Want to feel a cold shiver down your spine? Travel to some of these seriously scary places close to home...and beyond!
I’m the first to admit that I’m a big weenie when it comes to scary things. When I was 13, I was staying at my grandparents’ house – they lived on a quiet lake in the endless mountains region of northeast Pennsylvania – and one night the kids that I befriended there decided to watch the original “The Evil Dead” movie. The film’s plot focuses on college students vacationing in a remote cabin in the woods where they get possessed by demons. After the movie ended, I had to ride my bike home down the darkened dirt road that surrounded the lake and I was sure that evil demons were waiting for me behind every tree I passed. I didn’t time it, but I guarantee I’ve never ridden a bicycle faster than that night.
While the wooded mountains of Pennsylvania can be quite scary, Texas has its fair share of frightening places as well. Whether you’re looking for a couple hours of fear, a day trip filled with dread, or even a whole weekend of chills, there’s plenty of places in D/FW and beyond that are worth the trip.
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Beyond Fort Worth
To get a good list of ghoulish places to visit that will take an afternoon or the entire day to get to, I talked to local expert Tui Snider, author of the book Paranormal Texas. Snider is a travel writer and speaker who also maintains the website TuiSnider.com, which offers a free weekly newsletter about her speaking engagements and events. Snider’s top five list is as follows. To get the rest of her selections, including McKinney’s town square and Arlington City Cemetery, check out Paranormal Texas:
1 “Often, when researching haunted locations, it takes some digging to find people who are in the know about its haunted hot spots. Not so in Mineral Wells! Ask any local if the Baker Hotel is haunted and you will get an earful of spooky tales in return. The most talked about ghosts of the Baker Hotel include the gorgeous red-haired mistress of the hotel manager who leapt to her death, and a little boy who was cut in two in a horrific elevator accident. People even report phantom odors at the Baker Hotel, including the smell of chocolate. While the Baker Hotel is no longer open to the public, there’s a house a couple of blocks away you can rent for paranormal investigations. Haunted Hill House is a historic home that Phil Kirchhoff bought with the plan to renovate and retire. Due to the high level of paranormal activity, however, Kirchhoff abandoned that idea and turned it into a paranormal research center instead. Today, he won’t even spend the night there alone.”
2 “I must say the Ghosts of Denton Tour is a wonderful way to learn north Texas history and also get a chill up your spine. Denton’s town square features a grand courthouse built from native Texas limestone. Some people theorize that limestone is able to magnify paranormal activity. Several businesses surrounding the courthouse report paranormal activity, including Recycled Books, where books sometimes fly off the shelves as if tossed by unseen hands. Meanwhile, at the Abbey Underground, a ghostly prankster spills drinks and rearranges small objects. The staff is in no hurry to get rid of “Seamus,” as they call the spirit, because the rowdier he gets, the better their tips are!”
3 “Nearly every building in Granbury’s town square has a ghost story attached to it, and unlike some places, shopkeepers are quite open to discussing their paranormal experiences. Many are convinced that the ghost of John Wilkes Booth haunts the town square. Also, like Denton, Granbury offers an excellent haunted history tour on weekends.”
4 “There’s a longstanding rumor that a headstone in Springtown’s Veal Station Cemetery gives off a mysterious glow at night. I have several friends who have witnessed this spooky sight.”
5“Like most graveyards, Thurber Cemetery has separate sections for different religious affiliations. Several north Texas paranormal groups have witnessed strange apparitions, shadow figures, and orbs while investigating there. What makes Thurber Cemetery so unique is that in its heyday, the town of Thurber was populated by workers from more than 20 different nationalities. Ghost hunters have actually recorded electronic voice phenomenon (EVPs) in foreign languages there. If you know another language, consider speaking it when you visit Thurber Cemetery, your words just might trigger a conversation with a spirit.”
If you’d rather not stray too far to get your fright on, then check out the Stockyards Ghost Tour. The tour operates out of the Cowtown Winery where tour guides take guests on a 90-minute walking tour into the detailed past and haunted present of the heart of Cowtown, including stopping by some of the more famous and infamous landmarks. “The Cadillac Hotel has had several paranormal things that have happened and Miss Molly's has one ghost in particular, his name is Jake. It’s not uncommon to see him walking up the steps then look back and no one’s there,” said tour owner David Besgrove. “The Stockyard Hotel has some history with Bonnie and Clyde as well as some hauntings. Our winery has had many strange activities over the years including smashed bottles and even capturing a dark figure on our security cameras when no one is in the winery. Tour attendees have recorded strange faces in windows as well as shadows on buildings.” Tours start at $20 per adult, with discounts given for seniors, students, children and groups. For more information, visit stockyardsghosttour.com.
If you’re looking to hop a plane for a ghost hunting weekend, there’s no better place than New Orleans. “Ask people who’ve done tours in other cities or tour operators in those cities and they’ll all agree that New Orleans is the best,” said Bond Ruggles, manager of Witches Brew Tours. The reason? Ruggles said it’s got a lot to do with the water and the city’s rich history. “We’re built on top of water and water conducts energy, especially paranormal activity.”
Witches Brew Tours offer several different tours, all of which are walking tours (think comfortable shoes, water bottles and an umbrella for the rain or even more so for the sun) of the French Quarter. Beyond hearing tales of witches, voodoo and vampires, and visiting some seriously spooky places, including St. Louis cemetery No. 1, which is home to Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau’s tomb, each tour guide is well versed in the history and architecture of the area. Tours start at $25 per adult with discounts given for seniors, students, military, children and groups. For more information, visit witchesbrewtours.com.