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The Spookiest Cities in America

Key takeaways

  • Searches for “haunted locations near me app” went up 256% in the last year.
  • Estes Park, CO; Gettysburg, PA; and Austin, TX, are the spookiest cities in America.
  • The top five cities with the highest number of reported ghost sightings are Austin and Houston, TX; Gettysburg, PA; Billings, MT; and Roanoke, VA.
  • 44% of Americans planning to move in 2023 are open to buying a haunted house.
  • Nearly 1 in 10 Americans saw paranormal activity on a security camera in the last year.
Halloween forest.

The great haunt hunt

The holiday season is fast approaching, and nothing signals a start to the festivities better than Halloween. To get in the spirit, we wanted to identify the creepiest places in America. We evaluated U.S. states and cities on a few key spooky variables, such as the number of ghost sightings, haunted places, and scary sights per resident in each location. So, which American cities are the spookiest of them all? Read on to find out.

Unmasking America’s curiosity

As Halloween’s eerie presence draws nearer, the pulse of thrill-seekers across the U.S. has quickened, evident in their relentless quest for the paranormal and the spine-chilling. Let’s dive into Google search volume data to uncover what Americans are looking for as they prepare for their Halloween festivities.

Information about what Halloween-related searches people are performing.

In the past year, searches for “haunted locations near me app” skyrocketed by a jaw-dropping 256%, which means Americans are eagerly hunting down the nearest haunted hotspots.

Meanwhile, those considering a spectral change in residence have been furiously typing away, with searches for “sell haunted house” up 208%. However, it’s important to note that this surge may have been somewhat inflated by the release of Grady Hendrix’s gripping novel, “How to Sell a Haunted House,” earlier this year, piquing interest in the subject.

Not to be overlooked, “haunted properties” experienced a significant 67% rise in search volume, showing that the allure of ghostly real estate remains stronger than ever.

America’s spookiest showdown

After discovering what spooky things people are searching for the most, we decided to rate U.S. states and cities on a spookiness scale. We ranked them based on the number of ghost sightings and haunted places within the state. See who topped the list below.

After tabulating the results, California topped the list with the most haunted places and second-most ghost sightings, earning it a spookiness score of nearly 98 points out of 100. Texas came in second with almost 83 points, then it’s a long way down to Pennsylvania, the third-spookiest state overall, with less than 47 total points.

On a city level, however, Pennsylvania beat Texas with Gettysburg, PA, ranking as the second-spookiest city in the U.S. thanks to its century-old ghosts from the Battle of Gettysburg. Only Estes Park, CO, home to the hotel that inspired Stephen King’s novel, “The Shining,” ranked higher. The Stanley Hotel now offers night tours for the paranormally inclined.

The third spookiest city in the U.S. was one you might not expect: Austin, TX. But it’s actually full of haunted locales for visitors to get in the spooky spirit, including another hotel known to be frequented by its 19th century owner and namesake, Colonel Driskill.

Spine-tingling rankings

When it comes to spine-tingling endeavors, everyone has a different style. Perhaps you’re a ghost hunter seeking a paranormal experience firsthand, or maybe you consider a plethora of funeral homes and spiritual shops as scary enough. To refine our spooky cities’ rankings, we broke them down into six categories.

Information about the spookiest cities across the U.S.

If you’re after a creepy close encounter, consider planning a fall trip to one of the cities known for the most ghost sightings. Texas is a great place to start since it has the two highest-ranking cities based on the number of ghost sightings, Austin and Houston. You might also find plenty of ghosts on the East Coast in Gettysburg, PA, and Roanoke, VA. There’s also a dude rancher lodge in Billings, MT, known for its heightened paranormal activity.

Alternatively, you could head to a city known for its haunted places, like the home of Hollywood—Los Angeles, CA. Those looking for less personal paranormal encounters could opt for the more playful variety of spookiness with haunted house attractions like the ones in Estes Park, CO.

Today, Halloween is the second largest commercial holiday in the U.S. after Christmas, with Americans spending around $6 billion each year on the celebration. A fair amount of that money is spent on travel as 40% of Americans say they like to travel for the holiday.

When we asked our survey participants about their travel plans, five places ranked higher than all others. The top cities Americans plan to spend Halloween in this year include:

  • Chicago, IL
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Salem, MA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • New Orleans, LA

Perhaps they should also add Estes Park, Gettysburg, and Austin to their Halloween travel bucket list, and be sure to protect their homes from tricks while they’re away.

Housing horrors

Haunted places are all fun and games when you know you can escape the terror, but what if the haunted place in question was your home? Suddenly, scary takes on a whole new meaning. We asked survey respondents about their opinions on and experiences with living in a haunted house. Here’s what they had to say.

Information about the demand for haunted houses.

A brave 44% of Americans who were planning to buy a house in 2023 said they’d move into a haunted house, and nearly 6 in 10 said they’d move to a city where paranormal activity is known to occur. For 1 in 4 Americans, the haunted horror has already happened since they’ve lived in a house they believed to be haunted. Perhaps the scariest of all is the fact that 1 in 10 Americans reported seeing paranormal activity on a security camera in the past year.

If you’re scared of the dark, it’s most likely spirits or UFOs and aliens that keep you up at night. When it comes to the supernatural, most Americans (53%) said they believe in spirits and nearly half believed in UFOs or aliens, but only 3% actually thought zombies could be real. Ghosts were also a top terror for many Americans (43%), more so than witches, demons, and poltergeists, although a fair number believe in their existence, too.

Haunted havens on the horizon

With Halloween nearly upon us, it’s time to think about how you’ll get in the spirit and catch any sightings—possibly supernatural—this season. Whether you’re angling for a paranormal experience or just want to enjoy jump scares at a haunted attraction, there’s a U.S. city for you. The only question remaining is: Where will you get in the spooky spirit this October?

Let’s be neighbors.

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We examined a few specific variables to find the scariest and most haunted places in the U.S. For state rankings, we equally weighed two variables: the number of reported ghost sightings and the number of reported haunted places. For our city rankings, we considered the following factors:

  • Number of ghost sightings
  • Number of haunted places
  • Supernatural readings per 100,000 people
  • Funeral services per 100,000 people
  • Haunted house attractions per 100,000 people
  • Spiritual shops per 100,000 people

Keyword trend searches from the U.S. in the last 12 months were included. We also surveyed 1,004 Americans. Among them, 49% were men, 48% were women, and 3% identified as non-binary.

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Fair use statement

We would love for you to share these findings with anyone who needs some inspiration to get into the holiday spirit. All we ask is that if you do share, it’s for noncommercial use only and includes a link back to this page so that our creators can get credit for their work. Thank you.

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