What better way is there to be completely spooked this Halloween than to visit a haunted house?
Not the kind where people in ghoul costumes jump out at you while passing among fake spider webs and plastic skeletons, but the sort where people really and truly believe there are ghosts.
Countless locations across the U.S. have been the settings of bone-chilling ghost stories, so here is a rundown of some of the (allegedly) scariest and (reportedly) most haunted places in the country.
Eastern State Penitentiary
Considered the first real penitentiary in the U.S., the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia played a key role in popularizing both separate and solitary confinement, not only across the country but also around the world.
For a time, all prisoners lived, ate and even exercised alone, until the policy was scrapped because of overcrowding. It has been argued that the constant solitude -- extending to inmates having to wear hoods over their heads while out of their cells -- caused some prisoners to go insane.
The penitentiary that once housed Chicago Outfit boss Al Capone and bank robber Willie Sutton was abandoned in 1971.
Eastern State is now a museum where visitors report hearing “footsteps in the yards, the sound of someone pacing in the cells, eerie noises and lonely wails that drift through the cold, dark corridors. Cell Block 12 is famous for its disembodied laughter, and one guard tower appears, on some nights, to be occupied by a shadowy figure keeping watch over the empty prison,” according to Time.
Many perished in the most horrifying of ways, so there are people who believe the restless souls of these fallen still wander the field, Time said, “searching for their rifles and comrades, unaware that the battle is over.”
RMS Queen Mary
First an ocean liner, then a troopship, then an ocean liner again, and finally a hotel and museum in Long Beach, Calif., the Queen Mary is nicknamed the "Grey Ghost.” However, this sobriquet is based not on anything spectral but on its color scheme and great speed.
Nonetheless, the Grey Ghost is reputed to encompass several haunted locations, as noted by Listverse. These sites include its engine room, where a young sailor died trying to escape a fire; its front-desk area, where visitors have reported seeing a “lady in white;” and its swimming pool, where the ghosts of children are believed to loom -- not large but memorably.
The White House
While Barack Obama and Mitt Romney battle for the privilege of calling the residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington “home” for the next four years, a number of U.S. presidents are reputed to have had trouble turning over the White House keys.
President William Henry Harrison can be heard rooting around the attic (possibly in search of a cold remedy), and President Andrew Jackson haunts his White House bedroom, according to Listverse.
Meanwhile, U.S. first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Netherlands Queen Wilhelmina all reported experiencing President Abraham Lincoln’s ghost in the Lincoln Bedroom. And, during President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administration, a clerk said he saw Abe sitting on a bed, pulling off his boots. Honest.
Considered the most haunted Major League Baseball park in the country, Wrigley Field is the place where Chicago Cub fans' dreams born in the spring die in the fall.
One of Wrigley's most renowned ghost stories centers on Charlie Grimm, the manager of the Cubbies between 1932 and 1938 and from 1944 to 1949. Grimm's ashes are believed to be buried in left field, according to mental_floss. Several night guards at Wrigley have reported seeing Grimm's shadow roaming the halls and -- somehow -- causing the bullpen telephone to ring.
The LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans is considered the most haunted place in the most haunted city in the country.
It was the home of Dr. Leonard Louis Nicolas LaLaurie and Marie Delphine LaLaurie in the 1830s. The aristocratic Creole couple was known for their decadent parties -- and Delphine was especially known for torturing their slaves as a means of keep them under control, according to About.com.
One story centers on the demonic Delphine chasing a young female slave onto the roof of the house, whence the girl jumped to her death to escape. Residents of and visitors to the house report seeing the ghost of this very girl running on the roof.
Many other apparitions are associated with the fire that occurred at the LaLaurie Mansion in 1834, when a number of slaves were reportedly found shackled, mutilated, and begging for mercy.
Italian immigrants who lived in the house around the turn of the 20th century reported being attacked by a black man in shackles. It is also said that when the house underwent one of its many transformations -- this time into a furniture store -- the merchandise would frequently become saturated with a “mysterious foul-smelling fluid.”
Any place believed to be harboring the ghost of Al Capone must be an extremely haunted one, to say the least. And that is indeed Alcatraz's reputation.
The Alcatraz Island prison, which is surrounded by the San Francisco Bay, has a long history of hauntings, with one guard having reported hearing the sound of a banjo -- the instrument that Capone played in the prison band -- according to About.com.
One especially eerie story dating back to the 1940s involves a convict in Cell 14D who was found dead one morning after screaming all night that a creature with glowing eyes was killing him. The next day, guards reported there were one too many inmates during head counts, as they saw the dead man in line, but only for a moment before he vanished.
The Myrtles Plantation
Called Laurel Grove by Gen. David Bradford, who built the spread while on the lam in 1796, the Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, La., is considered one of the most haunted houses in America, with as many as 12 ghosts purportedly on the premises, according to Listverse. One of them could be William Winter, who was murdered on the property in 1871. (Well, he could be, were there such things as ghosts.)
The most famous of the Myrtles Plantation ghosts is a slave called Chloe (or Cleo). Details of her story vary wildly. In one telling, Chloe's master, Clark Woodruff, forced her to be his mistress. In another telling, Chloe had her ear cut off after being caught eavesdropping at a keyhole. After many twists in the story, Chloe supposedly killed Woodruff’s wife, Sara, and his two daughters by feeding them a poisoned cake. Other slaves then hanged her and threw her body in the Mississippi River.
The Whaley House
Even the house's builder, James Whaley, came across a ghost on the property, according to Time. "Yankee" Jim Robinson was hanged at the location in 1852, five years before the home was constructed. But Robinson appears to have hung around all that while, as Whaley reported hearing his loud footsteps in the halls.
Ironically, Whaley and his wife are also now counted among the house's ghosts. The smells of cigar smoke and perfume supposedly indicate their spectral presence.
The Winchester Mystery House
Another home classified as haunted by the U.S. Commerce Dept., the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, Calif., is as whimsical on the inside as it is on the outside.
Home to Sarah Winchester, the house was believed by her to be filled with ghosts of people who died from bullets fired by Winchester rifles, according to Time.
Believing also that these same spirits killed her husband and daughter, Winchester had the home under constant construction for 38 years, basically turning it into a maze to confuse the ghosts and make it impossible for them to settle. The house is replete with dead ends, including “staircases to nowhere [and] doors that open onto brick walls or 10-foot drops," as noted by Time.