*Updated October 2023
Haunted places promise a doorway to a harrowing unknown — unexplained mysteries and encounters with paranormal entities clinging to their former lives. These apparitions lurk unseen, laying an unsettling tone over the atmosphere and haunting your thoughts long after you’ve gone home.
For the brave souls who spend this time of year seeking that very thrill, we’re bringing you a few of the most haunted spots in the South, outside of New Orleans, Savannah, and St. Augustine, which are most famous for their haunts. Read on if you dare …
Bell Witch Cave | Adams, TN
The history of the Bell Witch Cave centers around John Bell and his family, residents of Robertson County in the early 19th century. All because of a land dispute, Kate Batts (a neighbor of John Bell known as the “Bell Witch”) promised to haunt John and his descendants — and according to legend, she did exactly that. Betsy Ball, John’s daughter, was tormented by the Bell Witch during her childhood, but the Witch could be felt by all. Even Andrew Jackson was quoted as saying, “I had rather face the entire British Army than to spend another night with the Bell Witch.”
It is believed that after John Bell died of a strange illness and the Witch threatened Betsy against marrying Joshua Gardner, the neighbor boy she loved, the Witch retired to what has become known as the Bell Witch Cave — perhaps the very place that allowed her to enter the world.
Sloss Furnaces | Birmingham, AL
In the years following the Civil War, Birmingham’s Sloss Furnaces became the mecca of pig iron needed for thousands of steel products around the country. Unfortunately, this industrial boom, coupled with the city’s seemingly overnight transformation into a metropolis, came at a cost. In the early 1900s, James “Slag” Wormwood, foreman of the graveyard shift between sunset and sunrise at Sloss Furnaces, led a group of over 100 workers who lived in cramped housing on the furnace site, forcing them to take dangerous risks to speed up production. During his reign, 47 workers lost their lives, and numerous others lost their ability to work due to horrific accidents, including an explosion that left six blind. The rumor is that the workers, fed up with their daunting and dangerous nights, fed Slag into the furnace in October of 1906.
After his disappearance, workers continuously complained of an “unnatural presence” in the work site, and some complained of being pushed from behind or told by a mysterious voice to “get back to work.” Three supervisors were even found unconscious and locked in a small boiler room, only to emerge with stories of a seemingly burned man who shouted at them to “push more steel.” There have been more than 100 reports of suspected paranormal activity at Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham Police records, and it has even been named one of Fox’s Paranormal Team’s Scariest Places.
Stuckey’s Bridge | Enterprise, MS
Nestled in the heart of southwest Lauderdale County lies a picturesque covered bridge that is steeped in haunting lore by night. The tale spins around a rogue member of the notorious Dalton gang: a man named Stuckey. His nefarious activities, which ranged from robbery to the murder of unsuspecting travelers, cast a shadow over this tranquil setting. In 1850, justice caught up with Stuckey, and he met his fate swinging from the very bridge that now bears his legend. Yet, whispers among locals suggest that Stuckey’s presence still lingers. Some evenings, they say, you can glimpse the ghostly figure of Stuckey meandering along the riverbank, lantern aglow. And a few have even claimed to see his eerie silhouette suspended from the bridge, a chilling reminder of the bridge’s past.
Wheatlands Plantation | Sevierville, TN
At Wheatlands Plantation, there is good reason for hauntings — more than 70 people were murdered in the house; battles during the Revolutionary War and Civil War were fought there; it is estimated that 28 Cherokees were killed at the Battle of Boyd’s Creek (which runs adjacent to the property) during the Revolutionary War, and there are approximately 69 enslaved people and two Revolutionary War soldiers buried on the property. That is a lot of death associated with one house.
As the story goes, you might spot blood stains in the home’s parlor. After the owner of the estate left Wheatlands Plantation to her grandson, his jealous father confronted him and, in turn, was murdered by his son with an iron poker. Although the floors have been cleaned numerous times, the bloodstains keep returning.
The Train Trestle at The Parklands of Floyds Fork | Louisville, KY
For generations, the legend of the Pope Lick Monster — a creepy half-man, half-goat that lures unsuspecting adrenaline junkies onto a dangerously high railroad train trestle — has been haunting Louisvillians. But who is this Goatman? The tall-tale rumors spun to explain his existence are almost as good as the prospect of spotting him: he’s a ghost who used to be a circus sideshow act; he’s the unnatural creation of a demented farmer and his livestock (ew), or he’s the ghost of a Satanic farmer who used to sacrifice goats. No matter which folktale you believe, the legend of the Goatman continues to lure people across the nearly 100-foot-high bridge in the hopes of a chance encounter with the freakish creature.
Sadly, a number of tragic deaths have been reported here, as curious explorers have either been thrown from the tracks or even struck by trains. Clearly, the mystery of the Pope Lick Monster still haunts the tracks near Fisherville in the Parklands of Floyd’s Fork. Technically, the bridge and railroad tracks are private property, so it’s best (and definitely safest) to try to view the Goatman from the safety of the ground below.
Tennessee State Prison | Nashville, TN
Located just minutes from downtown Nashville, the Tennessee State Prison closed its doors in 1992. You might recognize it as the setting for movies such as The Green Mile, Ernest Goes to Jail, and The Last Castle, but it is more widely known for its prison breaks, riots, fires, and inhumane conditions.
Built in 1889 and possessing 800 cells that quickly became overcrowded, the prison has a rich history. The capital punishment facility housed the assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr.; Johnny Cash played for inmates in 1968; more than 100 prisoners were executed using “Old Sparky” (the state electric chair).
There’s not just one ghost that haunts this old prison. Instead, the voices and footsteps of all those whose lives were taken by “Old Sparky” have been heard roaming the halls. Tours are no longer available of the prison due to its declining state, and it’s likely best to observe it from afar.
McRaven House | Vicksburg, MS
Often dubbed Mississippi “Most Haunted House,” McRaven has 14 ghost that still haunt the home. It offers an intriguing mix of history and spectral lore. Built in 1797 by the highwayman Andrew Glass, whose own untimely demise became the first of many ghostly tales surrounding the property, this pre-Civil War residence is adorned with antiques and relics, chronicling its eerie past. The grounds, which once witnessed the bustle of a Confederate campsite and a field hospital, occasionally reveal bones as a reminder to its past.
The house reverberates with tales of its inhabitants. The most poignant is of Mary Elizabeth Howard, who tragically passed during childbirth at just 15 years old in 1836. Today, visitors report sightings of her apparition, with some of her personal effects preserved and showcased at McRaven.
To further immerse yourself in Vicksburg’s rich tapestry of history and hauntings, consider the Haunted Vicksburg Ghostwalk. This expert-guided journey traverses twelve blocks, touching upon moments like the Trail of Tears, historic duels, and the intense 47-day siege. Such tales have solidified Vicksburg’s place on many “Most Haunted Cities in America” lists.
Bill Sketoe’s Hole | Newton, AL
Bill Sketoe, a short story subject in Kathryn Tucker Windham’s 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey, is reported to haunt the bridge over the Choctawhatchee River in Newton, AL. During the Civil War, Bill was the victim of a lynching for reportedly hiring a substitute to fight for him through the war while he came home to take care of his sick wife.
Although he denied the charge, he was hung from the bridge. Being that he was a tall man, a hole had to be dug beneath his feet. To this day, the hole has not and cannot be filled. Many have reported putting debris or trash in the hole to find it perfectly cleaned out the next day. You can visit Bill Sketoe’s hole and grave this Halloween in Newton.
Albright Hall at Queens University of Charlotte | Charlotte, NC
As legend has it, a young woman headed off to college at Queens and discovered that she felt something she’d never experienced before — an attraction to other women. She soon found herself involved in a romance with a fellow co-ed. (Bear in mind this was quite a long time ago, during a very different time in our history.) According to the legend, when her parents learned of her illicit affair, the girl slit her wrists out of shame.
As she lay dying on her bed, she reached up and, with the last of her strength, smeared “JULIE,” the name of her lover, on the wall in her own blood. Since then, strange bumping and banging sounds have been reported in the dorm, with some residents claiming the dead girl’s spirit still wanders the halls, blood dripping from her cut wrists. A few students have also claimed to see “JULIE” smeared in blood above their beds.
St. James Hotel | Selma, AL
Built in 1837 and located just an hour from the Gaines Ridge Dinner Club, the St. James Hotel is one of the oldest operational facilities in Alabama. During the Civil War, soldiers used the hotel to discuss battle strategies. When the Battle of Selma took place, the entire town of Selma pretty much burned to the ground, but the St. James Hotel remained standing.
After the Civil War ended, a man named Benjamin Sterling Tower became the new owner. He allowed a group of outlaws, led by the famous gang leader, bank robber, train robber, and murderer Jesse James, to stay at the hotel one night. Several guests have reported seeing the spirits of Jesse James and his girlfriend, Lucinda, as well as a man fully dressed in clothing from the 1800s in rooms 214, 314, and 315.
Lucinda, who loved the scent of lavender, allegedly leaves the lovely scent in her path, alerting guests to her presence. James’ black dog also haunts the hotel halls, as evidenced by guests’ accounts of incessant barking with no dog in sight. You can book a room at the St. James Hotel today, and if you’re brave enough, request to stay in rooms 214, 314, or 315.
The Windsor Hotel | Americus, GA
Welcome to Americus, GA, home to approximately 17,500 residents and about 150 miles south of Atlanta. Known as The Windsor Hotel, the business was originally built in 1892 to attract winter visitors from the north. The Victorian hotel has become somewhat of a local celebrity, hosting former President Jimmy Carter and being featured on a slew of local and national television programs, magazines, newspapers, and websites.
Perhaps what beckons visitors is the many strange sightings that have been reported. Legend claims the ghost of a little girl — the daughter of a former housekeeper — runs around laughing at night. She and her mother lived at the hotel and were pushed down the elevator shaft in the early 1900s. Ghost hunters have examined the hallway and other areas of the hotel, and the site readings were off the charts. Additionally, the host trackers claim to have felt an array of spirits while analyzing the establishment.
The Drish House | Tuscaloosa, AL
According to The Lineup, Tuscaloosa’s Drish House is officially named the most haunted place in Alabama. It was built in 1937 by John R. Drish over a 450-acre plantation. Dr. Drish, who loved gambling and drinking, died in 1867 from falling down a stairway while drunk. His wife, Sarah, became obsessed with planning her husband’s funeral — so much so that it became an overly elaborate event. She even kept the candles from his funeral with the intense hope that they would be used at her own funeral.
When she passed in 1884, her family searched the house endlessly to find the candles but could not locate them. This is said to have angered Sarah so much that she has come back to haunt the house ever since, even allegedly causing a fire in the third-story tower by lighting the candles. The Drish House was featured in the short story “Death Lights in the Tower” in Kathryn Tucker Windham’s popular book of ghost stories, 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey. The Drish House is now a venue for receptions and events.
Hay House | Macon, GA
Georgia has such a rich history of distinguished homes that it’s hard to stand out. But Hay House, located in Macon and declared a national historic landmark in 1974, has done just that. The 18,000-square-foot mansion has been home to just two families in its entire existence, but its existence, historically speaking, isn’t so rosy.
Staff, workmen, and visitors have reported hearing odd sounds, problems with lights and doors, and seeing odd figures. In fact, Architectural Digest included Hay House as one of its “13 Most Beautiful Haunted Destinations Around the World.” Whether you love ghost spotting or Italian Renaissance Revival architecture, make sure to visit this gorgeous, chilling estate.
Had your fill of scares? Find less creepy travel destinations in our travel section, where we feature the best of the South!