There are holidays and then there are holidays. If you are unwittingly drawn to ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night and dont mind sharing your next vacation with perhaps a headless horseman, a phantom monk or a ghostly bride, then this one is for you.
Haunted or ghost tours form a healthy arm of the tourism industry globally and its unlikely that a touristy destination especially in Europe and America wont offer you a house/mansion/castle where you can experience the paranormal. People go for them because of the adrenalin surge they promise, says Subhash Goyal, group chairman of STIC Travels, who has had been on such tours himself in London and Romania.
Now if you have already made a round of the medieval British castles (so well-known for their hauntings), why not head for some American haunts that are choc full with supernatural goings-on. While you can stay in some of these places, you can go touring others. Heres what we recommend:
Decatur in Illinois is better known as Hells Half Acre. And that should give you an indication of what to expect when you get there. In the 1920s, Decatur came be to one of the most corrupt cities in Illinois and infamous because of rampant murders, bootlegging, prostitution, gambling and ghosts. To add to its woes, the city it is said stands over Native American burial grounds.
Once there you could hop on to a ghost bus run by The Haunted Decatur Tour, a ghost tour outfit in Illinois thats been in business since 1994. This will take you on a trip that you are not going to forget quickly. You can even ghost hunt while you are enjoying the scream-a-minute ride.
Theres a Haunted History Tour (go to www.haunteddecatur.com) that lasts three hours, costing $30 (Rs 1,491) per person, and a Ghost Hunters Tour for four hours. Shell out $45 (Rs 2,236) per person for the screams.
Louisiana is dotted with plantations and mansions dating back to the 19th century. Its fascinating therefore to travel around it and also to take a boat-ride down the Mississippi river. However, if you want some adventure, check into The Myrtles Plantation, a bed & breakfast in St Francisville. It figures on the list of Americas most haunted places with stories of its first floor, grand piano playing sans pianist, the furniture re-orienting itself and the ghost of a black woman in a green turban and long dress making frequent appearances.
You can choose from any of the 11 rooms here. A spacious one is the General David Bradford Suite (named after its first owner) that can be booked at $230 (Rs 11,433) per night (on www.myrtlesplantation.com). The more inexpensive rooms are the garden rooms for $115 (Rs 5,716) per night, rates being on double occupancy basis.
Long Beach Harbour, California is home to Queen Mary, an iconic ship with a history that harks back to World War II and a grisly past of 49 on-board reported deaths. You can stay aboard the 1,000-foot liner (that has now been transformed into a luxury hotel) and get the heebie jeebies when you hear strange noises or catch sight of the apparition of a beautiful young wom-an in a white evening gown dancing alone in the shadows of the Queens Salon. Dont miss out on its Dinner and Ghost Tour.
Book a one-night package (on www.queenmary.com) for $169 (Rs 8,414). Additional nights are priced at $99 (Rs 4,929) per night. Rooms are double occupancy and tax is additional.
When you arrive in San Jose, California, home to high-tech industrial parks, you will learn that its most famous landmark is the Winchester Mystery House a Victorian-style mansion built in 1884 by Sarah Winchester. She became famous for ceaselessly constructing the mansion till she was 82. This, she believed, would appease the spirits that she felt had cursed her family and were responsible for the untimely deaths of her husband and daughter.
What makes the mansion special? A bewildering maze of rooms and stairways, stairs that end at the ceiling and doors that open into blank walls. Spooky enough? Some 110 rooms of a total of 160 can be visited. Check out the Flashlight Tours on certain Friday nights.
Book the Grand Estate Tour in advance (on www.winchestermysteryhouse.com) for $31 (Rs 1,541) per person and it will take you around the mansion.
Fall River in Massachusetts is known for Battleship Cove, the worlds largest collection of World War II naval vessels. But its more famous for being home to Lizzie Borden the accused in a double-axe murder of her father and stepmother in 1892. Now the Bordens 92 Second Street house has been thrown open as a Bed & Breakfast. Guests have sometimes reported coming across the spirits of the Bordens.
There are eight rooms there named after its famous former occupants. The B&B also treats guests to a breakfast similar to the one that the Bordens ate on the morning of the murders.
Check out www.lizzie-borden.com. The John V. Morse Room is the one to ask for, since its where the body of Abby Borden was discovered. The price tag says $225 (Rs 11,184) on double occupancy for a night.