Since there are dozens of haunted houses to visit each Halloween, it seems I’m not the only person who enjoys the thrill of being scared. One of the perks of writing paranormal fiction is that I get to indulge my hobby and call it research so in the last few years not only have I gone to staged haunted houses, I have checked out some supposedly real haunted sites in the US. I tend to be a skeptic, but I love the stories, love the spine tingling feeling, and love the possibilities of future novels that spring from my adventures. Do ghosts exist? I have no idea, but all of these places certainly have a rich and intriguing history.
Waverly Institute in Kentucky: An old asylum that eventually housed tuberculosis patients, it had a body chute to carry the deceased to the mortuary. Seriously creepy place and well worth getting on the waiting list to visit.
Haunted Hotels of New Orleans: I have stayed at the Olivier House, Hotel Monteleone, Andrew Jackson Hotel, and the Provincial. In the Olivier House, we have definitely heard odd things and had items appear such as straight pins sticking out of our mattresses (which could be a maid resenting her tip I suppose) and a black crow (yes, a live black crow was in the room!). In the Andrew Jackson, my sister complained of children running and laughing in the hallway late at night only there were no children staying there. Turns out, it a dozen or so boys died in a fire there when it was a boarding school.
LaLaurie Mansion: This house is privately owned but just looking at it from the outside is enough to raise the hair on the back of your neck. A doctor and his wife tortured their slaves here and managed to escape punishment. The window that is blocked off (and where allegedly they did the torturing behind the bricked over window) reminds you that ghosts or not, a real life evil couple did indeed live here. My book, The Taking, has a house in it I based off of the LaLaurie mansion.
Franklin Castle: This house in Cleveland was built by a German immigrant who lost his wife and children to disease. Supposedly children can be heard crying and there are sounds of parties. There are also odd peepholes and secret doors in the very stately home.
Gettysburg: Enough said. Thousands of men died there, and it is a sad, solemn place.
Mansfield Prison: I actually spent the night in the empty prison, where they filmed The Shawshank Redemption. There was no electricity and no heat, and it is one crumbling pile of brick and metal. It has the largest free-standing cell block (six floors high, cells all stacked on each other with a main hallway) and the worst offenders were housed here. I spend some time in solitary confinement, but the only vibe I get is that murderers and molesters lived and died in this hopeless place. The pictures are of me in the prison, and yes, I laid on the bed, and I found an old Harlequin romance novel in there!