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Overnight frights: 9 spooky stays

By Stacie Van Dyke, Special to CNN
At the Stanley Hotel, an inspiration for "The Shining," there is an expert paranormal investigator on staff.
At the Stanley Hotel, an inspiration for "The Shining," there is an expert paranormal investigator on staff.
  • The Historic Anchorage Hotel keeps a "ghost log" to track the sightings
  • At the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, the fearless have the opportunity to ghost hunt
  • Guests at the Lizzie Borden B&B can stay in the room where murders took place

(CNN) -- Every October, haunted houses sprout up in neighborhoods across the country. If you're stuck trying to come up with a more exhilarating Halloween experience than having costumed teenagers chase you around with a chainsaw, you've come to the right place. Why go to a "haunted house" with fake ghosts when you can visit the real thing?

The world is full of spooky places, and many are open to the public, if you know where to look. From ghost-hunting tours to B&Bs and rambling mansions, we've compiled some chill-inducing overnights for thrill seekers looking for bona fide hauntings this Halloween season.

American Hauntings Tours

American Hauntings Tours, based in Illinois, organizes overnight ghost hunts in the Midwest and beyond. Numerous tours are listed on their website, including an eerie weekend in New Orleans for $600 per couple. That includes a two-night stay, a haunted French Quarter tour and more.

On October 9, participants can spend the night ghost-hunting at Whispers Estate in Mitchell, Indiana. For $85 per person, guests can seek ghostly encounters in an 1899 house where visitors frequently report being touched and seeing spirits.

Whether you come face-to-face with a real ghost or not, these retreats guarantee a good time.

"We are trying to give people an experience that they can't get on their own," said Troy Taylor, author and owner of American Hauntings Tours.

Taylor said that one of the best things about the tours is joining with others with similar interests, and he encourages participants to come with an open mind.

"If you go to enough places, something will happen that will at least leave you scratching your head."

Elaine's Victorian Inn and Dinner Theater
Cape May, New Jersey

Another option for the true ghost enthusiast is embarking on a ghost hunter's weekend at Elaine's Victorian Inn and Dinner Theater. Aside from ghost hunting, the daring can embark on a walking tour of the most eerie spots in Cape May, New Jersey.

The Inn dates to the 1860s and is reportedly brimming with paranormal activity.

"One of our known ghosts is a child named Emily, who moves shoes around the rooms, knocks items on the floor and can be heard running through the halls," marketing manager Elizabeth Hargett said.

She offers a warning to potential visitors: "Some people, like myself, get spooked and just decide they've had enough."

For a milder thrill, check out the two dining experiences at Elaine's. The 150-seat dinner theater is currently putting on the production "Zombie Beach Party," and the Haunted Mansion restaurant has an interactive dinner show called "Ghost Hunting 101."

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
Weston, West Virginia

If what you're looking for is a real spine-tingling experience, you may want to spend the night searching for spirits in an asylum. At the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, the fearless have the opportunity to ghost hunt from 11:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. in a group of 10 ... or (as if you haven't proved that you're brave enough) guests can choose to hunt alone. The cost is $100 per person during the month of October.

Daytime heritage tours are offered through October 31. Guests learn the history of the treatment of the insane and medical procedures used over the years. Guided paranormal tours are also offered at 10:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. for $40 per person. They last approximately two hours and show off the four hottest spots in the asylum.

Additionally, the asylum is hosting a Witches' Ball on October 30, with live entertainment, door prizes and a costume contest for both children and adults.

Prospect Place
Dresden, Ohio

In Dresden, Ohio, guests can spend the night at Prospect Place, which was a stop on the Underground Railroad network used to move slaves to freedom in the 1800s.

The 29-room mansion, rumored to be one of the most haunted homes in Ohio, was built in 1856 by abolitionist George Willison Adams and has been featured on Syfy's "Ghost Hunters" and the Travel Channel's "Ghost Adventures."

Guests should bring cameras and recorders to ghost hunt with a dedicated group of Prospect Place volunteers

A public ghost hunt, open to the public with reservations required, will be held on Halloween. The night will begin at 8 p.m. and end at 6 a.m. The minimum cost to participate is $50 per person, and all proceeds go to the G.W. Adams Educational Center.

Evening paranormal tours, lasting up to two hours, are offered for $15 per person. All evening tour attendees must be at least 18, as the Adams Center says it "will not be held responsible for psychological damage, nightmares or other harm which may occur in minors."

"There have been people so scared, they leave prematurely," said George Adams, the manager and educational coordinator.

Ghost-free daytime historical tours are offered for less daring guests.

Stanley Hotel
Estes Park, Colorado

Heeere's Johnny!

If nothing thus far seems risky enough for you, try spending the night in the legendary Stanley Hotel. The most popular room is 217, where Stephen King stayed while developing the idea for his book "The Shining." (Bonus: According to Leslie Hoy, director of operations at the hotel, Jim Carrey stayed in this room while filming "Dumb and Dumber" and checked into a Holiday Inn after only two hours.)

According to ghost-hunters, room 401 is also notable. It is said to be haunted by former housekeeper Mrs. Wilson and the former owner of a brothel, Lord Dunraven (most known for touching women in the room.)

"One of the most recent complaints was a guest saying that Mrs. Wilson ripped his pillow out from under his head, and then [he] saw the sheet coming up over his face. Taking her former role seriously, she was making the bed, with him in it," Hoy said.

The hotel has been open for 101 years. There is a resident psychic and expert paranormal investigator on staff. The hotel offers five-hour ghost hunts using paranormal equipment for $50, giving visitors access to the most haunted areas of the hotel, which are off-limits to the general public. These special experiences can be booked through the tour concierge at (970) 577-4110.

A classic queen room is going for $239 on Halloween night, with the option to enhance your stay with a 90-minute historic ghost tour for only $15. On the tour, guests will hear tales of actual sightings and see the hotel's spookiest places. Check out the hotel's Facebook page for more special events and to read about the experiences of former guests.

There are many events going on for Halloween weekend, including a Murder Mystery Dinner and the Shining Ball, an elaborate costume party on October 30-31.

"People come from all over the world to attend," Hoy said.

Her advice for getting the most out of your stay? "Rent one of the most haunted rooms, take a daytime ghost tour to learn about the history behind the hotel, and go on an evening ghost hunt." Guests should also tune in to "The Shining" at least once; it loops at all hours of the day on one of the hotel's television stations.

Historic Anchorage Hotel
Anchorage, Alaska

Employees at the Historic Anchorage Hotel are so used to reports of paranormal activity that they keep a "ghost log" to track the sightings.

"We started the ghost log in 2004, after I experienced three strange things in the first week of December," said Terri Russi, general manager of the Historic Anchorage Hotel.

"Last Halloween Eve, we had two different psychics here. They told us we have 32 spirits. The magnetic energy was pulling them in! I nearly dropped!" Russi said.

Former visitors say that seeing a ghost is not at all unusual, most notably the abandoned bride who hanged herself in the hotel when her groom failed to show up for their wedding.

"One guest who told us he could not get out of bed because someone was on top of him. The man had such vivid details," Russi said. (Hotel employees attribute this to the spirit of a child who likes to play games.)

The hotel takes its reputation seriously, especially around Halloween.

"We go way out and decorate with monsters for Halloween. I think we have more Halloween decor than Christmas," Russi said.

A deluxe double room will put you back only $109 for a stay on Halloween night.

Lizzie Borden B&B
Fall River, Massachusetts

If you want to stray from the traditional hotel experience, try staying at a bed and breakfast ... specifically the home where Lizzie Borden allegedly took an ax to her parents. The address of one of Massachusetts' most infamous killers has been featured on "Scariest Places on Earth," a paranormal documentary reality series, and it's now taking reservations

Guests can reserve rooms belonging to various family members, including Lizzie's own bedroom. A daring guest can even book a night in the John Morse room, where Abby Borden was murdered. (If you're not creeped out enough, check out the Lizzie Borden mannequin and crime scene photos in the room.)

This room can be booked for $250 a night during the month of October, including a full tour of the home and breakfast reminiscent of what was eaten on the morning of the murders.

Bonus: Shoppers can choose amongst T-shirts, hatchet earrings and Lizzie Borden bobble-head dolls at the gift shop.

Crescent Hotel & Spa
Eureka Springs, Arkansas

This scenic 1886 hotel in the Ozarks has many reported encounters of paranormal activity, with ghost tours offered nightly.

The "grand finale" of the nightly ghost tours is "Doctor" Baker's morgue (the famous site where Norman Baker opened a hospital that claimed to cure cancer).

"The morgue is located in the lowest level of our hotel. His original autopsy table, the walk-in cooler where he kept both animal and human body parts and corpses, and the shelves where he kept body parts in formaldehyde jars are still in the area," said Bill Ott, director of marketing and communications.

"It was here where the Atlantic Paranormal Society caught a full-bodied apparition on thermograph imaging while taping their program 'Ghost Hunters' for the Syfy Network, a discovery they refer to as 'the holy grail of ghost hunting,' " Ott said.

Guests have the option of booking the Spirits of the Crescent Package, including a premium room for one night, breakfast for two, two ghost tour tickets, a ghost hunter video and two ghost T-shirts. The cost of this package is $199 plus tax Sunday through Thursday and $289 plus tax Friday through Saturday.

Ott encourages travelers to visit, where the hotel reprints all reports of paranormal encounters.

His advice for a ghoulish good time? "Be open to the spirit world. Allow your senses to capture anything that might be out of the ordinary (a sound, cold breeze, a brush up against you, a poke or a bump). ... It may be nothing, but it may be something."

San Diego Zoo
San Diego, California

Finally, for a milder sleepover, check out Spooky Sleepovers at the San Diego Zoo. Parents and children ages 4 and older can spend the night in "haunted" Timbuktu camp. There are opportunities to make Halloween crafts, trick or treat around the Reptile House, participate in a costume parade and eat s'mores around a campfire.

Sleepovers are taking place from 4 p.m. to 9 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays beginning October 16. The cost is $139 per adult and $119 per child, plus admission to the zoo for nonmembers. A tent will be provided, but don't forget your sleeping bag! Reservations are required and made by calling (619) 718-3000 or (800) 407-9534.