Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Scariest Places

I’d love to hear from folks about the scariest places they’ve ever been. I’ve seen a lot of lists lately of the top most haunted sites, but frequently visited places just don’t seem to have much oomph to them viscerally. I have a list of my top 10 untapped favorites that left lasting impressions on the personal discomfort meter (not in order):

1. Aspen Grove. I can’t make a post about scariest places without mentioning the one that started my fascination with scary places, Aspen Grove, my childhood home. Actually, the outbuildings were pretty scary too including two carriages houses, a barn, and a stable, but the scariest place on the entire estate was the basement. Isn’t it always that way? We had a crawlspace in ours that went under the kitchen which was added on in the early 1900s. It had powdery silt and had about 3’ headroom so you had to crawl. We found some amazing relics in this crawlspace and all the black snakes liked to curl up there for the wintertime. We gave each other lots of space when moving around in there. One time, I set up my cot in the basement determined to face my greatest fear and sleep there completely alone. I put a radio on my father’s workbench and lay there looking at the ancient stonewalls and the mud-streaked concrete floor from all the flooding when it rained through the root cellar doors. The sense of being watched was so intense, I packed it up and left within a half hour. My mom used to store the canned goods down there and she’d ask for something for supper and I’d literally run the entire way, feeling something on my heels the whole time. I suppose fears begin in childhood, but that one made even the adults in the family shudder.

2. Big Bend Tunnel, Talcott, West Virginia (Summers County). Boy, this one’s a hard one to explain. My family had relatives in Summers County WV, so we traveled from VA there all the time. We went through this tunnel often and it has a huge statue of John Henry near it and a plaque. The minute we got even near the bend where you go into the tunnel, I’d start having a fit. The child inside of me knew something was wrong with it. I’d been through loads of tunnels in the DC area and New York and the Chesapeake, but this one little tunnel made me nearly hysterical. To this day, if I even think about it, I get shivers. I’d love to go back as an adult and try it out again but I know I’ll break into a sweat. I have no rational explanation for this, except as a kid my mom would ask me I told her the mountain was made of bad stones. That’s all I could voice about it. I tried to hold my breath because I actually thought if I inhaled, I’d take in some kind of evil. Once again, childhood creates the best fears to tackle.

3. The George Mason University-owned woods between Green Acres Elementary School and St. George’s Church on Roberts Road. I spent my entire childhood tromping through these woods, but there were certain parts of them I avoided at all costs. It wasn’t just that back then (early 70s) the college kids like to hike the paths and smoke pot, but it was more about the legends. There were a lot of spreading rumors about a man living in a shack out there who would abduct anyone who was silent. If you whistled, he’d run off and hide, but if you were quiet, he’d take you and make you his pet. Apparently, he hated noise??? I spent my childhood walking to the elementary school through those woods, whistling until my mouth went dry. There was a lot of history there on that land from the Civil War and the times of settlements and Native American citizens. The woods had a weird feel to them that was unlike any woods I’ve ever been in before. The feeling of being constantly watched, of being unsettled and lost in what direction you were headed, and the way the wind went through them… Gives me shivers even today. Yet another scary place from childhood.

4. Oregon City, OR. My next choice is Oregon City, Oregon. We went on a family trip here a couple years ago and we were driving along the bridge that leads into Oregon City. The town is powered by a hydroelectric plant on the river and along the bridge, fishermen had hung sturgeon (which look a lot like sharks). My husband passed it and I started getting a feeling like I was going to die if I didn’t go in there and feel the place. I said, “if you don’t pull over and turn around and go there, I’m going to jump out of the moving car.” Hubby was accommodating and swerved the car around and drove over the bridge. I’ve never felt a sensation like this in my entire life. As someone who’s used to being drawn to objects and places by psychic sensations, this place was off the charts. I couldn’t get my senses to slow down. It’s a tiny little village tucked into a hillside on the river and looks very industrial and bleak. I felt like someone who just found a past life hometown after reincarnation. I couldn’t explain it other than perhaps the river, the hydroelectric plant, and the rock… Something was there that was so strong that I vowed I would write a horror novel about this place. I’ve never seen a location more begging to be a doomed town. We left but I couldn’t shake the sensory overload. It was like being barraged by a thousand people’s thoughts all at once and trying to sort one out of the mix. I can feel this in crowds but can easily hone in on one or two people, not everyone at once as if they were a mass of zombies with the same master controlling their minds. I’ll never forget that place. It really left an impression like no other place, not even Salem could touch the power that place gives off.

5. Nimitz/Hinton, West Virginia. Hinton’s at the bottom of the mountain near the New River, Nimitz is atop the mountain. Both are equally freaky. I used it as the setting for the novel I’m writing called “The Thicket” because it just feels strangely as if the people are pod folks. They stare at you kind of strange and they act nice, but it’s like there’s someone else behind the eyes. We walked in the McDonald’s and literally the entire place went silent. We ended up eating on the porch. They’re highly religious and very close knit, so maybe that’s what’s going on, but the geology of the place and the rushing river makes for a very strange mix, a lot like Oregon City, OR. I have a lot family that for some insane reason settled there. When I was a kid, I’d cry when we had to visit. It felt like entering another dimension and I get an overwhelming sense of sadness. It’s like the land that time forgot. It’s really tucked away in SE West Virginia and you have to purposely go there to find it. In fact, a guy at the gas station took one look at us and said in a slow drawl, “ya’all take a wrong turn?” Yup!

6. Mt. St. Helens. This was one of those zen-like feelings when I was up there in all that devastated land for so many miles. I live in the desert, so open spaces like that with nothing much living are familiar, but this one felt like a burnt away history exposed and acute on chronic. I had the strangest feeling there. I wasn’t at all expecting it. I figured we’d go see the spot and the museum and take pictures and leave on our road trip, but what hit me was totally new. I felt that sensation some folks say they feel when they pass on and are revived back to life. A feeling of all-knowing, as if someone handed you the key to the universe and now you get “It” as in the collective knowledge of human beings on earth. It was very very strange and I felt sort of spiritually above all the petty stuff. Even the flight home I had no fear and I hate to fly. It lasted a few weeks. Every now and then I can recall the feeling, but man I’d like to live with that all the time, except I’d probably never get anything done.

7. Powhatan’s Chimney in Gloucester, Virginia. Supposedly this chimney is the remains of a house built for Powhatan by Captain John Smith. We stopped at this just about every time we headed to our summer home when I was a kid. I can’t explain the way this site made me feel. I was a sensitive kid but I usually blocked out places that were only mildly uneasy but ones that has something really powerful, I felt them full-on. I was pretty brave that way. I always became extremely quiet and respectful when we visited here. We visited hundreds of historic sites growing up, as mother was an historian and artist, but this one site gave me a feeling of a more ancient power. I don’t believe it was the chimney, but the land it was upon. I felt as if Native American spirits still sifted around the land there and watched us. I usually said goodbye when I left and that was not something I did for any other place. There's more spiritual energy in that small piece of land than I've felt anywhere and I've hit just about all the historic sites.

8. Law Cemetery, Pipestem, WV. West Virginia is honestly the scariest state I’ve ever been to in my entire life. At the same time, the most beautiful. And, once you get the people to warm up to you, they’re incredibly gracious. But, I’ve been visiting there since I was a small child and I’m in my mid 40s now and nothing has changed! I can still ride the same hillside tram at Pipestem Resort that I rode 40 years ago! That being said, there’s a cabin at the Pipestem resort. Cabin #5. It’s right beside a path that leads deep into the woods to a forgotten small cemetery called “Law Cemetery.” That is the creepiest feeling cabin, the creepiest woodland path, and the creepiest cemetery ever. In all my years of braving it as a ghost hunter, this was the first time I actually ran. My son and I thought it would be brave to turn off our flashlights on the path and stand there and listen. We had heard something walking parallel with us on two feet in the woods. We were starting to think Bigfoot. When it began to step with heavy steps again, we turned on our lights and literally ran. I felt so ashamed that I got hysterical, but everything inside of me was telling me that I’m being stalked. We walked the path every night to the cemetery while we stayed there. It was the bravest walk ever.

9. Joshua Tree Monument, CA. When I was pregnant with my son, hubby thought it would be fun to go camping (with morning sickness and a tent zipper that kept sticking). Well, I braved it out because I wanted to do some paintings of Joshua Tree Monument. It’s a lonely place in the California desert that is all huge boulders and Joshua tree plants which look like sad zombies drooping in the heat. There’s some trickling streams and a whole lot of rock climbers there. But, there’s also something in the geology of the land that’s very very unsettling. My dreams were extremely vivid there and my energy levels very high. It was like a fountain of youth or something. I had a headache the first day which I usually do when the land is really powerful, like in Sedona, but by the second day I felt invincible. Even with morning sickness until 4 in the afternoon, I was up for hiking and exploring. At night the coyotes go nuts around the campgrounds and the howling gets to you, but the shapes of the Joshua Tree plants and the giant boulders reminds me of “The Hills Have Eyes.” You’re on the alert there, but when you leave you feel strangely 10 years younger. Someone really should put a spa there!

10. Sedona, Arizona. I almost considered listing Jerome, but Sedona has a geology that surpasses even that mining town on the mountaintop. Sedona, Arizona will give you a serious headache the first day you're there. Almost everyone feels it. By the second day, you're ready to hike the canyons and streams and the red rocks in search of vortices. The airport vortex is my personal obsession. I understand it's the male vortex, so maybe it just says something about my mind's preoccupations, but I am seriously drawn to it. Every time I go there, my mind goes completely blank and I feel like I was just re-booted. All the glitches are gone and everything is running smoothly. I've since learned to bring an offering and leave it (many folks do). I let myself meditate and then to get me reorganized on the right path, I hold something in my hand that represents what I want to focus on for the next year. I go to the Oak Creek and I think about that goal, getting it really focused in my mind, and toss the object into the creek. Don't worry. I don't pollute. I usually take a rock with a word scribbled in charcoal on it. So far, perhaps its the subconscious, but every goal I set in that spot, I achieved within a few months of leaving there. When I go to send my novel in to the publisher--I'm going back again--you bet ya!


  1. You'll love this, I used to live like 5 miniutes from Nimitz in Shady Spring WV. It wasn't by choice, my ex-husband had grew up there so we moved there after we were married. There are SOOOO many spooky places around there. But tops on my list are Alderson Jr. College in Alderson WV. Its abandoned now, but it was once a military school. I have one really unexplainable picture from there. I was part of a ghost hunting group when I lived in WV and we all went there one day and just walked around snapping pictures and one of the maybe 400 I took that day was just bizaar. I don't share it publicly because I am sure most people would not think it was real...if you want though I would share it with you through email or something. And second scariest place I have ever been is the Soldiers Memorial Theater in Beckley WV. Alot of history there. I have a EVP of a piano playing there when no piano was around.

  2. PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA (2002 - 2005)

    Frequently in my bedroom, I would see a ghost (just the spirit of a man) sitting on my floor against the wall with his arms crossed. I sensed that he were a voyeur and I most definitely knew that he was there. I had previously (years prior), read about the incubus and succubus and that was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw him but he just sat there and fortunately had no intentions.

    I have had more than the lion's share of paranormal experiences either feeling or sensing the presence of ghosts, but the most memorable experience started at my next door neighbors home.

    My neighbor had come over to my place to ask if I could help her get her mattress back on her bed frame because it fell off while she was trying to flip her mattress herself. My daughter and I went back to her place to help put it back on the frame. As soon as I walked into her bedroom an extremely large entity walked completely through me and then through my daughter. It reminded me of a very large man, something that would have weighed over 300 pounds if alive. It was like a big humungous wave going through us. We both yelled at the same time screaming, "WHAT WAS THAT?"

    So out came the stories since my neighbor then said that she has been having experiences previous to that as well. She was relieved that she wasn't nuts after hearing what I had to say. I asked her about her dreams and she didn't want to talk about them.

    That night as I slept, I had a dream (very lucid dream) where a woman was showing me a picture of a man and he was very, very large, like a 300-pound person. The only thing that came to my mind in the dream was the word perverted.

    When I have dreams, especially lucid dreams I pay very close attention because most of what I get (if the dream is lucid) are messages. Everything of course is symbolic or metaphoric, but they're easy for me to decipher since an object I'll be shown is simply representative of something in my own personal life. Consequently, I knew now that the person in her bedroom was an incubus and that's why she didn't want to talk about her dreams. Later in the day I told her about my dream I had the night before. She said nothing but I could read her face.

    These things with male visitors also happened to my daughter in her sleep. My daughter was only 12 when it happened to her. That's sick! Consequently, since that happened, our three stories came out to each other and all three of us wear full pajamas to bed and are fully clothed when around the home day and night.

    The incubus that was visiting my daughter in her sleep disappeared forever since we moved a couple of weeks later to Texas from California so it was never heard from again.

    No, you don't want to live in Placerville.

  3. Tracu. Holy moly! Small world. Yeah, I've been to Shady Spring. In fact, we almost bought a house there when my mom was homesick. Glad we didn't. I'm just not built for WV. I don't mind visiting, but I'd probably go insane if I had to live there. I heard about Alderson from my nieces in Hinton. I'm putting that on my list for next time. I also had on my list a "school for colored's" (no kidding, that's what they called it). The places there are too numerous to count. I've never seen so many abandoned buildings and cemeteries. I would love pic's. I'm at psychic62@hotmail.com
    I'll have to look up that theater in Beckley. All the family goes there for shopping because it's the nearest big city. They talk about it like folks in Mayberry talked about Mount Pilot. Hee hee. We looked at a place in Bramwell called "The Potter Mansion" and that was perhaps one of the top most haunted private homes I've ever been in and a place called Glen Roy in Virginia on the James River which was THE most haunted house I've ever been in--even more so than Aspen Grove! The Potter mansion had a ballroom on the third floor and stained glass and was an impressive mansion. I remember thinking--what is this doing in WV? There was a four-story mill we were looking to buy in White Sulfur Springs too, but I'm just glad mom agreed not to move to WV. It's an experience everyone should have, but not everyone's meant to live there. Most of my family is buried up in Sand Knob. Now, that's truly squirrel eating territory.

    Atrueoriginall; Placerville..yeah. We stopped there one time and I think it was the fastest pitstop on a road trip ever. A lot of California is like that and I'd want to attribute it to the geology of the place since it is very active. I can relate to the feeling and sense that a man is watching you in your room. When I was a kid, the soldier that walked up the stairs, stopped in front of the radiator in my bedroom and I slept knowing there was something beside me all night long. I became rather paranoid about it, changing in the closet and such. When I got the hormones of my teen years, however, I found it actually made me a bit of an exhibitionist. Sort of like that syndrome where tween girls have crushes on babyfaced guys cause they're safer. I think having a spirit that showed it couldn't do anything but stand there, made me rather brave. I figured, if we're going to live together, we might as well be comfortable. I look back and realize that as a kid I was raised to believe ghosts were spirits, but I have since wondered if that nightly walk was just a memory the house had of something that played out when they were patrolling every night over and over again, leaving an imprint by repetition. The incubus/sucubus concept has always intrigued me and I have an element of that in my horror novel I'm writing. I'm always fascinated to hear from folks who have experienced it because it helps me to write better the sensations and feelings that go through their minds. It helps me describe the tension. And, I have had the feeling of energy passing through me like that several times in my life, like you described. It literally goes in one side of your body and out the other and it's like a wave of icy electricity. All your hairs stand on end, the chills go from teh inside out, and you're left swaying and breathless. It's really amazing! It's a rare thing someone experiences that. Now, you'll be able to sense when something's near without it having to pass through you because you'll recognize those feelings. Thanks for your stories. I love when people share things and we can find commonality.

  4. Tracy--sorry, typo. I typed your name "Tracu" because my mind gets ahead of my fingers. :-)

  5. Great list Autumnforest-speaking of fingers getting ahead-I had great lost and autumnfirest at first:-) I have been to Sedona once and felt the energy of the place-I enjoyed it -except for the tourist trap stuff (overpriced and the like) By far the worst place emotionally I was ever at was Dachau Concentration Camp when i went to Europe as a high schooler! I do not know if it was because the exhibits here and there in the camp were extremely graphic-or that I was spooked knowing I was going into a place approx 40 years earlier where people died in the hundreds of thousands-but I did get a "mental" sense somehow of sadness and desperation-like I say-I could have "primed" my own mind to feel this way as I knew what went on there-but I was so glad to leave-I got very close to vomiting at one point-this was in 1982 and still remember that day like it was yesterday-but so much else has gone from my memory like it was never there-thanks again for your great blog and hard work-love reading the comments also-all the best!!

  6. When I was a young child, we lived in a haunted house. It was a small house just south of Los Angeles. I don't remember seeing or hearing anything paranormal except for a round orb that would travel around on the walls in the dining room. At the time I didn't think it was anything weird, because I didn't relate it to anything supernatural because I didn't know about those things then. I just thought it was a cool light. It was a bit smaller than a baseball, but I don't remember any other details, except that I would sit there and watch it move around the room. It wasn't until I was a teen that my mom started telling me all the things she, my dad and visitors experienced. The previous owners actually sold the house because the mom in that family couldn't take the hauntings.
    My mom and dad saw the round orb as well and my dad checked every possible angle in the room to see where the source would be. But there was no possible way for it to be from any natural source.
    Other things that were heard were coins falling and rolling onto the wood floor. After searching the house there were no coins anywhere. My mom would hear someone unlocking, opening and closing the back door, only to find no one there. You would hear noises outside the house and no one or no thing would be outside.
    The scariest thing my mom would see would be a dark hooded figure pass in the hallway between the two bedrooms. She would see this thing from the livingroom and would always see it from the corner of her eye and when she turned toward that doorway nothing was there. Except for one time, she turned and there it was! It turned and looked at her with an evil smile and continued on its way.
    And there were many other things my parents experienced while living there as well.
    I think we lived there for about 7 years then we moved.
    That's the only experience I've had, but I'm fascinated by others experiences. And my mom has had many. I love to hear her tell of those experiences.

  7. I not only love reading your posts but the comments by others are equally as interesting. I remember one time when I was in grade school, I spent the night with two friends, who were sisters(their names escape me), whose parents were friends of my parents. They lived in an old home in central Phoenix and have told us about the ghosts that they have seen there. I was a little apprehensive about spending the night but the girls were good friends, so I did. I woke up in the middle of the night, look at the door and thought that I saw an apparition of a woman. It scared me, I threw the covers over my head and was unable to sleep. I'm not sure if I was half asleep or if I really saw her. They said that I probably did. Needless to say, it was the last time I spent the night at their house.

  8. Devin;
    It's so fun getting these conversations going. You can't imagine what I'm like on a road trip--I like to play "what would you do if?" and things like that. It's interesting, but even when folks know about the history of a place like a concentration camp, they go there and think it looks sad and they wonder how it happened, but some folks feel it viscerally. You sound like one of those folks. It's an ability to be empathetic. I would love to go to a Nazi camp because I've had repeat dreams about being a Jewish girl in France and my father and I having to outrun the raid on the village. I wake up actually speaking fluent French and I don't know the language... I've tried to set up my voice activated recorder to capture it, but I never know what night it'll happen. One of these days! I'm actually still talking a good deal when I wake up and hear this voice coming from me so easily. It actually makes me break into laughter when I finish waking up.

    Marbella; LA actually has a lot of activity. I was amazed by it, but you put an ocean on one side and geological faults beneath it and lots of mining activity with a geologically rich area and wow--it's kind of got to happen. The orb light I've heard people that have seen that, it's pretty common of a manifestation. We used to get heat-less scent-less smoke. That was wacky! Your mother might be a magnetic for such places, either choosing locations because of the feel or perhaps attracting activity because she's sensitive. Sort of like that show with Jennifer Love Hewitt--when a ghost realizes she can see him, he follows her around.

    Kids really do pick up these things so much easier. I find sleep time too is a great time for things to show themselves because we're often in alpha state and that puts our mind ready to receive, it's the same state of mind you use for astral projection--like your body and mind lose their limitations for a time. You know that delicious feeling when you're falling asleep and it feels like they just injected you with anesthesia and you smile and drift... I feel for your friends. I had a horrible time growing up getting anyone to spend the night. I had a couple friends who would stay often and they were both the types that fell asleep in seconds and were out for the night. I can remember when the weekend was coming, I'd call all my grade school friends and almost all of them had parents who were too afraid to have them stay in our house. The Washington Post and Star newspapers were always covering the ghosts and everyone pretty much saw us as the big old scary mansion on the hill sitting in the middle of the suburbs... I so related to the Addams family.

  9. Good article and all very good comments. Scariest place for me is the grocery store. LOL I have to honestly say where the deceased are or have been, i never have gotton scared. The living worry me more. LOL

  10. Raven;
    I absolutely agree with that. When folks find out I ghost hunt, they go "aren't you scared you might run into one?" I'm actually more scared I won't run into one and also scared I'll run into the living when I'm in an isolated place.

  11. Hands down scariest place I've visited is Waverly Hills Sanatorium. I used to live in New Albany, IN, right across the river from Louisville, KY where Waverly is located.

    My ex-BF's sibling ran a fun house Halloween attraction type thing one October out of the ground floor of that place. During the one afternoon, we popped in while they were still setting up (so it must have been in September) and he gave us a tour of the place. We went all the way up to the top, and looked around in all the various rooms.

    Very, very, scary. Very, very haunted. I can't really even describe the feeling in that place. It was hard to walk, hard to breathe. Like trying to walk underwater, or something. I can't describe it.

    Gettysburg, PA also makes my list. The very stones there scream. I didn't get to spend as much time as I wanted to exploring there, and I hope I get to go back sometime soon.

    The house I lived in when I was 14. My parents were caretakers at a ranch in New Mexico. Our nearest neighbors were 6 miles away. We didn't have electricity, and our water was pumped by a windmill. The house was brand new though, a huge, rambling log home. We lived in the basement apartment. Anyway, it was built on the site of an old homestead, in fact the fireplace from the tiny cabin that used to live there was still standing, out in the middle of the parking area. That house was the most haunted place I have ever lived.

    Anyway...those are my picks :)

  12. Pamela;
    Great choices! I like to hear about the ones not commonly mentions and that house in NM sounds fantastically ideal. I can imagine having the old (probably stone) fireplace still standing would be a great beacon. I knew someone back east who lived in a house build on the old house's foundation and they kept the stone chimney when they rebuilt-and the ghosts...

  13. That's a tough call on what I'd consider the scariest location...I'm based in WV and have written extensively about WV haunted locations. Honestly, I guess my scariest location would actually be in Ohio. My team investigated the Emmitt House Restaurant and I honestly believe that something followed me home that night.

    My experiences there, plus in depth historic profiles on tons of other haunted locations in WV, OH, and beyond can be found on my blog, if anyone is interested. Theresa's Haunted History of the Tri-State: http://theresashauntedhistoryofthetri-state.blogspot.com/