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The Haunting Days of Fall

Sandy Klim

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The lazy days of summer will soon yield to the crisp fall air that signals the start of autumn. As the rich kaleidoscope of leaves begins crunching underfoot, we look ahead to the one holiday that makes its mark on the season—Halloween. It's a holiday designed for play, with no presents to buy and no huge dinners to cook. Halloween is just for fun.

To truly get into the spirit (Did someone say spirit?), it's also the one time of year when we can embrace all that's scary and creepy—from ghostly houses to headless riders. We've found a few eerie destinations that would make perfect haunts for travelers hoping to get a little spooked.


Frightening St. Augustine, FL

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Castillo de San Marcos
Photo by St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches VCB

The nation's oldest city can also boast that it's considered the most haunted city in the Sunshine State. When the sun sets and the moon rises, St. Augustine comes alive with the ghosts from centuries of bloody French, Spanish and British battles. Add in years of Seminole uprisings, the Civil War, pirates, rumrunners and Prohibitionists, and you have yourself a surplus of spirits! This has made for some great ghost tours, complete with hearse rides and authentic K-II EMF Ghost Meters.

Not to be missed is the Castillo de San Marcos, often called "The Old Fort." This immense, star-shaped structure has stood in the same location for over three hundred years, and is well-known for its hauntings and unexplained phenomenon. Visitors have reported capturing pictures of ghosts and "orbs" that seemingly surround the fort. At its heart is an event from 1833 that left a wife and her lover chained and encased in a wall by her jealous husband. They are said to wander the fort together each evening.

The Huguenot Cemetery, built in 1821, is also a perfect site to spot some spirits. Children who were victims of yellow fever are said to dance among the tombstones.

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Haunted Key West, FL

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Robert the doll
Photo by Key West Art and Historical Society

Most folks think of Key West for its sun-soaked beaches and fragrant piña coladas. But lurking behind this cheerful disposition lies an impressive history of creepy events. The city's former residents—including buccaneers, morticians and voodoo practitioners—provide the perfect backdrop for these hauntings. Captain Tony's Saloon was once the island's morgue, and the tree that grows through its center is reported to have been a site for lynching pirates and criminals. Many say their spirits still roam the saloon today.

The former home (and now museum) of Ernest Hemingway is said to house the novelist's ghost. There are those who claim he walks the grounds, and others have heard the click-clacking of a non-existent typewriter.

The creepiest artifact in Key West is Robert, a large doll that many say is possessed. Owned by Gene Otto as a child in the early 1900s, he was deathly afraid of it, saying it threatened him and threw furniture around the room. His parents swore they saw Robert moving on his own, and neighbors reported that the doll paced before the window when the family was out.

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Macabre Savannah, GA

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Savannah's Kehoe House, considered one of the spookiest in the city, is said to be haunted by the spirits of twin girls.
Photo by Savannah Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

This sweet Southern town is considered by many to be the most haunted city in America. It was actually named such by Fox Television's Scariest Places on Earth series. Savannah has enough history and legend permeating the old town to fill hundreds of books.

The classic beauty of Savannah by day is said to be replaced by a "midnight side" each evening. Haunted cemeteries can be found throughout the area, where chilling stories and ghost tales speak of ghouls, ghosts and vampires. Haunted plantations and historic locations are home to soldiers of the Civil War who still plan battles or stand guard—long after their death. Savannah's Fort Jackson is the oldest standing fort in Georgia and has a rich and violent history. It's one of the city's most popular haunted tourist attractions, with unmatched daytime educational and historical programs, and "after hours" programs for ghost hunters of all ages. Savannah is famous for several hotels and B&Bs that are said to be frequented with strange phenomena, eerie occurrences and ghostly visits.

Make a night of it—if you dare!

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Scary Nashville, TN

While Nashville is best known for country music, many have discovered the more ghostly side of this famed city.

In the area of town known as Music Row, you'll find the site of the old Jacob Schnell Mansion (now home to Capitol Records). It is reportedly bothered by the outworldly of Schnell's daughters. Strange voices, phantom footsteps, bizarre-acting electronics and cold drafts all are said to plague the building. In the Ryman Auditorium, the infamous Grand Ole Opry Curse is said to have taken the lives of music makers from days gone by.

Andrew Jackson's The Hermitage is believed to be haunted with "The Hermitage Ghosts." The State Capitol Building itself is not free from ghostly activity. Many say its violent history continues on in hauntings by slaves and others.

Also see: In nearby Adams, TN, you'll find the location of one of the most famous supernatural entities in America, the Infamous Bell Witch. The Blair Witch Project, a cult classic film, is said to have been based on this legend. This poltergeist haunted pioneer families from 1817 to 1821.

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Eerie Memphis, TN

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Although Memphis is famously known for being the location of Elvis Presley's Graceland estate, the city is also home to a number of spectral sightings and ghostly happenings. One of the most famous areas of the city is Voodoo Village—yes, it really does exist in southwest Memphis. Known to haunted enthusiasts for generations, this area is an assortment of brightly colored houses, many sporting strange artwork, symbols and sculptures. The area holds a variety of weirdly interesting shops. Rumors of strange rituals and sightings continue to thrive here.

St. Paul's Spiritual Temple is said to house more than just church services. The huge iron fence surrounding the building adds to the scare factor, and stories say that it's home to the walking dead and black magic spells. Caliss Cutoff, located near Winchester and Germantown Road, is said to have been the gathering place for vampires, witches and voodooists. Although completely developed today, some believe it carries residual spirits from days gone by. And don't forget to stop at The Orpheum Theatre, a restored 1920s vaudeville and movie palace that also is said to be the home of a little girl's ghost. "Mary" plays the organ, plays tricks on the stage hands and actors, and lets her presence be known. She also likes seat C5. She was killed in an accident on Beale Street in the 1920s, and is one of Memphis' better-known spirits.

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Bewitching Salem, MA

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Salem Witch Museum
Photo by Salem Witch Museum/Bob Deschene

One can't think of Salem without witches and witch trials coming to mind. It's even been branded "Witch City," celebrating its spooky past with enchanting shops, strange museums and more—not only on Halloween, but year-round!

Friendly and spirited modern-day Salem witches guide you through the city's mysteries and history. The Salem Witch Museum presents one of the most tragic and enduring events in American history—The Witch Hysteria of 1692. The exhibit "Witches: Evolving Perceptions" traces the myths of this mysterious religion, from midwives and healers to witch hunts and Wiccans. Join a ghost hunt at the famed Danvers State Mental Hospital. This huge, gothic building is considered one of America's most haunted asylums. Many believe the most haunted Salem hotspot is the Old Burying Point Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in Massachusetts and the alleged site of the true "Witch Dungeon." This is where Giles Corey was pressed to death with large stones.

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