FALL ADVENTURES, GHOSTLY GETAWAYS IN SOUTHEAST VACATION TOWNS

Combine eerie haunts 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, each is a scenic and colorful destination worth a fall drive. The added bonus: Best-in-class seasonal fright houses and paranormal and haunted history tours.

The choices include hip and happening historic towns with a walkable footprint and plenty to see and a lively dining and entertainment scene. Each provides plenty of relaxation, interesting outdoor adventures and room to wander.

FALL ADVENTURES, GHOSTLY GETAWAYS IN SOUTHEAST VACATION TOWNS

These 12 unique ghostly getaways include some of the scariest fright houses in the U.S and some of the most haunted towns and historic homes in the Southeast. The historic walking tours range from mysterious and spine-tingly to certifiably paranormal.

While picking the perfect destination, read the FAQ pages of the haunted tour website. Some allow photography and paranormal detection devices. While traveling, please heed area COVID safety policies and guidelines. Check each attraction’s COVID announcements.

THE MOUNTAINS: EAST TENNESSEE AND SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA

Loudon County, Tennessee: Dead Man’s Farm/Nightfall Acres

Located between Knoxville and Chattanooga, Loudon County is known as the less-congested Lakeway to the Smokies, full of fall color, beautiful scenery and a multitude of outdoor water and mountain activities. It’s the best of both worlds: close to the park while staying on the lakes and rivers in cabins far from the madding crowd.

Nightfall Acres is a working family farm with harvest delights like pre-picked pumpkins and cornstalks for sale, but the biggest draw is after dark. Celebrating its “Lucky 13th” year in business, Dead Man’s Farm enjoys many “Best Haunted Attraction” accolades, including USA Today’s 2019 “10 Best Reader’s Choice Awards.”

Face down evil clowns in a three-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.

Inside is not recommended for children under 12. Outdoor midway entertainment includes excitement for those more into freaky fun and less into fear, with performer photo ops.

THE MOUNTAINS: SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA

Abingdon, Virginia: Spirit Tour with the “Haint Mistress”

Founded in 1778, Abingdon (in photo at the top) is one of the oldest English-speaking settlements west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, two hours northeast of Asheville, North Carolina. Abingdon lies between the soaring peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Great Appalachian Valley, offering breathtaking fall color. Many ghosts are entrenched within its perfectly-preserved Federal, Victorian and Colonial architecture. It’s a town to fall in love with, in spite of—or because of—its haunted history.

Haint Mistress Donnamarie Emmert has been sharing stories of Abingdon’s “haints” for 20-plus years. With a Masters in storytelling and a love of eerie history, she takes visitors down the brick sidewalks of the Historic district where colorful fall scenery and shivery stories abound.

Historic courthouse legends include a mysterious murder weapon disappearing act and a ghost that physically reacts to change. The landmark 1930s Barter Theatre entertains thespian ghosts (don’t be the last one out of the building). The Tavern, established in 1779, serves up German specialties, seafood, steaks—and spirits, including murdered card players, dead soldiers and one lively Tavern Tart.

Haunted tours, no younger than age 10.

Wytheville, Virginia: Helheim Haunted Attraction

Head high into the Blue Ridge section of the Appalachians to Wytheville in Southwest Virginia, at the crossroads of I-77 and I-81, 2.5 hours from Charlotte, North Carolina. Wytheville (ca. 1790; pronounced WITH-vil) is an off-the-beaten track getaway with unique in-town attractions, breathtaking mountain scenery and activities from fly-fishing and watersports to horseback riding and wilderness adventure.

Helheim Haunted Attraction promises to “put the evil in Wytheville,” with a scare-you-to-death vibe. Two enthusiastic veterans took their 20-plus years of experience and created an over-the-top thrill-a-thon in an old 6,000-square-foot amusement park. The result is top ratings on sites like www.TheScareFactor.com.

Not intended for anyone under age 18.

FLORIDA

Martin County, Florida: Port Salerno Ghost Tours

Stretching more than 22 miles along the Atlantic coast of South Florida, Martin County provides an uncrowded escape that combines Old Florida nostalgia and authentic seaside charm. From secret sun-drenched coves and private stretches of sand to expansive, lifeguard-protected beaches, there’s plenty of room to spread out and explore. This easy-to-get-to but hidden gem also offers more than 100,000 acres of parks and conservation land, world-class fishing, lively downtown districts, endless golfing, unique attractions and more.

Port Salerno Ghost Tours “throws shade” on Florida’s sunny reputation with dark, shivery tales of this historic fishing town. During the bone-chilling tour, guests meet the spirits of ancient Indians, plundering pirates, a phantom widow watching for lost seamen and the victims of a deranged police officer who still linger at the Devil’s Tree (where their bodies were eventually found). Does Black Caesar still steer his ghost ship toward Dead Man’s Point? Are there ghostly clues to sunken treasure off Port Salerno’s coast? What other spirits still lurk along these picturesque shores?

To assist on the tour, guests are equipped with instruments like electromagnetic field detectors and infrared thermometers; the same tools used on TV shows like “Ghost Hunters” and “Ghost Adventures.”

West Volusia County, Florida: Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp Tours 

West Volusia encompasses 14 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 to manatee-sightings in Blue Springs State Park.

Neither haunted house attraction nor 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 historic homes of present-day mediums.

GEORGIA

Americus/Sumter County, Georgia: Haunted History 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, it’s a top destination for its major attractions, including two national historic sites. The Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains honors our country’s 39th president, while the Andersonville National Historic Site is home to the Andersonville National Cemetery and the nation’s only POW Museum. The 2021 Andersonville Camp & Battle Portrayal takes place October 2-3, 2021, in the Andersonville Civil War Village.

Take a guided walking tour highlighting nearly 200 years of haunted history, including the ghastly ghosts of Andersonville, Plains’ haunted house, the Rylander Theatre’s “Frank the Friendly Ghost” and the grave of Sumter County’s first sheriff, killed in 1839.

Built in 1892 to attract Northern “snowbirds,” the Windsor Hotel is a fully restored Victorian-Moorish architectural beauty with castle-like towers, turrets, balconies and a three-story atrium lobby. The benevolent ghosts of a housekeeper and daughter who were pushed down the elevator shaft to their deaths, and that of a beloved doorman, have been detected by certified ghost hunters.

Even on tours, the creaky Windsor Hotel elevator might start up or a bell mysteriously chime. Tours held October 1, 8-9, 14, 22-23, 27-29 and October 31-November 1. By appointment and advance tickets only ($12 p.p.), tours limited to approx. 20 people, note COVID rules on website. Not recommended for those under age 12.

MORE GEORGIA HAUNTED HOUSES: Horrific Haunted Houses in Atlanta You Need To Visit in 2021!

Henry County, Georgia: Fear the Woods

Only 30 minutes south of Atlanta, and a convenient stop on the way to Savannah or Orlando, Henry County includes the cities of Stockbridge, McDonough, Hampton and Locust Grove, as well as delightful family farms for tours, produce, honey, handcrafted soaps and more.

Fear the Woods is a professionally-produced haunt emphasizing ghoulish actors over animatronics; it has consistently been ranked one of the top haunted tours in Georgia.

The Haunted House preys on one’s psychological fears; the Haunted Trail challenge is finding the way back after being dropped off in the middle of the woods and corn fields with the Skinner family. Pandemic is a new 80,000-square-foot interactive, competitive, combat field where skills determine each guest’s fate.

The Yule Forest Family Farm offers kid-friendly outings from October through mid-December. The farm is open seasonally for pumpkin picking, fall fun, free Saturday afternoon concerts, an action-filled festival with a hay maze, hayride and petting zoo. Kid-friendly Pumpkin Patch open every day. Fear the Woods open Friday-Sunday in October, not recommended for small children.

LOUISIANA

Natchitoches–Dark Woods

In north-central Louisiana along the banks of the Cane River is the oldest city in the state, Natchitoches. Named after an American Indian tribe, Natchitoches (pronounced Nack-a-tish) is easy to access via I-49 which connects to I-20 to the north in Shreveport and to I-10 in Lafayette, to the south.

A Natchitoches couple transformed a literal ghost town into Dark Woods Haunted Attraction, an outdoor adventure that combines a vintage setting with 21st century technology.

Buildings in the former logging village have been preserved along with a rural cemetery and a turn of the century grave diggers shack. The new-each-year storylines bring the horror, folk tales and legends of Louisiana together in a unique immersive experience that is top-rated by aficionados, including The Scare Factor and Louisiana Haunted Houses websites.

Character actors, detailed costuming, realistic sets and Hollywood-style special effects produce an atmosphere of foreboding and fright covering over one terrifying mile.

MISSISSIPPI

Corinth, Mississippi

Serving as a gateway to the history of Mississippi, both physically and culturally, Corinth sits in the northeast corner of the state where U.S. Highways 72 and 45 meet.

The National Park Service Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center shows how the town’s iconic railroad crossing thrust a community into the forefront of war. Nearby are the Shiloh National Military Park and Cemetery and the Corinth Contraband Camp which accommodated emancipated refugees with homes, a church, school and hospital.

Aside from “deal with the devil” legends, crossroads have significance in paranormal research. Untouched mass graves are believed to be located near here. 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, vividly portrayed/re-enacted by local talent.

Mississippi Delta, Vicksburg

The Mississippi Delta runs south from Memphis through fertile fields and welcoming communities along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River.

Just 45 miles west of Jackson and 75 miles north of Natchez, Vicksburg sits at the intersection of I-20 and the famed U.S. Highway 61, known as the Blues Highway. According to all accounts, Vicksburg is the most haunted town in the Mississippi Delta, with seven locations holding years of anecdotal and paranormal-investigator evidence.

From a former Civil War battlefield and hospital to stately homes, Mississippi’s most haunted house and one of the state’s most haunted hotels, visitors have plenty of opportunities for eerie shivers. Four historic Bed and Breakfasts even welcome guests to an overnight fright.

Why so many haunts? Vicksburg has a long and bloody history of conflict, between Native American and European settlers to brother against brother in the war between North and South.

At Vicksburg National Military Park, where thousands of soldiers perished, paranormal investigations and ordinary visitors have reported hearing sounds, smells and sights of battle, including cannon fire, horses, orders issued and screams of the wounded over empty fields. 

Haunted Vicksburg Ghost Walk includes a 12-block, leisurely stroll through Vicksburg’s oldest, most haunted neighborhood. The Trail of Tears, antebellum duels, yellow fever epidemics and a 47-day siege have left quite a legacy of restless spirits. Old Court House Museum at the corner of Monroe and Grove Streets.

McRaven Tour Home is Mississippi’s “Most Haunted House” and is considered to be the third most haunted house in the entire United States. 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.

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.

Tailored Tours of Aiken–Haunted Aiken

Haunted secret passages in the Old Post Office, bones in the basement. In the former 1878 Aiken Hotel, phenomena include 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. Tours are arranged and tailored individually. Family-friendly. Masks preferred. Limit 10 people.

NORTH CAROLINA

Onslow County, North Carolina

Located off of I-95, north of Wilmington and east of Raleigh and I-40, Onslow County is a destination full of history, coastal flavor, family fun and a host of water-related adventures for all ages and generations.

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.