It was a dark and stormy night... If you've ever sat around a campfire, then you're probably no stranger to hearing (or telling) ghost stories. And while there are the tried and true classics, like The Tell-Tale Heart and Bloody Mary, we wanted to give you some lesser known, extra eerie tales to really freak out your friends and family. That's why on this trip, we've paired some extremely spooky places with nearby campgrounds. Now, you can actually see for yourself where all of the mystery comes from and really elevate your campfire storytelling. The only question is, do you dare?
In 1692, the bodies of 19 people hung from the gallows, one man was crushed to death by stones, and five more died in jail. All had been accused of witchcraft by their Puritan neighbors in the small village of Salem, Massachusetts. Were they casting spells to punish their foes, causing misery and mayhem? The courts and judge said yes, and the accused were sentence to grisly public deaths. Today, the Salem Witch Trials are recognized as the worst witch hunts in history. Yet only one historic building still stands with a direct connection to these mysterious events: The Jonathan Corwin House aka The Witch House. This large, Colonial-style building was the home of Judge Jonathan Corwin—the same judge who sentenced those poor souls back in 1692. Visitors can tour The Witch House and learn about both its architectural significance and the story of when mass hysteria overtook colonial Salem.
The Boston / Cape Cod KOA Holiday puts you in the heart of historic and scenic Eastern Massachusetts. Conveniently located between Boston, Cape Cod, and Plymouth, this KOA is a great basecamp for exploring the region. Head north to Salem to learn about the town’s dark history. Experience the Cradle of Liberty in Boston and Plymouth, which boast sites dating to the Colonial Era and American Revolution. Visit Cape Cod to sink your toes in the sand while watching whales and dolphins at play. Or, stay in the campground and relax. With a fun array of activities, this KOA Holiday will please the whole family.
Don’t wander the streets and woodlands of Sleepy Hollow at night or else you might find yourself coming face-to-face the Headless Horseman. This towering goblin rides a lightning-fast beast; if you cross him, he might hurl his jack-o-lantern head at you. This legend came to be associated with the Old Dutch Church, thanks to Washington Irving’s story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Today, you may tour the historic church, which dates back to 1685, and the adjacent burial grounds. Throughout the year—particularly around Halloween—special events are held to celebrate this folktale and its connection to the town of Sleepy Hollow.
If you want to explore Sleepy Hollow and the surrounding Catskills and Delaware Water Gap region, the Deerpark / New York City NW KOA Holiday is a great place to start. Its location along the Neversink River provides both scenery and recreation—fly fishing, tubing, paddling, and swimming are popular activities to enjoy in and near the park. Or, for an exhilarating change of pace, take a day trip into New York City. The campground provides shuttle service to a nearby commuter train station. Though the big city will feel worlds away, you can be in Times Square in less than three hours.
Savannah is one of those cities where the past comes to life, and this is especially true for those who believe in ghosts. If the spirits of the long departed still roam the cobblestone streets and grand buildings, the 17Hundred90 Inn is a prime spot to see them. Considered one of Savannah’s most haunted locations, the hotel is thought to be the forever home of three ghosts. And you can experience them for yourself, especially if you stay in the notorious room 204. Listen closely for the sounds of nightly visitors and watch your belongings closely. To explore some more haunted sites in Savannah, venture out on one of the city’s many ghost tours. If the paranormal isn’t for you, you’ll still find plenty to appreciate in this beautiful, historic city.
This highly rated KOA Holiday receives rave reviews for its stunning location, meticulous sites, and fun amenities. As the sun sets, an array of birds will flock into the campground's 35-acre lake. Watch for ibis, egrets, and blue herons. The waters are filled with fish, making it a relaxing spot to toss in a line. The campground is less than a 30 minute drive from downtown Savannah. No vehicle? No problem. The park can arrange for a tour bus to pick you up. Before you know it, you’ll be strolling under Savannah’s massive oaks and admiring the antebellum architecture.
Over 100 years ago, evil visited a quiet street in a small town in Iowa. Under the dark of night, two adults and six children were bludgeoned with an ax, leaving a gruesome crime scene. Blood filled the beds and bodies were found throughout the rambling house. The murderer was never caught, leaving the town of Villisca on edge in the months that followed. Today, you can tour the house (which has been restored to how it might have appeared in 1912). View artifacts and learn about the suspects. If you’re brave enough, book an overnight stay. Will these lost souls reach out to you? You'll have to stay and find out...
With its rural location in Iowa, there aren’t many campgrounds near the Villisca Ax Murder House; however, the larger town of Des Moines is just 90 minutes away. It is an excellent place to stay for your visit to the area, offering family attractions and downtown delights in the state’s capital city. The Des Moines West KOA has a peaceful setting in the rural countryside. The kids can play the day away, all thanks to the jumping pillow, water games, and paddle boats. The adults are bound to appreciate the full RV hookup sites and the variety of other accommodations, including the Deluxe Cabins and Glamping Tents.
Set against the dark silhouette of Colorado's Rocky Mountains, the ghostly white exterior and blood red roof of the Stanley Hotel would be enough for the building to attract attention. Since the hotel opened in 1909, its fascinating history and quality service are even more reasons to visit. However, none of those are the main reason for the Stanley Hotel’s notoriety. Instead, the fame comes from the hotel’s association with Stephen King’s 1997 book The Shining. King was inspired to write the terrifying tale after a stay at the Estes Park retreat. At the time, ghost stories were not particularly associated with the hotel; however, in the decades since, paranormal hunters have recorded and shared strange events. Today, ghost tours share the history and spooky tales.
Immerse yourself in the beauty of the Rockies at the Estes Park KOA Holiday. Sitting at an elevation of 7,500 feet, this campground provides easy access to the town of Estes Park, which is a popular entry point for Rocky Mountain National Park. You’ll be a mere 15 minutes from the entrance gate. You’ll kiss the clouds with a drive along one of the highest paved highways in the U.S., Trail Ridge Road. Take your camera and hit the trails to find waterfalls and wildlife. After a busy day in the park, return to the KOA for ice cream socials or a ride on the barrel train.
While the Winchester rifle may have been what made the Winchester family so well-known, the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose remains one of the most intriguing parts of the family legacy. After inheriting a great deal of money and partial ownership of the company, Sarah Winchester built a seven-story Victorian mansion like no other. A firm believer in ghosts and spirits, Sarah purposefully had the home built with architectural curiosities—think fake bathrooms and stairways that go nowhere. Her fears might have been justified, as some claim the home is haunted by those who have killed by Winchester rifles. Daily tours take you through 110 of the massive mansion’s 160 rooms. The other 50 might just be too spooky to enter...
It’s no mystery why this KOA receives accolades. Though the park isn’t directly on the ocean, you can spot the sparkling Pacific on the horizon. Head to one of the nearby public beaches to soak in the California sun. At the park, you will find resort-level amenities shared with the neighboring Costanoa Lodge, including a spa and on-site restaurants that uses locally grown ingredients. Outdoor adventures abound, including horseback riding, kayaking, and mountain biking. Enjoy a drink and live music on the outdoor patio after a day of adventures. Leaving the campground may be hard, but the famed Highway 1 beckons, offering some of the Golden State’s most scenic views or head into San Jose to see the Winchester Mystery House and more.
From historic landmarks to haunted mansions and everywhere in between, we hope these spooky places fuel your summer campfires and captivate your listeners. And be sure to check out even more scary stories over on the KOA camping blog.
Banner Photo Credit: Photo by Peyker
Behind the Yellow Sign at KOA, we combine the great outdoors with great service. We offer modern sites, facilities and amenities designed to meet the needs of every kind of camper. And with 500+ campgrounds across North America, it’s easy to find an amazing place for camping fun!