16 Horrifying Historical Locations Where People Continue to Live in the United States
16 Horrifying Historical Locations Where People Continue to Live in the United States

16 Horrifying Historical Locations Where People Continue to Live in the United States

Larry Holzwarth - December 29, 2018

16 Horrifying Historical Locations Where People Continue to Live in the United States
Elizabeth Short, victim of the unsolved Black Dahlia murder, was reported to have been in the Hotel Cecil just days before she was killed. Santa Barbara Police Department

7. The Hotel Cecil in Los Angeles was haunted by living predator

In 2011 the Hotel Cecil was renamed Stay on Main, though it retained its historic signage identifying it as the Cecil. Currently being renovated, the Cecil had a long history of being one of the scariest and most dangerous places to live in the United States. When it opened in the 1920s it was a luxurious place to stay, and it retained that reputation until the 1950s, when it and the neighborhood surrounding it began a long slide into decline. Violent deaths and suicides at the Cecil were frequent beginning in the 1950s and continuing until the end of the century. The famous unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short, known as the Black Dahlia, took place after she was seen at the Cecil’s bar. At least two serial killers claimed the Cecil as their residence.

Suicide by defenestration from the upper story windows of the hotel was common throughout the 1950s and 1960s, to the point that other residents began to refer to the hotel as the Suicide rather than the Cecil. Several unsolved murders occurred within its rooms over the decades, and the hotel became well known as a destination for illicit trysts, drug dealers, and prostitution. In 2013 the naked body of a Canadian student named Elisa Lam was discovered in a water tank on the hotel’s roof after multiple complaints by residents of low water pressure and foul tasting water. The investigation revealed a video of her in an elevator acting strangely prior to her death as well as the fact that she was under treatment for bipolar disorder. Her death was ruled an accident.

16 Horrifying Historical Locations Where People Continue to Live in the United States
The historic Buxton Inn, in operation since 1812, is locally notorious for its ghosts. Wikimedia

8. The Buxton Inn in Ohio is haunted by spirits which include a cat

About 35 miles east of the state capital of Columbus, Granville is a small, New England style community dating back to the earliest days of the state. The Buxton Inn was built there in 1812, serving as a stagecoach stop and as the town’s post office. Stage drivers often stayed in the basement of the inn between shifts. Visitors to the inn have reported numerous encounters with ghosts, including the sightings of spectral images and the sounds of knocking emanating from the basement at times when that area of the building was unoccupied. The ghosts of several former owners are reported to roam about the inn, with one often seen sitting in the dining room, beneath a large portrait of himself which allows the guests who see him to accurately identify him.

Residents and visitors have reported smelling perfume outside the door of room number nine when the room was unoccupied, allegedly an aroma favored by former owner Bonnie Bounell. Bonnie has been reported to have been seen sitting in the room wearing a blue dress, as well as in other areas of the inn, preceded by wafts of her favorite scent. Another apparition reported in the inn is that of a large gray cat, seen roaming the halls and common rooms as well as the grounds. The cat’s original presence in the inn is unexplained, when it first appeared is not known beyond the speculation of storytellers, but the inn’s nineteenth century style main sign is an oval bearing the date 1812 and featuring a large gray cat lying down while looking directly at the observer.

16 Horrifying Historical Locations Where People Continue to Live in the United States
Cadets at the United States Military Academy have reported ghosts in their quarters. Library of Congress

9. Ghosts were reported at The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York

The United States Military Academy serves as the home for nearly 4,300 cadets and a large staff which shares the living, training, and recreational facilities with at least a half dozen ghosts. The Superintendent’s house, known as Quarters 100, has long been reported to be haunted by the families of the superintendent and by visitors. In the fall of 1972 five members of Company G-4 of the Corps of Cadets reported encountering paranormal activity, and submitted a written report. One of the encounters included seeing an apparition “dressed in a worn full dress gray coat” sitting on a toilet seat, carrying a Civil War vintage musket and bayonet. Later the apparition was spotted by several cadets in their room, where the image evidently lowered the temperature by absorbing the heat from the room.

Skeptical senior cadets and officers spent the night in the room, increasing in rank as each reported similar strange encounters, until it was decided to lock up the room rather than assign it to other cadets. The sudden appearance of the ghost, if that is what it was, was explained in several theories. One was that a recent séance held by paranormal experts in the superintendent’s house had caused it to flee those quarters, another held that a nearby abandoned cemetery had been the source of the wraith. Yet another ghost is said to reside in the basement of the superintendent’s house, that of a maid for Brigadier General Sylvanus Thayer during the early nineteenth century. At Halloween the cadets hold contests for the honor of spending the night in the locked room.

16 Horrifying Historical Locations Where People Continue to Live in the United States
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia, is one of scores of abandoned mental health facilities across the United States. Library of Congress

10. Several abandoned mental hospitals across the United States have attendants who live on the premises

Throughout most of the twentieth century states operated mental health hospitals and asylums for those deemed to be insane. What was considered to be insanity covered a vast range of complaints, including women committed by their husbands for being too emotional, or patients committing themselves to avoid debt collector’s importuning them for payment. Within the facilities electroshock therapies, isolation therapy, insulin therapy, and all manner of near medieval tortures were inflicted on the patients in well-intentioned but misguided attempts to improve their mental and physical health. Many patients died and were buried on the grounds in cemeteries with headstones marked only with a number, to protect the reputations of families.

In nearly all states there are abandoned mental health facilities, standing like ancient castles, crumbling slowly, with gurney’s and wheelchairs scattered about where they were left behind, ghostly remnants of clothing and paperwork, battered desks in offices, rusting beds with rotting mattresses, abandoned kitchens and tables, and other detritus. No places on earth are more suitable for the habitation of ghosts, of the victims who suffered there and of the caretakers who labored there. Yet in many there are still skeleton staffs of caretakers to protect the rotting buildings from the depredations of vandals and thieves, often they are there merely to protect curious trespassers from injuring themselves. Being alone in a vast former insane asylum on dark nights cannot be a comfortable experience.

16 Horrifying Historical Locations Where People Continue to Live in the United States
The LaLaurie Mansion is haunted by the ghosts of tortured and murdered slaves, according to some. Wikimedia

11. The LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans is reputedly haunted by the ghosts of tortured slaves

Delphine LaLaurie was a Creole socialite, twice widowed by 1825 when she married her third husband, a man much younger than she. In 1831 she purchased a lot at 1140 Royal Street in New Orleans, using her own funds, rather than those of her physician husband, and the following year built a two story mansion on the property, with attached quarters for her slaves included. The house became a resort to members of New Orleans society, with frequent dinners and other entertainments hosted by the LaLauries. It was not to last, in 1834 a fire destroyed much of the mansion and in the aftermath of the fire evidence of slaves being tortured and cruelly murdered on the second floor was revealed. LaLaurie fled New Orleans and her ultimate fate remains uncertain.

The ghosts of the tortured slaves, some of whom had their limbs broken and set in bizarre angles, others suspended by the neck in chains, are said to haunt the mansion, which over the years has served as a girl’s school, an apartment building, a furniture store, a bar, and other uses. All reported paranormal encounters over the years since the building was restored sometime in the late nineteenth century. The ghosts of tortured and murdered slaves were reported by visitors to the house even before it was restored, beginning in 1836. Since LaLaurie fled the property no owner has held it for a period exceeding five years. One such owner was actor Nicholas Cage, who lost the property to foreclosure after two and a half years, which locals attribute to the mansion’s being cursed. The house remains in private hands as of 2018, while tales of its haunting bring visitors to view its exterior.

16 Horrifying Historical Locations Where People Continue to Live in the United States
An 1842 sketch of Charles Dickens, one of several ghosts reported to haunt Boston’s Omni Parker House Hotel. Wikimedia

12. The Omni Parker House is called one of the most haunted places in America

Boston’s venerable Parker House – the birthplace of Parker House rolls and Boston Cream Pie – has numerous ghosts said to wander its halls and rooms, including that of Charles Dickens, who has been said to appear in a mirror. An elevator stops of its own accord at the third floor from time to time and the ghost of a young Harvey Parker is believed to frequent several rooms. The third floor is particularly haunted, creaking rocking chairs are reported by guests, though there are no rocking chairs on the floor, and the ghost of an actress who died in 1876 has been described as visiting once again. Dickens preferred the third floor when staying at the hotel, and it is there where he has been seen in a mirror.

Boston, being one of America’s oldest cities, claims numerous haunted sites, where the living have reported encountering the spirits of the dead. Parker House has more than its share. Room 303 has been reported to have unusual shadows appearing and disappearing and a bathtub which suddenly starts filling itself. Parker House, which was built in the 1850s and rebuilt in the 1920s, sits across the street from King’s Chapel, the grounds of which hold Boston’s oldest cemetery and is itself reputed to be haunted. Thus guests at the hotel are surrounded by ghosts, should the tales of them be true, and those staying on the ninth, tenth, and third floors are most likely to encounter them, according to the stories.

16 Horrifying Historical Locations Where People Continue to Live in the United States
Mark Twain is said to be one of more than twenty ghosts residing at 14 West Tenth Street in Manhattan. Wikimedia

13. 14 West Tenth Street in New York City is haunted by several ghosts

No less a personage than lifelong skeptic Samuel Clemens – he once wrote “faith is believing what you know ain’t so” – resided for a time in the townhouse at 14 West Tenth Street. He reported encountering paranormal activity in the house, supernatural events which ran counter to his oft professed opinions over an afterlife. He lived in the house for a year, a time during which he was working on his biography of Joan of Arc, which he later claimed was his favorite of all of his works. Since his death his own spectral image has been reported in the house, climbing the stairs while dressed in his signature white suit, cigar in hand. If true, Twain is one of 22 separate spirits which have been reported to reside in the house over the years, by several different owners and occupants of the dwelling.

During the 1930s Twain reportedly spoke to a mother and daughter who found him sitting near a window on the first floor. Other ghosts reported by residents of the building, which was converted to apartments in 1937, include a lady dressed in white, young children, and at least one gray cat. The building has been the scene of a murder-suicide, the beating death of a young girl by her adoptive father, and several other unnatural deaths, earning it the sobriquet “The House of Death”. One resident of the house recorded her encounters with the supernatural there in the book Spindrift: Spray from a Psychic Sea, which describes her conversion from a skeptic to a believer in ghosts and the supernatural.

16 Horrifying Historical Locations Where People Continue to Live in the United States
A resident believed that Satan himself was trying to enter his home by ringing the doorbell. Onorland via Wikimedia

14. The haunting of 136 Clinton Avenue in Brooklyn was reported in The New York Times – twice

Known as the Lefferts-Laidlaw House for reasons unclear, 136 Clinton Avenue was assaulted by spirits from outside the house, if the tales be true. That they are documented in police records and news reports lends some credence. The resident of the house, Edward F. Smith, encountered a malevolent spirit, or spirits, which rang the front door bell and simultaneously rattled the back doors, as if trying to get in. Suspecting children of practical jokes, the police were notified, but the bell ringing and door rattling continued for weeks, augmented by a brick thrown through a window while police were present both in the house and on the lawn outside. Nobody was found who could have done it, so the police searched the interior of the house, again finding nothing.

The harassment continued for three consecutive weeks in 1878 before abruptly ending. The resident of the house (real estate records indicate that Smith was not the owner at the time) was convinced that the culprit was Satan, and that fervent prayer had driven him away, rather than the efforts of the police. According to The New York Times the police discounted the theory of the master of hell ringing the doorbell, but were at a complete loss as to who or what did. In 2016 the house was listed on the market at a price of $4.5 million, with articles describing the three week bout of paranormal activity either adding to its luster or driving potential buyers away, depending on their point of view regarding the supernatural.

16 Horrifying Historical Locations Where People Continue to Live in the United States
A tornado which preceded the forming of a Force 5 tornado in Oklahoma in May, 1999. NOAA

15. Tornado Alley in the American Midwest

It doesn’t require ghosts or demonic possession for a place to be a terrifying place to live, as is proved when considering Tornado Alley in the United States. The term was coined as the title of a US Air Force study of severe weather in the central United States in 1952. Between Oklahoma City and Tulsa, along the Interstate 44 corridor, more than one million people reside in a region which is routinely struck by a series of tornadoes each spring. Since 1890, according to official records, more than 120 have struck Oklahoma City and its environs alone. On one day, May 3, 1999, seventy tornadoes ravaged the region known as Tornado Alley in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Oklahoma City has not gone more than five years without a tornado striking the area since 1950.

Along with the tornadoes, spawned by thunderstorms, comes heavy rains, and the topography of the Tulsa region makes it prone to severe flash floods. The combination of flooding and tornado damage is catastrophic in terms of loss, both financial and personal. In 1999 alone, during the May outbreak, tornadoes and flooding cost the lives of more than three dozen people and over $1 billion in damage to property, with an uncountable amount of lost productivity. Encountering spectral visitors should be peanuts compared to the fear of tornadoes which seemingly strike out of nowhere, with maddening frequency creating wanton destruction and death at random.

16 Horrifying Historical Locations Where People Continue to Live in the United States
The Centralia coal seam fire has been burning beneath the few remaining residents for well over half a century. Wikimedia

16. Centralia, Pennsylvania has gradually melted away

An underground coal fire which began in 1962 has been burning beneath the town of Centralia ever since, and is expected to continue for another two and a half centuries. Smoke and steam erupt through chasms created by the heat and the atmosphere is filled with sulphur fumes. Lethal amounts of carbon monoxide billows from sinkholes. In 1981 a twelve year old boy felt the ground dissolve beneath his feet, and a sinkhole which grew to more than 150 feet deep opened. His cousin saved his life by pulling him out of the abyss. More than one thousand residents relocated from the town during the decade of the 1980s, assisted by funds provided by the federal government. The fire spread beneath other nearby communities, requiring that they, too, be abandoned.

Almost incredibly, despite the dangers presented by the uncontrollable subterranean blaze, some residents of the town refused to leave, and were allowed to remain in what was left of the village for the rest of their lives. Upon their deaths their property would revert to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania under eminent domain. By the end of 2017 five residents remained in the town which had a population of more than one thousand according to the 1980 census. They exist in a community in which the ground beneath their feet can dissolve at any time, yet refuse to vacate their homes. Living above a fire which was and is a living depiction of the flames of hell was too much for most people, yet some choose to remain in a situation which frightened away most of their neighbors and friends.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Our Governor’s Mansions”. Cathy Keating. 1997

“Lizzie Borden’s house to be B & B crime scene”. Lois Shea, the Baltimore Sun. October 29, 1995

“The real story of the terrifying Stanley Hotel that inspired “The Shining”. Mapquest Travel. April 17, 2016. Online

“Dark memories swirl for caretaker at Seguin Island Lighthouse”. Cristopher Cousins, Bangor Daily News. August 15, 2012

“Beware, now’s the time for ghosts and ghouls to come out”. Pippa Jack, Block Island Times. October 27, 2001

“The Tragedy and Haunting at The Big Bay Lighthouse”. Mike Sonnenberg, Lost in Michigan. June 6, 2016. Online

“Once a den of prostitution and drugs, the Cecil Hotel in downtown L.A. is set to undergo a $100 million renovation”. Andrew Khouri, The Los Angeles Times. June 1, 2016

“Buxton Inn”. The Ghosts of Ohio. Online

“A Ghostly Cavalryman Reports for Duty at West Point”. Robert D. McFadden, The New York Times. November 21, 1972

“18 Abandoned Psychiatric Hospitals, and Why They Were Left Behind”. Mollie McBride Jacobson, Atlas Obscura. Online

“Madame LaLaurie. Mistress of the Haunted House”. Carolyn Morrow Long. 2012

“Haunted Guide to the Omni Parker House”. Ghosts and Gravestones/Boston. Online

“Spindrift: Spray from a Psychic Sea”. Jan Bryant Bartell. 1974

“The City of Phenomena: Ghosts in Brooklyn”. The New York Times. December 20, 1878

“The Tornado: Nature’s Ulitmate Windstorm”. Thomas P. Grazulis. 2003

“Fire in the hole”. Kevin Krajick, Smithsonian Magazine. May, 2005