Haunted Hotels Are In Full Swing

If luxury horror is your thing, look no further than haunted hotels this Halloween. As rounded up in a spread on USA Today, several hotels across the country are incorporating their own tales from the crypt into their businesses this time of year. A couple examples of haunted hotels participating in the spooky season:

The Biltmore Coral Gables in Miami has been everything over the years from a speakeasy during Prohibition to a hospital ward for World War II soldiers to the murder scene of a gangster. Guests have complained of visions and other kinds of ghostly disturbances-including getting dropped off at the 13th floor form the elevator despite the button not being pressed-since the building reopened as a hotel in the 1980s.The Bourbon Orleans Hotel in New Orleans once served as a ballroom and theater, but was then turned into a girls’ school, orphanage and medical ward. Guests routinely complain of hearing voices that sound as though they belong to children.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. And if you can’t convince them your hotel isn’t filled with ghosts, convince them of the opposite instead.

Halloween Destinations
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Wickland: The Only Ghost Tour Reality TV Hasn’t Found – Yet

The new Syfy channel show “Ghost Mine” is, geographically, a new low for the genre, suggesting that the torrent of paranormal reality programs has exhausted every haunted site above the earth’s surface and left no above-ground spirit unquestioned in the presence of a camera crew. So I had to wonder how in the heck all 3 billion of these shows have missed Wickland in Bardstown, Kentucky, where young, modelesque mediums give a tour every week and practically guarantee that you’ll get to talk to dead people – without any frightening specters of evil or demons or confidentiality waivers.

That’s what happened to me both times I visited last year, anyway. That’s right, as crazy as it sounds, I believe I conversed directly with dead people, even someone I knew, at Wickland. It definitely wasn’t Bardstown’s famous bourbon talking, because I hadn’t had any.

I heard about the little-known Spirits of Wickland Tour from a friend, who happens to be a pastor and, as such, has some extra credibility in the afterlife department, in my eyes. I have no interest in the paranormal, but my husband wastes a few hours each week on ghost-hunting shows, so the next time we visited family near Bardstown and wanted something to do, we signed up for this tour:




If you didn’t make it through the videos, here’s the crux: Wickland is a well-preserved Georgian-style mansion built in 1826 for a family that produced three governors – two of Kentucky and one of Louisiana. Dixie Hibbs, a former mayor of Bardstown and respected historian in the area who has written more than 10 books, oversees the landmark. Until five years ago, it was open only as a historic attraction, and Hibbs wasn’t aware of any ghostly activity. That changed when a pair of local teenagers, Katie and Michael Wilhite, volunteered to help decorate for the holidays.

The twin sisters (Michael is named for their father) were already aware of their “sixth sense” sensitivities – they had been seeing and hearing dead people for years, usually in a scary way, and they weren’t happy about it. But during the decorating session at Wickland and subsequent visits, they had their first friendly encounters with spirits – in this case, some of the home’s former residents. They told Hibbs what they were experiencing, and it didn’t take long for Hibbs to match up the names and physical descriptions the twins provided with her records and launch the interactive tour.

Since then, either Hibbs and the twins have carried on an elaborate ruse of Manti Te’o proportions, pretending to have detailed conversations with spirits every single week, or they’ve been offering the best-kept secret in ghost tourism for a mere $15, cash or check.

“All we really ask is come with an open mind, and all we promise is entertainment,” Hibbs says. “You get to be involved. You get to interact. At most of these spirit things, you don’t get the opportunity to ask questions and get answers.”

She’s being modest about that promise. On both of my visits, copper dowsing rods moved every which way I asked them to; we got logical answers to questions about life in the 19th century; and Katie diagnosed me with a benign spirit attachment and suggested I pray it away. There was also a totally surprise encounter with my deceased father that sounds too nuts to explain without lots of preamble, but I still can’t chalk it up to anything logical because both my sister and I smelled his cigarette smoke, as clear as day.

Second in amusement only to the twins’ stories of their encounters – including a recent trip to a Civil War battlefield in Kentucky where they stunned the park’s director by identifying nearly every dead soldier by first and last name (a record only he had, in an Excel spreadsheet) and found themselves ducking from bullets – are cameos from spirits not connected to the house. Katie and Michael never know who will show up from an unknown time and place to bend their ears. They once heard from someone claiming to be an infamous outlaw, and the more Hibbs questioned him – through one of the twins – the more she doubted that he was telling the truth about his identity. “Ghosts lie, there’s no question,” she says.

Hibbs, more than anyone, dreads the inevitable end of the tour, which has been an unconventional boon to her work as a historian. She records every word the twins repeat from the spirit world and researches its veracity. Last fall, she says she located the home’s long-lost slave cemetery based on tips from past patriarch Charles Wickliffe.

It was the first time Mr. Wickliffe had appeared to either twin, and a moment Hibbs had been anticipating for years. “The craziest part is he’s calling me by name,” she says. “I said [to Katie], ‘When did he die?’ His answer wasn’t a date; he said, Dixie, you know that. Two weeks ago, he came again. I asked why he had returned. He said, Dixie, you ought’ve known I would come back. I told my friend, it’s really weird that I’m on a first-name basis with Charles Wickliffe, who’s been dead 150 years. If I had been told seven or eight years ago I’d be doing this kind of thing, I’d have thought someone had lost their mind.”

Friday nights at Wickland could be numbered. Though the site isn’t showy enough for reality TV, major cable channels are well aware of the twins and their camera-readiness, and at least a couple have considered a pilot. So far, the twins haven’t found the right format. But it could be only a matter of time before they move on from Wickland to TV land – later this year, even, Hibbs believes – and then the enchanting Spirit Tour will become a ghost itself.

[Photo credit: Visit Bardstown]

Haunted Houses Back In St Louis To Kick Off Halloween Season

Haunted Houses

Kicking off Halloween season, haunted houses around the United States are opening their doors to brave travelers who come to experience spooky, scary things that go bump in the night. Between now and October 31, a variety of events around the country make for a great weekend diversion or road trip. Centrally located St. Louis is an easy drive from most mid-west states and offers Scare Fest, a trilogy of terror with three haunted attractions known as some of the best across the nation.

The Darkness is a two-story haunted house in downtown St Louis. Now in its 19th year of screams and scares, The Darkness has flying and flesh-eating zombies, Hollywood-quality sets and animated zombie effects and more. Included is admission to their Monster Museum and TerrorVisions 3-D, one of America’s first 3-D haunted houses featuring freaky crazed clowns in a 3-D environment where the walls appear to be moving, floors are floating and everything is right in the face of visitors.


The Haunting of Lemp Brewery takes visitors several stories below ground into real caves and caverns, just a block away from the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. In an interactive pre-show, sprits and ghosts of brewery founder William Lemp come back from the underworld to warn visitors of demons that haunt the caves under the brewery.




The Screampark in Fenton has the longest maze of scare inducing “hauntings” in the country that last more than one hour and feature more live actors than any other haunted house. New this year are Twisted Torture 3D, Demons Dominion, Grisly’s Gore Zone, the Zombie Town theme for the haunted hayride and the world’s largest Famous Faces Pumpkin Display.


Find zombies, ghosts, haunted houses or more at HauntWorld, a site that has listings for the United States and Canada as well as international attractions in the UK and other parts of the world.

[Flickr photo by dehub]

How To Face Your Fears Through Travel

skydiving For many people, traveling is about trying new things and making inner discoveries. It’s a great primer for getting your mind ready for an adventure. While you’re having these unique experiences, why not take the opportunity to conquer a fear, as well? Here are some ideas on how travel can help you face your anxieties head-on.

Flying

Being afraid to fly is very common, and the best way to overcome your fear is to face it. While simply going to an overseas destination is a step in the right direction, why not go all out and try skydiving? Some of the best places for skydiving are the Fox Glacier in New Zealand, Mount Everest in Nepal, Cairns in Australia and Seville in Spain. If you’d like to start out smaller, zip lining can also provide an aerial adventure. You’ll be able to attach yourself to a harness, which is connected to a wire, and fly over tall trees and beautiful landscapes.The Ocean

This is a big one for me. During a trip to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, I sat on the boat shaking as my guide fitted me for scuba gear. I watched jealously as my friends jumped into the ocean without a care in the world. However, my fears slowly drifted away as the instructor showed us step-by-step how to safely navigate the water. It ended up being one of the best experiences of my life. Some other great diving areas to explore on your travels are East Java, Madagascar, Raja Ampat and the Galapagos Islands.

spider Spiders

For those who are afraid of spiders and other creepy crawlers, a trip to the jungle or rainforest will be just what you need. In places like the Amazon Jungle in South America, where you can see the world’s largest species, the Goliath Tarantula, you’ll find enormous spiders and unique insects you can’t find anywhere else in the world. And after you face these bugs, the average house spider will seem as harmless as a kitten.

The Unknown

For many people, not having a set schedule or itinerary can be terrifying. I actually used to be the kind of person who constantly planned out every detail of a trip and would get anxiety if something went off course. Help free your mind on your travels and try not making a plan. Simply pack a bag, buy a plane ticket and show up at your destination. Not only is it liberating to travel with a blank itinerary of endless opportunities, it’s a lot harder for things to go wrong when you had no plan to begin with.

ghana Commitment

Are you the type of person that shakes at the thought of committing to something for longer than the afternoon? Get over your fear and sign up for a volunteer project abroad. There’s usually a two-week minimum commitment, but to get the most out of the project I’d recommend going for a month or longer. Volunteer at an orphanage, teach English, coach sports, provide medical help or work with animals and help another community. You’ll not only get over your fear of commitment, you’ll also grow as a person.

The Dark

It’s unfortunate that so many people are afraid of the dark, as there are so many great things that happen when the sun’s not around. One great experience to have is camping. You’ll be able to roast marshmallows over an open fire, sing songs, go on night hikes and feel how small the Earth really is through stargazing. One tip: it’s probably best to skip the scary campfire stories the first time around. Some great camping destinations include The Outback in Australia, the Inca Trail in Peru and Torres del Paine in Chile. Another fun adventure to have in the dark is black water rafting, or cave tubing. While it doesn’t need to be nighttime, you’ll be rafting through dark caves where anything is possible. It’s a lot of fun, and a very different experience from white water rafting in the sunlight.

cuy Eating New Foods

While being afraid to try new foods isn’t too serious, tasting unique and “scary” dishes can open you up to new things and lead you to say “yes” to more opportunities. For some people, eating a food they’ve never had can be terrifying. The best remedy for this is immersing yourself in a unique food culture, ordering something unknown and asking what it is only after you’ve tasted it. In my opinion, the best place to do this is Asia, where they have some of the most unimaginable foods ever created. Some unique dishes to try include tarantulas, durian, smelly tofu and white ant eggs.

Death

Death can be a hard thing for anyone to face; however, it’s also a part of life. Many dark tourism sites offer a look into the more morbid part of history, and usually leave you with an important takeaway point. Some of these sites include Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany, Napoleonland in France, and the slave castles of Cape Coast, Ghana. There are also less intense ways to explore death through travel. For example, there are some beautiful cemeteries you can visit like Recoleta in Buenos Aires, St. Louis #1 in New Orleans and Woodlawn Cemetery in New York.

bungy jumpHeights

There are many ways to overcome your fear of heights when traveling: high-altitude hikes, zip lining, hang gliding, parasailing and, my personal favorite, bungee jumping. The first time I bungee jumped was in Cairns, Australia, and I was scared out of my mind. After the jump was complete, however, I found myself laughing hysterically and asking to do it again. Some of my favorite destinations for the activity include Interlaken, Switzerland, Queenstown, New Zealand, and Puerta Vallarta, Mexico.

Ghosts

To really face your fears of the walking dead, the best thing you can do is visit a haunted site. There are tons of haunted houses, haunted castles, haunted hotels and creepy abandoned cities to explore. For your next trip, why not find out for yourself just how these sites got their reputation?

[photos via Alexander Savin, cheetah100, Jessie on a Journey, Jessie on a Journey, LIN HSIN YAO]

The World’s 10 Scariest Haunted Castles

haunted castles

From a Czech forest castle reported to house the gates of hell to a gargantuan castle right here in the United States, the world’s most haunted castles boast histories rich with frightening details. Specters haunt the halls of these old castles and travelers visit to experience brushes with the paranormal. Some of these castles possess secrets darker than a moonless night, and when darkness comes, the spirits stir.

These are the ten places to go and meet ghosts. Covering nine countries, each of these castles has a past that may just try and make a ghostly impression on your present.


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haunted castles

Edinburgh Castle
Country: Scotland
Built: 12th century
Haunting: Do you believe in ghosts? Edinburgh is one of those places where skeptics cross the threshold and start saying yes. A few years ago, Time Magazine set out to name the ten most haunted places in the world and included Edinburgh Castle on that list. For starters, a headless drummer has been seen and heard in the castle halls beginning around 1650. Lady Glamis, accused of witchcraft in 1537 and burned at the stake while her young son watched, is also known to prowl the dark halls. A ghost dog has even been seen delicately prancing through the misty graveyard.

There have been so many hauntings for so long that Edinburgh Castle attracted one of the most thorough paranormal investigations ever. In 2001, an English doctor enlisted roughly 240 volunteers to spend 10 days in and around the castle. The volunteers were all screened to insure that none of them knew anything about the castle. The findings? The place is a paranormal hot spot. Many of the volunteer experiences were consistent with past sightings at the castle. There were burning sensations, phantom gropes, shadowy figures and a specter in a leather apron seen in the same spot he was seen by unrelated individuals before the study. Its ancient dungeons and cobbled corridors are home to some serious creepiness.

Visiting: Fly to Edinburgh from London for under $100 round trip. Buy tickets to visit the castle here.

haunted castles

Chillingham Castle
Country: England
Built: 12th century
Haunting: The appropriately named Chillingham Castle is located in the northern corner of England and has been haunting guests for a very long time. The castle served as a fortress to repel attacks from the Scots in the north and has thus seen a great deal of bloodshed. Chillingham has been featured on at least six ghost-related shows, and the webs are rife with strange pictures of its ghosts and orby videos.

So what haunts this medieval castle that appears to be plucked from Westeros? Most notably a childlike ghost, called the blue boy. The blue boy is seen regularly in the pink room as a flash of blue light and also above guests’ beds as a blue halo following a loud cry. Perhaps most creepy is one of the castle’s ghostly apparitions who wanders the dank halls late at night – John Sage. John Sage has a terrifyingly ridiculous backstory and was hung by Longshanks during the war with the Scots. He can be heard dragging bodies here and there.

Visiting: The Chillingham homepage states, “Tours last about 2 hours, depending on psychic activity.” The castle also accepts brave overnight guests. To get there, fly into Newcastle or Edinburgh and travel 70 miles to reach the castle.

haunted castles

Houska Castle
Country: Czech Republic
Built: 13th century
Haunting: Located in the forests north of Prague, Houska castle was never a strategic battle location. It also appears to have no function of outside fortification. It was not built to repel attacks or to keep things out. It was built to hold something in. It was built to close the gateway to hell.

The castle is built upon a fabled bottomless pit from which winged creatures and half-man-half-beasts allegedly exited. Demonic activity persisted at this site and eventually, Bohemian rulers decided to seal up the gateway with a castle. Before sealing off Hell’s realm, it is said that nearby prisoners were granted pardons if they would agree to be lowered by a rope into the hole. The story goes that the first lowered prisoner let out a yell after entering the hole. When he was raised up, he appeared to have aged over 30 years. He died of unknown causes just days later.

Wait, it gets stranger. During the 1930s, the Nazis took over the castle to conduct occult experiments with dimensional portals. Hitler, a paranormal enthusiast, was known to dabble in the occult, and it is uncertain what the scientists learned from Housksa Castle. Years later, during renovations, several Nazi officer skeletons were found, and it appeared they were killed execution style.

The recurring ghosts at Houska are plentiful, and include a giant bulldog/frog/human, a headless black horse and a woman in an old dress who is frequently seen peaking out of the top floor windows. Beneath the cellar there is said to be some nonhuman remains of the beasts that emerged from the hole.

Visiting: Houska Castle is just north of Prague and day trips to this spot are easy.

haunted castles

Belcourt Castle
Country: United States
Built: 1894
Haunting: In adjusted today dollars, Belcourt Castle cost its owner over $100 million back in the 19th century. Oliver Belmont, namesake of the Belmont stakes, heir to the Belmont family empire and poster child for turn of the century trustfund champions, built this behemoth. On its completion, Oliver chose to instead travel the world, collecting artifacts for the castle, which sounds like a pretty cool thing to do after building a gigantic home. The years were not kind to the castle and disrepair plagued it for much of the 20th century. In 1956, the mansion was sold to the Tinney family for $25,000 ($200,000 in today dollars), or about a fifth of a penny on the dollar (adjusted for inflation).

The Tinneys got a beat-up fading mansion with massive infrastructural needs – and a few ghosts. The strangest thing about Belcourt is that the hauntings allegedly come from the vast assortment of artifacts rather than the actual house. There is a haunted 15th century set of armor that lets out a blood-curdling scream every March, said to be the time that its medieval owner took a spear through the eye. In the Gothic ballroom there are haunted chairs that many claim to have been pushed out of while sitting by unknown forces.

Visiting: The owner of Belcourt Castle gives ghost tours and this May, he will be giving them on Friday and Saturday evenings. It is also open for weddings and other events. Belcourt Mansion is roughly an hour-and-a-half drive from Boston down 95 South.

haunted castles

Brissac Castle
Country: France
Built: 11th century
Haunting: The stylish French château is over seven-stories tall with around 200 rooms and is considered the tallest château in all of the Loire Valley. After a rich history, beginning with the Counts of Anjou in the 11th century, the domain was purchased by a noble husband and wife named Jacques and Charlotte. Charlotte enjoyed tormenting her husband by having noisy sex with randoms. She would keep her husband up all night with her lovers and eventually her husband snapped.

The affair ended when both the lover and Charlotte the wife disappeared. Jacques was likely behind it, but after their death, the lovers’ moans did not stop – they grew louder. The moans persisted and Jacques was forced to sell the castle, tormented by the ghosts of his past. Today, it is said that in the early morning the lovers’ moans persist.

Visiting: Château de Brissac is open to tours and even has two suites and two rooms to stay in overnight. The price for the overnight stay is not cheap, starting at 390 Euros with availability from May through September. Reach Brissac from Paris by high-speed train, taking just an hour and a half to reach nearby Angers.

haunted castles

Eltz Castle
Country: Germany
Built: 1157
Haunting: A picturesque castle with one of the richest interiors in all of Deutschland, Eltz rises up out of the surrounding Mosel forest as if boasting its longevity to the surrounding environs. A testament to its strength as a stronghold, Eltz Castle is one of few castles in the region that has never been destroyed. It is also one of just a few German castles that is said to be haunted. Allegedly, the ghosts of medieval knights still patrol the castle, which, 33 generations later, is still owned by the same original family. Imagine living in the same house as your Great X 30 grandmother.

Visiting: Reach Eltz Castle by flying into Frankfurt Hahn airport and traveling by bus or taxi for the final 15 miles to the city of Cochem.

haunted castles

Castle of Bardi (or Landi Castle)
Country: Italy
Built: 900, ish
Haunting: Built on a spur of red jasper, Bardi towers over the Emilia-Romagna valley. Bardi’s etymological impetus began with Hannibal and his cavalry of war elephants. The last elephant, named Bardus, allegedly died here during the march to Rome. Unfortunately, the castle is not haunted by a menacing ghost elephant.

A sad old story explains the real ghosts of this incredible fortress. Instead of Romeo and Juliet, we have a tale of Moroello and Soleste. Soleste was the daughter of the castle’s lord, and she was in love with Moroello, the captain of the knights. During a long battle, Soleste waited for Moroello to return, perched on the edge of her family fortress, eyes locked on the distant horizon. Eventually, she saw riders galloping back from the battlefront. When the soldiers reached her eyesight, she noticed they were riding with enemy colors. She was overcome with grief at the possibility of Moroello’s death and threw herself off of the castle’s edge. In a sad twist of irony, the riders were in fact Moroello and his soldiers, and they were just wearing the enemy colors to boast. Moroello found his love dead on the ground and immediately realized what he had done and killed himself. The ghost of Moroello haunts the castle to his day, wandering the grounds searching for his lost love.

Visiting: Bardi is located in Emilia-Romagna in northern Italy. The easiest way to reach the region is by plane to Parma or by train from nearby Bologna or Milan.

haunted castles

Dragsholm Castle
Country: Denmark
Built: 1215
Haunting: Some places are simply haunted by a ghost or two, but Dragsholm, located on an islet in Denmark, is allegedly home to 100 ghosts. How anyone came to take inventory on the ghosts and find such a round number was likely done with some relation to Dragsholm tourism development, but the place is wicked haunted, having functioned as both a prison and a battle fortification. Some consider it the most haunted castle in the world.

Of the many stories about Dragsholm’s ghosts, perhaps the most terrifying origin ghost tale involves the White Lady. Before she wandered the castle halls as a ghost, the White Lady was just a girl – a girl who was in love with one of the castle laborers. As a member of nobility, her father, and owner of the castle, condemned the relationship, but the affair persisted. Eventually, the father grew so angry about the ongoing affair that he imprisoned his daughter in the walls of the castle. She was not seen again until hundreds of years later. In the 20th century, during some routine castle remodeling, workers found a skeleton in one of the walls. The skeleton was wearing a white gown.

Visiting: Dragsholm Castle is open to overnight visitors, so if you want to stay in a really creepy castle this is probably the one. To get there, take a train from Copenhagen through Hillerød to Odsherred. The castle also has a restaurant.

haunted castles

Moosham Castle
Country: Austria
Built: 1208
Haunting: Built by the Prince-Bishops of Salzburg, Moosham Castle has a strange and sinister past. Hundreds of witches were beheaded within the walls of Moosham, and many still haunt the Austrian castle. Due to these hauntings, the castle is known colloquially as the Witches Castle.

In addition to being home to a coven of creepy witch ghosts, Moosham is also allegedly the lair of the werewolf. During the 1800’s, Moosham saw a sudden preponderance of mutilated cattle and deer corpses. As a consequence of this, several Moosham residents were tried and imprisoned as werewolves.

Visiting: Take bus #270 from the Salzburg bus station to reach Moosham. The trip takes about two hours.

haunted castles

Warwick Castle
Country: England
Built: 1068
Haunting: First built in the 11th century by none other than William the Conqueror, Warwick has seen more battles than perhaps any other castle in Europe. It has found peace in recent years, but the spirits still linger. Its eroded walls and faded battlements tell the tale of a long hard life for the spirits that now walk its halls.


The ghost tower is said to be one of the castle’s most haunted areas, as Sir Fulke Greville still wanders its interior. Murdered by his manservant in 1628, he is said to materialize from his portrait late on cold evenings. The castle dungeon, home to all sorts of past torment, also seems to be quite haunted. Many visitors complain of vertigo and nausea upon touching the dungeon apparatuses.

Visiting: Warwick Castle is very tourist accessible and is open every day except Christmas. Warwick Castle is located just 40 minutes from Birmingham airport.

Honorable mention:

haunted castles

Castle Bran or Dracula’s Castle
Country: Romania
Built: 1212
Haunting: In the heart of old Transylvania, deep in the Carpathian wilderness, is a castle named for a ruler from the 15th century – Vlad III Dracul. After Vlad’s father was assassinated and his brother was buried alive, he set out to become more ruthless than anyone in fiction could believably create. He makes pint-sized tyrants like Joffrey Baratheon look like equitable play dates.

It all began at an Easter feast when Vlad asked his nobles how many princes they had survived, insinuating that they conspired against past rulers. The story goes that he arrested all of them. He impaled the older ones and their families and made the younger nobles into slaves for a wave of ambitious improvements to the castle. All told, Vlad impaled tens of thousands of people, earning the nickname Vlad the Impaler, and the tales get so ridiculous that it is difficult to sift the myths from the truth. In fact, Vlad never actually lived in Castle Bran, though the castle has come to be associated with the “Son of the Dragon.”

Visiting: The easiest way to reach the castle is by traveling by train from Bucharest, Romania to Brasov, Romania. Many tour companies in Bucharest can arrange a day trip for well under 100 Euros.

[Top image of Brissac Castle via flickr image user @lain G]