This sample MLA paper discusses some of the premier places in the United States where one can supposedly encounter a genuine haunting. This sample essay was written at the undergraduate level for the Ultius blog.
Most Haunted Places in America
America’s history. is long and more than a little bit bloody. Whether through war, disease, or imprisonment, many people have died under terrible circumstances. Some believe that this sets the stage for many hauntings. There are many skeptics who do not believe in ghosts, spirits, or hauntings of any kind, but there are still a very large number of people who believe in such things and even claim to have experienced them firsthand. There are several places in the United States that have developed a particular reputation for being frequented by spirits and continue to attract countless visitors who hope to have a ghostly experience of their own.
Eastern State Penitentiary
Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it is easy to believe that Eastern State Penitentiary is haunted. Its crumbling structure and high, gloomy walls were once the home to thousands of hard-core felons. Almost one hundred and fifty years old, its sordid history is packed to the brim with disease, madness, murder, torture, and suicide, leaving in its wake countless troubled souls that might still be lingering. The now-closed prison has been featured on Travel Channel, Syfy, and MTV as one of the most haunted placed in America. Hundreds of paranormal experts have visited the prison and many report a huge amount of paranormal activity (Dalrymple). Many of the stories have been corroborated by other visitors, staff, and former inmates and guards dating back to the 1940s.
It is well-known that the prisoners at Eastern State Penitentiary were typically ill-treated. Inmates were sometimes dunked in ice baths and left outside until their skin was covered in ice (Dalrymple). Other punishments include being strapped to a chair so tightly that they lost circulation and often had to undergo amputations as a result, an iron gag that tore terribly at their tongues, and ‘the hole’, a cell underground in which prisoner saw no light, no human contact, had no exercise, no proper toilet, and insufficient food and air (Dalrymple). The horrors that the prisoners suffered during their stay is enough to give anyone chills, ghosts or not.
One cellblock, cellblock twelve, is known for its echoing voices and haunting, cackling laughter that can be heard bouncing off its walls. In cellblock four, many people report seeing ghostly faces appearing out of the darkness. Cellblock six is known for being the home of shadowy figures that dart across the halls and through the rooms. One of the prison’s guard towers is known for a ghostly guard who has yet to leave his post. Throughout the whole prison, there have been many reports of mysterious whispering, tortured wails, and disembodied footsteps (Dalrymple). Gary Johnson, a man who helps maintain the prison’s locks, is the witness of one of the building’s most legendary ghost stories. After opening an old lock in cellblock four in the early 1990s, he says that a strong force gripped him tightly so that he was unable to move. He reports that then a terrible, negative force rushed over him and out of the cell, leaving behind tormented faces writhing on the cell walls and a ghostly figure who beckoned him closer (Dalrymple).
Those who work there now, though, do not propagate the prison’s haunted past. They try to steer away from the darker reputation of the prison and do not claim that it is haunted. Ben Brookman, a tour guide who works at the prison, says, “Most people making TV shows come in looking for ghosts. That’s not the story we tell. Inmates were real people. These were people’s lives. Seventy-thousand people spent time here. We’re not going to glorify it, and we’re not going to make fun of it.” (Dalrymple). Are the hauntings that people claim to have experienced here just self-fulfilling prophecy? While there have been thousands of visitors who claim to have experienced nothing strange there, plenty of other say they have.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium
The Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Kentucky is perhaps the most well-known haunted hospital in the United States. Many of the patients at Waverly Hills were very sick, often mistreated, and usually died. It was built in the early 1900s with the purpose of treating people who suffered from tuberculosis and was closed in 1961 when antibiotics cured the condition. During its operating years, there were around sixty-three thousand patients who died from the disease or maltreatment at the hospital (“Waverly Hills Stories”), fueling the many ghost stories that reportedly began within the hospital’s walls.
The sanatorium has a tunnel that is known as ‘the body chute’. The tunnel was originally meant to be used during the movement of materials used in the hospital, eliminated a very long trip up the hill on which the hospital sits. Eventually, though, the tunnel was used to get dead bodies out of the building without having to pass patients or hospital staff (“Waverly Hills Stories”). It also made it easier when multiple bodies needed to be disposed of at a time. Many of the ghost stories concerning Waverly Hills surround the body chute and involve ghosts and shadowy figures haunting the tunnel.
One of the most famous rooms at Waverly Hills is room 502. Many people claim that they have witnessed the shadowy specter of a nurse in uniform inside the room. Some say that the goes tells them to get out of the room and shoos them away. Legend says that many years ago, the body of a nurse was discovered hanging from the rafter in the room. It is believed that she killed herself because she was pregnant and unwed. Her body hung in the room for some time because being discovered by another staff member (“Waverly Hills Stories”). After her death, another nurse was working in that room because going to the roof of the building and throwing herself to her death. The reason for her suicide is still unclear.
Many of the stories about Waverly Hills involve shadowy figures moving about the hospital, doors opening and closing on their own, and ghostly figures who roam around the fourth floor, weeping and moaning. It is also widely believed that the third floor is home to the ghost of a little girl who has a face without any eyes (“Waverly Hills Sanatorium”). In addition, there are several tales of a little boy who runs through the halls chasing his bouncing ball. Several other stories have been eerily repeated by visitor after visitor, making the haunting accounts impossible to discount for sure.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is the biggest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America and resides in Virginia. The long, winding wings are staggered to ensure that each one received abundant light and air. While the hospital was built originally to house two-hundred-fifty patients, it was home to twenty-four hundred at its peak in the 1950s, resulting in cataclysmically poor conditions (Argie). Its closure in 1994 had a devastating effect on the town economy and it has yet to fully recover.
Patients were treated poorly by the staff as well as other patients. Isolation cells contained shackled that enabled the hospital staff to chain patients to the floor. In one room, two patients attempted to hang another. When they noticed he was still alive, they put one foot of a bed on the other patient’s head and jumped on the bed, killing him instantly (Kaczmarek). Many people died here during their stays; that, combined with the poor treatment of the patients, has spurned rumors that the hospital is haunted.
On the first floor of the hospital, many people report the same experiences. There is a loud whistling sound that bounces off the halls and appears to get closer and closer. Others report being pushed against the wall by unseen forces and interaction with Ruth, a former patient who was particularly violent towards men whose ghost is said to never have left. On the second floor, it is said that a man was stabbed almost twenty times by another patient (Kaczmarek). Two patients also hung themselves on the second floor and many paranormal investigators have captured EVPs of voices warning them to “get out”. A number of shadowy figures have been seen while other witnesses claim they can hear the spirits saying their names (Kaczmarek).
The third floor is the Nurses Quarters, where doors open and close by themselves and an apparition of a nurse named Elizabeth has been seen by several visitors. This floor is known for its shadowy figured stalking the halls and strange noises. Many report hearing tormented screams or someone calling their names as they pass the room where another patient was murdered by their fellow (Kaczmarek). At the end of the hall, an often-seen ghost by the name of Big Jim can typically be counted upon to show up. The fourth floor is home to a ghost named Lily who sometimes tries to communicate with visitors. Many hear loud bangs and clanks on this floor and other terrifying sights are said to manifest here. Photographs have captured a large black figure on this floor, as well as a figure that crawls quickly across the floor. The many reports of hauntings make this hospital a popular location for enthusiasts of the paranormal.
According to paranormal experts, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is one of the most haunted places in the world. Almost two hundred soldiers fought there during the Civil War and in 1863 between the first and third of July, more than fifty one thousand Americans were slaughtered, seriously wounded, or went missing (“Gettysburg’s Haunted History”). There are a number of sites in Gettysburg that are said to be particularly haunted. It is estimated that just as many visitors come in search of ghosts as they do for the historical value.
One spot that is known for paranormal activity is the National Soldier’s Orphan Homestead. This building served as headquarters for General Howard of the Union Army. It was turned into an orphanage in 1866 and housed one hundred and thirty children. The headmistress was notoriously cruel and was eventually convicted of abusing many of her wards. It was closed in 1877, but it is said that the headmistress’s dark spirit still angrily lurks in the basement (“Gettysburg’s Haunted History”). Another particularly haunted site in Gettysburg is the Gettysburg Engine House. The railroad building is the setting of a group of Union soldiers’ last charge against Confederate forces on the first of July in 1863. Dead soldiers were carelessly buried in the ground around the engine house, over which a newer building has been built. Hunterstown Battlefield is also said to be a hotbed for paranormal activity. Union General George Custer’s troops fought against that of General Wade Hampton on the second of July. More than one hundred men died during that battle and many war reenactors have reported strange sensations and occurrences taking place here (“Gettysburg’s Haunted History”). Even skeptics must agree that the reports of paranormal activity in Gettysburg have reached staggering numbers.
Ghost stories can be heard anywhere around the world and the United States is no exception. There are thousands of reports of ghostly sightings around the country in countless locations, but there are a few places that seem to garner the most attention my paranormal enthusiasts due to the places’ histories and the numbers of people who died there. While there still is yet to be irrefutable proof of the existence of ghosts, there have been enough stories with eerie similarities to make one wonder.
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Dalrymple, Laurel. “Is Easter State Penitentiary Really Haunted?” NPR. National Public Radio, 24 Oct. 2013. Web. 14 Jun. 2016. http://www.npr.org/2013/10/24/232234570/is-eastern-state-penitentiary-really-haunted
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