A resident ghost or two can be good for business, particularly at this bewitching time of year. DennisWilliam Hauck, author of Haunted Places: The National Directory (Penguin Putnam, $16.95), says that to rate inclusion in his guide to 2,000 paranormal hot spots, the locale must have been investigated by a "reputable" organization. Still, while the author says he has witnessed "ghostly manifestations" (cold spots, poltergeist effects and the like), he has yet to see an actual apparition. Undeterred, USA TODAY gets Hauck's directions to some notable haunts.
Shirley PlantationCharles City, Va.
The 18th-century plantation house is just one of a number of "well-documented" ghostly haunts in this James River city, Hauck says. Of note: a first-floor bedroom where a painting of early resident Martha Pratt reportedly raises a ruckus whenever it's moved from a spot facing the ancestral graveyard. "Whenever it was removed, the frame would shake and make popping sounds." 800-232-1613; shirleyplantation.com
The Civil War fort on George's Island in Boston Harbor reputedly is haunted by "The Lady in Black," a devoted wife who was hanged for attempting to break her husband out of the Confederate prison. Sightings have been numerous over the years, particularly when it's foggy, Hauck says. "There's a lot of atmosphere. It's a spooky site." 617-223-8666; bostonislands.com
The White HouseWashington, D.C.
The Executive Mansion is "one of the most haunted places in the United States," Hauck says. Ronald Reagan and Eleanor Roosevelt, among others, have reported ghostly sightings. Among the apparitions: William Henry Harrison in the attic and Dolley Madison in the Rose Garden and most frequently, Abraham Lincoln in his namesake bedroom. "You can hardly name a president all the way back to Coolidge who hasn't felt (Lincoln's) presence." 202-456-7041; whitehouse.gov/history/tours.
Whaley HouseSan Diego
Even before Thomas Whaley completed his house in 1857, the execution by hanging of "Yankee" Jim Robinson on the site presumably primed future ghostly scenarios. Not only are Robinson's footfalls believed to be heard in the house, but a number of other ghosts are said to occupy the Old Town residence. "There are hundreds of reports from people who have felt cold spots," Hauck says. Voices have been recorded and electromagnetic energy detected. 619-297-7511; whaleyhouse.org
Winchester Mystery House San Jose, Calif.
The house was built by Winchester rifle heiress Sarah Winchester with direction from designing spirits, Hauck says. Starting with an eight-room ranch house, Winchester added on continuously for 38 years, resulting in an unfinished 160-room Victorian mansion. At nightly séances, "good spirits" recommended building stairways to nowhere and halls with dead ends to thwart "bad spirits," Hauck says. The house may be a tourist attraction, but it's also a good place for paranormal study, he says. "She was very much a spiritualist. Her writings indicated she wasn't crazy, but she did a lot of crazy things." 408-247-2101; winchestermysteryhouse.com
Bachelor's Grove Cemetery Midlothian, Ill.
The small cemetery of just over an acre in suburban Chicago hasn't had a burial since 1989, but it continues to be a source of "fairly well-documented" activity, Hauck says. Ghostly apparitions appear — and not just of people but also of animals and even buildings, he says.
Waverly Hills SanatoriumLouisville
Built in the 1920s, the former tuberculosis sanatorium "is abandoned and dangerous. There are still beds and equipment inside. It looks haunted," Hauck says. The place has spawned "lots of negative experiences with ghosts, (including) poltergeist activity where things are thrown at people." Most of the activity is on the fifth floor.
Devil's DenGettysburg (Pa.) National Military Park
This formation of giant granite boulders was the site of a fierce and bloody Civil War battle. "There's a lot of electromagnetic and voice phenomenon here," Hauck says. "It's one place I go and really feel something. It's not scary, but it's unusual. There's lots of energy." It's just one of many haunted spots in Gettysburg, Hauck adds. "Almost anyone there has a ghost story to tell." 717-334-1124; nps.gov/gett
17 Hundred 90 InnSavannah, Ga.
The inn, which bills itself as the city's oldest, is said to be haunted by a heartbroken woman who jumped from a third-floor balcony in the early 1800s as her lover's ship sailed out to sea. "I've talked to tourists who have seen her," Hauck says. The ghost has plenty of local company, Hauck says. "Almost any house in old Savannah has people talking about ghosts." 912-236-7122; 17hundred90.com
Fire Station No. 2New York
The station on West Third Street in Greenwich Village is said to be home to the ghost of a fireman with salt-and-pepper hair who wears an old-fashioned helmet and a red shirt. "We call it a lepke — an apparition that looks so human you think it is, until it walks through a wall or something," Hauck says. "People will go up and talk to him, and he disappears."