Editor’s note: This article was updated October 12, 2017
Scary travel tales
Over the years, I’ve visited historic cemeteries, sought out sights that have mysterious reputations, and sometimes found myself in scary spots just by chance. These places are especially appealing if the weather is dark and stormy. I never expect to be a really frightened traveler who has paranormal experiences and fortunately, that’s been the case – mostly. Several of these places still give me a shiver whenever I think of them, especially around Halloween.
Confessions of a frightened traveler
A cemetery stroll
I visited Salem, Massachusetts, famous for the 1692 witch trials, on a blustery November day. Although witch-related tourism is a big attraction, the town was very quiet since I was there off-season. I relished the eerie feeling as I strolled through the cemetery viewing the centuries-old gravestones, including those of several of the judges in the witch trials. The eerie feeling increased when I entered the Salem Witch Museum which was empty except for the attendant behind the museum shop’s counter. However, the mood quickly became too unsettling, and with the foreboding dark entrance to the exhibits, I hurried to get out of there, deciding not to take the tour. It was getting dark and I still hadn’t found the gallows where the “witches” were hanged, so I asked directions from a few people I passed while walking along the main street of town. It seemed odd that nobody could tell me where to find them. It was as if the townspeople just wanted to forget that part of their history. I dropped the idea and made my way for the train station, feeling relieved to put the disquieting Salem behind me and head back to Boston.
Chamber of Horrors
Embarrassingly, one experience that frightened the daylights out of me was an exhibit at a popular tourist attraction. On one of our visits to London, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum (just down the street from our hotel) was surprisingly devoid of the usual long lines, so we decided to take a tour. While enjoying the wax figures of celebrities and other famous characters, I had no reason to expect that a fright was just around the corner. Even with the warnings at the entrance of the Chamber of Horrors, I didn’t seriously believe it would be such an intense encounter with supposed serial killers who surrounded and reached out toward us in the darkness as we searched for a way out. I spent most of the time holding onto my husband with my face in his back, eyes closed and screaming to be let out!
Several years ago, we attended a wedding in Hadlyme, Connecticut, a perfect time to be there to enjoy the gorgeous colors of the season. The town’s Public Hall is in a secluded spot near the Connecticut River, providing a great setting for the wedding. Although I didn’t personally encounter any spirits there, the caterers said that they definitely felt their presence in the kitchen during dinner preparation including disruptions such as utensils and dishes being moved around. After hearing the report, I avoided the downstairs kitchen and dining area, but some of you may want to check it out.
Growing up in the Chicago area, I lived not far from a little-known, but still impressive haunted cemetery, Resurrection Cemetery on Archer Avenue in the town of Justice. Some who have lived in the area will tell you that they’ve seen the locally-famous ghost, Resurrection Mary, a pretty blond woman dressed in white, when driving down Archer Avenue at night. When I drive that piece of road even in the daytime, I’m always on the lookout!
No sleep for the haunted
The town of Mendocino is a popular travel destination on California’s northern coast. It is a quaint village, with historic buildings and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. It is also a place where I spent an unforgettably frightening night many years ago at the Mendocino Hotel. I couldn’t sleep a wink during the night as I listened to the wind blowing outside of our cottage and experienced a chilling feeling that there was a strange presence all around me. I later found out that the hotel was quite well-known for being haunted, but at the time I stayed in one of the cottages, I wasn’t aware of its resident specters.
At a hotel in Placerville, California in El Dorado County, I was quite nervous because I’d read that it was haunted. While checking in at the Cary House Hotel, we asked a staff member about this and she related her personal experiences of having felt the presence of resident ghosts. Others verified that numerous guests had made similar claims over the years, but we were assured that they were friendly ghosts. Our suite was on the 4th floor, which is a newer addition and supposedly not inhabited by spirits. Despite the assurances, I kept a light on all night and I shivered at every sound. I had an uneasy feeling throughout the night that spirits, friendly or not, lurked just outside our door.
Go ahead. Visit and stay in these places … if you dare.
You may be sensitive to the other world. Sometime I may lead you by the hand along the path to find out…..
You’re scaring me, Jim! Happy Halloween!
Happy Halloween to you Cathy.!
You’ll be the first I’ll let know when I write about the spirits of S21, Tuol Sleng…that’ll scare the pants off ya!
I’m too terrified to write about it! LOL.
Hahahaha, great post. I am hardly ever scared (or at least I try not to show it, macho image and all that), least of all ghosts. My wife, who’s Asian, come from a country where most people, even those with high education, believe in malevolent ghosts, vampires and dwarves. It has always amused me and made me wonder what in their culture could make them susceptible to such beliefs. I think I know why, at least in the case of my wife. When she was small, she was looked after by illiterete nannies from the deep countryside. And if she were naughty, they would scare her with the threat that the ghost or the vampires will come after her for what naughtiness she committed. It could also be that her country was deeply spiritual and religious. Qui sait!
Michael – thanks for the comment. The information about your wife’s upbringing is very interesting. It must have been terrible for her to be scared like that as a young child.
OMG! I would have been scared too! I love Mendocino, though. I’ll remember not to stay at that hotel. 🙂
you are much braver than i am, i can never visit a grave or a cemetary or a place where there are rumours of a ghost or witch craft. i enjoyed your post
Hey Mark – Thanks for clarifying that Resurrection Mary who “haunts” Archer Ave. is from Resurrection Cemetery. The ghosts of St. James are supposedly monks. I didn’t know about the Country House ghost — must visit!
Very fun (and topical) post! I have never been to any of these places, but they seem like interesting destinations. I think old cemeteries with above-ground crypts (like in New Orleans and Buenos Aires) are really creepy places to visit too!
How cool, I love that you have been to all of these places. Latin America also has above ground crypts and agreed it’s more than a bit creepy.
I love scary stories! I would have been holding onto Bob, too! I hate things jumping out at me!
After #TNI today and by the way, thanks for the follow, checking out your blog and lo and behold I find your post on cemeteries. I wrote one too, just a few wks ago and it was the one in Boston Common that geve me the bug: http://roadstories.ca/cemetery-stories/
Great fun on #TNI today. Look forward to your tweets.
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I’ve been to Salem and it is very interesting!
I’ve done a few things you’ve mentioned like the Salem Witch Museum and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum but I think those were tame compared to the others. I did a ghost walking tour in Burlington, Ontario and that didn’t freak me out but now that you pose the question, yes, I am a scaredy-cat. I would not stay in a haunted hotel room like at the Cary House Hotel. No! No! No!
I want to experience the Chamber of Horror! 🙂 But I prefer not to sleep in a haunted hotel 😉 Great post Catherine!