Ideas

Spooks in summer: Ideas for visiting haunted and historic ground to stir your travel spirit

It’s early August and Halloween is still just a spot on the horizon, but I find seeking out spooky spots can be more than just a fall affair; cemeteries, haunted hotels, and other weird and wonderful places from the past offer a great window into learning about your city and enjoying a slightly more twisted type of tourism.

Whether you’re looking for a scare, or prefer something more along the lines of a history lesson, visiting the places of the long forgotten can make for an unforgettable afternoon, and you don’t even need to leave town. Each city and state has its own special spots to keep secrets from the past, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Historic buildings:

    The White Eagle Saloon & Hotel, a favorite historic haunt in Portland, Oregon.

    The White Eagle Saloon & Hotel, a favorite historic haunt in Portland built in the cities early days, but still standing. Attribution: Gexydaf

Do your research and you might find a number of pretty old places to check out nearby. You can check the National Register of Historic Places for the most famous ones, do a Google search for historic buildings, or go for a walk and start knocking on doors. Make an afternoon of it and photograph unique buildings, crumbling facades, overgrown doorways, and anything else you find. If you want to go all out, choose a theme, plan an itinerary, and go on your own historical tour. In Portland for example, I could make a day of visiting places that are confirmed or alleged sites of our Shanghaiing days.

  • Ghost Towns:

    The paddy wagon in Shaniko, a ghost town turned tourist site in central Oregon. Attribution: swainboat

    The paddy wagon in Shaniko, a ghost town turned tourist site in central Oregon. Attribution: swainboat

You might have to drive a bit to visit a ghost town, but you’ll be surprised how many of them are out there. In western states you’ll find dozens of Gold Rush-era ghost towns scattered throughout rural regions, and some just a short drive from major cities. Wikipedia’s list shows hundreds across the country, and many states have more than 50. When you find one or two that you want to check out, do your research or ask around neighboring cities about what to see, but a word of caution, many historic structures and buildings are located on private property, so you might wanna bring cookies or some form of bribery. To make the most of your trip, be sure to research the history of your destination before you head out.

  • Cemeteries:

    Grave of Henry Weinhard, Oregon's most famous brewer, at Riverview Cemetery, creepy but cool in my opinion.

    Grave of Henry Weinhard, Oregon’s most famous brewer, at Riverview Cemetery, creepy but cool in my opinion.

This one isn’t for everyone, but trust me, you really can learn a thing or two at a cemetery, and if the spook factor doesn’t bother you, you’ll probably have a great time touring a few. You can research cemeteries in your city to find out which are the oldest or if any have peculiar traits. Older cities are bound to have cemeteries that are hundreds of years old and many Midwestern and western states have pioneer cemeteries. I’ve spent many enjoyable mornings jogging through Riverview Cemetery in Portland where I saw the burial plots with names of many of the main streets and highways in town, and quickly went home to Google them to discover that I had been in the Founder’s Grove and they were the men who built our city over 100 years ago. Next stop on my list is Lone Fir, a pioneer cemetery and national historic place, from 1855.

Lone Fir Cemetery in Portland.

Lone Fir Cemetery in Portland. Attribution: intersubjectiv

Do you have a favorite spooky place to visit in your city or state?

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