There are two kinds of people: Halloween people and Christmas people. Some of us are super into family and cocoa and fireplaces, and the rest of us are into playing dress up and feeling our bodies freeze up with abject terror. To the latter group: Your time has come. It is imperative to make the most of the month. Let’s get the pumpkins carved, the candy purchased (because you have to eat at least five bags by the time kids actually show up at the door), costume out of planning stages into manufacture, and outings planned.
A visit to a corn maze is debatable, but a haunted house is a must. Sure, there are those faux hauntings in strip malls with disaffected youth making minimum wage to put on grease paint and get punched by drunk people unprepared for jump scares, but that’s weak sauce. You need 100 percent authentic spirits, preferably with some great backstory. And solid architecture never hurt anyone, either. Ambiance matters.
What follows are one dozen of the best-haunted houses in the country. We’ve already run back haunted attractions — today we’re talking about real hauntings. The (more) legit stuff. You can expect historical narratives with strained family relationships, doomed lovers, mysterious deaths, suicides, and even a person locked in an attic. And, yes, location, location, location. Burial grounds or GTFO.
The Winchester House (San Jose, CA)
Once a daunting seven-story mansion, the Winchester House is still an imposing structure at its present four stories (Hey, earthquakes in California are a bitch). Unlike a lot of other haunted houses, which are filled with the menacing spirits of former residents, this home was arguably built for the ghosts. Rumor has it that this Queen Anne Style Victorian home was Sarah Winchester’s way of fighting back the ghosts of the people killed by husband William Wirt Winchester’s famous guns. After the death of her husband and infant child, legend says Sarah visited a Boston medium, who told her that she needed to leave New Haven, head west, and continuously build a home for both herself and the victims of Winchester rifles. Obviously, she could have just gotten a touch of wanderlust and been an early, yet inept house flipper, but the other version is more fun.
This isn’t just an architectural nightmare, it’s a legit haunted house named one of the “Most Haunted Places in the World” by Time. Many, many visitors to the house have spiritual sightings to relay. There have been multiple sightings of a man with coal black hair pushing a ghostly wheelbarrow or repairing the fireplace in the ballroom. How big of a bummer is it going to be if the afterlife involves continuing your handyman duties? Other incidents include being patted on the back or tapped on the shoulder when you are completely alone and hearing deep sighs.
Sighs make sense. If I was dead Sarah Winchester, I wouldn’t want people wandering around my labyrinthian home either.