Travel insights from Jenna Buege, associate editor of The Compass

The Paranormal Enthusiast’s Domestic Travel Field Guide

Whether you side with the skeptical Dana Scully or with “Spooky” Fox Mulder (I want to believe!), the U.S. is home to plenty of cases of high strangeness that have the makings of a real life X-File. Historic haunts, bizarre cryptid sightings and close encounters of the third kind, there are creatures that go bump in the night; you just need to know where to look.

The Mothman Museum, Point Pleasant, West Virginia

The small town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia was given a fright in the late 1960s when a bizarre flying humanoid with bright glowing red eyes was spotted by a number of witnesses (at least 100 people according to reports) throughout the area. Often described as a “large flying man with ten-foot wings,” the mysterious cryptid was soon dubbed a harbinger of doom as unfortunate events followed in its wake such as the disappearance of family pets, reports of paranormal activity and of course, the 1967 collapse of the Silver Bridge that resulted in the death of 46 people. The Mothman hasn’t been seen in Point Pleasant since, but it is forever immortalized by the town’s Mothman Museum where visitors can learn more Mothman lore, shop for souvenirs and snap a picture by the famous Mothman statue.

The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado

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Despite what The Shining may lead you to believe, the owners of the historic Stanley Hotel insist that there are no evil spirits wandering the halls. No, no, the entities who call this spirited hotel home are of the friendly variety and are more likely to strike a few keys on the lobby piano than drive guests to the brink of insanity. Among the famous ghostly residents is Elizabeth Wilson. Once the hotel’s chief housekeeper, Wilson still performs housekeeping duties for guests who spend the night in Room 217 (the same room author Steven King spent the night in) as there have been reports of unpacked luggage, items being moved and lights being turned on and off at their will. Outside of Room 217, guests hear laughing, footsteps and doors moving on the fourth floor and see strange apparitions standing on the Grand Staircase and rushing out of the concert hall at curfew (11 p.m.) as the well-known spirit Paul urges them to “get out.”

Salem, Massachusetts

The coastal city of Salem is infamous for the witchcraft hysteria that gripped the area in the early 1690s as Christian colonists accused over 200 people, 20 of whom were executed, of practicing the devil’s magic. Eventually the colony did take responsibility for their mistake and compensated the families involved but, more than 300 years later, the dark history of Salem continues to intrigue visitors landing it at the top of many paranormal tourists’ travel bucket list. For more witch trial history, be sure to visit The Witch House on Essex Street and The Old Burying Point Cemetery where many of the key figures responsible for the trials were laid to rest.

In addition to its witchy happenings, Salem’s thriving seaport may be to blame for the haunts at In A Pig’s Eye, a local business that once acted as the gateway to an underground red-light district where it’s rumored that young men were kidnapped by captains and sailors and taken to sea.

Trout Lake, Mt. Adams, Washington

If you’re looking for a sign that we aren’t alone in the universe, book an overnight trip to Trout Lake where UFOs and high strangeness runs rampant. The idea of aliens hanging around southwest Washington was popularized by Kenneth Arnold, a pilot who, while flying over the Cascades in 1947, saw nine “peculiar-looking aircraft” that were traveling between Mt. Rainer and Mt. Adams at a speed of 102 seconds flat. Strange lights in the sky have been observed by people on the Yakima Reservation just north of Mt. Adams for over a hundred years. Even electrical engineers are interested in this phenomenon and a researcher named Dave Akers is conducting an ongoing investigation saying, “the only thing that I’m convinced of is that they’re there, whatever they are.” For the chance at a first-hand look at “whatever they are,” your best bet is to book an event with James Gilliland, owner of ECETI (Enlightened Contact with Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and guide for the group’s popular camping and skywatch weekends.

Bell Witch Cave, Adams, Tennessee

A destination seeped in legend, Tennessee’s Bell Witch Cave has a history involving angry spirits, murder and mystery. The story begins in the 1800s when John Bell and his family began noticing strange activity around their home in the form of strange animals roaming the property, knocking on the walls, the sound of chains dragging across the floor and most unsettling of all, the faint sound of someone choking. Legend says that the spirit revealed itself to be a woman by the name of Kate Batts (aka the Bell Witch) who continued to torment the Bell family until John died in 1820. Today, visitors can search for the Bell Witch with a tour of the Bell Witch Cave, a cavern on the farmland owned by John Bell, or attend the yearly Bell Witch Fest held on the grounds.

Beast of Bray Road, Elkhorn, Wisconsin

A werewolf-like cryptid of the upper-midwest, Wisconsin’s Beast of Bray Road has been making appearances throughout the state and into northern Illinois since the early 1990s. Described as a bi-pedal canine, this frightening creature is said to be unusually large, standing two to four feet tall on all fours and a towering seven feet when on its hind legs. Over the years, numerous witnesses have claimed to have encountered the creature lurking in cornfields with glowing yellow eyes and ominous fangs.

Jerome, Arizona

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What do you get when you combine an old mining town with riches, greed, blood and ladies of the night? The perfect cocktail for a haunting, of course. To the untrained eye, Jerome looks like any other charming mountain town, but this quirky city has a history so dark that almost every building that stands is rumored to be haunted. One of the most famous haunts on the mountaintop is the Jerome Grand Hotel which acted as the most modern hospital in Arizona until it closed in 1950. After years of lying vacant, the building was converted into what is now known as the Jerome Grand Hotel in the early 1990s; what could possibly go hauntingly wrong? Doors are said to open and close on their own, faucets turn on independently and disturbing sounds echo throughout the halls. Room 32 is said to be the spookiest, as it was the backdrop where a number of residents met their grim end.

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