Thursday, October 29, 2015

Halloween's Top Haunted Rides

Long Ride Shields presents its most ghastly blog yet. Joelle Fraser goes off the beaten path to discover nine of America's most haunted destinations.

Harley on a Harley
When summer starts to fade, I know my riding days are numbered. My mood begins to fall along with the leaves outside my door. Yet there is one thing to look forward to before winter comes—the haunted rides of Halloween.

There’s something beautiful about the eerie atmosphere of late autumn, when the smell of woodsmoke is in the air, and the sun—or moon--light filters through the crimson and orange trees alongside the road.

I’ve gathered up a several places that rival any epic summer ride. If you can’t make it to one of the following, then do some research in your area. Make up your own route that includes a stop at a cemetery at sunset. Light a candle and talk a walk through the graves...’Tis the season, after all!

1. Jerome, AZ
Photo from:
Jerome is packed with interesting local shops: from glass blowers and potters to painters and wineries, but The Gold King Mine and Ghost Town is a must. There you will see demonstrations of antique mining equipment and the operation of a turn-of-the-century sawmill. You can take a walk in an authentic mine shaft,  have fun with various animals to pet and feed, see a circa 1901 blacksmith shop, and the world’s largest gas engines.

Then, take a haunted tour with local residents where supposedly resident gamblers, prostitutes, outlaws, and victims of tragic mining accidents still aimlessly wander in search of peace.

2. Kenansville, FL

Kenansville, FL
This is a late 1800's cattle town on the now defunct Okeechobee spur of the Henry Flagler's Florida East Coast Railroad. Legend holds that the hotel is the hotel that inspired a young Elvis Presley to write his hit "Heartbreak Hotel". The railroad did run right through town but the tracks and the depot are gone. The town died when the railroad was pulled out. There is a small resident population of farmers and cattlemen in the area. Further west on CR523 you can tour the old Kenansville Cemetery. Turn left there and follow the road til it dead ends at a left turn dirt road. This is the Old Peavine Road which runs out through the Florida scrub and Hammocks. This road is one of the old pioneer roads of Florida that few know about. The road is dirt but good and you can get a feeling of what the old Florida looked like. It dead ends on US 60 so you cannot get lost.

3. Bumpass Hell, Lassen Volcanic National Park

Bumpass Hell at Lassen Volcanic
National Park. Photo © Winkelair/Dreamstime.
Riding through Lassen National Park is a stunning trip through spooky mountain vistas. The steamy hot springs and burbling mudpots in this geothermal hotspot may seem scary all on their own, but this region of Lassen Volcanic National Park became known as a “hell” after unlucky explorer Kendall Bumpass fell into a pool of boiling-hot water and lost one of his legs. The area also contains one of the hottest fumaroles in the world, Big Boiler; its acidic, high-velocity steam has been measured at temperatures up to 322 degrees Fahrenheit—closer to the weather in hell than many other national park attractions.

4. Virginia City, Nevada

Virginia City is a biker’s paradise, with a winding, gorgeous ride up route 341 Geiger Grade which starts in the Truckee meadows and ascends rapidly through a series of hair pin turns and long sweepers to the ghost and historic mining town. There are many panoramic views of the valley below as well as the Sierras on the opposite side of the valley. On the other side of Virginia City, take the fork to the right which will put you on Rt 342 and through Gold Hill. Gold Hill has a haunted Hotel that is described in the book "Haunted Nevada".

5. The Torture Chamber
Jewel Cave National Monument, South Dakota

A spelunker in the depths of Jewel Cave
National Monument. NPS photo by Dan Austin
Explorers have mapped more than 177 miles of twisting underground passageways in this cave system and continue to explore more of it each year with no end in sight, making it the third-largest cave in the world. Two of Jewel Cave’s earliest explorers, Jan and Herb Conn, discovered a large room after a long day of spelunking and were relieved to hear the sound of loudly dripping water. Desperately thirsty with nothing left to drink, they spent valuable time and energy hunting for the source of the water instead of heading back to the surface for supplies. Despite their fruitless attempts to rehydrate, they eventually survived the ordeal, exhausted, and commemorated their frustration by giving the room its ominous name.

6. Skidoo
Death Valley National Park, California
Photo © Tom Till/Alamy.
This famously hot desert park has its share of foreboding landscapes, from Dante’s View to Devil’s Cornfield to Coffin Peak to the Funeral Mountains. The area also features more ghost towns than actual towns. In one particularly rough Old West mining settlement, a saloon owner named Joe “Hootch” Simpson allegedly gunned down a banker in a drunken rage in 1908 to settle a $20 debt. The townspeople subsequently formed a lynch mob and hanged Simpson, then buried him, exhumed him and re-hanged him for the benefit of a visiting reporter before the town doctor, finally, strangely, beheaded him. Now, the legend goes that Simpson’s headless ghost continues to haunt the area—though nothing remains of the town—to this day.

7. Devil’s Den
Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania
A stone staircase at Devil’s Den in Gettysburg
National Military Park. Photo © Jon Bilous/Dreamstime.
In the summer of 1863, a small farming community became the site of the bloodiest battle in the Civil War. The fierce fighting turned farm fields into graveyards and churches into hospitals, leaving a staggering 51,000 soldiers dead, wounded, or missing after three intense days of conflict. Now, a barefoot Confederate ghost known as the “Tennessean” or the “Hippie” has appeared to numerous visitors at a rocky hill known as Devil’s Den where Union snipers fired on Confederate soldiers during the second day of the battle. This ghost is said to gesture toward a nearby stream and say, “What you’re looking for is over there,” before vanishing back into history.

8. Kennecott Copper Mines
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Abandoned buildings at the Kennecott Copper Mines in Wrangell-St.
Elias National Park and Preserve. Photo © Sarcophoto/iStockphoto.
The total size of Wrangell-St. Elias is equivalent to six Yellowstones, with few people to occupy its vast wilderness. Nowhere does this sparse landscape feel as ghostly as it does in the abandoned mining town of Kennecott. A century ago, this desolate area was bustling with prospectors and miners, and a private company built an expensive 200-mile railroad to transport the area’s ore for processing. The railroad was treacherous to build over the rough, glaciated terrain and many people were reported to have died during the construction; still more perished in the mining operations that followed. After the copper and gold ran out and the mining towns turned to ghost towns, visitors began seeing tombstones along the abandoned track, only to return later to say that the graves had mysteriously disappeared. Legend has it that workers in the 1990s even stopped a construction project after seeing and hearing phantoms and losing tools right out of their workbelts to Kennecott’s angry ghosts.

9. Skull Rock
Joshua Tree National Park, California
Photo © Tsebourn/Dreamstime.
It’s a rock … that looks like a skull! Is it haunted? Probably not. But it’s a short walk off the main park road, making it one of the most accessible and fun places to explore at Joshua Tree. Climb right into the eyes of this perfect Halloween-themed hiking spot and haunt it yourself!

Joelle Fraser

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