10 great haunts for seekers of the paranormal

Find things that go bump in the night at extraordinary spots across the US.

ByRebecca Heslin, USA TODAY
January 8, 2009, 1:01 AM

— -- Brace yourselves, 'X-Philes': Mulder and Scully are back. These small-screen sci-fi stars are probing the paranormal on the silver screen in The X-Files: I Want to Believe, opening in theaters today. Now is as good a time as any to seek a paranormal experience of your own. Jeff Belanger, author and explorer of the unexplained, shares his list of favorite supernatural places.

Gifford Pinchot National Forest Skamania County, Wash.

If large, hairy, apelike creatures are your thing, head to the Pacific Northwest. The highest frequency of sightings occurs in this area of southern Washington. "Some witnesses report hearing a large creature plodding through the forest; others actually see an animal and know it's not like anything else they've ever encountered in the woods," Belanger says. 800-989-9178; skamania.org

The Witch House Salem, Mass.

Vacationers flock to this town, which gained notoriety in 1692 for trying and hanging suspected witches — or those who had fits or acted outside of the Puritans' traditional beliefs. "Witchcraft is part of the very fiber of the village, from the witch-riding-a-broomstick logo on the police department vehicles to the many shops in town where you can purchase your own spell-casting roots, herbs and crystals, or have one of the local witches cast a spell for you," Belanger says. 877-725-3662; salem.org

Lake Champlain Vermont/New York/Quebec

Loch Ness in Scotland isn't the only body of water said to hold a prehistoric monster, Belanger says. "Lake Champlain, which shares its borders with Vermont, New York and Quebec, is rumored to be home to 'Champ,' perhaps a plesiosaur that escaped extinction, or maybe some other kind of uncategorized freshwater giant." 877-686-5253; vermont.org

RMS Queen Mary Long Beach, Calif.

The RMS Queen Mary, one of the last great transatlantic ocean liners, also was a World War II troop ship. "During the ship's service in the Indian Ocean, many soldiers died from the overheating of the lower decks, some POWs committed suicide onboard, and then there were the accidents that happened to the passengers and crew over the years," Belanger says. "After 1,001 Atlantic crossings, the ship pulled into Long Beach harbor, where it has become a permanent and haunted attraction. Ghostly reports abound all over the ship, but the engine room and former second-class swimming pool areas are the most active." 562-435-3511; queenmary.com

Pirates House Savannah, Ga.

Kill two birds with one stone and enjoy a meal or a glass of grog during your ghost-hunting. Diners at the Pirates House, a tavern built in 1753, claim ghosts of the seafaring bandits still lurk around the premises. "Most prominent is the legend of a blue-faced drunkard of a pirate who died while staying at the inn and calling for more rum until his last breath," Belanger says. 912-233-5757; thepirateshouse.com

Roswell, N.M.

If it?s extraterrestrial experiences you?re looking for, alien aficionados from around the world will point to Roswell, Belanger says. Ever since an unidentified object fell from the sky here in July 1947, sparking a debate between the Army and area residents about whether it was a weather balloon or a flying disk, conspiracy theories have evolved at warp speed. 877-849-7679; roswellnm.org

The White House Washington, D.C.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt said that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, maybe he had already heard rumors of ghosts that had set up shop in the presidential mansion. "Some of the most prominent sightings involve the ghost of Abraham Lincoln, who has been seen on the second floor near the Lincoln Bedroom, the specter of a Redcoat near the North Portico, and first lady Abigail Adams in the East Room," Belanger says. 202-456-2121; whitehouse.gov/ghosts

Hockomock Swamp and Freetown State Forest Bridgewater Triangle, Mass.

Hockomock Swamp and Freetown State Forest are to the paranormal what Starbucks is to Wi-Fi — a hot spot. "Located in southeastern Massachusetts is a 200-square-mile triangle with the towns of Abington, Rehoboth and Freetown forming the points, and where there have been an unusually high number of UFO, Bigfoot and ghost sightings," Belanger says. bridgewaterpubliclibrary.org/historical_tidbits.htm

St. Louis Cemetery #1 New Orleans

"The Big Easy may be the most haunted city in the United States," Belanger says. "Look for Marie Laveau's ghost in Saint Louis Cemetery #1. Leave an offering of cigars and white rum at her grave, and her spirit may just grant you a wish." Other ghostly haunts include the Ashley House, a former hospital during the Civil War, and the Beauregard-Keyes House, a museum where many claim the spirit of Confederate Gen. Pierre G.T. Beauregard is a regular. neworleansonline.com

Farm fields Eastern Nebraska

Crop circles — large patterns created by flattening crops in agricultural fields — have been reported since the early 1990s near the towns of Butte in northeastern Nebraska, and Waverly and Barada in the southeastern part of the state. "Many believe UFOs produce some kind of energy field that can lay wheat and cornstalks over without breaking them to form these patterns," Belanger says. "Others feel it's simply an elaborate hoax perpetrated by pranksters with way too much free time."