From reality television programs to classic horror films, Americans have always been fascinated with the supernatural and life after death. For thousands of years, belief in the afterlife has been theorized by many of the world’s religions and documented reports of near-death experiences in modern times. Whether it’s fact or fiction, the existence of ghosts hasn’t been completely disproven and several instances of paranormal experiences have been reported from eyewitnesses and professional ghost hunters alike. The following are five of the most haunted places in America, all with significant claims of real poltergeists.

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Bell Witch
430 Keysburg Road
Adams, TN 37010
(615) 696-3055

According to legend, an unseen force terrorized Tennessee farmer John Bell and his family for four years, beginning in 1817. Eyewitness accounts of odd noises in the walls, objects moved and frightened animals led community members to believe the house was haunted by the ghost of a woman named Kate Baggs, later known as the Bell Witch. After Bell died in December 1820, the Bell Witch allegedly left the Bell Home, only to reappear in a cave not from the home. The Bell Home and Cave are now open to the public, where some ghost experts say is a center of considerable paranormal activity. Long regarded as one of the most famous of all American ghost stories, the Bell Witch has been the inspiration of numerous books, documentaries and feature length movies, including the cult classic “The Blair Witch Project” in 1999 and “An American Haunting” in 2005.

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Photo Credit: Crescent Hotel

Crescent Hotel
75 Prospect Ave.
Eureka Springs, AR 72632
(877) 342-9766

Known as “America’s Most Haunted Hotel,” the Crescent Hotel was originally built in 1886 as a mountaintop hotel for the rich and famous. Yet after years of neglect, the hotel fell into disrepair and by 1937, was converted into an alternative medicine hospital led by Norman Baker, an unlicensed physician and medical con artist who attracted cancer patients with promises of cures using the area’s natural spring water at his so-called “Castle in the Air.” Baker’s ruse led to a number of deaths and suicides and witnesses now say Baker and at least six other ghosts continue to haunt the hotel, particularly in rooms 218 and 419. Today, the hotel has reemerged as a top luxury resort in the Ozark Mountains and ghost tours are held nightly. In season two of the SyFy television show “Ghost Hunters,” cast members claim they caught a full body apparition on film.

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Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
71 Asylum Drive
Weston, WV 26452
(304) 269-5070

A visit to this former psychiatric hospital is described as “not for the faint of heart” due to numerous reports of paranormal activity from guests, staff and reality television investigators. At the time it opened in 1864, the hospital was originally meant to house up to 250 patients, but peaked during the 1950s with 2,400 people suffering from an array of mental disabilities, such as bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder. The medical center may be one of the most haunted sections of the lunatic asylum, where an unknown number of restrained patients were subjects of lobotomies from doctors using ice picks or other “medical” tools. Once home to the infamous serial killer Charles Manson, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum now offers public ghost tours, in addition to privately arranged ghost hunts.

Photo Credit: Eastern State Penitentiary/Elena Bouvier

Eastern State Penitentiary
2027 Fairmount Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19130
(215) 236-3300

A former prison until 1971, Eastern State Penitentiary is widely regarded as the world’s first true “penitentiary,” as well as the most famous and expensive of its time. Once home to well-known criminals such as Chicago mob boss Al Capone and “Slick Willie” Sutton, its fortress-like building and cavernous walls incarcerated the nation’s worst criminals behind its sullen bars. Today, the penitentiary operates as a museum and historic site – it’s listed as a U.S. National Landmark. Since the 1940s, there have been several accounts of paranormal activities. In more recent years, the aging facility is being touted as perhaps the most carefully investigated building in the country for ghost sightings. Several paranormal reality television programs have filmed on location, including the Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures” and “Most Haunted Live,” SyFy’s “Ghost Hunters,” MTV’s “Fear” and National Geographic’s “American Paranormal.”

The Waverly Hills Sanatorium
4400 Paralee Lane
Louisville, KY 40272
(502) 933-2142

The Waverly Hills Sanatorium, once home to thousands of patients suffering from tuberculosis, has been described as one of the world’s scariest places with paranormal activity allegedly occurring every day. At the time it opened in 1926, the two-story hospital was one of the most sophisticated medical facilities during a time when tuberculosis was the leading cause of death, particularly amongst people living in poverty. Until the sanatorium shuttered in 1961, an estimated 63,000 people died at Waverly, with bodies shuttled through a secret chute known as the “death tunnel” before being transported away, unbeknownst to other patients. Described by its current owners as “the most spiritually active place in the world,” sightings have been reported of the apparition of a nurse who committed suicide in Room 502 during the 1930s.

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Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on