When most folks think of haunted houses, they conjure up images of spooky dilapidated homes with broken windows and cobwebs galore. Maybe they don't believe haunted places exist except in some very vivid imaginations. But all over the United States, there are places that are rumored to be haunted.
In the South, Teresa David, general manager of The Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, La., said not only does she believe in ghosts, but she has had some paranormal encounters at work. She explains that the plantation, built circa 1796, is billed as "one of America's most haunted homes" -- and for good reason.
The most famous spirit, Chloe, was a young slave girl who was both the plantation owner's mistress and one-time caregiver to his children. Eventually Chloe fell out of her master's favor, and later accidentally killed his wife and two of his children -- she had only meant to make them feel ill. In turn, fellow house servants hanged Chloe, who is said to still roam the plantation.
"The majority of our staff has had personal experiences here, including myself, such as hearing our name called when no one is there," David said. "In my case, it was a nickname that none of the staff knew.
"We've had our hair pulled on, clothes tugged, had objects fly off of tables and shelves and have had furniture move. But we do feel that whoever resides here is peaceful." In fact, owners John and Teeta Moss refer to their ghosts as "guardian angels."
According to David, many of The Myrtles' overnight guests who stay in the 11 guest rooms claim to awaken to the sensation of being tucked in, blankets secured around their legs and tucked under their torsos. Chloe is believed to be the culprit, merely continuing in her position of caring for the slumbering people at the plantation.
The Myrtles has become an attraction, with a restaurant on the grounds serving home cooked Southern fare. History tours of the home take place daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and "mystery tours" are offered on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Not all haunted places are actually houses. In the southwest corner of Wyoming, the Fort Bridger State Historic Site is said to be home to several spirits. Named after mountain man and trapper Jim Bridger, the place was established as a trading post, later occupied by the Mormons. It later became a military fort in 1857.
At the site, the log officers' quarters, the commanding officer's quarters, the ranch house and the museum are all thought to be haunted. Curator Cecil Sanderson said he first encountered the supernatural about 20 years ago, when he was working there as a living history interpreter. "I was in the commanding officer's quarters when I started hearing noises I couldn't attribute to anything," he said.
Sanderson is not alone in his experiences. "One time a local woman was taking pictures here, when the buildings were empty. When she developed the pictures there were some shadowy figures in the windows," he said. "We have had at least three paranormal groups from the Salt Lake-Ogden area do some research at the site. They have found some unusual activities in some of the buildings."
In the Midwest, the Lemp Mansion in St. Louis is known as the most haunted place in the city. The mansion, formerly owned by beer brewer William Lemp, was also the place Lemp and several of his family members committed suicide. It has been a private residence, a boarding house and is now a restaurant and inn that hosts different events. Really brave visitors can take part in one of the mansion's Thursday night ghost hunts.
Author Troy Taylor, who writes books about hauntings in the Midwest, interviewed the current owner of the house, Paul Pointer, for his book "Haunted St. Louis" ($19, Whitechapel Productions).
"People come here expecting to experience weird things," Pointer said to Taylor. "And fortunately for us, they are rarely disappointed."