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Lunatic Asylum or Abandoned Graveyard? MY Summer Vacation Ideas!

Do you ever just really, really want to feel, for lack of a better term, creeped out? 
From as early as I remember, I had a penchant for mysteries, morbid things and the science/detective work that went along with these things. I love mystery novels, and my husband and I love to curl up together for an Investigation Discovery marathon. I am intrigued by disappearances of people, and the "why" behind violent crimes. As a teenager, I devoured books on serial killers, because I wanted to know how they think, what makes them tick. I loved medical science and thought I wanted to be a physician, but then having a law enforcement veteran Dad meant I was into figuring things out, solving mysteries and forensic science. Late in my teenage years, I was focused on becoming a criminal profiler for the FBI. Every little girl's dream, right?

When home from college in the summer, I worked as an autopsy assistant with the county medical examiner and loved it. I would get home and find my Dad waiting in the garage with my robe, telling me, "throw all your stuff in the washer and put this on, don't wear any of that inside the house!". I lived for days in high school where we dissected animals in biology lab. In college, I volunteered to work with my professor to prepare our class cadaver for the next body system we'd be studying. Now, I'm prepping for the next step in my career, being a nurse death investigator and legal nurse consultant.

Don't all girls like to study dead bodies and analyze blood spatter? 

ANYWAY, if you are anything like me, you probably gravitate to "weird" places to visit, bonus points if the place makes you want to sprint in the opposite direction because your heart is racing and you're convinced that something otherworldly will dig it's skeletal, cold fingers into your shoulder. I LOVE THAT STUFF!

So, seeing as how my husband and I both love to travel and love mysteries, we are making plans for our next round of traveling (we frequently take off for a long weekend, immersing ourselves wherever we are and deciding practically everywhere we go, we should totally move here). Thus far, we have imaginary homes in San Francisco, Prescott, Alabama, Georgia, Maine, Chicago, the Magic Kingdom, Key West, Palo Alto, New York and Flagstaff. But now we have a few creepy spots we're going to check out, so I wanted to pass along where I've been and where we plan to go.

**Disclaimer; As I am a christian, I am not a "ghost hunter" and do not believe in ghosts, per se. Demons, OH YES....with a couple of unfortunate run-ins. Also, humans that act like demons. But I digress.


First, places I've been to....


So this crazy chick, Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester firearms fortune, spent her life from the 1880's to her death in 1922 constructing new additions to her mansion. The problem? NOTHING MADE SENSE. She did so to "tame the evil spirits" she believed haunted her, victims of Winchester Firearms, and built stairways to nowhere, doors on upper floors leading outside to no balcony. The constant construction is a testament to mental illness, but the creepiness factor is off the charts! It is a super fun tour that will leave you baffled. 


    I had no idea that because of New Orleans being below sea level, that their graves have to be constructed above ground. Creep factor: THEY LEARNED THE HARD WAY THAT IN RAINSTORMS, AIRTIGHT COFFINS JUST POPPED RIGHT UP ABOVE GROUND! And then poor Aunt Mabel is waterlogged and probably smells worse than the mothballs and old lady perfume she sported while cruising the earth. Can you imagine that first big storm, when coffins were just floating down the street? 

Interestingly, this semi-happened in my hometown, where they smartly put our high school football field over an old GRAVEYARD but forgot to exhume some of the residents for relocation. 
PS: You can read the cool story here: Kingman Is Creepy Too.

Anyway, these cemeteries in New Orleans are TOTALLY worth the stop. They are not just creepy, but also have the element of tranquility and beauty that so many cemeteries possess. (Ooh, possess perhaps not best choice of words there). Because many of the tombs look like tiny (cold and cementy) houses, complete with little fences and lining paved streets, the cemeteries have earned the moniker "Cities of the Dead". How can you NOT want to visit somewhere with a name like that?


    I've been to Alcatraz a few times now, and though the day tour is haunting, for the true creep factor, you need to see it at NIGHT. When you take the night tour, you circle the island first, then have a live guide take you through. 

During the day tours, they drop you off on the island and you get your headset and take the walking tour on your own. It's GREAT. But at night, there is someone there every step of the way, telling you the creepiest stories. You can hear the violent San Francisco winds blowing through the bars on the windows and the chill in there, no matter what time of year, gets down to your bones. Of particular interest are the stories about the solitary confinement cells that seem to "come alive" at night with mysterious noises *insert shivers*. It is well worth the admission fee, but make reservations early because the night tour sells out FAST. 


 As explained, I'm a complete science nerd. So I love museums (unless they're like, natural history or something. Blech. I care not about Egyptian architecture and caveman tools). When I was living outside of DC while doing some travel nursing, I found my FAVORITE museum, without a doubt, ever. It had stiff competition, because nothing had ever compared to my beloved Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. It is one of the few museums in DC where there is an entrance fee because it's not a Smithsonian, but IT IS WORTH IT! 

These are my pictures, first, of Ted Bundy's deathmobile (with passenger seat removed as he had it, to stuff victims down on the floor), me escaping a prison cell and Lee Harvey Oswald's handwriting. It also has a murder scene for you to solve and everything crime and punishment related. It was FASCINATING and I highly recommend skipping a Smithsonian or two to see this one! 

And as for places I REALLY REALLY WANNA GO.....(and please comment your experience if you've done any of these!):


    Yes, YES, YESSS!!! Did you know that the Lizzie Borden House is now a Bed & Breakfast that has maintained the original setup and you can SLEEP THERE?! Morbid? Yep! But seeing as I didn't personally know the Borden's, I don't feel particularly sad or attached. Just a proud morbid curiosity. I want to see where Lizzie Borden Took An Ax.....

Oh and watch my husband's horrified face when he finds out we're sleeping there. WORTH IT. 

Lizzie Borden took an ax, gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.
Clearly Lizzie was just another chick with some pronounced Daddy Issues, but she totally got away with it, and for that, I'm impressed. And completely creeped out by her. 


    So I've officially talked my husband into this one. Cool factor elevated nine thousand levels because Stephen King actually stayed here when he wrote The Shining! Seeing as how I've gotten my husband onto the non-horror Stephen King books (he is the most incredible character writer! My favorite book of all time is 11/22/63. He knocked that one out of the park) would be pure awesome to stay here. Not only is the surrounding area beautiful, prime for hiking (our joint passion) but you can stay in "haunted" parts of the hotel. I sincerely hope that they have a "no twins" policy on guests, for their own protection from me. If I see those things in the hallway....

Beyond the creepy-creepout factor clearly noted above,
the place is just downright beautiful. 


    How did I not know this was a THING? It was like someone made a museum based on my specifications without asking me and just made it so, because they wanted to make my day. 
So, apparently what the museum is, is, ok I'll just quote their own site: "America’s finest museum of medical history, the Mütter Museum displays its beautifully preserved collections of anatomical specimens, models, and medical instruments in a 19th-century “cabinet museum” setting. The museum helps the public understand the mysteries and beauty of the human body and to appreciate the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease". 

Or, as I like to put it:

They've got bodies and bones, yo. 


    I have no idea how in the four thousand times I've gone to Chicago, having been born there and having my entire root system there, I have never tiptoed through the tombstones at Bachelor's Grove.
It is an abandoned graveyard, with disrupted tombstones strewn about, ditches above graves where vandals have disturbed those buried there. It is pushed off into the woods but it a source of much folklore and strange sightings. It was opened in the early 1800's and no one has been buried there since the 1960's. 

It is, by report, one of the "most haunted places in the world". I really don't believe in hauntings, but I sure do love a good dose of the creep factor! Next trip out, if I get really brave, I'll be heading to Bachelor's Grove. 


    This one looks like FUN. I say that because one of my fascinations is with the study of psychology and all that can go wrong with the wiring of the grey matter. It interests me so much that I got a degree in Clinical Psychology on top of my nursing degree, and worked in the field for several years, seeing the most severely mentally ill patients in Maricopa County and managing their cases. I can attest to a firsthand belief that some mental illness is simple brain misfirings and/or chemical imbalances (or learned behaviors that bring out the highly obnoxious personality disorders) but SOME cases are clearly demonic in nature. I have no doubts after some of the frightening things I've witnessed. 

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was constructed in the mid-1800's and open for business with the maximum patient space of 250 people. By 1950, it held 2,400+ patients and was subject of investigations, which explain the horrors within (that were not other-world related, unfortunately, but man-created).  Per their website, "A 1949 investigation conducted by the Charleston Gazette found unruly patients locked in cages, lobotomies being performed with rudimentary instruments such as ice picks, and hundreds of neglected patients, conditions that undoubtedly contributed to the tens of thousands of lives the asylum claimed over its years of operation".

You can take tours here naturally, but you can even take OVERNIGHT TOURS, though I don't think I'd have the gumption. But it is fascinating, maddening and disheartening to think about what occurred inside those walls. And you bet I need to check THAT out. 


The Light House appears benign, but a peek inside, especially when it's darker and every tiny sound echoes up the spiral staircase, makes this not just a pretty little lighthouse. The story is that the lighthouse finished construction in 1874. It was in 1873, during construction, that the families there experienced great tragedy. Three young girls were killed when a conveyor device they were riding on separated from it's cable fell into the sea below, then trapping them under the water. Two of the girls were rumored to be the construction supervisor's daughters. 

Also, four more deaths were later reported over the years, though none tragic. However, I wouldn't mind feeling the chill of the uncertainty while staring straight up the spiral staircase on a blustery night! 

Hopefully I'm not the only one out there that absolutely LOVES these kind of explorations. Unconventional, yes, but if you are one of those people who is fascinated by things that go bump in the night, then we can be friends. (Just be forewarned that if I get scared, you're the first one I'm shoving out of the way to make my escape. Just being real with you. I'm not even going to pretend). 

So, if you really want to have some fun, make this your summer adventure and pack up the kiddies! I'm sure, if they've had bad attitudes or crappy grades this year, they'll greatly enjoy wandering lunatic asylums and abandoned graveyards in pitch darkness.

I may have just given you your parenting win. 

You're welcome.

Where on this list have you been? Share!  

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