By Sarah Sekula, Published in USA Today
It’s Friday the 13th, a date that strikes terror in the hearts of the superstitious. So why not seize the day by visiting someplace really creepy? Zak Bagans, host of the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, shares with Sarah Sekula for USA TODAY some of the nation’s most notorious haunts.
The Washoe Club Haunted Museum
Virginia City, Nev.
“Virginia City is one of my favorite haunted cities in the country,” Bagans says. Here you can visit the 1862 bar, the haunted museum and, perhaps, have your very own ghost encounter. “Heck, the ghosts at the Washoe Club call me and my fellow investigator, Nick Groff, by our full names. What can I say? The ghosts get personal.” 775-847-4467; thewashoeclub.com
Bobby Mackey’s Music World
This haunted honky-tonk was once a slaughterhouse and, according to legend, the site of cult activity. Even creepier, “the well in the basement, known as Hell’s Gate, is claimed to be a portal to hell,” Bagans says. The warning sign posted in the entryway says it all: Management is not held liable for any attacks by its ghosts. 859-431-5588; bobbymackey.com/hellsgate.html
Moon River Brewing Co.
“This is by far the most haunted building in one of the most haunted towns in America,” Bagans says. “You may want to think twice before heading to the bathroom while drinking that tasty beer. An encounter with the ghost of a Civil War soldier may await you.” 912-447-0943; moonriverbrewing.com
The Stanley Hotel
Estes Park, Colo.
The hotel that inspired Stephen King’s novel The Shining is believed to be haunted. (In fact, The Stanley hosts regular ghost tours.) “This hotel has its dark history, but also has guests who seem to never want to check out,” Bagans says. ” The problem is the guests have long since passed on.” 800-976-1377; stanleyhotel.com
Soldiers National Museum
Not only is this former orphanage near the site of one of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles, the building has its own tragic history, which makes it “the creepiest spot in Gettysburg,” Bagans says. As the story goes, a woman who worked here chained children in the basement. Apparently, this resulted in a lot of “unrested spirits.” 717-334-6296; gettysburgbattlefieldtours.com
Eastern State Penitentiary
There’s nothing like walking into a 19th-century, gothic-style castle where thousands of criminals, including gangster Al Capone and bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton, were incarcerated to get a hint of the prison experience. “Prisoners’ agony, pain and insanity were entombed in the thick, windowless cells of this prison,” Bagans says. “That energy can be felt.” 888-763-6483; easternstate.org
USS Hornet Museum
“Just over the bridge from San Francisco, the “Grey Ghost” (a former aircraft carrier), sits eerily decommissioned,” Bagans says. “You can take your own self-guided tour through its haunted jungle gym-like maze of steel corridors. The sailors and servicemen seem to still be hanging out in their bunks and in the ship’s medical facility, where the residual energy from horrific battle scars seem to never heal.” 510-521-8448; uss-hornet.org
Bird Cage Theatre
“You don’t have to watch wild West movies to get a feel for what rowdy gunslingers used to be like,” Bagans says. “Simply come to this old gambling hall/ brothel.” The raucous gathering spot first opened in the late 1800s, and “the ghosts of Boot Hill Graveyard seem to still be hanging out at their favorite nightspot,” Bagans says. “If you want to catch a good scare, linger around for a while. I must say, from personal experience, there are definitely some touchy-feely spirits here.” 800-457-3423; tombstonebirdcage.com
Amargosa Opera House and Hotel
Death Valley Junction, Calif.
“This peculiar hotel is located in the middle of nowhere and was once used as a Borax Mining community complex,” Bagans says. “It has a creepy carnival feeling with eerie murals of people drawn on every wall. The staff reportedly gets channeled through quite often by its resident spirits. Use caution if you want to check out its unrenovated section tagged ‘Spooky Hallow,’ where an apparent murder took place.” 760-852-4441; amargosa-opera-house.com
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
The asylum, one of the largest hand-cut stone masonry buildings in North America, boasts more than 150 years of haunted history. “Once inside, you can feel the presence of the mentally ill patients who lived and died there,” Bagans says. “If you want to experience a chilling encounter, go stand inside one of the isolation cells and listen very carefully for a ghostly, blood-curdling scream.” 304-269-5070; trans-alleghenylunaticasylum.com