One of the quickest ways to get into the mood for Halloween is to visit some of the websites devoted to haunted houses and other spooky locations. Every state in the union seems to have its share of creepy places, giving new meaning to the term "tourist trap". In this article, I will poke around some of the Halloween-themed sites to be found on the Wicked, Wicked Web (WWW), looking for those sites offering the most extensive and up-to-date links.
But before you begin traipsing around the Internet looking for ghostly places, you should remind yourself that, just because a particular location or event is billing itself as "haunted" or in some other manner related to Halloween, that naturally does not mean that it is legitimate and would prove entertaining to visit — nor even less so that it is truly haunted. Unfortunately, some proprietors of cheesy year-round venues figure that, as long as they slap up a few cardboard ghosts and set up a couple of jack-o'-lanterns, then their venues will rank up there with registered historic houses that have been investigated by scientists.
That being noted, there are countless quality attractions worthy of your seasonal interest. While the United States has no monopoly on haunted locales, it does seem that the Americas are truly the international leaders in spooky themes — from the "Day of the Dead" festivities in Mexico and parts of Central America, to the Halloween hayrides in Alberta, Canada.
Screaming for Fun
When people think about locations frequented by tormented souls, there are some among us who first think of their local IRS auditors' office; but the majority of people would first envision haunted houses. Our friends in Europe might also think of castles, some of which are said to be frequented by ghosts from centuries past — formless and restless remnants of unjust beheadings, political intrigue, and the dark secrets of dungeons.
The Internet can help you find these creepy places, and more. One such site that ranks high with search engines, is the Haunted House Gateway. They offer a map of all U.S. states, plus some Canadian provinces, making it easy to find some of the haunted houses and other Halloween-themed attractions within that state or province. There's also a link to their "Haunted Houses in the Eastern USA" page, as well as two other major groupings, in case you want to scare your family by proposing a road trip through several states, visiting all of the haunted attractions on the list. The site features dozens of locales, of clearly varying quality.
For instance, the site has a link to "Terror on Wheels", located, of course, in Los Angeles County. Although "Terror on Wheels" is a name that is sometimes used to identify a member of my family, in this case it denotes a "mobile and completely self contained haunted attraction." At least, it did. Sadly, their site is… dead. The lesson here is that some of the listings can trick you. But here's a bonafide treat for nonprofit organizations: HauntsUSA, which creates haunted houses to help raise funds for charities.
But the Haunted House Gateway's listings may be more commercial in nature than what the Halloween purist is seeking. It really depends upon what you are looking for — an historic mansion owned by a local preservation society, or a fun-filled scare house owned by a local amusement park.
If you are seeking more of the latter, be sure to check out HauntedHouse.com's directory. Their home page has a drop-down list box, in the upper right-hand corner, allowing you to quickly locate haunted houses in any U.S. state. There's also a link to their "Haunting Education & Resources" section, where you will find links to Halloween-oriented groups, fundraising resources, freebies, information on creating your own haunted house, and virtual haunted houses (for the advanced Internet user who wants to avoid any exposure to fresh air… or daylight).
No White Sheets or Fake Blood
On the other hand, if you are seeking a more authentic type of ghostly experience, then you'll need to do a bit more digging (no pun intended), as there seem to be few websites devoted to historic haunted houses. This may be a result of the majority of Americans lacking interest or belief in the paranormal, or because there's little or no profit in non-commercial haunted houses.
Yet there are some websites that list and discuss historic hauntings, and they tend to be more low key, and maintained by diehard fans. ScaryPlace has a short directory of haunted houses, most located in New Jersey. Obiwan's UFO-Free Paranormal Page has a lot of information, including "Hauntings Main Page", featuring 19 haunted places in the United States, eight in the United Kingdom, and more. There's also a section (look under "Haunted Places to Visit") listing various paranormal-plagued locations, most of which are in Southern California.
Haunted Houses & Woods has links to dozens of haunted houses, commercial buildings, woods, cemeteries, as well as links to over a dozen "virtual haunted houses" on the Web. Further down their home page, there are sections for Africa, Asia, Australasia, Oceania, and Europe. These take the visitor to other pages, most of which are remarkably extensive in their listings.
Some Local Attractions
For those people living in the Southwest, there are a number of promising websites that focus on various devilishly delightful destinations. For instance, San Diego residents can find what appears to be a complete list of haunted hotels, restaurants, and other locations, at San Diego Ghosts and Haunted Places. Having visited only three of the 14 places listed myself (Hotel Del Coronado, Point Loma Lighthouse, and the Star of India sailing ship), I enjoyed "revisiting" them online. One commendable aspect of this site is that it isn't stingy with the photos, and the captions are not bare-bones, unlike those of too many similar sites. Furthermore, it has a link to the Ghosts & Gravestones Trolley Tour, which stops by three haunted houses in downtown San Diego.
Residents of — or visitors to — Santa Fe can go on the "Aspook About Ghosts" Tour, which shows the participant a number (namely, 13) of reputedly haunted homes, buildings, and eateries. New Mexico Ghost Tours also covers Santa Fe, as well as Albuquerque. "Ghostwalkers" is one of many walking tours put on by Historic Walks of Santa Fe. All of these tours are led by experienced guides, and none of the tours will take a nasty bite out of your wallet.
As the clock strikes 12 here in my crypt, it's time to wrap up our survey of haunted websites (and that's no curse, because my bubbling cauldron of screamingly bad Halloween allusions is cooling off). So on the eve of All Saints' Day, don't hesitate to fire up your computer and search for famous ghosts and other creepy crawly things on the Web.