When it comes to Halloween, there are three types of people: those who hate it, those who enjoy it, and those who go absolutely nuts for everything concerning Halloween. You know which of these categories you fall into, and if it’s either of the last two, a scary vacation might be for you. Whether you go during October or choose another time of year, these truly creepy getaways will have you screaming for more.
Salem, MA – The Salem Witch Trials
Ah, Salem. The places where something horrifying truly happened are always the scariest. For the uninitiated, Salem, Massachusetts is the home of the tragic Salem Witch Trials which began in 1692. After two young girls began acting oddly, a mass “witch hunt” ensued in which both men and women were subjected to brutal torture, interrogations and execution. In the end, 24 individuals accused of witchcraft were dead. A visit to Salem brings this frightening piece of history to life.
Travelers can visit The Witch House, former home of one of the witch trial judges. The Peabody Essex Museum contains 553 original documents pertaining to the witch trials, and the Essex Superior Court House contains other eerie memorabilia, including “witch pins” used in interrogations. The Salem Witch Trials Tercentenary Memorial is a striking tribute as well, with markers for each of the accused.
Amityville, NJ –The Amityville Horror
Although the truth of the books and movies about “the Amityville Horror” remain in question, it all started with one very definite event: in 1974, Ronald DeFeo, Jr. shot and killed 6 members of his family at 112 Ocean Avenue. Thirteen months later, newlyweds George and Kathy Lutz moved into the home with her three children after getting it for a “bargain price”. After only 28 days, the Lutz family abandoned 112 Ocean Avenue – and never came back. Jay Anson’s controversial book The Amityville Horror: The True Story is based on 45 hours of tape-recorded testimony by the Lutz family of their experiences in the house. Horror movies based on the Lutz family’s experience have frightened and amazed viewers for decades.
Although most of the residents and authorities in Amityville are trying to pretend “the Amityville Horror” never existed, they can’t escape the hysteria that has surrounded this famous piece of real estate. They have renovated the house and even changed the address in an attempt to escape fans of horror, without success (hint: the most recent address was 108 Ocean Avenue, instead of 112). Most local cabbies will take you there, while filling you in on the home’s history.
Louisville, KY – The Waverly Hills Sanatorium
Looking for an overnight stay that will really chill your blood? The Waverly Hills Sanatorium was a hospital for tuberculosis patients from 1910-1961, when tuberculosis patients were kept secluded from the rest of the world. At the peak of the tuberculosis epidemic, many patients died every day, and their dead bodies were shipped out of the hospital via “The Body Chute” or Death Tunnel. Visitors can now travel the 500 feet of the Death Tunnel . . . with flashlights, of course, since the chute is in complete darkness. Many visitors have submitted photos taken at the sanatorium, of ghostly apparitions and figures which appear to be human. The best way to find out the truth? Book a stay at the Waverly Hills Sanatorium yourself.
Estes Park, CO – The Stanley Hotel (The Shining)
The Stanley Hotel is best known as being the inspiration for Stephen King’s famous horror novel The Shining. The Shining was written in 1977 after Stephen King stayed at The Stanley Hotel, and was largely written during King’s stay at the hotel in a fit of inspiration. When King and his wife Tabitha checked in, they were the only two guests in the entire hotel. They even stayed in room 217, which was said to be haunted – thus the room 217 in the book. They ate in the dining hall, which was entirely deserted except for the Kings. And when his wife retired, as in the books, King had a drink at the bar with a bartender named Grady.
The Stanley Hotel is still up and running in Estes Park, a grand if creepy landmark. In fact, guests who call far enough in advance can even stay in Room 217 – which was said to be haunted even before The Shining was written. Guests can even take part in one of the hotel’s Ghost Tours, which include Room 217 and the hotel’s underground tunnel. So book a room, settle in, and see if you find The Stanley Hotel as creepy as Stephen King did!
Transylvania, Romania – Dracula
Although Transylvania is further away than the other scary destinations, it is not to be missed. Transylvania is the home of modern vampire lore, which is an enormous part of pop culture today. Bram Stoker based his Dracula on a real-life Transylvanian – Count Vlad Tepes, whose Romanian surname was actually Drakyula. He was known for his excessive bloodthirstiness, and executing his enemies by impalement.
Today, visitors to Transylvania can tour the castle of Bran, the former home of Count Vlad Tepes. Vlad Tepes’ main residential castle, Castle Poenari, can also be visited in Central Romania, though it is in ruins. Determined visitors to Castle Poenari must climb 1500 steps just to reach the ruins.
Fans of horror and Halloween will enjoy the fright these locations have to offer, and will have to decide for themselves whether that fright is real or imagined. From the Waverly Hills Sanatorium to Dracula’s castle, all of these getaways are sure to chill the blood and get your adrenaline pumping.
Information obtained on August 19, 2010 via: