Horror movies get all the Halloween publicity, but nothing makes the imagination run wild like a scary book. Anyone who’s read The Shining, Dracula or The Exorcist will vouch for these tales’ long-lasting and frightening effects.
From their homes to their graves to their favorite hangouts, there are fearsome reminders around the country of some of our literary greats. Whether you’re looking for a fright or a history lesson, these spots offer you a bit of both.
1. Edgar Allen Poe
Poe, the master of macabre, is always conjured up at Halloween, with everything from readings of The Raven to visits to his tomb. Many towns claim a connection to the 19th century author, and some brag of ghost sightings.
In 1828, Poe was stationed at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Va. – the largest stone fort in the U.S. According to legend, he visited the Chamberlin Hotel there to read poems to a young lady shortly before he died. Today, an apparition wearing a top hat, believed to be Poe, is said to appear on the porch.
Poe supposedly put a curse on the site of the modern day Deer Park Tavern in Newark, Del., which was built in 1851. Previously, the St. Patrick’s Inn stood on the grounds. The story goes that in 1843, Poe stepped out of a carriage outside the inn, fell into the mud and was so upset that he exclaimed: “A curse upon this place! All who enter shall have to return!” Local patrons found it so amusing, they carried him into the inn with a hero’s welcome.
You can still tour two of Poe’s residences – one in Philadelphia, where he published “The Gold-Bug,” and another in Baltimore. At the National Historic Site in Philadelphia, you can listen to Christopher Walken’s rendition of “The Raven” (certainly worth a stop!). The Baltimore home is said to have several ghosts, including an old woman in addition to Poe, who flickers the lights to make his presence known.
Near the Baltimore home is Poe’s gravesite, where his spirit is also said to linger. Stories swirl around this cemetery; according to legend, many of those buried there were not dead and their spirit lingers to seek revenge against those who buried them alive. You’ll also find a large monument to Poe at Westminster Hall in downtown Baltimore.
2. Vampires and witches in the Big Easy
Fans of Anne Rice can pay tribute to the author of “The Vampire Chronicles” by stopping by her spooky former haunts at 1239 First Street, in New Orleans’ Garden District. Built in 1857, it was the inspiration for the home of Rice’s Mayfair Witches. You can also visit her residence on Napoleon Avenue, which was a 19th century orphanage known as St. Elizabeth’s. Be sure to visit Lafayette Cemetery, a favorite of Rice’s character, the Vampire Lestat.
Authors from past to present, including Rice, have visited the historic Hotel Monteleone, a four-star hotel in the French Quarter. Designated an “official literary landmark” by the Friends of the Library Association, it boasts visits by Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Stephen Ambrose, Truman Capote and John Grisham. It’s also well known for its hauntings, with an elevator that stops on the wrong floor, chilly hallways and ghosts of children at play.
3. Hauntings and humor
Author, humorist and cartoonist James Thurber’s boyhood home in Columbus, Ohio – built on the site of the Ohio Lunatic Asylum, where many residents died in an 1868 fire – is known to be full of “spirited” creatures. Thurber wrote about footsteps running up the backstairs in his short story, “The Night the Ghost Got In.” Today, visitors report rattling cabinets, books throwing themselves at customers and shadowy figures moving across lighted windows.
At Thurber House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, visitors can participate in a variety of literary programs, tour the museum dedicated to the author and join a haunted tour during October.
4. Redrum, redrum
Put yourself square in the middle of Stephen King’s “The Shining” with a stay at the Stanley Hotelin Estes Park, Colo. The hotel, which served as the inspiration for the book after King stayed in Room 217, is known for its otherworldly occurrences.
Guests have reported items moving from room to room, lights turning on and off, the sounds of children giggling and of a piano playing. You might even be tucked into bed by a hospitable spirit! But fear not. Only happy ghosts are said to reside at the Stanley.
5. A haunted hollow
Sleepy Hollow, the setting for Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” is a real town in a northern suburb of New York City. Visitors can tour Irving’s Sunnyside estate along the Hudson River, and they can visit the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, where Ichabod Crane and the headless horseman roamed, and where Irving is buried.
The cemetery dates to 1650, and many famous people are buried there, including Andrew Carnegie, Walter Chrysler, William Rockefeller and several Astors. Irving gave the cemetery its name, saying it was “enough of itself to secure the patronage of all desirous of sleeping quietly in their graves.” A fun fact: In 1989 the rock band The Ramones were “buried alive” in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery while filming a video tribute to Stephen King’s novel, “Pet Sematary.”
6. Tracking Mothman
A small town in West Virginia was made famous by several books that told of a creature called the Mothman, responsible for the collapse of a local bridge. Both Gray Barker’s “The Silver Bridge” and John Keel’s “The Mothman Prophecies” (later made into a movie) home in on sightings of this mysterious being.
You can visit Point Pleasant and search for Mothman on your own. You’ll find him in the form of a statue in town and at the Mothman Museum. Another don’t-miss spot is the “TNT area,” the site of a World War II ammunition factory, now a 3,600-acre wildlife management area, where many of the Mothman sightings took place.
7. A turn-of-the-century terror
Built in 1902 in the dark hills of the Berkshires of Massachusetts, The Mount was the home of Edith Wharton, who was known to be very sensitive to the supernatural. She wrote that she was “haunted by formless horrors” and felt “some dark undefinable menace … I could feel it behind me, upon me; and if there was any delay in the opening of the door I was seized by a choking agony of terror.”
Many residents of the home, which later became a school for girls and then a theater, reported strange occurrences, including visions of people in old-fashioned clothing, odd noises, taps on the shoulder, footsteps and a feeling of being watched. The home offers fall ghost tours in addition to cultural programming.
8. Follow in Lovecraft’s footsteps
Providence, R.I., was the birthplace and stomping ground of 19th century horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, and there are many sites in the city that trace back to him and his family. Lovecraft’s funeral was held at the Horace B. Knowles Funeral Home, and his grave is at Swan Point Cemetery. One of his favorite parks, Prospect Terrace, is mentioned in “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward,” and 10 Barnes Street, his home from 1926-1933, is mentioned in the same tale as the address of Dr. Marinus Bicknell Willett.