Grab your candy corn, toss on your Halloween costume, and pour some pumpkin beer. It’s time for a haunted version of Southern Fried.
You’ve downed your pumpkin spice lattes and embraced fall color. In other words, you’re doing October right. All that’s left--aside from these five things, of course—is Halloween. There are several different ways to play it: Hand out candy to trick-or-treating kids, bring your kids trick-or-treating, go trick-or-treating yourself, buy a large bag of trick-or-treat candy and see if you can down it before All Saints Day.
But to really get into the spirit, you need a little scare. Horror movies might do it, and there are a few cities that are spooky enough for a visit. But to really feel that chill in your bones, you need to visit one of the following five places, the most haunted in the Southern United States. Ghosts are as ubiquitous down here as okra and bourbon. Here are the best 5 places to disturb 'em, if you dare.
1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa in Eureka Springs, Arkansas
A gorgeous hotel nestled in the heart of the Ozarks, the 1886 is a wonderful place to stay, drink, and dine. But be warned, it certainly earns its moniker of “America’s Most Haunted Hotel.” Here’s all you really need to know: The hotel includes 1886 in its name, because that’s the year it opened. Yet the first person to die there fell from a window in 1885. Not a great start. And that was before Norman Baker.
Baker was the founder of the Baker Institute in Muscatine, Iowa, and he was known for a radio show on which he claimed the American Medical Association was corrupt and that he could actually cure cancer. The medical “genius” was summoned to the Crescent, where a woman named Lula Tunis was dying of cancer. Baker was her last hope, but there was an important fact Baker generally left off his resumé: He wasn’t a doctor. He was a magician. Lula was one of hundreds who lost her life in Baker’s hands.
The Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana
We can probably agree on two things: All plantations are haunted, and every town named after a saint, save for maybe St. Paul, is haunted. Throw a plantation in a town named after a saint, and you've got “One of America’s Most Haunted Homes.” The nearly 300-year-old home (built in 1796), like many haunted places, is just a beautiful antebellum house during the day. At night, it turns into your worst nightmare.
No one knew the plantation was haunted until 1992 when an insurance company needed photos of grounds. In one of the photos was a young girl, only this girl was far from, err, solid. Instead, she was clearly an apparition that the world has come to know as Chloe, one of the several young girls who drift around the plantation come nightfall. A stay here might result in a nice breakfast in the parlor, if you make it that long …
Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, Alabama
Today, Sloss Furnaces stands as a nod to a time past, a daily reminder that Birmingham used to be a town mined for iron, which was then stripped of its impurities and turned into steel. But back in 1882, when James “Slag” Wormwood presided over Sloss, working in the furnace was akin to hell on earth. Temperatures generally exceeded 100 degrees, and labor laws didn’t exist.
Allegedly, Slag added to these conditions by making his employees do unsafe things to impress his friends, causing 47 men to perish under his command. One day, Slag himself—for reasons unknown—slipped and fell into the iron ore, his body melting into the molten metal. But he stuck around, one of many ghosts wandering around the defunct Sloss Furnaces, sometimes playing with machinery, sometimes just doing some classic haunting.
The Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas
I know what you’re thinking: The word kill is right there in the title! It’s another hotel opened in 1886 with a shady beginning. Colonel Jesse Driskill opened the hotel but quickly lost it to his compulsive gambling. Just four years later, he died with nothing. His spirit is just one of many wandering these halls—if you smell cigar smoke, there’s a good chance Driskill is nearby. Word is, though, he’s a ladies’ ghost, particularly seeking out beautiful women to haunt.
That’s not the case in room 525, in which two women committed suicide on the same day twenty years apart on their honeymoons. Finally, the ghost of 4-year-old Samantha Houston, daughter of a U.S. Senator who lost her life in the hotel in 1887, haunts the portrait of herself that hangs on the fifth floor. Guests who observe the painting often feel … a presence.
The Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina
Wait, you’re telling us an Omni Resorts hotel is haunted?! You have to wonder if the folks at Omni knew about the Pink Lady. Around 1920, a young woman dressed in pink fell to her death at the hotel. Later, in the 50s and 60s, workers would feel queasy around room 545, sometimes seeing smoke or a strange apparition—a woman dressed in pink. None reportedly knew of the others’ experiences, nor were any of them familiar with the story of the Pink Lady. In 1996, the hotel looked into the rumors and discovered the Pink Lady was likely the grandmother of local author Bruce Johnson. Whether her spirit is trapped at Grove Park or not is up for debate, so if you’re really interested, spend an evening in room 545 and report back.
Happy Halloween, folks! Have a great haunting story? Let's hear it in the comments below!
Southern Fried Column is a weekly column brought to you by Travis M. Andrews that focuses on the fun, the ridiculous, and the trending in these here Southern United States. Because sometimes home is a little absurd.