The South’s Most Haunted Cities
In a region where history and tradition reign, there’s bound to be some skeletons in the closet. From the long-held haunted reputations of some of our oldest cities like Savannah, New Orleans, and Charleston to the many unexplained and unsolved horror stories that are passed down through generations everywhere in between, the South is no stranger to hair-raising supernatural haunts that can be found down any cobblestone street or left on any historic battlefield.
The South has its fair share of haunted destinations that can lend their curses to any number of tragedies involving the Civil War, mass-spread epidemics, and more. The spiritual remnants of the voodoo and Gullah cultures in New Orleans and Savannah, respectively, are enough to cast a thin veil of supernatural energy over their towns alone. Southern Gothic literature tells these types of tales more poetically and disturbingly than we might at bedtime, with the likes of Flannery O’Connor, Carson McCullers, and Edgar Allen Poe; but these places are the real deal. We paired up with Yelp to determine the most haunted cities in the South, along with some of their most haunted landmarks, according to travelers that have seen it for themselves. Brace yourself if you’re easily spooked—these are the most haunted cities in the South to visit this fall.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is known widely as America’s most haunted city, and for good reason. Originally a French settlement, the city developed its rich history and vibrant personality from a mix of Creole influence, gruesome colonial wars, and a prevalent voodoo culture including famed voodoo priestess Marie Laveau. One block away from lively Bourbon Street, the Dauphine Orleans Hotel with its quiet courtyards was home to the first brothel in New Orleans, May Baily’s, and owned briefly by a close family member of the infamous Madame Delphine LaLaurie (who has her own terrifying history)—and you can stay in the historic boutique hotel during your visit. You’re guaranteed to hit the most haunted spots and hear the most twisted tales on a tour with French Quarter Phantoms. neworleans.com
Savannah can thank its storied past as a bustling port city full of bloody battles, epidemics, and colonial slave trade for its haunting reputation. The moss-laden trees and cobblestone streets set a chilling scene for its many historic buildings and cemeteries that ooze supernatural energy. The Marshal House, built in 1851, is a popular haunt you can book to stay in during your trip. It was used during the Civil War as a hospital for wounded soldiers who are rumored to still haunt the halls. Book a tour of the city’s most haunted spots with Blue Orb Tours, and if you’re feeling brave, choose their “Zombie Ghost Tour” for a mix of colonial ghost stories and frightening tales of the voodoo communities in the low-country. visitsavannah.com
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, the beautiful historic city named originally for King Charles II, has turned into a Southern cultural hub we love to visit, but the town has a long past peppered with stories of pirates, slavery, and war that stand as dark marks on the history of the “Holy City.” You can learn more about the origins of the supernatural haunts of the city with the authentic and detailed tours by Walks in History. There are a few spooky spots worth mentioning before your trip, though. The Old Charleston Jail (pictured above) is positively chilling in its Gothic glory and held many infamous criminals in their last days, such as Lavina Fisher, the first female serial killer in the country, who is known to make ghostly appearances there. Another spot, The Admiral’s House, was built for the Commandant of the Charleston Navy Yard and now sits in looming disrepair. The spookiest detail might be the small windowless brick building, known as the “Dead House,” that has been there much longer than the mansion. Visitors have claimed that a ghost-like apparition of a small girl appears on the grounds frequently. charlestoncvb.com
San Antonio, Texas
Home of the Alamo, San Antonio will forever be marked by the deaths of over 200 Texas defenders in the great battle, including famed frontiersman Davy Crockett. The gruesome killings left men dead and souls restless on the site, making it a supernatural haven. Not too far away, the Menger Hotel will provide a wonderfully haunted place to lay your head and claims to house many ghostly guests (rumors of over 30!), such as Sallie White, a chambermaid who died in the hotel after her husband shot her and is still seen walking the halls. You can enjoy a candlelit dinner and tour of the Menger Hotel on a haunted tour with Sisters Grimm Ghost Tours. The Spanish Governor’s Palace is another popular spot, with tales of a Tree of Sorrows where hangings took place and ghosts of children roaming the rooms. visitsanantonio.com
It’s no surprise that ghosts, restless souls, and haunted spots abound in a city that has housed our nation’s history in all of its glory and despair—gruesome deaths, assassinations, and tragedies included. Arlington Cemetery alone is home to over 400,000 graves. Known as the most haunted home in all of D.C., The Octagon House (pictured above) was built for Colonel John Tayloe III, and it’s rumored that his two daughters haunt the property. The tale goes that each daughter fell to her death down the home’s stairwell years apart, but both directly after getting into arguments with the Colonel about wanting to marry men he disapproved of. (They fell—wink, wink.) You’ll get to hear about more grim spots with mysterious deaths, roaming ghosts, and supernatural backstories on a tour with the popular Nightly Spirits tours. washington.org
Austin loves being known for keeping itself “weird”—and it certainly does with its many historic haunts that still stand in the city! One of its most well-known spots is The Driskill Hotel (pictured above), built by Colonel Jesse Driskill in 1886. Guests of the hotel claim to see Driskill’s ghost and smell the faint hint of cigars (which he loved!), and Room 525 was the scene of two suicides by bride-to-be young ladies and feels supernaturally grim. A more light-hearted haunting can be found at Buffalo Billards, which is home to a resident ghost known as “Fred.” With Haunted ATX, you get to climb into a classic Cadillac hearse that's been converted into a spooky limousine to visit several historic haunted Austin landmarks. austintexas.org
Tampa features some truly creepy haunts in its historic Latin quarter and former center of cigar manufacturing known as Ybor City, such as the Don Vicente Inn, now closed, that’s home to a ghost of a man and his disembodied nurse who frequent the basement (the inn was used as a hospital at one time in its history). You can visit this site and more haunted Ybor City landmarks with Ybor Ghost Tours. Or visit the Tampa Theatre with its resident ghosts. A former projectionist with a habit of smoking can still be spotted with curls of smoke in the booth, and a former organist who played in the theatre until her death at age 107 seems to haunt the venue with muted music. visitflorida.com