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The most haunted places in America: A tour of historic horrors and some 'ghostbusting'

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If you are looking to get spooked this Halloween season, rest assured that the U.S. has plenty of different haunted houses for you to visit.

Haunted houses in America are mostly open to the public and have become a business of their own. Campus correspondent Lucy Shea explored some of the most popular spooky sights, and how they operate.

Lizzie Borden
Lizzie Borden

The Lizzie Borden house is located 50 miles south of Boston in Fall River, Massachusetts. Lizzie Borden was an American-born woman who became notorious after her family was mysteriously murdered in their home in 1892. Her father and stepmother were found to have been brutally murdered with an axe during the day. Lizzie quickly became the main suspect after her story to the police was found to be inconsistent. She was eventually tried and acquitted despite widespread speculation that she was the murderer. After her release from jail she went back to her hometown and lived there until her death. Her parents' murder was never solved.

However, this wasn't the first murder the house had seen. Two years before Lizzie and her family moved into the home it was occupied by her relative Eliza Darling Borden and her husband, Lawdwick Borden -- Lizzie's great uncle. Eliza had three children in rapid succession after she got married, and one day she did the unthinkable. In 1848 she dropped all three of her babies down the cellar cistern, and then took her own life. It is speculated today that she was suffering from some form of postpartum depression, making this story even more tragic. Guests of the house often leave small toys for the ghost children while hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the many Bordens who met a untimely death in the house.

Ghost Babies
The Borden Children

The home has also opened its doors to professional paranormal investigators such as Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. Both teams of investigators captured evidence of the home being haunted by Lizzie and her family. Many guests who try to spend the night end up leaving after reporting the covers being pulled off, hearing voices, and even seeing the ghost of Lizzie Borden hovering over them. With such dark murders to have taken place in the home, it's easy to believe there's leftover negative energy creating the ghoulish atmosphere that surrounds this house.

The Merchant household, seen below, was built 184 years ago in one of the most exclusive areas of New York City. The home was built to exude elegance, wealth and comfort.

haunted house

The home was soon bought and occupied by the Tredwell family and their many Irish servants for almost 100 years. All parts of the house are still intact, and it is furnished with mostly original items. The home has been open to the public since 1936, and has become notorious for the ghosts that inhabit it.

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Travel Haunted Houses
This Oct. 5, 2017 photo shows a figure in a mourning dress in the Merchant's House Museum in New York. The 1832 house was home to the Tredwell family for nearly 100 years, and seven family members died there. The dress is part of a special exhibition at the museum called "Truly We Live in a Dying World: A 19th Century Home in Mourning." The museum also hosts ghost tours. (AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz)

The home is said to be filled with ghosts from the Tredwell family, most notably that of Gertrude. Gertrude Tredwell was the youngest member of the family and lived in the home until her death at the age of 93 in 1933. There have been many reports of visitors and staff of the house seeing and hearing things and feeling like they are being watched. The home has been named the most haunted place in New York. Gertrude has been spotted many times in her bedroom, still watching over the home to make sure it is in order.

Travel Haunted Houses
This Oct. 5, 2017 photo shows a figure depicting Seabury Tredwell on his deathbed at the Merchant's House Museum in New York. The 1832 house was home to the Tredwell family for nearly 100 years, and seven family members died there. The deathbed scene is part of a special exhibition at the museum called "Truly We Live in a Dying World: A 19th Century Home in Mourning." The museum also hosts ghost tours. (AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz)

The home offers candlelight ghost tours so you can see for yourself if the ghosts said to slam doors, push people, and call into the night are real.

St. Paul’s Chapel, located at Broadway and Fulton Street, is part of the Parish of Trinity Church on Wall Street. It's nicknamed "The Little Chapel that Stood" because the surrounding buildings were affected on 9/11, but the chapel was left unharmed. The Chapel was built in 1776 and is the oldest standing chapel in the city.

Church

The most notorious ghost who wanders around the church is that of George Frederick Cooke, an English actor who got in over his head living the high life in New York in 1810. After a successful acting career, he passed away on September 26, 1812, from complications of cirrhosis. After his body was recovered from a “stranger's vault” to a public grave, people began reporting seeing a headless man wandering around. His head has never been found, and while it most likely was donated to science, rumors flew that his skull was used as Yorick's skull in productions of "Hamlet."

cematary

There have been reports of other ghosts as well. And it is no wonder the place is a paranormal hotspot with its thousands of bodies buried underneath it. The church itself is said to often have books thrown off shelves and note cards strewn about.

Headstone, "They Are in Peace"
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Another popular haunted house is the "Winchester Mystery House," located in San Jose California. The house is known for its 200 rooms, doors that lead to nowhere, trap floors and stairs that suddenly end. The house was built by Winchester firearms heiress Sarah Winchester. She purchased the land after the sudden and unfortunate deaths of her husband and daughter in 1886. Legend has it that Sarah sought the advice of a psychic before she bought the land, and was advised to never stop building the house in order to confuse the spirits killed by Winchester guns who would chase her for the rest of her life. So, Sarah did just that: She created a seven story mansion with hundreds of rooms, 10,000 windows, 47 fireplaces and 2,000 doors. Sarah spent her whole life holding seances in one of her secret parlors, and purposely never finished building the massive home. Today it is only four stories because an earthquake claimed some of the highest levels. The house is a travel destination in its own right, but due to paranormal investigation and activity it has been deemed haunted. Sarah is said to continue residing in her bedroom, still planning new additions to her labyrinth of a home.

Winchester homes

All of these haunted places have found ways to capitalize on their ghosts, which, in turn, means more profits to upkeep the properties, ensuing that their ghostly inhabitants can stay as long as they like. Whether you are a believer in the paranormal or not, the temptation to check out these allegedly haunted homes is very strong. While these tours may be controversial to nonbelievers who view the ghost tours as a scam, the money is put directly into the estates and preserving these pieces of American history. If you find yourself on either coast and are feeling brave, why not get lost in the Winchester labyrinth, pay a visit to the Borden ghost children, step into the real haunted Merchant House or visit the dead lurking around the corner of St. Paul's Chapel?

Happy Halloween!

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