It’s that time of year again, finally. The old empty warehouses and store fronts are turning into pop-up Halloween stores and walk-through haunted houses, and the holiday grocery store aisles are full of cheesy spooky collections. I even got one of those magazines in the mail where you can order hundreds of spider rings or rubber ghoul finger puppets. As usual, professional haunted houses are opening all over the world, each one promising to be the scariest, the most extreme, the most fun. What’s the best way to get people to come to your Halloween haunt? Get yourself a real live haunted building to add to the mystique. Here are some of the world’s most famous haunted houses, famous not only for the quality of their scares, but also for the true crime tales that color their histories. Whether these legends are fact or fiction usually remains to be seen, but nonetheless, you can’t deny they add a little extra something to a late-night October evening out.
McCall’s Haunted Farm: Moriarty, NM
The McCall Haunted Farm was originally a family farm, owned for hundreds of years on the land where the haunt now stands. The family made their living farming and raising livestock for their butcher shop until, in the early 1970s, the State Highway Department build an interstate through the land. Though Mr. McCall did everything he could to stop the construction of the road and destruction of his farm, he eventually lost to the State department. Stories tell of a distraught, broken McCall murdering his family in cold blood. More rumors began circulating about missing tourists who were unlucky enough to breakdown near the farm. Mr. McCall also disappeared, and when the local police went to search his property, they found the remains of several missing travelers. They also found, in a shallow grave, the remains of the whole McCall family, except Mr. McCall, who was never found. Legend has it, he still stalks the property, angry and looking for more people to slaughter. You can also pay to camp overnight at the farm, if you have the guts that is.
Pennhurst Asylum: Spring City, Pennsylvania
The Pennhurst Asylum is the only haunt that has a proven history of truly nefarious activity. In the mid 1960s, a reporter aired a five-episode exposé on the horrific conditions of the state’s mental hospital. The US was shown adult patients bound to adult-sized cribs or rocking back and forth, or pacing and twitching. The facility also housed children, and it was shut down soon after the special aired. When reading about the Pennhurst Asylum, I couldn’t help but think of season two of American Horror Story. Could it be based partially on Pennhurst? Now, along with the haunted Halloween nights, ghost hunts routinely find EVP recordings of ghostly voices saying things like “go away”, “I’ll kill you”, “we’re upset”, and “why’d you come here?” “I’m scared”, “Why won’t you leave?”
The Dent School House: Cincinnati OH
The Dent School House has my favorite name on the list. The story goes that several young students went missing from the elementary school in the 1940s and 50s. It was soon revealed that the janitor had murdered the kids and hid their bodies in the basement, convincing everyone that the smell was just backed up pipes. The janitor also disappeared one day, never to be seen again, and he still haunts the property, looking, of course, for more victims. Apparently, you can also get married at the Dent School House, so you better get proposing.
Loftus Hall Afterdark: Wexford, Ireland
In the 1700s, while living at Loftus Hall, Anne Tottenham was visited by a sailor seeking shelter from a storm. Anne became enamored by the man, and he ended up staying on the grounds with Anne. One night while they were playing cards, Anne dropped a card under the table. When she went to pick it up, she saw that the stranger had cloven hooves poking out from his trousers. When she screamed, the man immediately revealed himself to be Satan and shot through the roof in a ball of fire. Anne, who continued to experience poltergeist activity, was confined in a room until her death, which is also a mystery. This adults-only haunted house is only open one night, but you can go on a paranormal tour of the building year round.
Georgetown Morgue: Seattle, WA
Originally called the Kolling Mortuary Services in 1928, the Georgetown Morgue building would eventually house a crematorium that burned around 100 bodies a day. The story goes that in 1947, a deceased jazz trumpet player named Figgy Dorsey was reported missing from the embalming table. He was found the next day at his prior home, dismembered on the lawn. In 1965, an earthquake collapsed a part of the building, killing one of the owners. Three years later, all the morgue’s employees, nine in total, were bound by three armed men. They then forced the group into the crematorium and burned them alive. The murders were never solved.
Brighton Asylum: Passaic, NJ
The Brighton Asylum, found in Brighton’s industrial complex (a series of old warehouses), was once a mental institution in the mid 1940s. Particularly dangerous individuals were housed in a central building referred to as the Brighton Asylum. Also living on the property was the large staff that included doctors and nurses. There were whispers of strange gatherings taking place, occult parties, ones that sometimes included terrible experiments on patients. This area is known as “The Bleeding Grounds.” The facility was closed in 1952 due to the discovery of the extremely harsh living conditions, the horrific experiments, and staff disappearances. An investigation was said to be taking place, but no records can be found.
I’m sure there are plenty more supposedly haunted houses all over the country and all over the world. Of course, haunted house owners have every reason to make up sensational stories about their locations, but after all, it is Halloween, and I think we all suspend a little bit of our disbelief for the season. Whether these stories are true, partly true, or not true at all, I have a feeling we will all buy into the terror. But beware, you never know what might follow you home.