Ghost Town In Connecticut: Trespassers Beware

Dudleytown, Conn. (also known as Village of the Damned) has been touted as a ghost town for years. The only trouble in seeing it for yourself is that it’s on private property, and fines for trespassing are commonly handed out by the police who regularly patrol the area. When I visited the area years ago, this was a concern and it still is today. But the story behind the ghost town is compelling enough that the cryptically curious continue to take the risk.The story begins with an English nobleman named Edmund Dudley. Legend has it that he was beheaded for treason and the Dudley family was put under a curse. When the family settled in Connecticut, it’s said that the curse followed them across the ocean. Some members of the family went insane and a couple committed suicide. Although it is speculated that the real reason behind the crazy spells was probably unclean water, explorers have reported and still do report ghost sightings in the area.

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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.

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Haunted House Online Guide Helps You Get Scared This Halloween

Looking for a haunted house this Halloween season? The online guide Hauntworld will help you find the best one.

Hosted by Hauntworld Magazine, a trade journal for those running haunted houses, it lists creepy attractions in every state in the U.S. and many in Canada too. Most listings just have promotional material from the businesses themselves, while some have garnered numerous reviews and comments, making it as sort of TripAdvisor for scary attractions.

In my old stomping grounds of Tucson, Arizona, there’s Nightfall, which earned nine out of ten skulls. For even bigger scares, check out their Most Extreme and Shocking list. The number one place goes to the Erebus 4 Story Haunted Attraction in Pontiac, Michigan. HauntWorld says “Erebus is by far the most unique haunted house in America because they have monsters, animations, and props that touch the customers some even swallow customers whole. Erebus is a multi-story haunted house with special fx you’ll see no where in the World but at Erebus near Detroit Michigan.”

If you want to get scared on vacation, the international section will help you out. If haunted houses aren’t your thing, the site also lists hay rides, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, ghost tours, and zombie events.

There’s even a section for supposedly real haunted houses.

We are showing you how to eat, drink and be scary this Halloween season. Read more about Halloween on AOL:
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Historic Haunted Houses

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]

America’s Most Haunted Hotels

Ghost buster, ghost hunter, phantom fighter: Jim Fassbinder doesn’t want to hear it. Despite the name of his popular nightly walking tour – the San Francisco Ghost Hunt – the paranormal expert insists, “I don’t bust ghosts. I study them.” And he’s been doing just that his entire life. Fassbinder regularly materializes on the Travel Channel, as well as magazines and newspapers around the country to discuss his favorite subject – especially in October when interest in ghouls and ghosts, zombies and vampires is at an all time high.

But if you can’t get to San Francisco this month, there’s probably a haunted hotel somewhere near you. To find out, I caught up with this spook spotter to learn which hotels in the country make his personal top-11 list.

1) The Queen Anne Hotel. This one-time San Francisco school for girls, decked out with enough Victorian opulence to befit its ritzy Pacific Heights location, is the stomping grounds of one amiable apparition. “In all my research, Mary Lake,” the school’s former head mistress, “is the friendliest ghost around,” says Fassbinder. “The place oozes with a feeling of love.” For those who want close and personal contact with Ms. Lake, request room 410 – the Mary Lake Suite. (1590 Sutter St., San Francisco, CA., 415-441-2828)

2) Myrtles Plantation. Located 30 miles north of Baton Rouge, this late 18th-century plantation house-cum-hotel is an axis of antebellum banshee-ism. A ghoul who plays the grand piano and a portrait that changes expressions are just a few of the curious activities that have been reported. “If you’re really serious about seeing a ghost,” says Fassbinder, “the caretaker’s house is the most haunted site on the plantation. Many have tried to stay there, but few have made it through the night without getting spooked.” (7747 Hwy 61 North, St. Francisville, LA, 255-635-6277)

3) The Stanley Hotel. This stark white mansion hotel was the inspiration behind the nightmare-inducing book and movie, “The Shining.” The fact that it’s crawling with ghosts might bring new meaning to the phrase, “Here’s … Johnny!” Literary aficionados like staying in room 217 where Steven King was holed up. But Fassbinder is quick to point out, “The real ghostly goings on are in room 417 where the spirits of F.O. and Flora Stanley, the original owners, still linger.” (333 Wonderview, Estes Park, CO, 970-586-3371)

4) Le Pavillion. “This is one of my favorites,” says Fassbinder about the 1907 New Orleans hotel, which is set on the cusp of the French Quarter, and drips with Versailles-like rococo extravagance. “The hotel once hired paranormal investigators who identified four ghosts: a young guy who plays pranks on hotel staff, an aristocratic couple clad in ’20s garb, who have been seen strolling the grounds, and a lost and confused teenage girl.” (833 Poydras St., New Orleans, LA, 504-581-3111)

5) Lizzie Borden’s House. Just minutes from Providence and about 50 miles south of Boston, this murder house-cum-B&B features several ghoulish rooms. Stay in the John Morris room where Abbey Borden was killed with an axe or chill out in the sitting room where Andrew Jay’s body was found. In the morning, wake up to a breakfast of bananas, sugar cookies, Johnny cakes, and coffee – the same breakfast the Borden’s ate the day they were murdered. “I attended a séance once – it was wild and very spooky,” adds Fassbinder. “Don’t miss this place if you’re in the area.” (92 Second St., Falls River, MA, 508-675-7333)

6) Congress Plaza Hotel. For the celebrity obsessed – which is most of us – this Chicago hotel is the paparazzi’s dream. That is, if you have a camera that can capture ghosts. “The historic hotel’s halls are said to be haunted by Franklin Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, and Frank Lloyd Wright,” says Fassbinder, who’s not sure why the hotel attracts such acclaimed apparitions. “It used to be one of the most prestigious hotels in the city – in fact, its nickname was ‘Home of Presidents’ because so many visiting presidents have stayed there.” (520 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL, 312-427-3800)

7) Hotel del Coronado. “This is a beautiful place,” says Fassbinder, “with a great ghost.” This island hotel off the coast of San Diego is a true southern California resort. And it’s also, according to Fassbinder, truly haunted. “The resident ghost is Kate Morgan who was murdered down at the beach. She’s real friendly,” Fassbinder claims. The hotel is very accommodating to ghost gawkers. “They don’t rent out room 304 so that anyone can visit it and feel the creepiness.” (1500 Orange Ave., Coronado, CA. 619-435-6611)

8) The Lemp Mansion. St. Louis may be the gateway to the west, but if you want to find the gateway to the paranormal realm, this one-time family mansion-turned-hotel is the spot to set up camp. Through the years, various members of the emotionally tortured Lemp family – once famous for their brewing empire – have committed suicide in the house. “If you dare to stay here, listen for ghostly knocks and phantom footsteps in the building,” warns Fassbinder. “But if that scares you too much, you can come to the annual Halloween party – that way, you won’t have to spend the night.” (3322 DeMenil Pl., St. Louis, MO, 314-664-8024)

9) The Farnsworth House. This 1810 brick building, which housed Confederate sharpshooters during the Civil War and contains over 100 bullet holes, is a mecca for more than just history buffs. “The staff claims that there are 14 different ghosts here who walk the corridors at night,” says Fassbinder. “In fact, a lot of people who have taken my ghost tour have told me they’ve stayed at the Farnsworth House and say that they’ve seen Civil War soldiers marching through the place.” (401 Baltimore St., Gettysburg, PA., 717-334-5862)

10) 17 hundred 90. This centuries-old Savannah inn has a perpetually heartbroken permanent guest: in the early 1800s, Anna Powers fell in love with a seaman who never came back. She eventually threw herself off a third-floor balcony on to a brick courtyard. “She wears a white-flowing, ankle-length long gown, and is believed to be haunting room 204, waiting for her lover to return,” claims Fassbinder. “This is a really fabulous place. I love it. And, like most of the hotels on my top-11 list, the staff is very open to talking about the ghost.” (307 E. President St., Savannah, GA, 912-236-7122)

11) The Roosevelt Hotel. This 75-year-old, 12-story landmark smack in the center of Tinsel Town has long been a lure for legends of the screen – both living and dead. “After a multi-million dollar renovation in the ’80s, an employee was dusting off a mirror just before the grand re-opening when she saw a blond woman’s reflection in the mirror,” Fassbinder says. “When she turned to speak to her, no one was there. But when she looked back in the mirror again, the blond woman was still staring at her. Coincidentally or not, the mirror was hanging in suite 1200, where Marilyn Monroe often stayed.” (7000 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA. 323-366-7000)

[Photo courtesy of miguelvieira via Flickr]