In 2016, a visit to a haunted house is on the Halloween agenda for about one-fifth of Americans, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. Kids and adults alike will be shelling out millions of dollars to snake their way through haunted attractions with names like House of Torment and 13th Gate.
“From locations in creepy old industrial districts to country farms and hayrides under the stars, each location has a unique approach to interactive horror, but all deliver the thrills and excitement that Halloween fans are seeking,” says James Olmsted, a spokesman for HauntedHouses.com.
We get that these attractions are fun and frightening, but they’re just temporary, Hollywood-inspired spots. They’re not real haunted houses. So we went looking for the metro areas in the U.S. where you’re most likely to find real haunted houses that’ll give you a real scare.
Old and Vacant
To come up with the list, we sifted through two sets of data for the 100 largest metro areas: the number of homes built before 1940 and the number of vacant homes. LawnStarter pulled the data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey.
Why did we pick these two sets of data? Because older homes and vacant homes have a perceived, if not actual, chance of being haunted. In our ranking, we assigned 75 percent of our score to the percentage of homes in a metro that were built before 1940 and 25 percent to the percentage of homes in a metro that are vacant.
Tragedy and Trauma
Paranormal investigator Sharon Day says that the older a home is, the more residents it’s probably had and, therefore, the house has more of an “emotional and traumatic history” tied to any number of tragedies. Furthermore, she says, older homes might have been used in the past as hospitals, morgues, TB clinics and retirement homes—all of which are associated with death.
“Whether you believe in ghosts or not, one thing is certain: an old house has so many little quirks and creaks that the thought of ghosts definitely messes with your head,” writer Shannon Lee says on Old House Web.
‘Reclaimed by Ghosts’
As for the likelihood of a vacant home being haunted, Sarah Petruno, a shaman who serves as an intermediary between the natural and supernatural worlds, says “something interesting can happen” when homes, apartments and other structures don’t have human inhabitants. Petruno says vacant homes can be spiritually “reclaimed by the land” and then ghosts can freely take up residence.
“Abandoned and mostly abandoned homes can become inhabited by ghosts forever if they remain mostly vacant indefinitely,” Petruno says.
In those situations, you might come across some uninvited guests, she warns.
“If you own a vacation home or are considering buying or renting a mostly vacant or abandoned home, do consider the spirit inhabitants that are almost assuredly present in the space. It may take considerable work to get them to leave,” Petruno says.
Here, for your Halloween pleasure, are the 13 metro areas that potentially have the most real-life haunted houses, based on their mix of old and vacant homes. For purposes of this ranking, LawnStarter included houses, apartments, condos and other dwellings.
- Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Credit: Scranton Ghost Tours
Number of homes: 259,918
Number of homes built in 1939 or before: 96,993
Percentage of homes built in 1939 or before: 37.3 percent
Number of vacant homes: 38,718
Percentage of vacant homes: 14.9 percent
- Albany, N.Y.
Credit: Discover Albany
Number of homes: 398,555
Number of homes built in 1939 or before: 118,984
Percentage of homes built in 1939 or before: 29.9 percent
Number of vacant homes: 55,789
Percentage of vacant homes: 14 percent
- Syracuse, N.Y.
Credit: The Daily Orange
Number of homes: 290,445
Number of homes built in 1939 or before: 74,858
Percentage of homes built in 1939 or before: 25.8 percent
Number of vacant homes: 36,444
Percentage of vacant homes: 12.5 percent
- Toledo, Ohio
Number of homes: 273,783
Number of homes built in 1939 or before: 69,616
Percentage of homes built in 1939 or before: 25.4 percent
Number of vacant homes: 31,142
Percentage of vacant homes: 11.4 percent
- Cleveland, Ohio
Number of homes: 957,518
Number of homes built in 1939 or before: 232,103
Percentage of homes built in 1939 or before: 24.2 percent
Number of vacant homes: 108,043
Percentage of vacant homes: 11.3 percent
View the full list of top 13 real-life haunted houses on Housecall.
This post was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. Visit the blog daily for housing and real estate tips and trends.