Wow, you all really seemed to respond to my ghost post. That’s awesome. Here’s another long, detailed, paranormal post for you.
Since I spent 90% of my drive home from Michigan listening to ghost-related podcasts, I thought I’d compile a list of the supposedly haunted places I’d most like to visit before I join the ranks of the spirits.
Chillingham Castle, Northumberland, United Kingdom
I could just put “Great Britain” on this list because it really seems like literally everything in the whole of the United Kingdom has some sort of spiritual activity linked to it. And it makes sense; the place has been inhabited and fought over for more than a millennia, and they don’t demolish old buildings and start over like we do in America. People are still living comfortably in homes that are now close to a thousand years old. I can’t even fathom that. Obviously, I know that my country was inhabited that long ago, but the native populations didn’t build European style structures so obviously they all needed to go when the pale-faced devils arrived. The oldest city in the U.S. is St. Augustine, and it’s only been settled for about 500 years.
Anyway, Chillingham claims to be one of the most haunted places in the U.K. It’s been investigated on numerous tv ghost shows, so if you’re a fan of those reality-style paranormal shows you’ve likely seen this place. The outside of the castle alone looks terrifying; all of that old gray stone and the ramparts. It looks like something an evil witch in a fairy tale would inhabit. And yes, you can still visit the torture chamber, complete with iron maiden and executioners block.
A huge thank you to Tracy Monger, who generously gave me permission to use this photo. Check out her blog for more creepy sites in the U.K.
The claims here include cold spots, disembodied voices, footsteps, being touched and even some full body apparitions. The current owners of the castle live on the premises and have embraced their reputation, offering ghost tours year round. Visitors can also rent beautiful, modern suites in the castle or carriage house, which I would LOVE to do, not only because of the ghosts, but something about the idea of staying in a modern hotel suits in a 900-year-old castle really appeals to me.
The Island of the Dolls (Isla de las Munecas), Mexico City
This island legitimately scares the crap out of me, but I want to go.
The story goes that in 1950 Don Julian Santana Barrera, the caretaker of the island found the body of a little girl floating in the canal one day. No one is sure how she wound up there or how he became the island’s caretaker, but shortly after finding her body, he found a doll floating in the same place. Assuming the doll had belonged to the little girl, he hung it from a tree to either honor or appease her spirit. No one is really sure about that either, but Barerra was convinced that the spirit of the little girl was haunting the island, and he began to collect other dolls from the canal to keep her company. For the next 50 years, he hung dolls from trees, and he died on the island in 2001. Some say he died of a heart attack and others say he was drowned in the same manner as the little girl.
The whole story is really sad, but also undeniably creepy. What really drove him to pull all of these dolls out of the water? They were basically trash that people had tossed in the canal, but he decided to hang them from trees. And why hang them? Why not just put them in a pile or something less visually disturbing?
I’m interested in this island not only for the reports of the dolls whispering to each other (!!!) but also for the canals. They were built by the Aztecs in the 15th century to connect the different independent cities that now make up the neighborhoods of Mexico City, and that’s just cool.
Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, California
I feel like this one kind of goes without saying, but I’ll give you the quick and dirty version anyway.
Sarah Pardee marries William Winchester. Baby. Death of baby and husband. Sarah inherits a big pile of money, gets involved with the Spiritualist movement, and a medium tells her that her family is cursed and that she needed to move West and build a house for all of the restless spirits of the people killed by Winchester rifles. Construction must be constant to appease all of the spirits. She leaves Boston and purchases a farmhouse in San Jose that will eventually become the weird, fascinating mansion we know and love today.
There’s been a lot of debate recently about how much of this story is true. Sarah did become an extremely wealthy woman upon the death of her husband and she did move to California, but it’s hard to discern how much of the rest of the story is true and how much is a legend. For example, construction on the house did stop for long periods of time during Sarah’s life, and nothing catastrophic happened to her. For decades it was thought that the blue room was where Sarah held seances, but recently that’s been disputed. It used to be common knowledge that Sarah’s (frankly insane) design was to confuse the spirits, but now it’s thought that some of the design elements were more common sense, like the extremely shallow staircases. Sarah was a short woman with arthritis, and it would have been easier for her to climb shallow stairs, especially given the weight of Victorian women’s clothing.
Regardless of what’s true and what’s an urban legend, I really just want to see the place. It’s the kind of weird and cool tourist thing that’s right up my alley.
LaLaurie Mansion, New Orleans, Louisiana
If you’re a fan of American Horror Story you’ll have seen Kathy Bates’ portrayal of Madame Delphine LaLaurie in season 3, Coven. I personally hated season 3, but I kept watching for Kathy Bates.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this anywhere in this blog yet, but I have sort of an obsession with serial killers. It’s not that I think they’re cool or hope to emulate them, because ew, but I’m fascinated by them. I like reading about them. I want to know what made them tick, how they could be so disconnected from the human part of themselves that they could do the things they did. What drove them? How did they evade capture? What happened to them that made them snap?
Madame LaLaurie is a particularly interesting subject. She was born into a wealthy and powerful family in 1787 in colonial New Orleans. At the age of 13 she married a high ranking member of the Spanish military, and four years later she gave birth to their daughter. Her husband died of “mysterious circumstances” en route to Spain, so Delphine returned to New Orleans with her infant daughter. She married again four years later in 1808 and had four more children before this husband died in 1816. Can you imagine being twice widowed with five children by the age of 29? I can’t.
Her third marriage was to a doctor by the name of Louis LaLaurie, and they met when he was treating one of Delphine’s daughters for spinal deformities. Delphine was almost 20 years older than Louis, but they married in 1825. Because she was knocked up. SCANDAL. A few years later they purchased the house at 1140 Royal Street.
Louis left his wife in 1834, which reportedly drove her mad. A fire broke out in April of that year, reportedly started by a slave, and after it was extinguished firefighters found seven slaves chained up in the top floor of the house. They had been starved, abused and tortured using various medical instruments, and experiments had been conducted on them. Beating and maiming slaves wasn’t that big a deal in 1834, so for these events to have been recorded and relayed to future generations (i.e. us), it must have been really bad. It even made national news.
Supposedly the townspeople were outraged by LaLaurie’s treatment of her slaves and gathered outside her house to wait for the sheriff to arrive and arrest her. When that didn’t happen they formed an angry mob and drove her out of town, like you do. Though LaLaurie managed to escape, the mob relieved the house of its valuables and nearly destroyed it. No one is really sure what happened to her, but it’s assumed that she fled to France and died there at some point. No one cared enough to find out at the time, I guess.
After Delphine and her family fled the house changed hands a ton of times, was broken up into apartments, and other tragic stuff happened there so the ghosts in residence may have nothing to do with her. She just happens to be the most infamous owner, and given the horrific nature of her crimes, it wouldn’t be surprising if at least some of the activity was related to her and the unknown number of people she killed there. We’ll never know her true motivations, and I think chalking up her crimes to the actions of a mad, spurned woman is oversimplifying things. Female serial killers are rare, and in the early 19th century crimes like this were practically unheard of, even for slave owners.
Supposedly she still resides in the house, so maybe we should ask her.
Cecil Hotel (Stay on Main), Los Angeles California
I’m a little bit (completely) obsessed with this hotel. American Horror Story based season five, Hotel, on the Cecil.
I’m not sure whether it’s currently open, as it’s been through some shit in the past few years, but I really hope it is because I need to see it.
Built during Hollywood’s Golden Era, the Cecil has been home to starlets, sex workers, and serial killers. It’s also been a favorite location for suicides and drug overdoses, which isn’t surprising given the state of the surrounding area. I’ve never been there, but I’ve heard it’s bad.
It’s rumored that Elizabeth Short, i.e. the Black Dahlia, was seen drinking at the bar several days before her (still unsolved and also fascinating) murder. Richard Ramirez, i.e. the “Night Stalker” called the hotel home during his killing spree in the 1980s, and a few years later another serial killer, Jack Unterweger, stayed there. It’s generally accepted that his stay was an homage to Ramirez.
So yeah, lots of death.
The Cecil death that fascinates me the most is that of Elisa Lam. She died at the Cecil in 2013 and was found in the roof’s water tank after guests began complaining of funky smelling water. The story went viral; when you Google her name you can find her blog posts, security footage of her acting erratically in an elevator, conspiracy theories; it’s endless. Her death was ruled an accidental drowning, which I don’t buy, based on the other circumstances of her death. The whole story is really weird and sad and I think that’s why I’m so fascinated with it.
With all of this death, the Cecil has gained the reputation of being the most haunted building in L.A. I haven’t found much information about the actual hauntings rumored to take place in the hotel; most accounts emphasize the violent and tragic history rather than traditional accounts of seeing and hearing unexplained things. To me that’s all the creepiness I really need to want to go see the place.
Cachtice Castle, Cachtice, Slovakia
Bonus points if you know who lived and died in this castle.
The notorious Blood Countess, Elizabeth Bathory. Labeled by Guinness World Records as the most prolific female serial killer ever, his woman has been the model for everything from fairy tale evil queens to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It’s now being proposed that she got a raw deal and the entire thing was politically motivated, which makes it that much more interesting.
She was born in 1560 to a Hungarian noble family and was naturally married early in life to a very wealthy and powerful man, though she got lucky in that her husband was only four years her senior instead of 40. This castle, along with a country house and the surrounding villages at the base of the Carpathians, was a wedding gift. Her husband, being a commander in the Hungarian army, was often away from home fighting the Ottomans, which was basically a constant thing in Eastern Europe in the 16th century. While he was away from home Elizabeth was tasked with the care and defense of her husband’s lands and tenants, and because Cachtice was located on the border between Royal Hungary and Ottoman-Occupied Hungary on the route to Vienna, it was vital that the lands be defended at all costs.
All of this responsibility proved Elizabeth to be an intelligent and capable woman, and we all know how well that went over in the days when women were meant to be incubators for heirs and nothing else. She also became one of the most powerful women in Hungary after the death of her husband in 1604, and she had so much money that the monarchy borrowed from her.
The story goes that Elizabeth was obsessed with youth and preserving her beauty as she began to age. She was extremely severe when punishing her servants, which were always young girls from the surrounding villages, and one day during one of these punishments blood from one of the girls splattered on her hand. After she cleaned her hand she noticed that the skin was smooth and youthful and blah blah blah. From there she began taking blood from her servants in small amounts, and eventually, it escalated to her completely draining these girls and bathing in tubs full of virgin blood. Accounts vary as to how many victims there were, as no one really cared until she started killing noble girls and not poor girls. At her trial, the highest claim was 650 girls between 1585 and 1609. There are also claims of orgies, cannibalism, torture, Satanism, the usual.
An investigation was conducted, bodies examined, and in 1610 Elizabeth was sentenced to life in solitary confinement; she was bricked into a windowless room inside her own castle with only a small slit for ventilation and so food could be passed to her. She died four years later.
There’s some debate about whether or not this castle is actually haunted; if you know anything about this area of Eastern Europe you’ll have heard the legends and stories and superstitions that run rampant in the area. I wonder how much of that has influenced the castle’s reputation since various paranormal investigation groups have visited the ruins and not found any evidence of hauntings. Even Ghost Hunters International didn’t find anything, and the whole point of that show is to find outrageous and dramatic evidence of the supernatural. I still want to see it though.
So here are just a few of the places I’d like to see. If you’re interested in additional locations, let me know and I’ll do a part 2!