and for good reason. JK Rowling sat in the Elephant House cafe while writing Harry Potter, Robert Burns has a monument in the center of the city, and Writer’s Close is a popular destination to learn about Scotland’s literary tradition. But if you’re looking for a different kind of tour, under the city one can (and absolutely should) visit a series of vaults built in the 1700s. The vaults were used for many things over the years–first beginning as spaces for legitimate businesses but quickly transitioning into the city’s red light district. Eventually it became a space to store bodies and victims of the plague. The ghost tours through these vaults are outstanding, creepy, and utterly fascinating. Many have experienced creepy things on these tours such as people appearing on the tour part-way through then disappearing before going back up to the street. Others have said they felt like they were being followed for days after they’d taken the tour. On the tour I attended the guide very seriously warned people to power off their cell phones because they had experienced cell phone data being completely erased while on the tour. (Definitely not because he wanted to give his tour without people texting, which I only realize now five years later. Still, it was creepy.)
The Edinburgh Dead is a seriously creepy tale of murder in the Edinburgh slums. Part historical fiction, part paranormal thriller, this one is a must-read.
The Stanley Hotel
333 E Wonderview Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517 [Image Source]
Some allegedly haunted places try to distance themselves from tales crafted around their property. Not so for the Stanley Hotel, the real-life location on which Stephen King based his fictional Overlook hotel in The Shining. The Stanley Hotel goes so far as to offer a Ghost Adventure Package, which guarantees a room on the fourth floor (though in the book, the haunted room in question was on the second floor), a K2 Meter per reservation, glow-in-the-dark squishy ghost, and a REDRUM mug. You can also reserve a ghost tour of the hotel, and “upgrades to a haunted room may be available at check-in.”
The book was better.
Mount Pleasant, NY [Image Source]
Just north of New York City lies the picturesque town of Mount Pleasant, in which the village of Sleepy Hollow can be found. It is here that Washington Irving set his famous story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Visitors to the town can tour the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, which houses the grave of Washington Irving himself, as well as many famous New Yorkers including Brooke Astor, Walter Chrysler, and William Rockefeller as well as many Revolutionary War veterans. Visitors can take a lantern-lit tour of the cemetery at night, listen to a dramatic performance of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, or attend the Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze.
Best read out loud with friends around a campfire.
The Amityville Horror House
112 Ocean Ave. Amityville, NY [Image Source]
True events inspired a book and later a movie based on the tragedy that occurred in this Long Island home. On November 13, 1974 Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered his parents, two brothers and two sisters inside the residence. A little over a year after he was arrested and convicted of second-degree murder, the Lutz family moved into the home. Twenty-eight days was all they could take, though, and they moved out less than a month later claiming to have witnessed paranormal activities. An account of their brief stay at 112 Ocean Ave is detailed in The Amityville Horror, which was later made into the movie Amityville Horror House. Skeptical? You can buy the house and decide if it’s haunted for yourself.
This book tells the “true” (there has been some controversy of the accuracy of the book) story of what happened when the Lutz family moved into the house.
The Iroquois Theater
24 W Randolph St. Chicago, IL [Image Source]
There are many supposedly haunted places in Chicago, but one of the better-known ones is The Iroquois Theater. On the afternoon of December 30, 1903 an electrical malfunction led to a massive fire, killing an estimated 600 people, many of whom were children. Similar to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, many fatalities occurred because the doors had been barred– in this case, to keep those without tickets from sneaking in. More than a hundred bodies were piled up in the alley outside the theatre (now referred to as Death Alley), which is where many still feel a sense of foreboding and unease. Inside the theatre, many have reported taking photos inside the theatre with inexplicable shadows or figures as well as smells of smoke and sounds of screaming.
Just Kill Me is actually ABOUT ghost tours in Chicago. It’s amazing, and if you like creepy places IRL, you should definitely check it out.