Power, Passion, and Haunted Sites
If you’re tired of investigating the same old sites everyone visits, try a different approach. A little research can produce surprising results.
I know, because I’ve scouted haunted locations for TV producers.
I usually bypass well-known places where tragedies occurred. Many scenes of betrayal and murder have been over-investigated.
So, I look for other clues.
In this article, I’ll share some of my best tips for finding haunts.
They’re often “hiding in plain sight.”
Sometimes, you’ll start with locations connected to power – rich people, politicians, deceased local celebrities (famous and infamous), and battlegrounds. Now and then, one hasn’t been investigated much… or at all.
But, even better – and often ignored – are places that associated with (or that triggered) passion. For example, in the “Wild West,” those are saloons and streets where gunfights occurred. Some started over money or love. Others involved boasts and bravado. Either way, emotions ran high.
In some communities, specific parks were used for regular, clandestine duels over money or – more often – the love of a woman.
A few locations may come to mind right away. Start there.
Then, dig deeper for sites connected to love, jealousy, passion, awe, fascination… and the occasional movie or TV show.
Buildings Almost Demolished
Most of us have heard of haunted “ruins.” Old churches, hospitals, and orphanages are among them.
Look for buildings once scheduled for destruction. For example, in 1944, in Salem, Massachusetts (aka “Witch City”), Jonathan Corwin’s home just barely escaped the wrecking ball. The owners moved the house back on the property (partially over what had been a church cemetery), and today it’s known as “The Witch House.”
When people are passionate about preserving a site, it may be haunted as well. Something from the past seems to linger there, making it important. Local historical societies and preservation groups proudly list the locations they’ve saved from destruction. Visit those groups’ websites, or ask them for a list. (You don’t have to explain that you’re a ghost hunter. In fact, some may find that interest disturbing.)
Those lists may reveal great stories of love, hatred, and jealousy… and worthwhile haunts.
Sites that Inspired Books, Art, and Music
Artists and writers often have a knack for spotting eerie places where ghosts linger. A local museum or playlist might provide surprising clues.
True stories and real, haunted places inspired many Gothic romances written in the late 19th century and the 1960s. Check biographies of the authors. See if they describe tales and locations that led to their creepier stories. (For examples, see 14 True Stories behind Stephen King Books.)
Music is only slightly easier to research. But, when you find a ghost connection, it’s usually reliable and like pure gold for ghost hunting.
In my book, The Ghosts of Austin, Texas, I mentioned Concrete Blonde’s song, Ghost of a Texas Ladies Man. They wrote it about a popular ghost at Austin’s Driskill Hotel. (I lost count of all the ghosts supposed to haunt that hotel, and every story rang with authenticity.)
An anecdote claims Black Sabbath’s song, Black Sabbath, describes their bassist’s encounter with a ghost. (Does anyone know where it happened? That could be an interesting site to investigate.)
And then there’s art. That’s easier to research and identify.
Local museums, historical societies, and libraries may know about famous (and lesser-known) paintings of local sites. (That’s different from haunted paintings.) If the conversation flows, you could try asking if about related, haunted sites. Be cautious if you’ll want to interview that source again, later; some historians don’t like ghost hunting, even if they tell ghost stories, themselves.
The art is the clue. Look for paintings that are stylish. Moody. Even eerie.
In general, when someone is so inspired and passionate about a place to create art about it, explore that site. What made the artist choose it, instead of a dozen similar, nearby locations?
Tip: Also look at what was behind the artist when he or she painted. Sometimes, the real haunt is the place he turned his back to.
Of course, it’s easier if the artists are still alive. Ask them what drew them to each location, and what seemed to resonate with them.
Often, the musician, painter, or writer can’t explain their fascination with the site or its story. They’ll say, “I don’t know, there was just something about it that haunted me.”
Bingo. You’ve found a site worth investigating.
Many – perhaps most – unusual homes were built by eccentric and wealthy individuals. Those homeowners and architects may still haunt those houses. Or, perhaps something about the location – the history of the land – is what sparked the person’s impulse to build something “different.”
Does a nearby community offers self-guided historical tours or architectural walking tours? You might find a few sites worth revisiting with some ghost hunting equipment.
Halloween Haunted Houses
Almost every area has some kind of “haunted” attraction at Halloween. Ghostly energy remains at many of them, at least residual energy – the terror experienced by some visitors. Investigate those sites, if you have permission to visit after-hours.
Some sites may offer ghost tours immediate after Halloween, before they take down the decorations. (This includes creepy corn mazes.) Ask them if you can investigate for a small fee. Some sites might welcome a few more dollars from seasonal interests.
Film and TV Locations
Of course, people know about sites featured on Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, and so on.
But what about locations used for movies and TV shows?
Start with locations of paranormal-themed productions. Sometimes, the actual haunted site wasn’t available, or it was considered “unsafe” by the producers’ insurance company.
So, they film elsewhere.
And then that location seems haunted, too.
How to Find Haunted Sets
A search for “haunted movie sets” will point you to some of the more famous haunted locations used in films and TV shows.
(If you search for “haunted TV sets,” you’ll find weird TVs sold on eBay. And if you search for “haunted TV locations,” the listings are for Most Haunted show sites, and so on.)
When you’re traveling, ask at your hotel’s front desk, or the local tourism/visitors’ center. Many of them have lists of filming locations, but you may have to ask.
For example, Houmas House is one of Louisiana’s most vividly haunted mansions. Until a New Orleans tourism official told me about it, I had no idea that Houmas House was used for filming Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte. (That’s a dark story of passion and jealousy.)
I’ve investigated Houmas House and can vouch for its apparitions, even one by the gate. I saw it in broad daylight.
In your community, ask at the public library and any newspaper offices. Tell them you’re looking for places where movies, commercials, and TV shows were filmed.
Back issues of newspapers – if they’re indexed – might point you to some unexpected haunts, too. Some may be online.
Great Lovers and “The Other Woman”
Sites of passionate love affairs might be the most overlooked haunts. Those stories might explain ghosts at hotels where nothing violent ever happened. (I’m thinking of hotels like the Sise Inn, in Portsmouth, NH.)
If someone in your community was famous – perhaps a dashing hero or tragic poet – find out if he or she had a secret (or not-so-secret) lover.
Skip the hero’s house. Go directly to where the secret lover lived. That’s where the passion was. And the arguments. And the drama. (I’ve heard so many related ghost stories, I’m tempted to paraphrase a popular saying, “behind every famous man… was a woman, scorned, and still angry about it.”)
You’ll find examples at the following link. They may help you understand what to look for, close to your home: Tales of Ghostly Lovers and Spooky Soul Mates
Ghosts and Passion
Among overlooked haunts, my favorite discoveries have had a running theme. It’s all about passion – love, fascination, overwhelming desires – and sometimes romance.
Many other ghost hunters focus on places where deaths occurred. Those locations can be intensely, frighteningly haunted.
Don’t limit yourself to places of violence. Look for sites where emotions ran high, and ghosts may return to relive their most passionate moments.
And I hope you’ll leave a comment when you find a site like that.