Mysteries and hauntings bring out the kid in everyone. If you or your little ones edge toward an interest in the strange, the spooky or the just generally out-of-this-world, dare to check out ROAM’s list of eerie places to find some Halloween spirit any time of year.
New Orleans and the Myrtles Plantation New Orleans isn’t known as the “the city of the dead” for no reason; because it’s below sea level, the city’s many cemeteries feature ornate crumbling statuary everywhere, giving off a generally eerie vibe. Plus, it’s brutal history as an entry point for West African slaves has given rise to a rich history of voodoo and seemingly endless ghost tales. Don’t miss the Myrtles Plantation, about two hours north of New Orleans, which is known as one of America’s most-haunted homes. And check out one of N’Orleans many haunted history tours to get the spooky skinny.
The Catacombs When Paris officials found themselves running out of cemetery space in the late 1700s, their solution was right under their feet in the form of abandoned stone mines. After a massive skeletal shift, it’s now believed that the remains of more than 6 million people reside under the city, their skulls and femurs stacked into beautiful yet grisly patterns. Visitors can now explore about a mile of the catacombs as part of tours that run every day but Monday and holidays.
Queen Mary It should come as no surprise that with their appeal to the senior set that people sometimes die on cruise ships, and that includes the fabled Queen Mary, which sailed the North Atlantic for 30 years. About 50 people perished on the ship before its retirement to Long Beach, California, and now reports of hauntings abound, including that of a stateroom where a person was allegedly murdered. Now that the ship is operated as a docked hotel, you can go on one of its after-dark spook tours and then try your luck sleeping in a stateroom overnight. Bon voyage! (Closed due to COVID-19 epidemic in October 2020.)
Salem This coastal town outside Boston long ago made peace with its history as the center of the Salem Witch Trials, in which 19 people were hanged for witchcraft in the late 1600s. These days, the local police department of Witch City, USA features a witch logo and the high school team is known as the Witches. You’ll find the Salem Witch Museum and the Witch Dungeon Museum, many shops carrying magick potions and “ritual tools,” any number of self-described witches to read your palms, Tarot or runes, and witch walking tours aplenty. The mass hysteria culminates during the month of October, when Salem celebrates Haunted Happenings.
Tower of London Built as a castle and fortress for the conquering Norman invaders in 1078, the Tower of London’s longest-running use was as a prison for some of England’s most notable prisoners, including Sir Walter Raleigh and Anne Boleyn, who was beheaded and then buried here in 1536. Bolelyn’s ghost supposedly haunts the tower, carrying her head under her arm. Other apparitions that have been reported here include Henry VI, Lady Jane Grey, Margaret Pole, and the “princes in the Tower,” generally scaring the bejesus out of the night staff.
Carlsbad Caverns Sure, there’s much to be freaked out about all year long in the bottomless, dark caverns of this National Park in the Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico: ancient sea ledges, deep rocky canyons, flowering cactus and desert wildlife to name a few. But come about mid-April till Halloween, thousands of bats fly out of the park’s vast cave system to eat insects in a stunning display. Check the schedule to catch the free evening “Bat Flight” ranger talks at the Bat Flight Amphitheater.
Roswell Something crashed on a ranch north of Roswell, New Mexico back in 1947. The U.S. military handled the subsequent cleanup, declaring the crashed item a “weather balloon” and the story died, for a while. It was resurrected in the late ’70s with Freedom of Information Act requests that spurred theories of a downed UFO, alien bodies and a government coverup. Today Roswell’s downtown features alien-themed shops and restaurants, as well as an annual alien festival and the International UFO Museum and Research Center.
Winchester Mystery House and the Mystery Spot There are a lot of millionaires in Silicon Valley these days, but one of the first – and richest for her time– was Sarah Winchester, heir to the Winchester rifle fortune. Sarah moved West from New England after her husband and infant daughter both died, trekking supposedly on the advice of a Boston medium who told her that she needed to continuously build a home for herself and the spirits of people who had fallen victim to Winchester rifles. She began haphazard, round-the-clock construction in San Jose in 1884 and didn’t stop until her death 1922, resulting in a mansion with approximately 161 rooms that contain numerous oddities: doors and stairs that go nowhere, windows overlooking other rooms and stairs with strangely sized risers. Spooky!
Not far from the Winchester Mystery House, is the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz, a place in the redwoods where it seems that the laws of physics don’t apply. Balls appear to roll uphill, heights are difficult to judge and visitors naturally walk at a slant. What?!
The Bermuda Triangle The empty, mysterious, oceanic expanse south of Bermuda seems to swallow airplanes and boats at a disconcerting rate – or does it? Are the disappearances caused by aliens? Wormholes? Methane bursts? Pirates? Rogue waves? Believers can review all of the scientific evidence for – and against – the veracity of the phenomenon at a phenomenal new exhibit in Hamilton’s Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute.
Looking for a more tangible dose of eerie? How about a snorkeling trip to see the watery grave of one of the 300 ships that sank on Bermuda’s treacherous reefs? Not creepy enough? Dare to wander the haunted alleys and cemetery of St. George. With 400 years of scorned lovers, international spies, and prisoners hung from the gallows, the village will certainly show its spirits.
by Maria De La O, ROAM Executive Editor, Updated October 2020
© ROAM Family Travel 2018 – All rights reserved
Keywords: family vacation, family travel, travel with kids, halloween family travel, mystery vacation, spooky spots
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