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Four Truly Terrifying Spooky Destinations

Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA
Allianz - Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA

Maybe you’re in the mood for a fall road trip… but leaf-peeping just doesn’t get your heart racing. It’s time to plan a weekend getaway to one of America’s scariest places.

Every state has its own famous haunted hotels and haunted houses. But if you're looking for places to visit that are out of the ordinary, try these extra-spooky destinations.

Don’t forget travel insurance! While insurance can’t defend you from the supernatural , it can safeguard your trip investment, protect your rental car, help out in emergencies and more. Find an affordable plan for your next trip.

Eastern State Peniteniary in Philadelphia, PA

Allianz - Hallway in Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA

The forbidding stone Eastern State Penitentiary is one of the East Coast's best-known spooky destinations. Built in 1829, the supposedly escape-proof prison had a lofty goal: to reform the criminals within its walls by forcing them to consider their misdeeds. Inmates were kept in silent, solitary confinement and given only Bibles to read. This treatment was later deemed inhumane and abandoned, but the prison continued to house criminals -- including gangster Al Capone -- until 1971.

Today, visitors can explore the Gothic ruins with daily tours of Eastern State Penitentiary (not recommended for children under seven.) The adventurous can climb down into "the Hole" to see the four windowless cells used to punish prisoners. If you're looking for more chills, in the fall Eastern State Penitentiary opens its doors for nighttime tours. Get “the chance to explore the cellblocks and yards of Eastern State Penitentiary at night, with the moon shining through skylights above.”1 You’ll also see vivid projections on the 30-foot walls, including Hidden Lives Illuminated, a collection of animated films by incarcerated artists. (Terror Behind The Walls, a popular haunted-house experience, resumes in 2021.)

Point Lookout Lighthouse in St. Mary’s County, MD

Not your typical tower-style lighthouse, Point Lookout resembles a house with a beacon for a top hat. Standing at the confluence of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay, the lighthouse was built in 1830, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that paranormal activity was reported by the residents. They heard people snoring and talking loudly outside; lights turned on and off by themselves; doors banged; and strangest of all, “the kitchen wall started to glow one night for about 10 minutes.”2

Since then, many visitors have reported their own strange experiences when visiting the Point Lookout lighthouse, including sightings of several spectral figures. One couple met a young boy on the lighthouse stairs, a bubbly and enthusiastic child who told them, "This is the most 'haunted-est' lighthouse in the whole country!" The couple asked the volunteer if the child were his, and the volunteer said he hadn’t seen any children at all that day. The boy had vanished.3

You can visit Point Lookout State Park to see the lighthouse and learn about the area’s history as a Civil War POW camp (the source, some believe, of many supernatural events). The lighthouse itself underwent significant restoration in 2020, and has been temporarily closed to visitors. Check the Point Lookout Lighthouse Preservation Society’s site for the latest updates on tours and night walks.

The Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA (temporarily closed)

Allianz - Queen Mary ship

The Queen Mary is unique among America's haunted places to visit: It's an enormous ship that's also a hotel, restaurant, museum and event space. Launched in 1936, the Queen Mary was then the world's most luxurious ocean liner, boasting cocktail bars, swimming pools, a squash court and an enormous ballroom. During World War II, the ship shed its luxury trappings and served as a troop ship, carrying thousands of soldiers to the European front.

In 1967, the Queen Mary was permanently moored in Long Beach. The ship is now one of the most popular scary places to visit in California. The Haunted Encounters tour brings to life the many spirits said to inhabit the ship, from the seamen who drowned in a tragic collision during World War II to the ghost of a little girl who died near the pool. For a closer encounter, stay the night in this haunted hotel – Nighttime experiences include a theatrical séance with Aiden Sinclair, a walk that visits the ship’s ghostly hot spots, and an interactive, guided paranormal investigation.

Bobby Mackey's Music World in Wilder, KY

From the outside, this honky-tonk outside of Cincinnati looks unremarkable: a long, squat building on the banks of the Licking River. Yet Bobby Mackey's Music World has become one of the best-known spooky destinations for ghost hunters and thrill seekers.

The list of legends and occurrences associated with the nightclub is long. In the 1800s, the site was occupied by a slaughterhouse that spilled blood into the river via a basement well, attracting (some say) Satanic worshippers. In 1896, a young woman named Pearl Bryan was found decapitated nearby; many years later, a pregnant cabaret dancer poisoned herself. In recent years, the club's staff and ghost hunters have reported seeing apparitions and a glowing hexagram, as well as being scratched by unseen claws.

Is this honky-tonk really one of America's most haunted places to visit? There's one way to find out: walk in the door. Bobby Mackey's Music World is still a lively nightclub that offers two-hour paranormal tours. Ghost-hunting teams may also conduct investigations for a fee.4

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