Perhaps you’re a skeptic and don’t put any stock in ghost stories. At least from the comfort of your own home. But when you’re out on a crisp night and a chill wind blows through you, is there maybe a second of doubt that crawls up from the ancient parts of your brain and puts you on high alert? If you’re into that sort of thrill, you might want to put these haunted cities on your bucket list.
In the Big Easy, the difficulty might be in finding a place that isn’t reputed to be haunted. A good place to start is the city’s oldest cemetery, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. In addition to the unique practice of above-ground burial (made necessary by the city’s low elevation and proximity to the Mississippi River), which gives the cemetery a labyrinthine feel, legendary Voodoo queen Marie Laveau is said to be buried there. Though visitors are now allowed in only with a guide, many have tried their hand at making an X on Laveau’s grave and spinning around three times in the hopes of having wishes granted. In the 1830s, so another tale goes, a man claiming to be a Turkish sultan bought the mansion at 716 Dauphine St. and immediately turned it into a den of debauchery, with wild parties raging into the night. The fun all stopped one day when someone, possibly a vengeful brother who was the real sultan, killed everyone inside and buried the impostor alive in the backyard. While the story is almost certainly not true, owners of the house throughout the years have reported strange occurrences in the night, and current owner Nina Neivens has stated that she “never feels alone” in the Sultan’s Palace.
Space was at a premium as Edinburgh grew during the Industrial Revolution. Shop owners on crowded South Bridge used underground vaults for storage, but eventually businesses began operating within the vaults and the city’s poor took up residence there. Burke and Hare, serial killers who sold bodies to a doctor for dissection, found many of their victims in the vaults. Eventually the vaults were abandoned and forgotten. In 1985, rugby player Norrie Rowan found a tunnel leading to them. He excavated the vaults in the 1990s, finding relics of an entire underground society in the dank tunnels, including children’s toys. Today, you can tour the supposedly haunted Blair Street Vaults and hear tales of all sorts of nefarious deeds that have taken place in Edinburgh. Many tours end with a dram of whiskey. You just may need it to steady your nerves.
The variety of islands of the Venetian Lagoon each have their own niches. Murano is famous for its blown glass, Burano for its lacework. Poveglia was used as a quarantine station for victims of plague and other diseases. In the 1920s, the island was converted into a mental hospital. As with many creepy asylums in the early days of treating mental health, the head doctor is alleged to have conducted invasive experiments of his patients. Legend has it the doctor was driven mad by the ghosts of his victims and threw himself from the hospital’s tower. While Poveglia is off limits to the public these days, Venice itself contains a number of haunted houses. There’s Ca’ Dario, which has earned a reputation as “the house that kills” after several former owners met ill fates. Today, it occasionally used by the nearby Peggy Guggenheim Collection for art shows. The Casino degli Spiriti on the outer edge of the island in the Canareggio neighborhood is considered a stop for restless souls who couldn’t quite leave this world. More likely, the mournful sound coming from the house is due to its position at the edge of the island with wind and waves rushing by, but you can see for yourself with a visit to the gardens.
Australia’s political capital is also its ghost capital. Workers in the Old Parliament House have reported seeing, hearing and smelling the presence of human activity late at night when they are supposed to be the ones in the 90-year-old building. In one instance, the entire security staff ran out and refused to go back because of an apparition. Cleaners have reported a woman screaming late in the night, and others have smelled cigar smoke wafting from an empty room. Former Prime Minister Ben Chifley, lived and died in a hotel across the street from the Old Parliament House and reportedly can be spotted in his gray suit pointing toward the building from his room some nights. Duntroon House, the oldest building in Canberra, is used by the Royal Military College, but it was once the home of merchant shipper Robert Campbell. His granddaughter Sophia Susanna Campbell died in a fall from her bedroom window under suspicious circumstances. Often the bed in her room appears to have been slept in despite Sophia taking a dirt nap over 130 years ago.
Infamous for the Witch Trials of 1692, Salem is a mecca for seekers of the paranormal. The Witch House, home of Jonathan Corwin, the judge who sentenced 19 young women to death, is now a museum and considered one of Salem’s most haunted spots. The first woman executed, Bridget Bishop, is said to haunt multiple buildings that stand where her apple orchard once did. Guests of the Hawthorne Hotel have reported smelling apples and seeing a female apparition walk the halls. At The Lyceum down the street, a woman also thought to be Bishop is often seen lingering on the staircase. George “The Strangler” Corwin was the sheriff of Essex County during the trials and engaged in some particularly cruel practices in attempts to extract confessions from alleged witches, including crushing Giles Corey to death with heavy stones over three days. He and Corey are thought to haunt the Joshua Ward House, which was built on land Corwin once owned. As you might expect, the Old Burying Point Cemetery is said to be fraught with spirits, including that of John Hathorne, another judge in the trials.