10 Haunted travel destinations

by SheKnows
Oct 22, 2009 at 1:56 p.m. ET

Instead of visiting a museum or a famous restaurant on your next vacation, get in the Halloween spirit by exploring a haunted destination. From hotels to sanatoriums to entire cities, the world is full of creepy adventures.

Queen Mary

'Anywhere you go, you can find haunted locations to visit,' says Jeff Belanger, editor of 'Encyclopedia of Haunted Places: Revised Edition.'

Belanger used to work in software and would find haunted places during his travels by asking the locals. 'You can't put your trust completely in the tour guide or travel agent,' he says.

But you can trust that this list of creepy hot spots will get you started:

10. Queen Mary, California

'The Gray Ghost,' as it was nabbed, was a transatlantic ocean liner put into military service during World War II and painted gray. About 14,000 to 15,000 troops were transported at one time during the war, Belanger says.

The ship, which was designed for the cooler North Atlantic waters, traveled instead through the Indian Ocean, causing passengers to die of heat. Many prisoners of war perished downstairs. Queen Mary was retired in the 1960s and brought to Long Beach, CA as a hotel. 'It's like stepping back in time,' Belanger says of the haunted ocean liner.

9. Quarantine station, Sydney, Australia

From the 1830s to 1984, migrant ships arriving in Sydney with suspected contagious disease quarantined sick passengers to protect local residents, according to Q Station.

At the 'Australian version of Ellis Island,' as Belanger describes it, families were separated ruthlessly and quarantined if sick, sometimes until they died.

During its years of service, at least 580 vessels were quarantined in Spring Cove and more than 13,000 people were quarantined in the facilities, according to The Quarantine Station: North Head.  An estimated 572 people were buried in the three burial grounds on the site, including about 50 who were brought from Sydney for burial during land outbreaks of smallpox and plague, the site says.

8. Fairmont Inn, California

For another haunted hotel destination in California, try the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa. The 80-year-old hotel has gone through many changes since its inception including a destination for wealthy San Franciscans, a retreat for sailors during World War II and a nursing home.

The 'round room' in the Fairmont (the shape of the room is a mystery) is home to the spirit 'Victoria,' clad in a long white dress and thought to be a wealthy San Franciscan, says Michelle Heston, spokeswoman for the Fairmont.

Guests have also claimed to hear clinking and see things moving in the chilly room, Heston says.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania7. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Fought over the first three days of July 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg was one of the most critical battles of the Civil War. 'The Battle of Gettysburg left a mark that can never be washed away,' Belanger says.

'You just feel the past and know how many people died right at your feet ... Every part of that town oozes ghosts.'

During the battle, many fled to the relative safety of Cemetery Hill and were killed, their bodies left to await burial on the town's streets, according to Spirits of the Civil War Web site. Locals says the lingering smell of peppermint and vanilla are still present today, as these scents were used to combat the awful stench of death, the site says.

The re-enactors also tend to have lots of ghost experiences, perhaps because of their delve into the past, Belanger says.

6. Tombstone, Arizona

'Though it drips of tourism, there are ghost stories to be found,' Belanger says.

Tombstone still looks the part of the Wild West when you walk down the old dirt road. Though the town shuts down early, you may be able to see where 'the Swamper' lived if you just ask.

The Swamper was a man in Tombstone who dug a tunnel through his living quarters into the mines to find silver. He was eventually caught and murdered, Belanger says.

In addition to following Swamper's trail, he suggests visiting the Bird Cage Theatre for a ghostly experience.

Stanley Hotel5. Stanley Hotel, Colorado

You might recognize the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO as the place where Stephen King stayed while writing 'The Shining.' (And also where 'Dumb and Dumber' was filmed.)

The hotel is thought to be haunted by F.O. Stanley, who created the Stanley Steam Engine -- a steam-powered horse carriage. Stanley is often seen in the lobby and the Billiard Room, which was his favorite room during life, according to Ghosts and Hauntings of Estes Park.

On one occasion, Stanley reportedly appeared during a tour group's visit to the Billiard Room. Bartenders at the hotel also reported seeing him stroll through the bar and disappear, the site says.

4. La Posada de Sante Fe

Stop and smell the roses at La Posada de Sante Fe.
The hotel, which often lingers with the fragrant scent of the flower, is famously haunted by Julia Staab, an avid gardener who became reclusive after her child's death.

Julia can be seen roaming the halls of the Staab House, built in 1882 and located on the hotel site, says Kristin Lepisto, director of sales and marketing.

'I hear the same stories over and over,' Lepisto says. 'She tends to appear at the top of the grand staircase in the Staab house.'

Julia is a 'playful' ghost and has been known to turn the faucets on in the bathrooms and move glasses around in the bar.

She has been featured on 'Unsolved Mysteries' and 'Weird Travels' Haunted Hotels.'
On Halloween, La Posada is offering to upgrade one lucky couple to experience the holiday in Julia's room.

Bran Castle3. Bran Castle, Romania

With all the hype of 'The Vampire Diaries' and 'Twilight,' a vampire destination might prove popular this Halloween. Bran Castle in Romania, aka 'Dracula's Castle,' is an ancient European castle where many battles were fought around it, Belanger says.

Dracula is thought to be the result of both legendary and historical facts of Vlad the Impaler's reign and was accentuated by Bram Stoker's 1897 fictional character, Dracula, according to the Bran Castle Museum site. Vlad was known for applying the death penalty and impaling his enemies, according to Brasov Travel Guide.
'True vampires were more like walking corpses,' Belanger says, 'but Bram Stoker made them sexy.'

What is fact and what is legend between Dracula and Vlad remains unclear, but tourists continue to keep the stories alive.

2. New Orleans

'Anywhere. Anywhere in New Orleans is haunted,' Belanger says. 'It's not just a ghost culture but a voodoo culture.'

Visit the grave of Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen of the city. The French quarter also has lots of haunted hot spots, Belanger says.

Since Hurricane Katrina, he says he believes the city has even more ghosts. 'It's a little bit crass to suggest that ghosts are there from only a few years ago, but that's our society,' he says. 'When dramatic events take place, I believe it leaves an impression on that place.'

1. Waverly hills Sanatorium, Kentucky

Described by Belanger as 'a downright creepy place,' the Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, KY was the spot where thousands of tuberculosis patients died.

People report seeing shadowy figures and Belanger says he has even heard of a shadowy figure crawling toward someone on the tour.

One of the most famous aspects of the Waverly Hills Sanatorium is the Body Chute or Death Tunnel, once used to transport the bodies of deceased TB patients from the hospital to the bottom of the hill to trains or hearses, according to The Waverly Hills Sanatorium site.

The Waverly Hills tours are currently booked through January, but plan a good haunt there for the New Year or Halloween 2010.