When I was eight, my cousin Natasha came to visit my family from Hong Kong for a month, and as part of her "American Experience" her family requested that we take her to Disneyland.
I remember giddily running up to the front gates of Disneyland, scurrying through the turnstile, and bombarding my parents with a blur of "Let's go here! And there! And…and…and…"
The first ride we went on was "Snow White's Scary Adventure." I don't remember much about it -- something about a witch reaching for me, and shadows, and cackling laughter. I pretty much screamed from start to finish.
From then on the day included "The Pirates of the Caribbean" (nerve wracking), "It's a Small World" (horrifying), and of course -- OF COURSE -- "The Haunted Mansion" (nightmares for days).
I was essentially "The Happiest Place on Earth's" biggest buzzkill. And while my dad and Natasha continued on to "Space Mountain" and "The Matterhorn," my mom tried to salvage the experience by taking me on "The Jungle Cruise." Sure, it was fun to look at the "animals," but I also peed a little when the Cruise Director shot his gun.
While I returned to Disneyland years later, and actually had a great time, "The Magic Kingdom" was for years cemented in my brain as "The Creepy Kingdom."
Obviously times have changed, and I now seek out scary places to rob me of sleep when I'm on vacation. But from time to time, when friends tell me they are taking their young kids to Disneyland, I still have momentary flashbacks of hundreds of glazed eyed multi-ethnic children taunting me in their sing-song way.
Seriously, I don't know what my deal was. Anybody else have a meltdown at Disneyland?
I bring up vacations because husband and I are planning a trip this summer. We're finally planning that honeymoon we keep putting off. So of course -- OF COURSE -- I've been looking up some Creepy Corner-worthy vacation spots.
Who would I be if I didn't think of my Creepy Corneristas on my honeymoon?
So while I'm narrowing down our choices, here are a few spooky vacation spots that are always on my short list.
Bodie is a little gold mining town that is in "arrested decay."
That means that while the town is protected as a State Historic Park, and the buildings are kept standing, no effort is being made to preserve what lies inside them. They are as they were left.
I love Americana, I love abandoned "ghost towns."
Since the last residents left, there were 120 as of the 1930s and two by the early 1960s, every home, every store, every watering hole is as it was deserted. The General Store's shelves are still stocked, and houses still have plates and cups laid out on the kitchen table, waiting for their owners to come home for dinner.
Beyond the still, eeriness of the town itself are the reports that some of it's residents may not have entirely left.
The Cain House, built by wealthy Bodie businessman in the early 20th century, is supposedly still haunted by his mistress, a Chinese maid. Shamed after their affair was discovered by Mrs. Cain, the maid committed suicide.
Park Rangers who have been lodged in the Cain House say that the maid appears in a lower bedroom, and is sometimes accompanied by feelings of being suffocated. Other spirits are seen in an upstairs bedroom, and disembodied children's laughter has been heard in and around the Cain House.
Lastly, if you ever visit Bodie don't take anything. Not a rock, not a nail, not a splinter. Apparently there is a curse on Bodie. Visitors who have taken keepsakes from Bodie claim that they have been plagued by nightmares and bad luck. Many have quickly mailed back their souvenirs in hopes of ending the torment.
I've been obsessed with Glamis Castle ever since I was a kid.
Built in the 14th century, Glamis Castle is surrounded by weird happenings. My favorite stories revolve around a room so horrible, it was sealed and kept secret.
Supposedly in the 15th century, the 4th Earl of Crawford, "Earl Beardie" as he was called (awesome), wanted to play cards one New Year's Eve. While this normally wouldn't be a problem for the Lord of Glamis and his household, this particular New Year's Eve was on a Sunday, and card games were forbidden on the Sabbath.
Earl Beardie, a notorious drunk, proceeded to throw a tantrum crying out, "I'd play with the Devil himself if he were here!"
No sooner had the words left his lips then there was a knock at the chamber door. Calling in the devil, Earl Beardie and a tall, dark, cloaked man proceeded to play cards.
Ghastly sounds emitted from the room, and when a servant dared to peep through the keyhole, flames burned his eye. Some accounts say, Earl Beardie flung open the door, furious at the servant for spying. But as he turned back the room to finish his card game, his guest was gone. As was his soul.
Sounds of stomping feet and terrible swearing continued to come from the room even after the card game ended. After years of this, the room was sealed permanently.
Another story about why the room was sealed involves the Ogilvy clan. One night some members of the Ogilvy clan appeared at Glamis Castle seeking refuge from the Lindsay clan -- a clan with whom they were warring. The Lord Alexander Glamis ushered them into a room and promptly bricked them in. When the Lindsay clan inquired as to their enemy's whereabouts, the Lord of Glamis informed them that the Ogilvys had been taken care of.
Screams were heard coming from the secret room for years, and some legends say that a worker, upon finding the hidden room, was so horrified by what he saw inside, that he immediately fell over dead.
Glamis Castle is available for wedding receptions. "Hospitality and service are a Glamis tradition."
Eureka Springs, AR
Originally opened in 1886 as a hotel, the Crescent became a college in 1908, due to financial constraints, until Norman Baker acquired the property in 1937.
Selling the natural spring waters, and his various "elixirs" as cancer treatments, Baker -- under the assumed moniker "Dr. Baker" -- used the Crescent as a hospital and health resort until he was found out in 1940. The building stayed empty until around 1946 when it was reopened as a hotel.
The Crescent Hotel has copious reported ghosts, many of which are attributed to "Dr. Baker's" bad medicine and experiments.
Among the more famous haunts is room 218, where a worker apparently fell from the roof during construction and fell to his death into what was to become room 218. Thumpings and knocks are reported in the room, as well as the lights and TV turning on and off on their own. When staying in the room, guests claim to have been shaken awake, and have seen hands coming out of the bathroom mirror.
Outside of room 218, the dining room seems to be a hotbed of activity. One Christmas, employees arrived one morning to find chairs mysteriously placed in a circle around the newly erected Christmas tree. Another time, a server looked into a large mirror in the dining room and saw reflected back a man and woman in Victorian wedding clothing. The man apparently turned and made EYE CONTACT with the server before disappearing.
You know I couldn't resist highlighting a few of The Magic Kingdom's creepier legends.
The Haunted Mansion
A woman requested that her dead son's ashes be scattered at his favorite ride at Disneyland. When the park declined her request, she took matters into her own hands and secretly scattered the ashes on the grounds of the ride anyway. Her dead son had not actually wanted his ashes scattered there, and because of his mother's actions, the ghost of a crying child can supposedly be seen toward the end of the ride.
It's a Small World
Employees report that after hours, when the ride has been shut down, strange noises and singing have been heard, and the dolls move on their own.
The Fire House on Main Street
Apparently Walt Disney used to stay in an apartment on the second floor of the Fire House on Main street. Whenever Walt was in residence, he would keep a lamp lit in the window.
According to legend, a cleaning lady went into the apartment one day and turned off the light. When she got outside she looked up and noticed the light was back on. She went back inside to turn it off, but as soon as she got outside, the light was back on. It seems Walt was still in residence, and wanted his presence known.
Since then, the lamp always stays lit. Some say you can still hear Walt Disney walking around his apartment.
I know there are hundreds of creepy vacation spots out there -- The Stanley Hotel, Pluckley Village, Okiku's Well. The one's I've mentioned are just a few that come to mind.
Have you taken a "haunted" vacation? Have you stayed at a supposedly haunted location or in a haunted hotel? Did anything happen?
Help me plan my next trip!