Explore the Macabre

Explore the Macabre: Offbeat Places to Visit in America

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Happy October! It’s my favorite time of year for many reasons. Most notably, however, is that Brian is more receptive to my penchant for the dark and twisty. While he doesn’t get the warm and fuzzies like I do, he absolutely humors me. Scary movies, dark documentaries, and spooky things are all fair game.

I’m naturally drawn to the obscure and macabre. It calms me. Brian, on the other hand, finds it stress-inducing. I’m thankful he joins me when I want to explore the darker side of things. Sharing experiences with him makes them much more fun.

This post is an ode to some of my favorite haunts, as well as those I plan to visit.


The Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel | 333 E Wonderview Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517

Ah, the Stanley Hotel…what a beautiful building on a beautiful piece of land. Situated in Estes Park, CO, the historic hotel opened in 1909 as an upscale resort and health retreat. It eventually became the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining. After a one-night stay in this hotel, Stephen King had a firm grasp on the plot for what would become his best-selling novel. The Stanley had just begun to close down for the winter season. King and his wife found themselves to be the only guests. It was an eerie setting of long, empty corridors, echoes of music playing and sounds unknown, and a distinct sense of isolation.

While the hotel has a firm connection to horror through a famous guest, it also carries its own history with references to ghostly encounters and unexplained sounds. Brian and I were curious enough to explore the hotel when we visited CO in 2018. We didn’t stay the night, but we walked the snowy grounds and appreciated the cold, brisk mountain air.

We booked the historic tour, which took us through architectural history, heritage, and influence. The Stanley offers different tours, a couple of which are on the ‘spirited‘ side of things. Brian and I tend to stay away from overly touristic activities, so the historic tour was perfect for us. It was an entertaining mix of knowledge and storytelling as we roamed around and took in the sights. One of my favorite parts of walking through the hotel was remembering the scenes from the 1997 TV mini-series The Shining. This adaptation is closer to Stephen King’s book AND it was actually filmed at The Stanley Hotel!


Linger | 2030 W 30th Ave, Denver, CO 80211

Linger was such a cool find. This ‘eatuary’ is a restaurant housed in the former Olinger Mortuary building. At one point, it held the remains of the famous Buffalo Bill. Though it no longer resembles its thanatocentric past, remnants exist as a morbid nod and appreciation to what had been:

  • Water served in formaldehyde bottles
  • Glass-topped metal conveyor belt tables
  • Repurposed appliances and fixtures
  • Old church pew as a hostess stand
  • Windowed garage-style doors originally welcomed hearses
  • Original rooftop sign (linger is lit, while ‘ortuaries’ has been changed and illuminated to ‘eatuaries’)

While the food was fine, the cocktails and theme were most memorable.


Historical Cemeteries

Historical Cemeteries | New Orleans, LA

I’m a cemetery gal. If I stay in a place long enough, you’ll find me wandering through one nearby. Cemeteries are peaceful, quiet, and full of stories. Some feature ornate tombs and sculptures, while others are subtly identified by nondescript markers. Nonetheless, all cemeteries have stories to tell, no matter the size or state.

New Orleans’ cemeteries uniquely consist of above-ground tombs and mausoleums. Cities with land below sea level “bury” their dead above ground to avoid displacement or water-logged complications. New Orleans’ rich and complex history adds to the interest and beauty of these cemeteries. Some require official tours, but others are accessible through self-guided means. If you’re into popular sights, you can check out the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 tour to see the tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau and Nicholas Cage’s future Pyramid Tomb.


Stephen King Tour

Stephen King Tour | Bangor, ME

Stephen King’s current hometown, Bangor, Maine, is the real-life version of the fictional town used in several of his novels. Derry, Maine has served as an ominous backdrop throughout many stories, including Stephen King’s It. Inspired by real locations and landmarks, Derry comes to life as it actually mirrors Bangor’s map.

With many online guides and suggestions available, you can venture off on a self-guided tour or book an official tour through SK Tours, a highly-rated, family-run company.


Salem Witch Trials

Salem Witch Trials | Salem, MA and surrounding cities

The Salem Witch Trials occurred during a bizarre and disheartening period of historical paranoia. I remember learning about it as a child and reflecting on the impact of rumors. How do you fight against the system when the system already has you pegged? If you ask me, we are still fighting that same fight on some level in today’s justice system. Journey through historical injustice as you roam through Salem, MA. You can take in the history and sights through self-guided and official walking tours, the Salem Witch Museum, and more. Check out this Salem Witch Trials itinerary for helpful tips and recommendations.


Bannack State Park

Bannack State Park | 4200 Bannack Rd, Dillon, MT 59725

Venture through the best preserved ghost town in all of Montana. This abandoned mining town is home to the state’s first major gold discovery and consists of over 60 buildings, many of which can be explored. The Bannack Ghost Town offers an interesting glimpse into history, but can feel a little unnerving to wander through if you’re alone.


The Mob Museum

300 Stewart Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89101


This Sin City museum is a bustling establishment of interactive exhibits, engaging artifacts, and fascinating displays. Visitors are presented with captivating storytelling as they learn about the history and impact of organized crime in America. Brian and I had the opportunity to visit on a tour years ago. We were only there for an hour, so we’d love to go back. There are so many things to see and learn about, especially since organized crime is so entrenched in our society. Many of the displays are appropriately graphic in nature, which offers a realistic look at some of the country’s most dangerous criminals.

New York

Village of Sleepy Hollow

Village of Sleepy Hollow | 28 Beekman Ave, Sleepy Hollow, New York 10591

The Village of Sleepy Hollow is a picturesque neighborhood where the pages of the legend come to life. Known as the setting for Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, this historic town invites visitors to explore the grounds of the Headless Horseman. From the Old Dutch Church and Burying Ground and the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery to the many historic homes, a trip through Sleepy Hollow will have you dreaming about old legends and new adventures.


Mütter Museum at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Mütter Museum at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia | 19 S 22nd St, Philadelphia, PA 19103

I’ve had my eye on the Mütter Museum for a long time. Brian and I haven’t had the chance to visit Philadelphia yet, but when we do, this place will be at the top of our list. It holds a vast collection of preserved anatomical specimens, wax models, and antique medical equipment. The museum offers the opportunity to explore the curiosities of the human body and the history of diagnosis and disease treatment. Displays include examples of birth deformities, cancers, skeletons, and more.

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary | 2027 Fairmount Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19130

Once revered as the most famous and expensive prison in the country, the Eastern State Penitentiary currently stands in ruin. It was operational from 1829 through 1971 and later became a historical attraction in 1994. This crumbling piece of history offers a glimpse into early prison life in what was considered the world’s first true penitentiary. Explore the remains of solitary punishment cells, cellblocks, and eerie corridors.


National Museum of Funeral History

National Museum of Funeral History | 415 Barren Springs Dr, Houston, TX 77090

The National Museum of Funeral History is a magical place. I fell in love with it while on our Texas Road Trip. There is so much to learn and soak in; we could have easily spent all day there if we didn’t have to get back on the road! Brian and I practically had the entire museum to ourselves. I didn’t find it particularly creepy, though Brian felt that some of the displays were more disturbing than others. He specifically wasn’t enamored with the memorialized art, which included post-mortem photography and Victorian-Era hair art. I, on the other hand, couldn’t stop reading and looking at every detail! It’s worth a visit to satiate morbid interest and general curiosity.


Ghost Town Hikes

For those of you who like hiking, head outside for some of Washington’s Ghost Town Hikes. These fun trails snake through abandoned towns, buildings, and cemeteries. With distances up to 5 miles, these hikes will get you off the beaten path and into some creepy settings.

Dark Adventures

Offbeat places are my kind of thing. They’re less crowded, far more interesting (at least to me), and tend to be less commercialized than other attractions. We appreciate educational experiences rather than glorifying ones. It’s important to note that many attractions are so exploitative that they border on voyeurism. Those aren’t the kinds of places we seek out. I prefer experiences that delve into the intersection of culture and historical significance, especially if they venture into the dark side. We look forward to visiting some of these sites in the future! I can’t say that Brian is as excited as I am, but he says he is happy to keep me company.

Do you have any spookcentric travel plans in mind for October?

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2 Responses

  1. Savannah, GA also has several ghost tours (some include pub crawls) that are reasonably priced which include walking and trolley rides.

  2. Yes! Thank you for adding. Savannah is one of the most haunted cities in the country. With tours that combine dark history and unique stories in spooky settings, this southern city is a great place to explore.

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