Mercy Brown Grave, Exeter, RI: Travel to Chestnut Hill Baptist Church in Exeter, and look for a gravestone bound to the ground with iron strap. There lie the remains of 19-year-old Lena Mercy Brown. The young girl was the third woman in her family to die of tuberculosis, and when her brother came down with the disease, they speculated one of the dames must be to blame. After exhuming the bodies, Mercy was found to be suspiciously-well preserved, which could only mean she was a vampire feeding on her brother and others. Doctors and scientists later disproved the notion, but that doesn’t stop believers from delivering offerings (flowers, money, candy corn) to her grave.
While You're There: Known as one of the last few rural communities left in Rhode Island, Exeter provides the perfect setting to peep the state’s iconic fall foliage. Stop by the Arcadia Management Area to roam 14,000 acres filled with trails for hiking & biking and lakes for fishing & boating. (Photo by Katherine Gendreau via South County Tourism Council)
St. Augustine Lighthouse, St. Augustine, FL: Ghost tours are a star attraction throughout Florida’s oldest city, but there’s something particularly eerie about the lighthouse. Dating back to the 1800s, the tower — which you can climb — is said to be haunted by two previous innkeepers and two young sisters who drowned nearby while playing on the property. Take the Dark of Moon Tour, in which you’ll see the lighthouse, innkeeper house, and nature trails at night.
While You're There: Enjoy a different kind of spirit at St. Augustine Distillery, where the team is making bourbon, vodka, and gin using Florida ingredients and innovative techniques. Take home a bottle of the Port Finished Bourbon, aged in barrels from San Sebastian Winery. (Photo via Florida Historic Coast)
Crescent Hotel, Eureka Springs, AR: This 1886 hotel may look charming with its Victorian architecture and design, but something sinister lurks behind the gracious exterior. Every year, the property hosts a Paranormal Weekend for the thousands of people who believe the Crescent is haunted AF. Among the many ghosts who are said to roam the halls, there’s the Irish stonemason who fell to his death, the doctor who promised to cure cancer, and a cat named Morris.
While You’re There: Architecture-lovers make pilgrimages to Thorncrown Chapel, a Prairie-style glass sanctuary tucked amidst the Ozark Mountains, 10 minutes outside of town. (Photo via Crescent Hotel)
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, Weston, WV: Though it remained in business until 1994, this massive 1800s mental hospital was famously known for its mistreatment of patients, severe overcrowding (2,400 people at peak in space intended for 250), and experimental practices. Now, the site hosts tours, including overnight ghost hunts and solo expeditions where you can see where it all went down and maybe even spot a wayward soul.
While You’re There: Stonewall Resort puts you right in the middle of nature without having to sacrifice creature comforts — luxe lodge and cottages for sleeping, spa for chilling and primping, and easy access to kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddle boards, and road bikes. It’s fall adventure at its finest. (Photo via Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum)
Alcatraz Prison, San Francisco, California: Military prisoners were assigned to build out this secluded penitentiary, created to break down the meanest and baddest criminals — from Al Capone, who lived out his last days here, to Frank Lee Morris, who was part of the still-baffling great escape that inspired Clint Eastwood’s film. Whether the hardened criminals who lost their minds and souls while serving time at Alcatraz still hang out here or not, the decrepit cells and barren grounds of the Rock just have the eeriest vibe — albeit, with a really pretty view.
While You’re There: Keep the thrills going at the San Francisco Art Institute, which is said to be built atop a cemetery. The real draw is the three Diego Rivera murals found on campus. (Photo via the National Park Service)
Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern, Chattanooga, TN: First, take an “hellavator” 26 stories underground into a cave. Add the elaborate subterranean and above-ground horror film characters and plot line that have landed Ruby Falls on every national list of top haunts, and you get a good idea as to why it takes nerves of steel to make it through this one.
While You're There: Chattanooga is exploding in all areas cool. Stay at the super-Instagrammable Dwell Hotel, and spend the weekend exploring North Shore, Southside Historic District, St. Elmo, and other happening neighborhoods. (Photo via Ruby Falls)
Lizzie Borden House, Falls River, MA: Many homes are immortalized as historic crime sites, but there are few where you can spend the night. In case you haven’t heard the jump-rope rhyme: Lizzie Borden was suspected of taking an axe and given her father and stepmother 40 whacks. She was acquitted, but everyone believed the 32-year-old did it, and those who stay at the B&B swear she still haunts the place. Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, the framed crime-scene photos in the rooms and period dresses hanging on mannequins are sure to give you the creeps.
While You're There: Battleship Cove, the world’s largest collection of naval ships, sits less than a mile away from the house, between Mount Hope Bay and Taunton River. History buffs will love the old battleships, submarines, destroyers, and other gems. (Photo via Visit New England)
Marfa Lights, Marfa, TX: This West Texas ghost-town-turned-artist-enclave started getting love in the past few years as influencers have bragged about its endless skies and contemporary art scene. But before Beyoncé posted a photo of herself in front of the fake Prada storefront, Marfa drew paranormal lovers for the Marfa Lights, a set of orbs visible from Highway 67 whose source has never been confirmed. Some say it’s a UFO, other claim it’s ghosts — but everyone agrees it’s weird.
While You’re There: Marfa may be the most happening desolate desert town in America. Stay in a cool yurt at El Cosmico, or snag a room at the luxe Hotel Saint George. Don’t leave without checking out Donald Judd’s Chinati Foundation, which kick-started the West Texas art movement in the '80s. (Photo via Marfa Chamber of Commerce)
The Town of Salem, Salem, NC: The Salem Witch Trials, in which almost 20 people — mostly women — were prosecuted for witchcraft and sentenced to death, may sound like an urban legend. But that’s really how it went down in this tiny Massachusetts town in the 1600s. October is like Christmas around these parts, as townspeople capitalize on the gory history by hosting tours, witchy dinners, and festivals all over town.
While You're There: Stay at the brand-new Hotel Salem, which opens this fall and is conveniently located downtown close to the House of Seven Gables, which inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Gothic novel of the same title. (Photo via the House of Seven Gables)
Dark Woods, Natchitoches, LA: As if being in the backwoods of Louisiana isn’t scary enough, this town also decks it out with five sets filled with insane clowns, vampire nurses, chainsaw killers, and monsters galore. The thrills are so real, the site warns that anyone with any sort of risky physical or mental condition should steer clear.
While You're There: Get a feel for the town’s more charming attractions at the Steel Magnolia House Bed & Breakfast, where every room is named after one of the iconic characters from the classic Southern film. (Photo via Dark Woods)
What spooky site near you is a must-visit? Tell us on Twitter @BritandCo!