These Historic Places Are Scary, Even When It’s Not Halloween

Part of the fun of celebrating this time of year is to visit haunted attractions, corn mazes, fright fests, scream parks and all the other places designed to give us a scare. Most are created for Halloween and pack no punch beyond their lighting, sound systems and props that pop out at you.

But there are historic sites that will give you the creeps at any time of year. Either great tragedy occurred there, or inexplicable events, or the architecture, lighting and atmosphere just make you feel uneasy and uncomfortable. If you want to be frightened, even if it’s not October, visit these historic sites.

The Lizzie Borden House in Fall River, Massachusetts saw one of the most gruesome double murders in American history. On a sweltering August day in 1892, Andrew Borden and his wife, Abby, were killed, most likely with a hatchet later found in the house. Suspicion fell on Andrew’s daughter from his first marriage, Lizzie. Though tried for the murders, Lizzie Borden was acquitted by a jury that did not believe that a genteel young Sunday School teacher could have murdered her father and stepmother.

After the trial, Lizzie Borden bought another house in Fall River and lived out her days in her home town, acquitted in a court of law, but believed guilty in the hearts of her community. Today, the house where the murders happened is run as a bed and breakfast and historic site that gives tours. The most requested room in the house is the one where Abby Borden was killed.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas is a picturesque and historic town perched on a steep Ozark hillside in the northwestern corner of the state. The 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa was, during the 1930s, a “cancer curing hospital” operated by Norman Baker, a charlatan who claimed to be a doctor. In fact, Norman Baker was self-educated, a vaudevillian, inventor, radio pioneer, publisher, a mail-order mastermind and a millionaire several times over. There is no indication that he had any medical expertise, but his basement morgue, with its autopsy table and cadaver walk-in cooler, is a grisly reminder of his work. Surely this was a place of untold suffering. In fact, the Crescent Hotel is said to be the most haunted hotel in America.

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado is a large, gracious Colonial Revival building with gorgeous Rocky Mountain views. Built by the co-founder of the Stanley Motor Carriage Company, it opened on July 4, 1909, as a resort for upper-class Easterners and a health retreat for sufferers of pulmonary tuberculosis. It also has an ever-growing reputation for hauntings. When a young Stephen King checked into the Stanley Hotel in 1974, he had a nightmare that inspired him to write “The Shining,” the novel that went on to become Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 cult classic film. Ever since, ghost hunters have flocked here and, for a few years, the hotel hosted an independent horror film festival operated by the Denver Film Society.

The Queen Mary ended her storied trans-Atlantic career in 1967, when she sailed for the last time from Southampton, England to Long Beach, California, where the ship has functioned as a floating hotel ever since. It has made a number of lists as one of the most haunted places in America. Though currently closed for renovation and restoration work, the Queen Mary is expected to open to the public by the end of the year. It will be interesting to see whether any of its ghosts have been exorcized.

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