Today is Halloween and while I don’t normally time posts to run concurrently with holidays, I think that Halloween and travel go hand in hand. There are a surprising number of spooky experiences around the world, from ghost tours to haunted hotels and even entire cities that are undeniably scary. So today I thought I’d share a few of my favorite spooky travel experiences that certainly sent a chill up my spine.
New Orleans, Louisiana
One of the country’s oldest cities, it has also arguably had the most interesting history over the centuries. As a port city, people of all types have shuffled through the city and over the years a vast collection of ghost stories has developed. It’s common to see house listings indicate, for example, whether or not a property is haunted. That’s weird, but that’s also quintessentially New Orleans. One of the best places to get into the Halloween spirit is my favorite part of town, the Garden District. More than just big mansions from antebellum days, it’s a quirky neighborhood with its own unique personality. To see some of this proclivity towards the strange, stop by Lafayette Cemetery No.1 with its famous aboveground mausoleums and tombs. It’s a little spooky, but beautiful in its own right.
Germany’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site is also a fun place to go for a spooky visit, the Speicherstadt. Hamburg has long been an important port city, fueling the imperial ambitions of many a leader. At the heart of this commercial success was the turn of the century Warehouse District, nearly a mile long it’s the largest timber-pile founded warehouse district in the world. More than just a utilitarian storage area, the district was constructed with design and grace in mind. Small little alcoves and ornamentation can be found everywhere, an Easter egg hunt for the curious. The nearby buildings of the Kontorhaus district also reward the curious. Exemplifying the best of Art Deco design, these office buildings were created between the 1920s-40s and not only show off the beautiful design of the era, but also speak to the rapid growth of the city’s commercial side during the time period. When put together, wandering around both neighborhoods is a fun way to spend some time in Hamburg.
Mizpah Hotel, Nevada
I don’t know what it is about old ghost and mining towns and their proclivity to paranormal behavior, but it’s been a consistent theme in my travels and nowhere was that more true than when I spent a night in the remote town of Tonopah, Nevada. My end point after completing the Extraterrestrial Highway, the Mizpah Hotel was built in 1907 and really is a fascinating throwback to another era. The opulence and luxury at the hotel seems completely out of step with the town surrounding it today, but I’m thankful it does still exist, otherwise I would’ve missed my chance to sleep in one of the most haunted hotels in the country. The most notable ghost is the so-called Lady in Red who many believe is the ghost of a prostitute who was beaten and murdered on the 5th floor of the hotel by a jealous boyfriend. No one knows for sure who she is, but given how widespread the accounts are of her presence, there’s no doubt that something otherworldly calls the hotel home.
One place has scared me more than any other and it’s a place that confirmed for me the presence of something else. I rented a short-term vacation property while visiting Valletta, the beautiful capital city of Malta. I’ve long had a fascination with the Knights of Malta, which is why I was so excited to be there in the first place. That’s also why when I saw listed for rent a townhouse that had once been part of a larger estate owned by a 16th century Knight, I was excited. Thankfully the owners through the years kept the same look and feel of the fortress house, with very thick stone walls and an entrance way that had once allowed horseback riders into the property. It was perfect. Until it was time to go to bed. I was alone, in a large castle-like building and at night it was downright spooky. I went upstairs to turn off the lights and went back to the main floor bedroom. I looked up and the lights were back on. Not good. I was scared, I’m not going to lie, but I somehow mustered up the courage to go back upstairs and turn them off again. Halfway down the stairs, there was a huge crash behind me and I raced down the stairs, ran into my room and bolted the door. I was terrified and had no idea what to do. The next morning, items in kitchen had been tossed down to the ground. I looked around, no windows were open so I couldn’t even blame a wandering cat. I was scared and thankful I only had one night in the beautiful house still occupied apparently by its former owners.
Williamsburg is one of the great colonial cities of the United States, and thanks to some amazing restoration work, visitors can experience what the capital city must have been like in the 17th century. Of course, along with great age comes great history, especially the spooky kind. There are many stories associated with Williamsburg, but one of the most famous is the story of the Two Little Boys of Williamsburg. According to legend, there was once a father who had a little boy who was six years old, as well as a slave of the same age. The boys always played together, exploring the glens and forests of the area. Then the father passed away suddenly, and was buried in a small graveyard. His son died a year later from the same disease and was buried on top of his father. The slave boy died as well and was added to the family grave. Thousands of people since have reported seeing the boys in Williamsburg, one African American and one Caucasian, holding hands and skipping down the road. They have red glowing eyes and float a few inches above the ground and have terrified the thousands of people who swear they’ve seen them.
Hoover House – Western Australia
Located in the middle of nowhere in the Outback of Western Australia is an old gold mine (still operational by the way) and a very unlikely home – the Hoover House. In 1898, the future president of the United States was a mining executive and commissioned this home, now a B&B, for his use while overseeing the adjacent mine. I was excited to visit because where else are you going to have a luxury B&B next to an operating gold mine with a connection to a US President? My guess is that this is the only option in that category. Checking in, the manager wouldn’t tell me the full story, but did allude to a resident ghost, a young woman and her dog that can be seen throughout the house, including her old room. That night was a windy one, and naturally I imagined all sort of paranormal life around me as I slept with my head under the covers. I was terrified, but luckily survived to tell the tale.
Walking tours are a great way to learn about a new city and Annapolis is no exception. Given its age, there is a long tradition of ghost stories in and around town so we jumped on a ghost tour to learn about the city’s history in a different way. Annapolis Ghost Tours runs one of the highest ranked tours in the world, giving guests the option of a traditional ghost tour or a haunted pub crawl. The tour was an event, there’s no better way to put it. Our guide was enthusiastic and excited about her city, her energy making the tour a lot of fun for everyone. Sure we learned a lot about the many ghosts in the city, and yes a chill went up my spine more than once but it was also a really informative tour. I learned about the city’s early history and how important it was in the country’s formation.
What are your favorite spooky travel experiences?