Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary cell blocks (Photo by Chang Lee on shutterstock)

Ghouls, ghosts, and goblins are said to roam the streets every October during spooky season. Outside of children dressing up and getting candy from their neighbors, another fun aspect of Halloween is exploring haunted houses. Fans of fright love getting spooked as they pass through horrifying halls laden with something scary around every corner. But which are the best haunted houses around? StudyFinds scoured the internet and put together a list of the most wickedly spooky destinations in the United States to visit.

A big part of haunted houses is the ghosts rumored to lurk inside them. A study finds that most Americans believe they’ve seen a ghost at some point in their lives. Researchers found that about six in 10 Americans say they’ve indeed encountered a ghost. Perhaps even more surprisingly, four in 10 respondents believe their pet has seen one, too. As to what people did when they had the spooky encounter? Most admit they screamed and ran away. In fact, men were twice as likely as women to shriek and head for the hills, the survey showed, but women tended to scream much louder. Other respondents admit to crying, hiding, and even fainting when seeing a ghost.

But not all spirits are bad. A separate study reveals that 25 percent of people believe that a loved one who has passed on is guiding them through life. These respondents say a friendly ghost is guiding them, helping them to secure jobs, watching over them when they’re sick, and keeping them safe when they travel. People also said the most common signs which indicate that a spirit is nearby are sensing a presence in the room (27%), household pets behaving strangely (23%), and smelling a particular scent and not knowing the source (22%).

Are you ready to get spooked? StudyFinds has found the top five best haunted houses across the U.S. to visit for frightful fun. Did we miss one? Let us know in the comments below!

Halloween, ghost outside window
(© Maya Kruchancova
– stock.adobe.com)

The List: Best Haunted Houses, According to Experts

1. Amityville Horror House in Amityville, New York

Topping the list for top haunted houses is the Amityville Horror House in Amityville, New York, where a horrific murder took place in the 1970s. “This house is the site of a grim murder where in 1974 a son killed his parents and four siblings by gun. The next tenants, the Lutz Family, stayed 28 days before fleeing,” writes Time Out. “These events—including the chilling utterance of the words ‘get out’—were immortalized in the book and movie franchise, ‘The Amityville Horror.’ The home with its distinctive quarter-moon windows (since replaced) in the attic has long been said to be haunted, including by a pig with red glowing eyes who would stare into the windows. The home sold to a private owner in 2017 for $605k.”

“If you’re a big fan of horror films and want to explore the story behind ‘The Amityville Horror,’ just head to New York,” notes House Digest. “According to ABC News, the house is located at 112 Ocean Ave and cost George and Kathy Lutz just $80,000 in December 1975. Its low price could have been that one year before, a young man named Ronnie DeFeo lived in the house with his family. One night, as his siblings and family slept, he took a gun and murdered them. As a precaution, the Lutz family had local priest Father Ray Pecoraro bless the house. However, the priest became very ill during the blessing and began to bleed from his hands.”

“You’ve probably seen your fair share of Amityville scares on the big screen, but the real-life home that’s since inspired a handful of films is almost as creepy as the Hollywood portrayals,” says Country Living. “The site marks the spot where Ronald DeFeo shot and killed his parents and siblings in 1974, and the next family to call the place ‘home’ only lasted a mere 28 days before moving out. You can guess why. After new ownership and an address change to ward off hoards of visitors, the house is currently off limits to the public, but you can still head to Ocean Avenue to see the facade for yourself.”

2. Headless Horseman Hayride in Ulster Park, New York

The Headless Horseman Hayride in Ulster Park, New York, is one of the spookiest haunted houses in the U.S. “Located in Ulster Park, New York, the Headless Horseman is apparently the place where ‘horror lives.’ Shadows that may or may not be your own follow you along with other surprises, and you are not allowed to stop, run, or hide. The theme of the house is a cemetery too, so then there’s that scary element as well,” writes ONE37pm. “Other attractions in the Headless Horseman include: The Lunar Motel where you’ll have to deal with more shadows and unpleasant children looking for revenge, The Nightshade Greenhouse where the most grotesque things happen, Gluttons Dinner and Slaughterhouse which the name itself pretty much tells you everything you need to know, and plenty more.”

“One of the most famous haunted attractions in America, Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses covers 65 acres and includes a haunted walking trail, corn maze and five haunted houses,” notes PureWow. “There are a few special children’s days where the terror is toned down for younger (or weak of heart) guests. The entire experience lasts about two hours, giving you plenty of time to enjoy everything.”

FrightFind says the Headless Horseman Hayrides has offered screams for over 30 years. “The Headless Horseman Haunted Attractions in New York offer a thrilling combination of spine-chilling scares and heart-pounding excitement. Set amidst shadowy forests and dimly lit paths, this unique experience will have your pulse racing as you encounter the infamous Headless Horseman himself. Expect chilling surprises at every turn, as eerie specters and unsettling sounds emerge from the darkness. Yet, amidst the fear, there’s fun to be had, as the camaraderie among visitors transforms the daunting into delight. It’s an adrenaline-fueled adventure that combines the best of fright and fun, making it a must-visit destination during the Halloween season.”

3. Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was one of the most notorious prisons in America from 1821 to 1970, housing many notable criminals, including Al Capone and Freda Frost. “Built as a haunted house inside a real state prison, this lost world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers stands behind the Eastern State Penitentiary’s massive 30-foot high walls,” writes Reader’s Digest. “This is home to Terror Behind the Walls, ranked the ‘Number 1 Haunted House in the U.S.’ by AOL City Guide and labeled ‘perfect for Halloween‘ by the New York Times.”

Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia
Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia (Photo by Paul W. Faust on Shutterstock)

“Set inside Philadephia’s former Eastern State Penitentiary, Terror Behind the Walls used to house actual prisoners. It’s known as one of the most famous prisons in the world,” notes Travel Channel. “The funds raised during each year’s Halloween event at the prison help sustain the historical site’s operating costs throughout the year.”

Another cool thing about Eastern State Penitentiary is that it holds private paranormal explorations for those interested looking for ghosts. “Before it was a tourist attraction, the Eastern State Penitentiary was a prison known for its severe punishments and famous inmates like Alphonse ‘Scarface’ Capone,” says Country Living. “The 197-year-old Philadelphia landmark is open to the public for daytime tours, Halloween attractions, and even private paranormal investigations on special nights from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.”

4. The Dent Schoolhouse in Cincinnati, Ohio

The local legend is that the janitor murdered several missing schoolchildren and buried them in the basement at the Dent Public School. We might never know if it’s true or not but that doesn’t stop the Dent Schoolhouse being one of the haunted houses in America. “Relive the legend of a murderous Janitor and find out the truth about what went on behind the walls of Cincinnati’s Halloween Tradition! Cinematic sets, award winning makeup, and sinister storytelling make each trip through the Dent Schoolhouse feel like a real-life horror movie!” writes Haunt World. “Over 500 carved pumpkins pepper the unique interactive queue line and guest areas outside the school. Behind the attraction sits the Monster Midway, a large interactive experience! Mini escape games, fresh donuts, axe throwing, The Spooky Shop gift shop, and massive photo ops makes a night out to The Dent Schoolhouse a perfect Fall experience! Plus, the building alone is a haunted house icon.”

“There are some lessons they don’t teach you in school, like what to do if the school janitor is a psychopath. That’s what happened at the Dent Schoolhouse in the 1950s, according to the town’s legend. Students who taunted Charlie the Janitor went missing, and their bodies were discovered in his basement,” says Reader’s Digest. “Charlie’s ghost is said to still haunt the schoolhouse-turned-haunted-house, so keep an eye out for him while you walk through one of the scariest attractions in the Midwest.”

The Dent Schoolhouse has become a Halloween tradition for Cincinnati locals. “The attraction, set in an actual schoolhouse and based on a true story, gets upgraded each year, with new sets and effects throughout the rooms,” notes PureWow. “All ages are welcome, although those with a low fear threshold might want to avoid these classrooms. The Dent School House has food on sale for guests, as well.”

5. Lizzie Borden House in Fall River, Massachusetts

In the 1890s, Lizzie Borden was accused of killing her father and stepmother with an ax. Even though she was acquitted, it’s believed she still haunts the town. “She is now said to haunt the Fall River, Massachusetts, home where her father and stepmother were murdered, and her ghost can be heard laughing at the top of the stairs,” writes Travel + Leisure. “The house now serves as a museum and bed-and-breakfast (outfitted with ghost cams), where stalwart guests can spend the night listening for Lizzie’s ghost, those of her murdered parents, or the echoes of the maid’s screams after she found the Bordens dead in their beds.”

Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast (Photo by EQRoy on Shutterstock)

“Some say a ghostly face appears in the cellar over the sink where bloody clothing may have been washed right after the 1892 hatchet murders of Andrew and Abby Borden. The possible perp? Andrew’s daughter, Lizzie, who was acquitted at the trial of the century, perhaps by the jury’s error,” says Time Out. “She, Andrew and her stepmother Abby are said to linger in the house, along with children who roll marbles on the attic floor, victims of a drowning by their mother in the basement well next door. Aim for the anniversary reenactments every August if you’re dying to see the Lizzie Borden House.”

Country Living notes this “isn’t your standard New England” bed and breakfast. “The haunted home was the site of two violent murders in 1892: Lizzie Borden’s father and stepmother. Many place the blame on Lizzie herself, who was tried and later acquitted for the case. Brave souls can book an overnight stay in the same room where Abby Borden passed away, or go ghost hunting through one of the site’s Paranormal Nights.”

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article contains affiliate links.

About Matt Higgins

Matt Higgins worked in national and local news for 15 years. He started out as an overnight production assistant at Fox News Radio in 2007 and ended in 2021 as the Digital Managing Editor at CBS Philadelphia. Following his news career, he spent one year in the automotive industry as a Digital Platforms Content Specialist contractor with Subaru of America and is currently a freelance writer and editor for StudyFinds. Matt believes in facts, science and Philadelphia sports teams crushing his soul.

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