This may have been the most difficult collection I’ve had to put together so far. This list of the Top 10 coolest haunted locations I visited in 2018 could’ve easily been a top 20 or 25 without any fall off in quality (I’m considering doing a video of a larger countdown, so subscribe to my YouTube here so you won’t miss it). So, keep an eye open for other notable mentions throughout. What are the criteria? It’s a combination of these three categories:
- the location is famously haunted (bucket list trips)
- exceptionally unique stories or history associated with the place and
- Did we experience any paranormal activity on site?
Every location mentioned on this list is a place I’ve visited for the very first time in 2018. Commemorating the 10th anniversary of the release of “Voices from the Chicago Grave,” I’ve made it a point to revisit every location covered in the book. This is an ongoing process, but it was great to see places like the Bucktown Pub (pictured right), the Frank Nitti suicide location, the Grimes sisters site, Mount Carmel Cemetery, investigate the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre location and more alongside Illinois archeologist Dan Melone and/or Wendy Lynn Staats of the “See You on the Other Side” podcast. Keep following us on Instagram @WhatsYourGhostStory to continue visiting and investigating the most haunted locations in America!
10 Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, New Orleans, LA
There may be no more paranormal an experience than joining the paranormal rock group Sunspot on the road, which I did for the first time in 2018. After a show, we swung through the oldest bar in the South. Built around 1770, this building was likely owned by pirate and Battle of New Orleans hero Jean Lafitte, his brother or a close accomplice. Whatever the ownership provenance, it’s very likely that Lafitte did business here and knowing Lafitte, it wasn’t on the up-and-up. It’s one thing to read tales of a dark, masculine presence in the building, observing the room from a shadowy corner, as is the most frequent claim, it’s another for a member of the staff to show you a picture of the shadow figure on their phone, which is what we were treated to.
9 Coral Castle, Homestead, FL
Quickly moving from the historically haunted to the roadside attraction oddity, I visited a site so unusual, there are many believers think the place was built by aliens, or at least with the help of alien technology. I can go on about the place, but who can tell the story better than the show “Ancient Aliens”? The segment even end with a classic Georgio-style, “I’m not saying it was aliens…” line.
I will say, the place is downright impressive and captivating whether you are into the theory that this entire structure was built by hand by a single, somewhat frail man or that the man was an alien. Either sounds just a probable. Also, not mentioned in the AA segment, two people claimed to spy on some of the construction and claimed the massive pieces were moved by sound!
I should give an odd shout out to the Museum of the Weird in Austin, TX, which houses tons of fascinating exhibits and, in fact, is so weird that Johnny Depp lived next door at one point. The main highlight is the “Minnesota Ice Man,” an alleged Bigfoot corpse kept preserved on ice since the late ‘60s.
8 Hale’s Bar Dam, Guild, TN
Hale’s Bar Dam is a big, imposing structure with a very long and dark history. Even before construction, the Native Americans of the area considered the area cursed, or at the very least too dangerous to tread on. A hydroelectric dam was constructed over these dangerous waters in the early 1900s and the death toll rose quickly. Construction never really stopped due to the constant need for repairs caused by building on unsteady ground. Sadly, the deaths continued as well. Use of the dam was discontinued in 1968, but the power station remains, haunted by any number of people who died here.
The location was featured on an episode of “Ghost Adventures.” That particular episode was perhaps most notable due to the location getting hit by a tornado during production. However, they did also capture a compelling human form moving around on thermal camera. We got a private tour of the structure by someone who had some wild personal experiences. Be sure to click on the image to the left to see a video from our visit.
7 Elmwood Cemetery, Centralia, IL
One of my favorite investigations of the year took place at the Southern Illinois Cemetery of Elmwood, where a legend surrounds a beautiful monument to H. Annie Marshall, better known as “Violin Annie.” The legends around Violin Annie are more plentiful than the facts. The basics are that this gravesite belongs to a girl who died tragically young. In life, quite clearly, she played the violin. Speaking on the legends, there are countless tales of hearing violin music waft through this cemetery at all hours. The uniqueness of this monument, plus its easy access (near the front of the cemetery, just two dozen feet from the access road), makes it an easy candidate for urban legends. Does that mean the area isn’t haunted? Of course not. The restless adventures of “Violin Annie” may very well be legit. It’s also possible that thousands of people over the years, visiting this site, hoping to hear violin music, have impacted the area, imbuing it with a psychic residue from the living. If Annie’s consciousness is here, we brought a trigger item in the form of violinist Wendy Lynn Staats to play songs and simple scales to see if we could coax a musical call and response. With several cameras rolling and even more microphones scattered around the area, it will take some time to dig though all the recordings, but our fingers are crossed!
6 Sanatorium Hill, Madison, WI
This location is one I feel I’ve just scratched the surface on. The grounds of Sanatarium Hill claim all sorts of paranormal phenomenon, including physical contact in the form of hair pulling. To get the full story, check out the video below. Other haunted institutional locations visited this year include Knoxville’s Lakeshore Mental Asylum, Elgin Mental Health Center & the Green County Asylum in Monroe, WI.
5 Robert the Doll locations, Key West, FL
Dipping as far as we could possibly dip into the Florida Keys, we found ourselves at the home of Ernest Hemingway’s six-toed cats and a doll that can move on its own. “Robert the Doll” has been a story so sensational, it’s no surprise that people assume the movie “Child’s Play” was based on this legend. In 1904 a young Eugene Otto was given a doll in a navy uniform. It did not take long before this doll began terrorizing the family, especially little Eugene. Massacring his other toys, and flipping his furniture over, the parents were understandably suspicious, however even they heard voices and laughing coming from Eugene’s room that were not his own. Eventually the doll was banished to the attic, where it remained peacefully for decades. Currently the doll itself is on display at Fort East Martello Museum where it apparently does not like being on display. If you are bold enough to take a picture of Robert without first asking his permission, legend has it that you will be besieged by extreme misfortune. There is a nearby wall of the museum covered with letters addressed to the doll from people desperately asking Robert’s forgiveness.
I was in Key West with family. My parents have both been exceptionally supportive of my unorthodox line of work. They’ve attended paranormal conferences to watch me speak and my mom even joined for an exploration of Bachelor’s Grove and was pinched by an unseen hand in the process. They were all for visiting the museum until we took a ghost tour that lead us past the home where the events took place. Upon hearing the full story, I was no longer asked, “Hey, do you wanna check out that museum today?” I had previously been vague, offering only that there was a “famous, haunted doll on display.” Not wanting to push them or, honestly, expose myself to something truly negative (just in case), we never visited Robert. However, by total luck and coincidence, we did take a walk through the Key West Cemetery and, coincidentally (again), I stumbled across the grave of Eugene Otto! I was able to conduct an EVP session at his grave site. While nothing came of it, I do always urge investors to try poking around at all locations associated with the tale you’re investigating, not just the main target. Travel Tip: you can now rent out the room where Robert was banished for decades as the Otto house is now a B&B.
4 Bell Witch Cave, Adams, TN
Coming straight off the bucket list is a MUCH fabled tale of “America’s most well-documented haunting,” as it’s always called. The story of the Bell Witch is too vast and spectacular to fully cover in a blurb, but I will tease that it involves a curse, mythical creature, disembodied voices, an intensely violent invisible entity, a homicide blamed on a ghost and some of the paranormal activity was even witnessed by a man who would become president. You’d think this would be so rich a story that it would make for a great movie. Well, they tried. Wendy and I visited the location, then watched the movie before then shooting a new episode of “A Ghost Hunter Watches.” Check that out below:
3 Seider Oaks & Shoal Creek, Austin, TX
Most of the time I find an incredible location with a colorful story… the type of place where I’m dying to find some paranormal evidence, that’s exactly where I’ll find nothing at all. This was not the case at the darkly impacted Shoal Creek in Austin, Texas. A Native American massacre of a settler family in 1839 could be enough to generate some paranormal activity, but this area was also the site of skirmishes and battles through the years and countless unmarked burials. When the banks of the creek flood, taking with it lose dirt, it is not uncommon for more and more human remains to be unearthed. A recent flood unearthed the remains of a solider who served with General Custer. There are also multiple tales of gold being hidden in this area by criminals who were apprehended before being able to reclaim their hidden loot. Might their spirits be the ones still occupying the area, keeping their gold hidden? Shadow figures are seen in the area and disembodied voices are heard. Visiting the site in the middle of the afternoon with Mike & Wendy from Sunspot and our local contact Vic Hidalgo, I tried an EVP burst session (a shorter EVP session, reviewing the recording on the spot) and it did not take long before voices did appear in the recording. It was not clear what was said, but the presence of voices that were not own own was unmistakable. Another trip to Austin to investigate further is already planned for the spring.
Speaking of Austin, I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time at the haunted and historic Driskill Hotel and we were able to see the amazing sight that is upwards of a million bats emerging from under a bridge at sunset. See video of the bats here.
2 Old South Pittsburg Hospital, South Pittsburg, TN
After meeting the proprietor of the “OSPH” at the Haunted America Paranormal Conference in Alton, Il, we headed down to check out the abandoned, haunted hospital. After hearing claims of creatures crawling up the walls, our guard was high. Indeed, simply walking into the structure, a feeling of nervousness set in immediately… very possibly a psychic impression, moreso than intimidation. “See You on the Other Side” hosts Mike & Wendy heard a shuffling sound in a room followed by a growl. I followed the sound of scratching on a hallway wall around a corner, onto the ceiling, then back down a wall to the floor. Thinking I was chasing a scurrying mouse, I stomped on the ground to see if I could make it come out from hiding. Instead a loud phantom footstep landed behind me, letting me know I didn’t know what I was dealing with.
We ended up setting up ghost hunting gear in a hallway where people have observed an 8 foot tall shadow figure. Using an array of cameras including a full spectrum camera, we filmed a music video, hoping to elicit a response from the music. I don’t think we got anything in the process, but not all experiments end up paying off. Still, we got a fun video out of it!
Another location, rife with urban legend-y glory that really deserves to be somewhere on this list is the Sensabaugh Tunnel in Church Hill, TN. There will be a video of this location coming out later this year, as Wendy and I went out looking for children ghosts in this remote, spooky locale.
1 Horsman Ridge Cemetery, Shelby County, IL (Also called Tower Hill Cemetery, Williamsburg Hill & Ridge Cemetery)
Are you ever caught in the difficult situation, trying to decide, “Do I want to look for a ghost, a UFO or a crypid today? Maybe I wanna look into a place that has ties to the ultra creepy phenomena of Black-eyed children. Well, you’re in luck! This is the one-stop shop! Down in very rural and very remote southern Illinois, at the end of a dead end gravel road on the top of a wooded hill is Shelby County’s pioneer cemetery. When it comes to cryptids, the threat of coming across a werewolf-like creature (better known as an up-right canine in cryptid circles) would be enough, but there is also a winged dragon-like creature seen flying over the area. As long as you’re looking to the skies for dragons, you might as well keep an eye open for UFOs as well while as lights have been spotted in the skies and cows have been mutilated here. Indeed, the unnerving black-eyed children have been spotted here and occasionally appear after the fact on video recordings. That said, the ghostly encounters here probably get the adrenaline pumping the most: An elderly man charges out from the woods, seemingly ready to attack you, but he vanishes moments before striking! Wendy and I spent a couple of hours here, but had no experiences ourselves. This is a place I definitely want to visit again and spend a lot more time on site. Unlike many outdoor locations, this cemetery is so remote there is no fear of audio interference from a neighboring house or school, nor is there a blanket of traffic noise interfering with EVP recording.
Upon putting this list together, one thing became clear…. This list is impossible to create the year. There are too many wonderful locations to cover. The Wonder Bar in Madison, WI should be on this list. The Old Slave House in Equality, IL should be on this list. The Brown Hotel in Louisville, the Red Wood Room in San Francisco, the Palace Restaurant in Sault Ste Marie, MI, the Sutter Home Vineyards in Napa, CA…..they call belong on this list. So, stay tuned to our YouTube as we do a top 20+ countdown. This year was so spectacular because of the support of so many amazing people. What really made 2018 amazing was all the support from Dan Melone, Mike Huberty, Jordan Murphy, Allison Journlin, Lisa Van Buskirk, Chuck “C.E.” Martin, Vic Hidalgo, Kathleen Wickes, Chelsea Duke, my parents and my partner in life and in the field, Wendy Lynn Staats.
I do have to take a quick moment to thank everyone who organizes paranormal conferences and to encourage everyone else to attend them! It’s a tremendous opportunity to meet people with similar “out there” interests and a great place to share information and theories! They played a big role in our 2018.
2019 promises haunted excursions in Hawaii, a return to searching for rebobs in Napa Valley and trips from New York to Los Angeles. Happy New Year to one and all.