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Find Ghostly Getaways In These Southern Vacation Towns

From towns to the woods, mountains to beaches, fright-filled haunts, and spooky tours make for a vivid getaway.

Feeling like a zombie since lockdown?

Combine eerie adventure with a leaf-peeping vacation in the Tennessee or Southwest Virginia mountains. Hit Florida beaches for a harrowing end-of-summer hurrah. Tracing through South Carolina and Georgia to Mississippi, the choices include near-to-the-city attractions in hip and happening smaller towns with a lively dining and entertainment scene. Each provides plenty of relaxation, interesting outdoor adventures, and room to wander.
According to America Haunts, an industry association, “haunted attractions are popular as a way to escape everyday routines, thwart real-life anxiety, and find selfie-worthy, action-filled experiences.”
This year, that escape and adrenaline rush is still important to thrill-seekers, and the best of the industry has developed strict COVID safety protocols that will evolve with state and local guidelines. For those who prefer a sedate walk, eerie tales, and a tingle on the neck and arms, ghost tours are a perfect choice, with small-group limits, mask requirements, and social distancing.

The following are nine unique ghostly getaways offering highly rated haunted houses or open-air historic walking tours ranging from mysterious and spine-tingly to certifiably paranormal.

These scenic and colorful destinations are worth a fall drive.

The Mountains: Tennessee and Virginia

Loudon County, Tennessee: Dead Man’s Farm
Located between Knoxville and Chattanooga, Loudon County is known as the Lakeway to the Smokies, full of beautiful scenery and a multitude of outdoor water and mountain activities. Dead Man’s Farm enjoys many “Best Haunted Attraction” accolades including one from USAToday 10 Best. This year, the sprawling attraction is maintaining the frightening fun while following detailed and firmly-applied COVID safety and sanitation rules for actors and guests, from makeup and costume to changes in the haunted house that offer great opportunities for surprising scares while maintaining a safe social distance.
Guests can scream their way through the revamped-every-year Haunted House/Bludgeon House Tour, with its storyline of atrocities acted out in vivid detail. Avoid chainsaw-wielding clowns in a five-acre corn maze, be buried alive in a sensory coffin simulator, choose from four Face Your Fear Virtual Reality experiences, and three horror-based escape rooms, from Murder Cabin Escape to Asylum to Zombie Cage. Outdoor midway entertainment also includes excitement for those more into freaky fun and less into fear, with performer photo ops. Dead Man’s Farm is open Thursdays-Sundays in October.
Wytheville, Virginia: Helheim Haunted Attraction
Head high into the Blue Ridge section of the Appalachians to Wytheville in Southwest Virginia for small-town charm, wide-open outdoor pursuits, and plenty of wilderness.

Housed in an old 6,000-square-foot amusement park and created by two enthusiastic veterans with 20 years of experience, Helheim Haunted Attraction promises to “put the evil in Wytheville,” with a scare-you-to-death vibe with safety in mind. Temperature checks and masks or face coverings are required for staff and patrons, among other rules. Actors can take up to an hour to apply their makeup, costumes and prepare special effects, which come across in authenticity and thrills in this post-apocalyptic-meets-Viking-themed attraction.

Helheim is the Norse word for hell or land of the dishonorable dead, but the owners are secretive about the delicious thrills in store. They do hint at playing upon the psychological fears of a lack of control over surroundings and the loss of sight, direction, and sound. Top rated by attendees on www.TheScareFactor.com. For more information, visit www.VisitWytheville.com.

Florida

Chase the last notes of summer sunshine into the fall on a visit to some of Florida’s best-hidden gems, where vintage and retro have been preserved and polished. Uncrowded beaches, nature preserves, natural springs, Native American history, and Florida cowboy ranches are among visitor superlatives.
Martin County, Florida: Port Salerno Ghost Tours
Stretching nearly 22 miles along the Atlantic coast and including private spots to enjoy the surf and sand, endless golf and nature preserves, cattle ranches, rodeos, and one of the last Indian trading posts, Martin County is a haven for Old Florida nostalgia. This easy-to-get-to but hidden gem offers uncrowded beaches, two state parks, sweeping nature preserves, and the most bio-diverse lagoon ecosystem in the Northern Hemisphere.
Port Salerno Ghost Tours “throws shade” on Florida’s sunny reputation with dark, shivery tales of this Old Florida fishing town, and this year, the spirits are amping up for an unforgettable, ghost hunting season (following COVID guidelines) starting in September. Guests will meet the spirits of ancient Indians, plundering pirates, a phantom widow watching for lost seamen, and the victims of a cop who linger at the Devil’s Tree where their bodies were found.
Does Black Caesar still steer his ghost ship toward Dead Man’s Point? Are there ghostly clues to sunken treasure? Local ghost guides Patrick and Pat Mesmer base their stories on extensive history and professional paranormal research has authored books about the area, including “Ghosts of the Treasure Coast,” and conduct separate highly specific paranormal tours. Guests are issued an electromagnetic field detector or an infrared thermometer, instruments featured on TV shows like “Ghost Hunters” and “Ghost Adventures.” Check www.Facebook.com/portsalernoghosttours for updates. Visit www.DiscoverMartin.com for more information.
West Volusia County, Florida: Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp Tours
West Volusia encompasses fourteen communities with an eclectic collection of attractions between Orlando and Daytona. From top-rated stylish and funky downtown DeLand to the scenic St. Johns River, this is real and authentic Florida. The region is known for everything from skydiving above to manatee-sightings in Blue Springs State Park.

Neither a haunted house attraction nor a typical historic ghost tour, Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp is in a class by itself. Established in 1894, visitors are drawn to the spiritual teachings and to experience the peaceful, healing energy of this community. Seminars and historic tours take place among the quirky cobblestone streets and meditation gardens.

Walk and discover Cassadaga’s historic, unique and mysterious beginnings and the spirit activity that still goes on in the historical homes of present-day mediums. As the oldest active community of mediums in the Southeastern United States, and known as the Psychic Center of the South, readings (tarot, palm, psychic) and spiritual healings are given daily. Nearby, stay at Hotel Cassadaga, where Halloween takes on a more nuanced meaning. Visit www.Cassadaga.org and www.VisitWestVolusia.com for more information.

Georgia

Americus/Sumter County, Georgia: Windsor Hotel Tours
In west-central Georgia, convenient to I-75, three hours south of Atlanta, and only two hours north of I-10, Americus is not only an ideal stopping point en route to Florida, but it’s also a top destination for its major attractions, including Andersonville National Historic Site, the most famous military prison of the Civil War and the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site.

Built-in 1892 to attract Northern “snowbirds,” the massive, castle-like Windsor Hotel is a fully restored Victorian-Moorish architectural beauty with towers, turrets, balconies, and a three-story, atrium lobby. The benevolent ghosts of a housekeeper and daughter who have pushed down the elevator shaft to their deaths, and that of a beloved doorman, are often detected. Have dinner at Rosemary & Thyme or a drink and appetizer at Floyd’s, the doorman’s namesake pub.

Then, take a guided walking tour highlighting nearly 200 years of history and ghost stories of the area. Even on tours, the creaky Windsor Hotel elevator might start-up or a bell mysteriously chime. The tour covers stories about the haunted house in Plains, the ghastly ghosts of Andersonville and the grave of Sumter County’s first sheriff, killed in 1839 and the Rylander Theatre’s “Frank the Friendly Ghost.” Visit www.VisitAmericusGA.com.

Mississippi 

Mississippi welcomes visitors with stories untold. Corinth attracts visitors with its history but keeps them with its romantic appeal of small-town USA. Discover a natural rhythm and a richness in the Mississippi Delta which stretches along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, south from Memphis through fertile fields and welcoming communities. A wealth of stories are being told here, through long-standing traditions, over meals, and in the music for which the region is famous. No matter where travels take you, Mississippi creates lasting memories.
Corinth, Mississippi
Corinth is strategically positioned to attract visitors in search of Civil War history and quirky surprises like the motorcycle wonder, the Bike Museum. What guests don’t expect to find are all the hidden gems in this town including the Corinth Coca-Cola Museum. The National Park Service Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center shows how a railroad crossing became the cornerstone for a community thrust into the forefront of the war. Nearby are the Shiloh National Military Park and Cemetery and the commemorative Corinth Contraband Camp which accommodated emancipated refugees with homes, a church, school, and a hospital.

 

Crossroads have significance in scary legends and paranormal research. Because of the amount of bloodshed during the battle, untouched mass graves are believed to be located near the Crossroads and on or near museum property. The Crossroads Museum Annual Historic Corinth Cemetery Tour takes visitors through the city’s oldest cemetery spotlighting notable and notorious figures from Corinth’s past. Legends are vividly portrayed/re-enacted by local talent. Tour will be held at the Corinth City Cemetery at 602 Westview Drive and Cemetery Drive off U.S. Highway 72 in Corinth. Visit www.CrossroadsMuseum.com and www.Corinth.net for more information.
Mississippi Delta
Along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, the Mississippi Delta runs south from Memphis through fertile fields and welcoming communities. In places where the flat farmlands seem to go on forever, so do the depths of the traditions. The Mississippi Blues Trail is bursting with stories of the music that was born here and the people who brought it to life. Cafes and diners offer traditional recipes, born of necessity, that now sustains body and spirit for those who love this region. From roadside tamale stands to neighborhood gathering places, to elegant Southern settings, the flavors of the past and present are steeped together and served with a smile.

Named Mississippi’s “Most Haunted House,” the McRaven Tour Home’s years of ghostly and paranormal activity have been documented by professional paranormal researchers and explored on A&E, The Travel Channel, 48 Hours, and more. From the hideout of a notorious Murrell Gang highwayman who robbed travelers on the Natchez Trace to a prominent businessman who survived the Vicksburg siege but was murdered the next year by Union troops, discover and experience the famous and infamous, and why their spirits have never left the gardens that held a Confederate campsite and field hospital.

Historic and/or ghost tours, private paranormal discovery tours. Mask and social distancing guidelines must be followed. Visit www.McRavenTourHome.com, www.HauntedVicksburg.com/newghostwalk.htm, and www.VisitTheDelta.com for more information.

South Carolina

Thoroughbred Country, South Carolina

Just east of Augusta, Georgia, along I-20 between Atlanta and Charleston are the rolling hills of Thoroughbred Country, South Carolina, encompassing the town of Aiken, where National Champion horses are the prize. This four-county part of the Palmetto State is filled with world-renowned horse racing training and tracks, Civil War sites, gardens and plantation homes, state parks, historic healing springs, folk art, and antique shops in charming towns. Dining runs the continuum from chef-refined and down-home Southern specialties, family restaurants, international cuisine, and the unique find of a Mennonite bakery and community.

Tailored Tours of Aiken–Haunted Aiken

Haunted secret passages in the Old Post Office, bones in the basement. In the former 1878 Aiken Hotel, shadowy movements, whispers, crying and screaming from empty rooms, where toilets flush and doors open or close. Housekeeping carts found down the hall when left outside a room. These hauntings and more are included on a spooktacular nighttime walking tour offering chilling stories of spirits combined with Aiken’s history. Ghost hunting tools aid in the discovery. Visit the website at TailoredToursofAiken.com and TbredCountry.org for more information.

North Carolina

Onslow County, North Carolina

Located off of I-95, north of Wilmington, and east of Raleigh and I-40, Onslow County full of history,
Onslow County is a destination full of coastal flavor, family fun, and a host of water-related adventures for all ages and generations. The county encompasses Richlands, Jacksonville, Camp Lejeune, North Topsail Beach, Sneads Ferry, and Swansboro, which is a playground for outdoor recreation from the beaches to exploring Hammocks Beach, State Park.

 

Lights, sound effects, woods, a scary walking trail. Fishstrong Foundation’s Annual Fright Nights brings on the fear and the fun with food and craft vendors, carnival games, a pumpkin patch, and more. Proceeds from the hayride and walking Trail will go to the Fishstrong Foundation, a 501(c)3 that raises funds to assist North Carolina families that are experiencing life-altering illnesses. Note: North Carolina’s recent health and safety guidelines may require alterations. Please check the website before a visit.www.Fishstrong.org. Also visit www.OnlyInOnslow.com for more information.

This fall, ghost-lovers who love to travel can turn an eerie encounter into a delightful vacation getaway. Best of all, these scenic and colorful destinations are worth the drive for their attractions and amenities at any time of year. Some offer tours year-round.

While picking the perfect destination, read the FAQ pages of the haunted tour website. Heed the COVID safety policies and guidelines. Some allow photography and paranormal detection devices, others don’t.

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