October 31 means different things to different people across the United States. To many kids, it means a night of dressing up and accumulating candy. To young adults, it often means themed parties and clever costumes. To parents, it means picking up a large bowl and a jumbo candy bag at the store or escorting the kids and their friends around the neighborhood. But this night wasn’t always about jack-o’-lanterns and Kit Kat bars.
The holiday is thought to have originated from an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain, when bonfires and costumes were said to deter ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III declared November 1 All Saints’ Day, a holiday meant to pay tribute to martyrs and saints. The evening before became known as All Hallows’ Eve, before evolving into the widely celebrated holiday it is today. Although October 31 does seem to bring forth widely anticipated feelings of unease, fright, and downright spookiness, reports of paranormal experiences certainly aren’t limited to one night a year.
Donna Marsh, founder of the American Paranormal Society based in Nashville, has always been interested in the paranormal because she can’t remember a time when she didn’t see spirits. When she was six, she says, her family lived in a house with the spirit of a little girl. Marsh was also interested in science. “I always wanted to know – was it a ghost or something we could explain?” she said. She started the American Paranormal Society in 2003, and its members are people who simply love investigating history. They also come to the aid of anyone experiencing problems with the paranormal.
Brandon Alvis is the founder of the American Paranormal Research Association, which he founded in 2006 to investigate historical locations across the United States. The organization seeks to “open the eyes of the public as well as the scientific community,” while trying to understand the possible existence of a life after death. The APRA’s scientific method of researching the paranormal has been featured on the Science Channel’s Unexplained Files, and the group also raises funds for historical building restoration.
After consulting existing lists and two paranormal experts, we’ve come up with 10 of the most haunted cities in America. They’re good places to trick-or-treat on October 31, but they’re also teeming with reports of unexplained occurrences that may astonish you any day of the year.
“Boston was involved in the creating of our country, and can you imagine the passion and the energy that went into that?” Marsh said. “That was the heart of the American Revolution at one point. That’s where our founding fathers were. All of those spirits stuck around because of that.” Boston Common is said to be haunted by two women in nineteenth-century clothing often seen walking arm in arm. Multiple people who disobeyed strict Puritanical laws were also hanged in Boston Common. Alvis mentioned the sheer amount of people who had been “fighting for something they believe in, so much that you have an area where so much energy that passed through it seems to almost have collected itself and made itself a place of significance, especially when it comes to paranormal activity.”
Charleston, South Carolina
Infamous Southern plantations and Civil War battlefields contribute to a lot of Charleston’s history and help explain why it’s considered one of America’s most haunted cities, but Alvis cites the old Charleston jail as being one of the most haunted locations in the area. It’s been featured on multiple television shows and is along the routes of ghost tours. One of its supposed resident ghosts is Lavinia Fisher, who was executed after being charged with highway robbery. Alvis said Fisher claimed she would haunt the area, and people still attribute paranormal phenomena in the area to her.