Chasing Spirits: Ghost Hunting Opportunities Abound!

October is a magically spooky time — especially leading up to Halloween. The crisp cool air, an earlier nightfall and a crackling fire make for a particularly perfect backdrop for swapping ghostly tales. A visit to the haunted locations where unfortunate events may have transpired is the ultimate way to experience a ghost story, and there are plenty to choose from.

Whether it’s taking a tour of a historic battleship or exploring an asylum, opportunities for ghostly encounters abound in the Carolinas and beyond. Some offer special haunted Halloween tours and some will prompt chills without special effects. Here are a few to consider:

Wilmington, N.C.

Fans of paranormal experiences have long been intrigued with the U.S.S. North Carolina. A blonde-haired sailor is sometimes seen throughout the ship and looking out of portholes. In addition, hatches and doors have opened or closed themselves and lights occasionally turn on and off by themselves. According to records, a soldier died in the battleship’s washroom upon a torpedo strike during World War II. 

While you’re in Wilmington, check out Fort Fisher. Reportedly haunted by Confederate General William Whiting, this Civil War fort was the site of an attack in 1864 that mortally wounded Whiting. The fort fell shortly after the attack fueling the suspicion that General Whiting’s restless spirit harbors blame for the loss of the fort. A figure has been spotted wandering the grounds and along the old fort’s parapet.

Visit your local AAA office for tour information about the U.S.S. North Carolina, Fort Fisher and other Wilmington attractions.

Aiken, S.C.

Extend your ghost hunting adventures with an overnight stay in the heart of downtown Aiken. Built in 1898, Hotel Aiken is the site of a few otherworldly encounters. Employees report of TVs turning on and toilets flushing by themselves. Other unusual events include unexplained noises, items falling on the floor and disembodied voices. Room 302 seems to be the most popular place for incidents. It was apparently the room from which a guest jumped to his death through a corner window.

Don’t leave Aiken without a visit to the historic post office. It’s rumored to be one of the most haunted buildings in town. The ceiling is said to contain secret passages, accessed by a ladder. A former postmaster supposedly used the passages to spy on his employees. Visitors have reported hearing screams, footsteps and moans from the passages. Stories of the discovery of human bones in the basement and a workman falling from the roof to his death might also explain sightings of a shadowy figure, cold spots, and disembodied voices.

For information about walking ghost tours of Aiken, visit your local AAA office.

Haunted West Virginia

Moundsville Penitentiary

Located in Moundsville, W.V. and established in 1876, this imposing Gothic prison seems to be cursed from the beginning. It was built on the leveled grounds of the Adena Native American tribe’s sacred burial site, which seems like a really bad idea. Its notorious history earned it a spot on The United States Department of Justice’s list of Top Ten Most Violent Correctional Facilities. The prison closed in 1995 when the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that confinement to the 5 x 7 cells constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

Hauntings throughout the prison have been reported since the 1930s, but the “Shadow Man” is likely the most ominous one. The figure is named so because there are no visible features — only a dark shadow. Visitors to the penitentiary have reported seeing him lurking along the halls and inside cells. 

For more information, visit their website. Go online to plan your route and accommodations.

What’s “Eerie” in Pennsylvania 

Eastern State Penitentiary

There are lots of creepy encounters tied to this prison, and it’s no wonder. Located in Philadelphia and opened in 1829, it was the world’s first true “penitentiary” — meant to rehabilitate prisoners through strict discipline. Notorious criminals like “Slick Willie” Sutton and “Scarface” Al Capone even did a stint here. Solitary confinement reached new levels in Eastern State. Prisoners lived alone, ate alone and exercised alone. They had to abandon that system in 1913 due to overcrowding, though. The prison closed in 1970.

“Rehabilitation” practices like the water bath (dunking inmates in water and hanging them on a wall in the winter until ice formed on their skin) and time in “The Hole” (an underground cell used for solitary confinement with no toilet, no light and little food and air) were commonplace.

Shadowy figures darting about, ghostly faces and unexplained voices have all been reported, which make for a great backstory for a visit here. Whether you’re interested in ghost stories or not, a tour of this castle-like structure is certainly worthwhile. The building was an architectural marvel, and had central heat and running water even before the White House. In addition, they feature art installations which often highlight the penitentiary’s interesting history as well as the contemporary American criminal justice system. 

You can learn more about Eastern State Penitentiary on their website.


(Photos: City of Aiken Tourism Division, Eastern State Penitentiary, West Virginia Moundsville Penitentiary)

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