Grim Grinning Ghosts
Most everybody has a favorite thing about Halloween. Maybe it’s carving pumpkins, concocting crazy costumes, or eating wayyyyyy too much candy. For us, it’s the ghost stories. Dozens of ghastly true tales and ghoulish local legends spook up our special Haunted Scavenger Hunts, from mass graves in New York City to the haunting secret of the Hollywood sign. In the spirit of the season, here are the most famous ghosts in six cities. Some you might have heard of, and some might surprise you.
While the White House is no stranger to the supernatural, some of which you can hear about on the Haunted Washington Scavenger Hunt, its most famous apparition is the Great Emancipator himself. The ghost of Abe Lincoln has evidently haunted the White House since his assassination in 1865. Theodore Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Winston Churchill are among those who say they’ve seen Lincoln’s ghost. Others, including Franklin Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor, have claimed to feel his presence or experience strange happenings in and around the Lincoln bedroom (so named because Lincoln used that room as his office).
Notably, the ghost of Abe’s young son Willie, who died in the White House during his dad’s presidency, has also been spotted haunting those hallowed halls. (Lincoln bedroom photo via Wikipedia)
Los Angeles is chock-a-block with haunted hotels, many of which boast a celeb spirit like John Belushi or the Black Dahlia. But none can hold a candle in the wind to Marilyn, who has pulled double duty in death. She used to haunt the ladies’ room of the Lido Room Bar at the Knickerbocker Hotel, where she and Joe DiMaggio dated and later honeymooned. As the Knickerbocker is now a senior living facility, Ms. Monroe has moved on to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Guests have reported glimpsing her in the mirror of room 1200, where she lived while on her way to stardom. (Hotel Roosevelt image via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0)
While Philadelphia boasts one of the most terrifying haunted places in the country—the notoriously ghastly Eastern State Penitentiary—it hosts plenty of ghosts about town. (You might encounter a few on our Haunted Philadelphia Scavenger Hunt.) While Alexander Hamilton haunts the long-dormant First Bank and local spirits like Ma Gillin keep tavern-goers on their toes, top honors go to ol’ Benjamin Franklin. He has been spotted snoozing at Old City Hall, hanging around Independence Hall, lurking about his gravesite at Christ Church, and even checking out one of his favorite haunts in life: the library at the American Philosophical society. (Benjamin Franklin image via Wikipedia)
The Crying Lady and…John Lennon?
New York City has plenty of ghosts, but its most well-known is a toss-up—especially since that Three Men and a Baby ghost never existed. So let’s give one to a double-header at the Dakota, a Central Park West manse where Rosemary’s Baby filmed…and where John Lennon was assassinated. In life, Lennon claimed to have witnessed a weeping apparition he dubbed the Crying Lady. In death, he has made some spectral pop-ins himself, both to staff and to residents, including his late wife, Yoko Ono. (Dakota image by Andrevruas – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Lady in Black
While Boston, and of course nearby Haunted Salem, are plenty ghoulish, one long-dead dame has haunted Boston Harbor for 150 years. Completed in 1850, Fort Warren on George’s Island hosted disloyal citizen and Civil War prisoners in grim, brutal conditions. One such prisoner’s wife, Mrs. Lanier, traveled from Georgia to the fort to free her husband. He died in the escape attempt and she was hanged…and now she hangs about the fort, haunting it still in the black robes she wore to the gallows in 1862. (Fort Warren image by Doc Searls from Santa Barbara, USA – 2010_04_28_bos-rdu_014Uploaded by PDTillman, CC BY 2.0)
Chicago’s most famous ghost is a twist on a familiar urban legend: the vanishing hitchhiker. Sometime in the late 1920s or early 1930s, a girl named Mary went dancing with her beaux at the Oh Henry Ballroom in Willow Springs, Illinois, a few miles southwest of Chicago. They argued over something or other, and Mary stormed out—only to be struck and left for dead by a never-identified driver. Her parents laid her to rest in a white dress in Resurrection Cemetery.
Ever since, dozens of drivers along Archer Avenue between Resurrection Cemetery and the former Oh Henry Ballroom (now the Willowbrook Ballroom) have reported strange sightings. Many have said they offered a lift to a young girl in a white dress, only for her to disappear when they passed the cemetery. Others have claimed to hit, or very narrowly avoid hitting, a wandering girl in white. Every time, the girl vanishes before the driver can find her. (Willowbrook Ballroom image via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0)