Happy Spirits Week!
We’ve covered all sorts of spirits in this most spooky of weeks, but it would be downright irresponsible of us not to include a few of your ghost stories. While Atlas Obscura is firmly in the skeptic camp when it comes to the actual existence of ghosts, we’re big fans of ghost stories themselves—especially when they revolve around a local myth or legendary place.
We recently asked the readers in our Community Forums to tell us about their favorite extremely local ghost stories, and we got an impressive collection of tales about everything from haunted roads to benevolent theater ghosts to unquiet spirits on the golf course.
Read some of our favorite submissions below. And if you have a terrific ghost story of your own to share, head over to the forums and keep the conversation going.
“Memphis has a lot of ghosts, but my favorite has always been 12-year-old Mary, one of the Orpheum’s ghosts. No one knows for sure how she died—might have been in an accident on Beale Street, might have been in the 1923 fire that burnt the Orpheum down—but in 1928, when the theater was rebuilt, she was there, sometimes dancing in the aisles, sometimes playing (possibly also fixing) the new Mighty Wurlitzer organ, sometimes in her favorite seat on the mezzanine. I’ve never seen her myself, but there are quite a number of sightings recorded.” — korenni
Marco Island, Florida
“I live on the edge of the western Everglades and this area was prime Calusa Indian territory. I was on a history tour at night on Marco Island. We stopped at Otter Mound. If you’re not familiar, mounds are made of shells and other organic matter that the Calusa stacked up. While there, our guide said to stay on the path, do not venture off of it or the spirits will get angry. I was wearing jeans and closed-toe shoes… an important detail. While on the main trail, I felt tons of biting on my calves and feet. I thought, ‘this is not good, all these bugs are biting through my jeans and shoes.’ Really annoying. When we all gathered back at the entrance, our guide said when the Calusas get upset they attack from the knee down. I knew nothing of this previously, nor had I ever been to Otter Mound. I was officially scared out of my mind. It was not painful, just annoying, like bitty bites. Anyone in the area should check it out but stay on the trail at night. There is no charge to go there on your own. There is also an old house where a previous owner still visits the area in the spirit from. You can actually feel his cold spots outside.” — toniamonkey
“I live near Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire, which is meant to be very haunted. A few years before moving nearby, we went for a visit and guided tour of the castle. When we entered what used to be the chapel, I got very dizzy, queasy, and had to leave the room and sit down. As soon as I walked out, the feeling went away. Five years later, we became locals and went back to the castle with friends and went on the tour again. We walked into the chapel, and it happened again, but not as intensely. Just as I was edging out of the room, the tour guide said that she had worked there for 17 years and that room was the one that affected visitors the most. People saw ghosts, heard things, passed out, felt sick etc… At least I was in good company.” — mcmecq
Grand National Golf Course
“In Auburn, Alabama, there is [said to be] a single grave in the middle of the expansive Grand National golf course, part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. The headstone bears the name of ‘Mary Dowdell,’ although I don’t remember the dates. The headstone was discovered when the pine trees were being cleared away to build the golf course. Finding an old grave in the middle of nowhere is not unusual around here, according to the local genealogical society. An old marked grave like this, in a Deep South state, was often surrounded by the graves of people enslaved by the family (and the Dowdells were a prominent family). Those graves might be marked only by a stone, but they always faced east. For that reason, a wide area around Mary’s grave was left undisturbed. Nevertheless, really weird things have happened at the golf course. The people who work there always say, ‘Mary’s unhappy.’ And they really believe this. The few things I have seen written about this supposed ghost are completely wrong, but a lot of people think she is absolutely real.” — jkochak
“College Hall, the flagship building of Vermont College of Fine Arts, has long been home to a ghost named Anna. She was shot in a scandalous love triangle by another woman who was in love with Anna’s fiance in the late 1800s. Anna knocks clocks and pictures off walls when we work into the night, and bars entrance to doors she doesn’t want opened. She’s said to be based in the now-empty glass-encased bell tower that tops the 1868 iconic brick building. Because her existence is so widely accepted by our staff and students, and because we have such affection for her, we named our campus cafe Cafe Anna. — anndavilacardinal
Ruins of the Institute of Natural Therapeutics
“Northwest of Gig Harbor, Washington, in the hamlet of Olalla, are the ruins of the Institute of Natural Therapeutics, made famous in Gregg Olsen’s book, Starvation Heights. Said to be haunted and still a deeply creepy place. A friend (who used to run haunts and still reviews them) went on a private tour a couple of years ago on Halloween and had to leave… it gave even a professional haunter the creeps.” — SMRichmond
Paramount Arts Center
“My town’s old Paramount Theater (now known as the Paramount Arts Center) has a permanent resident that’s well known throughout the area as Paramount Joe. The story is that a few decades back work was being done on the stage via scaffolding. Joe stayed behind a little to finish up his work as the other workers left one night. The next morning they returned to find he’d fallen from the scaffolding and died on the stage.
Ever since he’s been a prominent presence in the building. He’s well known for turning on the light at the bottom of the basement stairs for female employees (the only location of a switch thus saving them a trip down into the dark) and seems to favor the small cafe/concession area. It’s common practice for visiting performers to leave him autographed pictures which are then hung in the cafe. They were all removed once during redecoration, and replaced with pictures from around town. When the theater opened the next day the new pictures had all been knocked off the walls. I suppose he didn’t want his autographs removed.
I personally haven’t seen Joe but I’ve felt his presence many times in the lobby and cafe, both by myself and with others. While I’m sorry that he’s stuck there I’m glad that he’s appreciated.” — Tookwagner
Laura Kelly Statue
“There is very little sculpture to be enjoyed in the small city of Kosciusko, Mississippi, but in the City Cemetery there stands, in a small gated enclosure, a life-size statue of Mrs. Kelly, hand resting upon the handle of a… shovel? Axe? No one knows for sure, but of course, local legend says it is an axe, with which she murdered her entire family. There’s a circle of graves inside the fence.
Another story about the same statue, claims that Mr. Kelly was away from home on business, his wife died from a disease (not sure which one). They had not been married long, and his heart was so broken, he sent a photo of his beloved off to Paris to have the sculpture in her memory. These things took time in the late 19th century, so by the time the work of art returned to Kosciusko, Mr. Kelly had remarried. The first wife’s likeness was erected in the city cemetery, which Mr. Kelly could see from the turret of his home.
On the anniversary of her death, and his second marriage, it’s said that if you go to the cemetery, you can see the statue cry.” — nytechilde
“There’s a small patch of ancient woodland near the village of Bradley in Lincolnshire, England, known as Bradley Woods. For generations, people have witnessed the ghost of a pretty young woman dressed in a black cloak and hood that hides her hair but reveals a mournful, pale, tear-soaked face. Recently, motorists driving past the woods have seen her standing by the side of the road. She has never harmed anyone, but is said to be a pitiful and unnerving sight.
It is thought that she once lived in a cottage in the woods with her husband, a woodsman, and their baby son. During the Wars of the Roses, an English civil war of the 15th century, the woodsman left his family to join the army of the local lord. After many months with no news of her husband, the woman would walk to the edge of the woods with her baby to await the sight of him coming home. One day, enemy soldiers marched through the area on their way to attack Lincoln. The woman was set upon by three horsemen who raped her before snatching the baby and riding away. Heartbroken and humiliated, the young lady wandered the woods in vain searching for her child and husband. After her own death, nearby villagers continued to see her spectral image wandering the woods carrying on her never-ending search. The ghost is known locally as the ‘Black Lady of Bradley Woods.’” — jarad75
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
“I’m living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. When I moved here in June, for a summer internship, I was housed in a large apartment complex. Despite numerous complaints to our landlord about the problems with the flat, they never offered us a different flat. That was until we complained about a ghost. We had a new place within 12 hours. Amazing.
Also, the 8th lunar month is ‘Ghost Month.’ You mustn’t leave your clothing hanging out overnight to dry. The ghosts will borrow them and then when you wear them you’ll fall ill.” — Xin_Chao_Con_Meo
Hollywood Downtowner Inn
Los Angeles, California
“We’re L.A. natives, and had Friday/Saturday night tickets for shows at The Greek. Instead of driving up and back both nights, we got a room at The Hollywood Downtowner. On Friday I stowed Saturday’s tickets in my duffel. Come Saturday night, the tickets were nowhere to be found, and we went through every inch of our suitcases. We never found Saturday’s tickets and got them replaced, but were really confused about how they could have gone missing.A couple weeks later we were partying in the backyard. Both my grandparents (RIP) were there, and then Bren(dan) came through. He told my mom that he’d taken our tickets so someone would know he was there; he’d been murdered in a drug deal in the room we stayed in, and wanted to let someone know he was there.
My mom’s a sensitive, and to a much lesser degree my sister and brother and I are, but that night, in the backyard, it was total WHOA—spirit party.” — YeahRok
Hotel San Carlos
“Hotel San Carlos in Phoenix is built over the first schoolhouse in Phoenix. There was a well that two kids drowned in turn of the century. I did a school project about the ghosts there and all the staff would talk about hearing kids laughing and running around in the basement when no one else was around. There’s also a room where the ghost of a woman who jumped from the roof in the 20s haunts guests at night. She appears, and then suddenly disappears. I’m a big ol skeptic when it comes to ghosts, but for some reason the hotel is a spot where several people have committed suicide by jumping off. There’s a Subway across the street, and the manager there said he saw the most recent one (this was 2009, so that was around 2003 I think). He was looking at the street and suddenly a woman splattered on the pavement. That was the story that creeped me out the most.” — dgluth
“So, this isn’t my ghost story or even a particular ghost story. Cuba Road is a twisty, winding street that occupies some space in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, and considerably more space in the local imagination.
Stories of Cuba Road abound. Because it is a very windy road, and goes up and down some pretty steep hills, it’s a dangerous drive. There’s a small cemetery that dates from the 1820s, including some Civil War-era graves. Most frequently, people see floating balls of light above some of the graves, feel ‘cold spots’ there and see presences. In the woods behind the cemetery, there’s a house that will appear, and disappear, as you come towards it. It supposedly burned down a long time ago, although no one really knows the truth. […]
It’s a road best avoided on Halloween, but well worth a ride if you’re bored with your friends on some long, dark summer night.” — yelena
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.