Hauntingly Beautiful

Hauntingly Beautiful

By Carrie Dunlea

People often love to explore the uncanny and unexplained as Halloween draws near. One way to do so is to visit some of the purportedly haunted places around the world that also happen to be spectacularly beautiful. Not only is this a great way to get in some travel time, it also can elicit thrills, as one never knows what to expect when visiting the following locales.

Casa Loma, Toronto, Canada

This gothic revival castle that sits on a hill in midtown Toronto was built in 1914 by Sir Henry Pellatt as an homage to his wife. The 70,000 square-foot structure with 98 rooms was later acquired by the city after Pellatt lost his fortune. It has multiple secret passageways and hidden storage areas. Legend has it that ghosts have been spotted on the property for years. Today, the castle is run by Liberty Entertainment Group and not only has an upscale steakhouse on the premises, but it is also available for private and public events, tours and much more. 

“Casa Loma is the perfect backdrop for a Halloween theme,” says Liberty Entertainment CEO Nick DiDonato. Now every October, the estate is transformed into a haunted house called “Halloween Legends of Horror” which Donato says recreates the original monsters and iconic villains of the past in movies.

If you can’t attend in October but still want to experience the mystery of the castle, visitors can buy tickets to Murdoch Mysteries Escape Game: Secret of Station House No. 4. The 60-minute immersive escape room experience brings the hit Canadian TV show to real life. Visit casaloma.ca

Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, California

When Winchester rifles heiress Sarah Winchester lost her husband and infant daughter, a medium told her it was payback by the spirits of all of the people harmed by their rifles. She was told to build a house large enough to accommodate all of the angry spirits. 

What started as an eight-room farmhouse was transformed over 36 years into a 24,000 square-foot structure with 160 rooms, 10,000 windows, 2,000 doors, 52 skylights, 47 stairways and fireplaces, 17 chimneys, 13 bathrooms and six kitchens. In addition, there are secret passageways, upside-down columns and staircases to no where to confuse spirits. Visitors have reportedly experienced all sorts of unexplained phenomena within the walls of the house.

The house is open year- round but if you’re interested in the paranormal, you’re in luck. In late September and October, visitors can sign up for Unhinged: Housewarming, an indoor and outdoor haunt that often becomes a sold-out event. 

The Winchester House is now offering a new daily tour called Walk with Spirits. According to the website winchestermysteryhouse.com, this tour offers visitors a chance to “explore the paranormal by attending the wake for a departed soul in the parlor of the home, ascend to the third floor to experience a Victoria-era séance and end in the dark and foreboding basement.”

The Myrtles Plantation, St. Francisville, Louisiana

The 1794 Louisiana plantation has a lengthy history of owners, multiple deaths over the course of many years from diseases, a post-Civil War shooting of one of the former owners on the front porch, slavery and tragedy. 

Some say the plantation is haunted by a girl named Chloe, a child slave who had her ear chopped off for listening in on a conversation. To get back at her owner, it is rumored she poisoned a birthday cake and ended up killing three people, but not him.

The historic home is now a small hotel with beautiful gardens that offers several events each year. According to the Myrtles Plantation website, the home is known for being “One of Americas Most Haunted Homes,” yet very little of its unsavory history is revealed upfront. Book an afternoon or evening tour, or even a room and maybe you’ll experience the plantation’s paranormal activities. Themyrtles.com

The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado

It’s hard to believe this gorgeous hotel with panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains is what prompted Stephen King to base his novel, then later his movie, “The Shining” on. Visitors don’t seem fazed by the choice and some claim to have experienced ghost sightings at the grand hotel.

There are a variety of tours, but if you’re there to uncover the hotel’s spirited nature, a 60-minute Stanley Hotel Spirited Night Tour is offered. Other “theatrical experience” tour options include The Shining Tour and the King’s Cottage Tour. Both include elements of history and lots of talk about the famous author.

Aside from tours in a beautiful setting, the hotel also offers multiple events, some permanent, others seasonal, on a rotating basis. “Aidan Sinclair’s Underground,” considered a world-class magic show featuring some of the greatest magicians in the world, is offered in an underground venue on the property.

In mid-October, the hotel will host “Greg & Dana’s Haunted Objects Live” in the Stanley Concert Hall. During the presentation, the famous paranormal investigators explore famous cases such as the Amityville Horror, Dybbuk Box and much more. The event is advertised as a “must-see event for anyone interested in the paranormal, history, or just looking for a good scare.”

On October 21, the annual Shining Ball will be held at the historic hotel. Guests can enjoy music, entertainment and Halloween festivities including “The Shining” costume contest. Then on Halloween night, the Stanley Concert Hall plays host to “Widows Bane,” a band described as “cursed souls with a haunting history.” Stanleyhotel.com

The Queen Mary, Long Beach, California

While in as a luxury ship, then later as a troopship dubbed the “Grey Ghost” during World War II, the Queen Mary reportedly experienced its share of deaths on board.

A sailor killed in the engine room and multiple children drowning in the ship’s pool have some guests claiming to hear screams of children late at night and paranormal experiences in the engine room.

While ferrying thousands of American troops to England on Oct. 2, 1942, the Queen Mary accidentally sank one of her escort ships, HMS Curacoa, off the coast of Ireland. 

The light cruiser had cut in front of the troopship and went down with the loss of 239 lives. 

Because of the threat of U-boat attacks, the Queen Mary was ordered not to stop under any circumstances and steamed to port with a damaged bow.

Built in England in 1936, the ship was the first of its kind with multiple dining areas, lounges, cocktail bars, a swimming pool, a grand ballroom, a squash court, and a small hospital. The ships website, queenmary.com, reports the ship was returned to its “original glory” following the war and resumed regular passage service until it was decommissioned in 1967.

The city of Long Beach purchased the ship in the 1960s and the ship is now used as a hotel with 357 staterooms and suites, and as a venue for special events.

The Queen Mary offers multiple types of tours for history buffs along with a 60-minute “Haunted Encounters” tour for those who prefer to hear about the “infamous paranormal residents” that now occupy the ship. Queenmary.com

Are you up for a thrill and a chill? Plan some adventurous fall travel this year exploring some of the many haunted locales that dot the landscape.