Local Obscura: Creepy Places

We lurked around our cities and towns, looking for creepy places with creepy stories. This is what we found…

Near The Old LA Zoo, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA

by Carolyn: Honestly shadows are too much sometimes.

Old Zoo Trail

Griffith Park is LA’s largest green space, and was allegedly cursed by Doña Petronilla in 1863 when she learned her land-baron uncle hadn’t bequeathed what was then his property to her. In addition to sightings of her riding the trails on horseback, there are are allegedly ghosts around the carousel, the Hollywood Sign, a haunted picnic table and more. There’s also the former site of the Griffith Park Zoo, which was rife with economic struggles, inadequate housing and poor treatment of animals. Anyway there’s this abandoned house on the Old Zoo trail and it’s pretty creepy but also neat inside! (I do not encourage anyone to go inside, I’m just saying it’s not hard even if you’re afraid of everything. I’m not sure if going inside is legal. I don’t know how I got this photo.)


House on the Rock, Spring Green, WI

by Rachel: Likes murderous monster girls out for revenge.

why is this hand in a jar??

why is this hand in a jar??

why is this doll trapped in this tiny room??

why is this doll trapped in this tiny room??

why are her eyes like that??

why are her eyes like that??

???

???

guys what are you doing up there??

guys what are you doing up there??

what??

what??

why is this clown enormous??

why is this clown enormous??

I cannot get anyone to confirm for me that House on the Rock is technically haunted, but it is weird and creepy as all hell. A wealthy eccentric built a mansion up in a rocky, isolated area he had enjoyed picnicking in as a child, and began to indulge in a series of unique collections, from mannequins to music players to dollhouses. When people started visiting to see them, he went all in on collecting all manner of things and displaying them in a bizarre museum. Now, after his death, there are three very large buildings housing themed rooms, some carpeted on every surface, some housing collections of Asian art, some full of glass cases of miniatures. He was very into automated music-playing technology, so some rooms have enormous predecessors of jukeboxes that will play creepy music for you; some have violins that bow themselves; some have animatronic mannequin orchestras. There’s a life-size blue whale in a fight with a squid (sorry, Mey). We’ve got your creepy dolls. We’ve got your creepy puppets and masks. There’s a room of miniature circus scenes. There’s a room where the whole ceiling is covered with mannequins dressed like angels; it contains a working carousel. In order to leave that room, you have to walk through the mouth of a giant monster built into the wall: a literal hellmouth. It’s unreal. EXCEPT IT’S REAL. 10/10 wish to haunt when I pass.


Edgewater Medical Center, Edgewater, IL

by Mey: Loves all kinds of spooky shit, but especially haunted houses, demon possessions and witches.

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This abandoned hospital near where my brother lives is the birthplace of Hillary Clinton and John Wayne Gacy and things just get weirder from there. It was shut down because doctors here were rounding up homeless people and performing illegal and unnecessary medical procedures (including amputations and heart surgery) on them in order to scam insurance companies out of money. Seriously, what the fuck. Also, one time there was a nurse here who got possessed by a ghost and helped solve a murder. The first night I went I was too scared to go inside (because seriously), but the second night my brother and I went ready to go in, but the hole in the fence was boarded up and there was a security guy in a truck. Sorry you guys. This place is hella creepy from the outside though.


The Congress Inn, Nashville, TN

by Erin: Still terrified of the laugh at the end of “Thriller.”

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My 85-year-old neighbor Harry has lived in his house since the rest of our neighborhood and the busy through-street that’s outside our doorsteps was just farmland. He’s knows everything you could ever want to know about anything within a mile radius of us, and for some reason he loves to tell me the terrible things he knows? Like genuinely has a passion for it. Along with a disturbing story from 20 years ago about a close neighbor’s practice of keeping his daughters locked upstairs, one of the first things Harry ever told me about was The Congress Inn.

The Civil War hospital turned funeral home turned motel doesn’t stand out as especially creepy when you drive past it today, but hearing stories will paint the picture for you! Apparently the hospital in its day saw so much death that bodies were being cemented into the walls of the basement to conserve space. Guests have reported feeling like people are sitting on their stomach or backs when they sleep and seeing soldiers in uniform walk around the patio. An alleged ex-worker of the motel has a review online that reported seeing wounded soldiers and and hearing gunshots on a daily basis, but,”you have to be there to actually enjoy what’s there,” and it’s like, no thanks??


The Chicken Coop in My Backyard, Los Angeles, CA

by Carrie: Heightened startle reflex.

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My roommate keeps (count ‘em) six chickens in our yard. The fresh egg supply makes my house an exceptional brunch spot, but now I also have a mild-to-moderate bird phobia. I never cared about birds one way or the other before (and am still fine with anything in the “pigeon or smaller” family). But that’s a lot of chickens, y’all. Do you realize what could happen if they went rogue? They’re not the kind of animals you can reason with! Chickens live by strict hierarchy; I have no doubt that if the one at the top decided to storm the house and take over, the rest would follow and I would stand no chance. Two of them already like to lurk on the patio and stare into the living room for minutes at a time, and the whole crew swarms you the second you step outside. I shudder to think what they’re up to.

If my roommate is away, I’ll go down to the coop and lock it up for her. I can’t do it in the dark without imagining all six of them jumping at the chance to escape. There is a firmly unsettling vibe around this thing when it is pitch black outside. I actually had to have my girlfriend come with me to take these photos. Because otherwise, I’m alone… but the chickens never are.


Burial Ground at Centre and Cotton, Newton, MA

by Laura M: Didn’t make it more than 10 minutes into “Stranger Things,” doesn’t understand how you all watched it.

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According to Trip Advisor, visiting Newton Cemetery is the #1 thing to do in Newton. That place, unusual and sad as I imagine it must be, is not the one that I visited. Despite my best attempts at navigation, I actually wound up at the old burying ground at Centre and Cotton, about a 7 minute drive from Newton Cemetery. It was worth the diversion. This gloomy little hill was Newton’s very first cemetery, on land donated by a man trying to get out of paying taxes. The graveyard is touted by locals as an ideal place for checking out trends in tombstones over time via the fine handiwork of seventeenth-and eighteenth-century Boston area stone carvers. You can also gaze upon these stylish headstones and see women’s entire lives defined and remembered by their relationships with men (but never the other way around)! Very scary.


The Basement of Hanny’s Restaurant, Phoenix, AZ

by Laneia: No jump scares.

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Go down these perfectly normal basement stairs.

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Literally just a framed out door in the middle of a room whatever.

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I hope you’re happy.

Hanny’s Department Store opened in Phoenix in 1947, selling fancy cool clothes to all the men folks in the valley. The architecture was groundbreaking (LOL) in that it ushered in the era of post-WWII modernism to the city, which would later define the aesthetic of suburban desert living. Hanny’s closed in the mid 1980s and was then eventually used as a training space for local fire departments, repeatedly going up in flames and being put out again, which is totally normal and not weird at all. The building was recently restored and now Hanny’s is a restaurant/bar that serves high falutin pizzas, salads and sandwiches to the late night downtown crowd. It also happens to house a shrine of abandoned dolls behind a chainlink fence in its basement.

No chill.


Under My Bed, Astoria, NY

by Heather: Hates Halloween.

heather

The very same day Jennifer Jones accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior she woke up in the middle of the night and saw Satan crawling out from under her bed. She told us about it the next day in gym class and a lot of the other girls who’d been saved and baptized that year corroborated her story. The literal devil had been living under their beds too. Well, and guess what? I was not surprised by that information at all. Not only had multiple clowns and zombie cowboys appeared by my bed in the night when I was a child, but also I’d watched an Unsolved Mysteries where a man hid under this woman’s bed while she and her husband were sleeping every night for about an entire year and then he just up and abducted her one night! I haven’t seen any demon clowns under my bed since I grew up, but I still have concerns. For example, why won’t Roomba — my most loyal and hardworking companion — go under there? Is it because Roo can sense the dark forces? Why sometimes do my cats go under there and then start biting each other and howling? Is it because something is trying to possess them and make them evil? Why is it that my MacBook goes berserk and starts closing programs and refusing to acknowledge that I am clicking the trackpad? Is it because I sometimes put it under my bed at night and Dementors upgraded me to Sierra OSX without my permission? Too many devastating things have happened under my bed and under the beds of my middle school friends for me to believe it’s safe under there.


The Hand Collection at Baylor Medical Center, Dallas, TX

by Yvonne: Ok with scary thrills.

yvonne_handcollection

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I spent a lot of time at Baylor Medical Center this year because my partner had cancer. I got to know that whole hospital and it’s many different wards and departments and winding halls. In the lobby right before you go downstairs to Truett Cafe, there’s a weird ass exhibit called The Hand Collection that I’ve been creeped out by ever since I saw it. I stumbled upon it when I was looking for food, of course, and I stopped to look at it for a second and then immediately retreated because WHHHYY. Why are there a bunch of bronze hands a la Thing behind a glass case and why is it here in the hospital? Why are people fascinated with these hands? HANDS! Phantom hands! Shiny hands! Hands jutting out from behind a display like zombies rising from the dead! It turns out the collection has roots in medical research started by retired hand surgeon and former chief of orthopedic surgery at Baylor, Dr. Adrian Flatt. He began casting the hands of children with congenital hand deformities to study them before he operated on them and then used the casts to teach students and fellows. Later on, Flatt had the idea to start casting the hands of fellow surgeons, which later evolved to include notable and famous people like musicians, actors, astronauts and athletes. They’ve got casts of people like Dr. Suess, Andre the Giant and Emmitt Smith.


The Conrad Mansion, Kalispell, MT

by Molly P: Is cool with you jumping out to scare her as long as you’re cool that she’s a punch-first-ask-second type of scared person.

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The Conrad Mansion is a gorgeous building on a whole city block, built in 1895 for the family of Charles Conrad. He’s generally considered the father of Kalispell, this tiny city in Northwest Montana where I live. The mansion has housed dignitaries and presidents, but the most interesting inhabitants are the ghosts. Everyone knows they live there; the mansion staff (it’s now a museum) like to announce their entrance onto new floors and in new rooms (especially in the children’s playroom on the top floor filled with old, creepy toys and dolls) to so as to not surprise the ghosts (Seriously. The guy showing me around during a daylight ghost tour told me this, and I couldn’t get out of that house fast enough). They also do candlelit ghost tours. However, the ghosts are allegedly not malevolent, but rather the family coming back to have more good times. Party ghosts!


Glacier National Park, Northwest Montana

by Molly P

molly_priddy2

Glacier National Park is a major aspect of the culture up here, and while it is an incredibly wild and beautiful place, most times I think that lulls people into a false sense of security. It’s also one of the most brutal places, and people are drawn here to disappear. There are half a dozen people classified as “lost, never found,” people who wandered in and never wandered out. And, you know, other than the general spookiness of the disappeared, it’s a place with deadly consequences; a slip or a mistake can actually kill you. And it’s extra creepy in the winter, with caretakers living alone in the huge, historic lodges all The Shining-style. Ghosts abound, and there’s plenty of space to be alone. That wind comes whipping through dead trees and you’ll swear you heard the moans of the damned. (Meet me at the Belton Chalet for a hot drink to warm those chilled bones.)


Dùn Scaith, Tokavaig, Iske of Skye

by Beth: Just you try it.

beth

Dùn Scaith, the ‘Fortress of Shadows’, was the home of the warrior queen Sgàthach, around 200BC. Her daughter, Uathach, guarded the gate.

Sgàthach was magician and a seer who could tell the future, and she was a revered teacher of many of the well-known warriors of Celtic mythology. It was notoriously difficult to find her secret castle, and even if you found it, you still had to survive the intensive training course, a feat many did not manage. Her students received instruction in the martial arts, pole-vaulting, underwater fighting and more. Sgàthach also invented her own terrifying barbed harpoon, the Gáe Bulg, a weapon made from the bone of a sea-monster that entered the flesh with a single point, then exploded into 30 barbs within the victim’s body. It could only be removed by cutting the body to pieces. She later became a goddess of the dead, overseeing the passage of warriors into the next world.

The fortress that now sits on the island mound at Dùn Scaith is a stone ruin dating back to 1300. It’s linked to the mainland by a narrow bridge, a precarious, crumbling walk involving clinging tightly to the wall to avoid a fall. It’s a spooky spot, especially on a wild day, when waves crash onto the rocks below and you can almost hear the swoosh and clink of Sgàthach’s swords and imagine her scornful dispatching of warrior students who fell short of her standards.


This Random Porch, Ann Arbor, MI

Sarah: Unflappable.

sarah_randomporch

On a late night walk, my partner and I stumbled upon this porch in the Ann Arbor area. The usual scene on Ann Arbor porches include college students, drinking and generally having a good wholesome time. This was not that scene. In fact, it looked as if the college students had died right there, mid-meal, and never left their porch. Their skeletons were backlit by a creepy red glow and I approached the scene quietly, iPhone in hand. The silence of the night as I cut through the dark night towards this terrifying porch was palpable. My girlfriend stood at a far distance, which meant that if these skeletons suddenly sprung to life I would basically be their next meal. There was a horrifying moment as the wind passed through the whole scene, and I heard a slow creaking sound. I was convinced that I’d see the slow turn of a skeleton head in my direction, where I was balanced precariously on some decorative garden stones. I snapped the fastest picture of my life before rushing back to the waiting, warm human that would walk me home. As we walked through the silent neighborhood streets, a man shouted something misogynistic and aggressive out of the passenger’s side of a black van. Which was scarier? I do not know.


What’s the creepiest situation in your general vicinity? Favorite local ghost story?

Laneia is the Executive Editor and founding member of Autostraddle, and you're the reason she's here. She's 37, has two kids, two dogs, one cat, one Megan, and some personal essays.

Laneia has written 897 articles for us.

15 Comments

  1. knowing about creepy places is not really my forte as I am the world’s biggest chicken (metaphorically), but somehow I’ve still agreed to go to a haunted house with my roommates this weekend. I’m firmly convinced that I will hate it, but I also hate the idea of missing out on roommate bonding time. I’ll let you know how (badly) that goes.

  2. I live in California’s Gold Country, so pretty much the whole town is haunted. It’s nickname back in the 1850’s was Hangtown, so you can imagine!

    My favorite local-ish haunt is Preston Castle – http://www.prestoncastle.com/index.html Going on a tour with lots of other people (during daylight hours) isn’t very scary, but they do offer nighttime flashlight tours and overnight paranormal investigations. For aesthetics alone, Preston Castle is fantastic.

  3. I live in the Bayou State with a checkered colonial past dating back to the 1600’s, what’s not a creepy place with a creepy story?
    My favourite park used be a dueling ground.
    The local stadium/big events venue used be a graveyard that got deconsecrated,the bodies moved because cutthroats and other criminals were using it to evade the law.

    Oh wait I know what’s really creepy, the creepiest!
    The gated communities of Kenner.
    It’s like the closest thing one could get in Louisiana to Orange County, so fake so white and too bright.

    • It’s the vacant unreadable faces just fucking staring at ya isn’t?

      With chickens you can at least be sure of what they’d do if they were as big as us. That violent desire to conquer the world once more can be seen in their beady little eyes if not their behaviour.

      But dolls and other hopefully inanimate objects with a fabricated depiction of face you can’t know their intentions, but they can’t be good 🙁

  4. The Belton Chalet looks eerily similar (albeit a bit smaller) to the Shining chalet. Creepy coincidence that I visited that very chalet days before the man in the first ghost account did!

  5. Haha! I read the title and saw the picture and thought, “That looks like it could be from House on the Rock…” AND THEN IT WAS, omg.

    I was 12? 13?…when I took a daytrip with my uncle’s family to HotR. He’s an architect and I think he honestly just thought it’d be an interesting house…on a rock. That’s what I was expecting, anyway.

    I went through and gave an appropriately disdainful pre-teen snort at the exhibits (which stretched for miles and miles, it seemed), but to this day the thought of that place creeps me the hell out.

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