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America's Most Haunted Places

By Katie Hammel
October 7, 2013; 11:45 AM ET
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Some guests of Savannah's Kehoe House have dismissed the sound of giggling and running up and down the hallway as typical kid antics-until they learn there's an adults-only policy.

Young twins who died while playing in a chimney are rumored to haunt the 19th-century Kehoe House, one of many hotels and other sites across America where tales of the supernatural persist. In a New Orleans bar, a long-dead pirate guards the riches of his plundering; a screeching monster in the New Jersey woods has spooked locals for generations; and a one-armed stagehand roams the catwalks above an Illinois theater.

Courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary

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Ghost hunting has become big business, with paranormal experts offering as evidence dark shadows and orbs of light caught on film, recordings of strange noises, and unexplained temperature drops. Most haunted places capitalize on the attention by offering ghost tours. Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, KY, even lets you spend the night. Request room 502 only if you want company: the spirit of a nurse who hanged herself from a lightbulb wire.

But not all ghosts are scary; some just want to have fun. One specter spends her days stealing earrings from female patrons at a historic New York restaurant, while the apparition of a little girl faithfully turns up to watch rehearsals from her favorite seat at a Memphis theater.

Even for skeptics, playing along can be irresistible. So turn out the lights, and get ready to conjure some spirits at these haunted places.

Courtesy of Stanley Hotel

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, CO

Stephen King's The Shining has inspired fans to visit the Stanley Hotel (even if the filming actually occurred on a soundstage in L.A.). When King stayed in room 417, he experienced a number of unusual things consistent with tales from other guests. There are reports of having belongings unpacked, lights turning on and off, and hearing phantom children laughing and giggling in the halls. Staff members have also heard music coming from the empty ballroom and kids running and playing on the floors above them. The hotel plays up its haunted reputation, showing the uncut R-rated version of the movie 24 hours a day-enough to make any skeptic start hearing things go bump in the night.

Katie Lowder

Myrtles Plantation, St. Francisville, LA

The best-known ghost story connected to this 1796 plantation involves Chloe, a slave forced to be her owner's mistress. When he grew tired of her, legend says she baked a poisoned cake that killed his wife and two kids; the other slaves hanged her from a tree, and she's roamed the property since. In 1871, lawyer William Winter was shot dead on the porch. His footsteps are often heard at the plantation, now an inn with historical and evening ghost tours. While staying in the Ruffin Stirling Room, guide Mark Leonard says the bed started shaking violently "like it was made of Jell-O. I watched the two posts at the bottom of the bed wave like pom-poms." Other guests, he says, have been dragged from bed, watched pianos play themselves, and heard invisible kids laughing. Once a Confederate soldier appeared with a message: "Kindly remove yourself from my room."

Courtesy of Lincoln Theater

Lincoln Square Theatre, Decatur, IL

When the Lincoln Square Theatre opened in 1916, it was the third building to occupy this site. The previous two-a hotel and another theater-went up in flames. And the ghosts of those killed are believed to haunt the premises. Another story involves the one-armed ghost of a stagehand, Red. Legend has it that he plunged to his death from a catwalk above the stage. In fact, he did die in the theater, though while taking a nap from which he never awoke. Shortly afterward, people began to report seeing seats move on their own, feeling cold spots where there were no drafts, and seeing a one-armed figure roaming the catwalks. The theater still shows movies and offers occasional overnight ghost hunts.

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