The Spookiest Ghost Stories From All 50 States

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From heartbroken brides to spectral oenophiles, America is a melting pot of otherworldly entities who have staked a spiritual claim in every crack and cranny of the country—as well as in the local community's consciousness. No matter what city or state you hail from, you no doubt grew up hearing terrifying tales of one ghost or another with whom you shared a zip code. We all did. Here are the spookiest ghost stories from all 50 states.

1. ALABAMA

An old photograph of the Tombigbee River.
By Eugene Allen Smith (1841-1927) - The Journal of Geology, Published by University of Chicago Press, 1910. Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In February 1858, a steamboat named Eliza Battle set out on a cruise down the Tombigbee River, carrying 60 passengers and more than 1200 bales of cotton from Columbus, Mississippi, down to Mobile, Alabama. But on March 1, an unseasonably cold night, the cotton caught fire and quickly engulfed the ship in flames. It was the greatest nautical disaster in the river's history, leaving 33 passengers and crew dead. On brisk and chilly nights, people sometimes see the burning Eliza Battle rising from the misty waters where it sank, trying to complete its journey to Mobile.

2. ALASKA

The Golden North Hotel in Skagway, Alaska, circa 1898.
Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

At the height of the Klondike Gold Rush, a woman named Mary moved into the Golden North Hotel in Skagway with her fiancé, a prospector known as "Klondike Ike." Before their marriage, Ike set off for the gold fields to make his fortune. But Ike never returned. Mary locked herself in their room and waited, her anxious anticipation of Ike's arrival turning to dread and despair. The innkeepers eventually broke down the door and found Mary dead in her wedding dress. Guests at the Golden North Hotel report that "Scary Mary" still roams the halls, appearing over their beds in the night to check that Ike isn't sleeping with anyone else.

3. ARIZONA

The Flagstaff Hotel in Arizona.

The Hotel Monte Vista in Flagstaff, opened along Route 66 in 1927, often lodged the casts of western films shot in nearby Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon—and reportedly houses a whole host of ghostly guests. In fact, John Wayne reported one of the hotel's first ghost sightings in the late 1950s. Ever since, guests and staff have reported dozens of spirits stalking the halls, including a phantom bellboy who knocks on doors and disappears, the eccentric specter of a boarder who liked to hang raw meat from the chandelier, and a '70s bank robber who succumbed to his gunshot wound over a celebratory post-heist drink at the hotel bar.

4. ARKANSAS

A portrait of Union General Frederick Steele.
Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

During the Civil War, Union General Frederick Steele (above) commandeered the home of a mailman named John Chidester to use as his headquarters during the battle of Poison Spring. Chidester had been accused of espionage for turning over Union mail to Confederate troops. To this day, bullet holes remain in an upstairs wall of Chidester's house, where Union soldiers fired at random, hoping to hit the alleged spy as he hid in a small closet. Paranormal investigators say his spirit remains, too, turning up in photographs and shouting "Get out!" to unwanted visitors. The home, which stands as a museum today, is open for tours so that you can see for yourself.

5. CALIFORNIA

An arial view of California's Alcatraz from the 1930s.
OFF/AFP/Getty Images

Alcatraz was the site of reputed hauntings long before hosting the famous prison (Native American spirits reportedly roamed it then and now), but today one of the most famous stories is of a prisoner from cell 14D. The story goes that the prisoner spent the night in solitary confinement, screaming that a creature with glowing eyes was trying to kill him and pleading for help. The guards ignored him, but the next morning, they found the prisoner strangled to death—with strange wounds doctors said could not have been self-inflicted.

6. COLORADO

Photo of hand coming out of water
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The Buffalo Rose Saloon in Golden, Colorado doesn't have much choice but to admit one underaged patron: It's believed the ghost of a girl who drowned in a swimming pool located in the saloon's basement back in the 1920s still roams the building, skipping up and down stairs and making employees slightly nervous. The former site of the pool is said to be particularly unsettling, with the bar's overnight custodian, Seth Barry, describing it as "very bad. Sometimes you can't go [down] there."

7. CONNECTICUT

A photograph of Lorraine Warren.
Lorraine Warren
Lorraine Warren. Photo courtesy of 826 Paranormal, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In 1970, famed paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren were called to combat the spirit of "Annabelle," a demonic presence attached to a giant Raggedy Ann doll. For weeks the doll had thoroughly freaked out its owner, Donna, moving from room to room, leaving handwritten notes, and even attacking a friend who suggested Donna get rid of the doll, choking him in his sleep. Finally, a priest exorcised the doll and the Warrens locked it away in a special case designed to check its malevolent influence. But even that wasn't enough to save one brash visitor to the Warrens' museum, who reportedly taunted the doll and died in a motorcycle crash on his way home.

8. DELAWARE

Photo of Woodburn, the Delaware Governor's Mansion
Library of Congress

Since 1965, Woodburn has served as the official residence of Delaware's governor. But more than a century before that, it became known as a home to more than one apparition. Around 1815, the home's owners were entertaining Lorenzo Dow, a well-known Methodist clergyman. When the group sat down to breakfast one morning, Dow asked if their other guest would be joining them … but there was no other guest. When Dow described the man he had seen the evening before, it became clear that it was Charles Hillyard III (the late father of the home's then-owner). Rumor has it that if you leave out a glass of good wine at night, it might be gone in the morning: Hillyard was a bona fide oenophile. Sounds like the kind of ghost we could hang with.

9. FLORIDA

The Don CeSar hotel in St. Pete Beach, Florida, was built by Thomas Rowe and named for a character in the opera Maritana. Rowe had attended the opera during his time as a student in London, and he fell head over heels for its star, a Spanish aristocrat named Lucinda. They regularly met at a fountain in the city and made plans to sail to America and be married. But Lucinda's parents didn't approve of their romance and took her back to Spain. He wrote her faithfully, but his letters were returned unopened. Only one letter of Lucinda's ever reached Rowe. "Time is infinite," she wrote. "I wait for you by our fountain … to share our timeless love, our destiny is time." According to legend, Lucinda died of a broken heart; Rowe, who said he would never love anyone else, would go on to build his hotel. It was completed in 1928 and features an exact replica of the fountain where the lovebirds spent happier times. Rowe's ghost has been spotted on the beach, on the hotel's fifth floor and in the lobby, and in the garden, where he is sometimes seen holding the hand of a woman believed to be Lucinda.

10. GEORGIA

Lake Lanier in Georgia at sunset.
Peter Salanki, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When the Army Corps of Engineers flooded the foothills of the North Georgia mountains to create Lake Lanier in the 1950s, 59 square miles of farmland, homes, and businesses disappeared beneath the water. In the process, the federal government relocated more than 250 families—along with 20 cemeteries and all their corpses. A nasty streak of freak accidents and mysterious drowning deaths have convinced locals that the lake has been cursed ever since. Some people who have survived near-drownings at the lake have reported feeling hands dragging them down beneath the surface.

11. HAWAII

Blue skies and coconut trees in Hawaii.
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According to legend, the fire goddess Pele and a hog-faced demigod named Kamapua'a had a star-crossed love affair. The lovers were elemental opposites: Pele's lava flows brought flame and destruction, while Kamapua'a restored rain, vegetation, and animal life. Ultimately they decided to part forever, with Pele claiming one side of Oahu for fire and Kamapua'a retreating to the other side, where all is wet and lush. Today, Hawaiian motorists are careful never to drive with pork in their car along the old Pali highway, which crosses Oahu. According to legend, carrying pork—representing hog-faced Kamapua'a—over to Pele's side of the island will enrage her spirit, and she will get her revenge by making the car stall until the driver throws the pork out the window.

12. IDAHO

Cells in Old Idaho Penitentiary.
dieseldemon, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When it comes to abandoned buildings, penitentiaries might rank only slightly behind psychiatric hospitals in creep factor—and the Old Idaho Penitentiary, with its built-in gallows and death row, may be one of the country's creepiest. Between 1872 and 1973, the Boise prison served as a temporary home to more than 13,000 prisoners—including Raymond Allen Snowden, a.k.a. "Idaho's Jack the Ripper." Some believe he still haunts what is known as 5 House, where the prison's gallows were located. On October 18, 1957, Snowden was brought here to be executed, but the noose that should have broken his neck didn't; it took 15 minutes for him to suffocate. In the years since, visitors to the "Old Pen" have reported strange happenings in 5 House and other areas of the former prison, such as hearing odd sounds and voices and being overcome by strong feelings of sadness. The prison is open to the public year-round for paranormal enthusiasts who want to test their mettle.

13. ILLINOIS

In the depths of the Great Depression, the Oh Henry Ballroom southwest of Chicago drew young people hoping to dance away their troubles. One night, a teenage girl named Mary had a fight with her boyfriend at a dance and decided to walk home along Archer Avenue. She was killed by a hit-and-run driver and buried nearby in Resurrection Cemetery. Since then, residents have described a girl in a white party dress hitchhiking along the avenue. A cab driver even picked her up, and she asked to be taken to the cemetery. But by the time they arrived at the gates, Resurrection Mary had vanished.

14. INDIANA

The entrance to Tunnelton Tunnel in Indiana.
w.marsh, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The tiny township of Tunnelton was named for the number of railroad tunnels constructed around it, beginning in the 1850s. One of them, Tunnelton Tunnel (a.k.a. The Big Tunnel), is one of the Hoosier State's most feared landmarks. Reportedly, there are a few ghosts who refuse to leave the area, including a man who was beheaded in an accident during the tunnel's construction and still roams the grounds with his head in one hand and a lantern in the other. But the most famous of this tunnel's tenants is Henry Dixon. In 1908, the body of Dixon—who worked as a night watchman for the railroad—was found just inside the tunnel with a gash to the back of his head, his lantern still lit beside him. Dixon's murder was never solved, and locals claim that he still haunts the area seeking justice for his death.

15. IOWA

The exterior of Coe College in Iowa.
Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Coe College in Cedar Rapids is said to be haunted by the ghost of a freshman named Helen Esther Roberts, who died after becoming ill in the 1918 flu pandemic. As legend has it, the ghost of Roberts set up residence in an old grandfather clock—in Voorhees Hall, her former place of residence—which her parents donated to the school in her memory. While the clock was being installed, students claimed they saw an apparition hovering over their beds at night, pulling the covers off, and even playing the piano in the lobby, before taking a quick trek to her old room. Some even claimed that the clock would act up or stop working altogether at 2:53, the time of Roberts's death. When the clock was removed in the '70s, the sightings promptly ended at Voorhees Hall. But then they manifested in Stuart Hall—the grandfather clock's new home.

16. KANSAS

Sand Hills in Kansas.
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People in Hutchinson, Kansas, know not to venture into the surrounding sand hills alone—because that's where the Hamburger Man lives. Some say the monster, horribly mutilated by a fire or car crash sometime in the 1950s, abducts victims by brandishing a long knife or meat hook, and then carries them back to his lair where he grinds them up for dinner. The locals aren't sure whether the half-human, half-ghost was ever a real person—or why he seems to crave so many burgers.

17. KENTUCKY

A peaceful cemetery in Kentucky.
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In 1891, just a year after thousands of spectators converged on Pikeville to see the last hanging in the trial of the Hatfields and the McCoys, a newlywed named Octavia Hatcher died. Octavia had fallen into a depression shortly after her only child had died in infancy, and then slipped into a fatal coma. Since it was a hot spring, her husband wasted no time in burying her. But soon doctors began to notice a strange—but not lethal—sleeping sickness spreading through the town. Panicked, her husband exhumed her casket and found its inner lining shredded with claw marks and his wife's face frozen in a mask of terror. Wracked with guilt, he reburied Octavia and had a tall stone statue of her placed above her grave. Locals say they can still hear Octavia crying, and that once a year—on the anniversary of her death—the statue rotates and turns its back on Pikeville.

18. LOUISIANA

An empty bed in a dark room.
iStock

Louisiana's Cajun communities have an explanation for sleep paralysis: cauchemar, a species of nighttime witch that immobilizes sleepers and rides them like horses. Some say the cauchemar comes to those who forget to say their prayers before going to bed. Its unfortunate victims lie awake, unable to move, as the cauchemar presses down on their chests, and no matter how much they try to call out, their screams catch in their throats. Some have even reported waking up with marks on their bodies from the bridles and whips that the cauchemar uses to mount and ride sleepers. Beware: Talking about cauchemar increases the likelihood it will visit you tonight.

19. MAINE

The exterior of Seguin Light in Maine.
InAweofGod'sCreation, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In the mid-19th century, a lighthouse keeper and his wife moved in to the lighthouse on Seguin Island, a 64-acre speck of land two miles out to sea. To stave off their loneliness and boredom, the man ordered a piano and some sheet music from the mainland, so that his wife could learn to play. Dutifully, she learned her first song—then she played it again and again and again, the same song, every day. Eventually, it drove the lighthouse keeper mad. He took an axe first to the piano, then to his wife, and finally took his own life when he realized what he had done. Visitors to the island say they sometimes hear phantom piano music, and occasionally catch a glimpse of the lighthouse keeper walking by, still carrying his axe.

20. MARYLAND

A cypress swamp.
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With thick cypress swamps fringing a black river, the Pocomoke Forest on Maryland's Eastern Shore has birthed several ghostly legends. Folks say that a teenage couple drove into the forest but ran out of gas. The boyfriend went to get help, and the girlfriend was woken in the middle of the night by scratchy sounds on the car's roof. In the morning she discovered her boyfriend hanging upside-down from a tree and his fingernails trailing on the metal. In another tale, a couple in a car heard a radio report of an escaped murderer with a hook for a right hand. The girl noticed a strange sound outside the car, and when she opened the door, a hook was hanging from the handle. Locals also talk of fireballs erupting from thickets and a six-fingered sea captain who killed his adulterous wife and bastard child in the forest. The baby's wails still echo through the trees.

21. MASSACHUSETTS

A stereoscope photo of Minots Ledge lighthouse.
Boston Public Library, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Minots Ledge, a tiny outcropping of rock rising from the sea a mile off the coast from Cohasset, was a ruthless destroyer of ships and sailors. Between 1695 and 1754, the ledge sank 80 ships and drowned 400 men. But no one knew how to build a lighthouse on such a perilous sliver of rock in the middle of the sea. Finally, in 1850, Massachusetts erected a small granite beacon tower on nine cement pylons grounded on the ledge. One year later, a furious nor'easter hit and set the tower swaying. During a lull in the storm, the lighthouse keeper rowed to the mainland, leaving his two assistants behind to man the beacon. All night, townspeople on the shore heard the lighthouse bell ring furiously, perhaps as a final goodbye from the assistants. In the morning, the tower was gone, toppled into the sea. The assistants' bodies washed up days later. Passing fishermen say they can still hear their ghosts crying for help.

22. MICHIGAN

A spooky forest.
iStock

Be careful where you roam at night in western Michigan: The Melon Heads might come after you. Said to haunt the woods near Saugatuck, these childlike figures have oversized heads and mostly white eyes, with irises barely visible above the lower eyelid. They might knock on your car window, or they might stalk you as you walk the dog. Some speculate that the Melon Heads were children in the late 19th century with hydrocephaly who escaped a local hospital where a doctor had been conducting terrible experiments on them. Be especially wary if you're a young couple making out in a parked car; the Melon Heads like to tap on the windows to get your attention.

23. MINNESOTA

Ghost hunters have come from all over the country to visit the Palmer House Hotel in Sauk Centre in the hopes of glimpsing a permanent guest: Lucy, a ghost who hasn't forgiven the male gender for her tragic life and even more tragic demise. As the story goes, Lucy was a prostitute who worked in a brothel erected on the future site of the hotel. It burned down, taking Lucy and other escorts with it. When men pass by, she's said to slam doors and drop the temperature. Guests can ask for Room 17—Lucy's favorite—if they're feeling adventurous.

24. MISSISSIPPI

Glenwood Cemetery in Yazoo City, Mississippi.
NatalieMaynor, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

At the center of the historic section of Glenwood Cemetery, Yazoo City's public burial grounds, there's a grave surrounded by a chain link fence. Local lore claims that the grave belonged to a witch who lived along the Yazoo River, who used to lure fishermen to the shore to torture them. When the Yazoo County sheriff came to arrest her, she fled into the swamp and fell into quicksand. The sheriff found her half sunk. Before she drowned, she swore to take revenge on Yazoo City. No one thought much of her threat, but they fenced in her grave just in case. Then, on May 25, 1904, a fire nearly wiped out the entire city, spreading quickly on unusually fierce winds. After the fire, Yazoo City residents found the chain link around the witch's grave cut open.

25. MISSOURI

Close up of a black horse's hooves as it walks through the dirt.
iStock

An old couple in Overton, who made a trickle of income lodging travelers in their home, decided one night to murder a wealthy boarder and make their fortune. They hid his body, took his money, and used it to build a grand new house. Years later, as the woman lay on her deathbed, she made her husband promise to keep their secret and never to remarry … but he took a new bride within a year. The people of Overton, disapproving of the widower's impropriety, harassed the couple on their wedding night with catcalls, drums, and rifle shots. But when the man went outside to shush the crowd, he was startled to see a black carriage pull up to the house. Inside sat a woman, pale as death and dressed in black. Without a word, the man got into the carriage. It drove off and he was never seen again. Ever since, townspeople have spotted the black carriage and interpreted it as an omen of danger.

26. MONTANA

A close up of a man's hand as he hitchhikes.
iStock

Taking a drive along Highway 87 by Black Horse Lake in Montana? If the legends are true, you'll want to think twice before agreeing to pick up just any hitchhiker. Locals claim that a man known as the Phantom Hitchhiker of Black Horse Lake—a Native American man wearing a jean jacket—appears on the road, then violently smashes against your windshield as if struck by your car. It is said that the man was involved in a fatal car crash many years ago and has reenacted it ever since.

27. NEBRASKA

A painting of Blackbird Hill by Karol Bodmer.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Blackbird Hill, Nebraska, is best known as the gravesite of the eponymous Omaha Indian Chief named Blackbird, who was famously buried sitting upright on his most prized horse. But the hill is also home to one of Nebraska's oldest ghost stories. In the late 1800s, a local man discovered that his wife still had feelings for a long-lost lover. Consumed in a fit of jealous rage, he stabbed his wife and then, in a panic, picked up her body, ran to the cliff on Blackbird Hill, and jumped. It's said that if you listen closely on October 17, you can hear a woman screaming near the top of that hill.

28. NEVADA

A map of Nevada with a thumb tack in Carson City.
iStock

Long before the founding of Las Vegas, a pair of lovers named Timber Kate and Bella Rawhide toured the saloons of Nevada performing a live sex show. One day, Bella abandoned the act and left Kate for a man named Tug Daniels, breaking her former partner's heart. Kate eventually ran into Bella and Tug in a Carson City brothel, resulting in a knife fight. During the melee, Tug murdered Kate, and it's been said that her disheveled ghost still haunts the halls of the bordello.

29. NEW HAMPSHIRE

The exterior of the music hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Before the Portsmouth Music Hall was built on Chestnut Street in 1878, the site was home to the Temple, a public meeting house where black abolitionists like Frederick Douglass spoke against slavery; a Baptist meeting hall; an 18th-century prison; and one of the first almshouses in the colonies. With all that history, its ghosts could be a mixed bag, but they seem to be all about the stage. Audience members have reported seeing a man dressed in clothing so convincingly Victorian, they thought he was an actor—until he faded away. They've heard shuffling feet near the box office and loud footsteps in the empty hallway. Some have witnessed a shadowy mist blocking their view of the stage, dark shadows passing in front of their seats, or the stage curtains rippling as if someone were walking behind them—but no one was there. Sounds like at least one phantom is still yearning for some time in the spotlight.

30. NEW JERSEY

Manuel Rionda, a sugar baron living in the wealthy New Jersey enclave of Alpine, wanted to do something nice for his wife Harriet. In 1910, he built a tall gothic stone tower to give her a view of the New York City skyline. But the gesture lost its charm when, sitting atop the tower one day, Harriet spotted Manuel with another woman. With years of fears and suspicions confirmed, Harriet grew despondent and leapt from the tower. Afterward, every time Manuel walked up its stairs, he heard footsteps and sobs or felt the push of a cold, angry hand. Overcome with guilt and fear, Manuel walled up the tower, vowing that no one should ever climb it again. After his death in the 1950s, construction crews came to tear the tower down, but after several men fell to their deaths, they left the building as it was.

31. NEW MEXICO

Fort Union in New Mexico.
Fort Union
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In the Wild West days, Johnny, a lieutenant posted at Fort Union, fell in love with a flirtatious woman named Celia. One night, as the two danced at an officer's birthday party, a messenger burst in to announce an Apache raid. Fearing he might not get another chance, Johnny immediately proposed to Celia, who said yes and promised that if he didn't return, she would never marry. Some soldiers died in the fight, including Johnny. Despite her promise, Celia soon married another man. At their wedding ball, a ghoul in uniform appeared, a gash on his head and fire in his eyes. He pulled Celia from the arms of her new husband as the musicians, entranced, played an eerie waltz. Johnny's spirit danced Celia around the room. She grew pale and died in his arms. Faithful in death, Celia's ghost can still be heard weeping over Johnny's grave.

32. NEW YORK

A portion of a well surrounded by clothing.
Erin McCarthy

The first recorded murder trial in American history dates to 1800, when New Yorkers discovered the body of Gulielma Sands in the Manhattan Well in SoHo. Rumors quickly spread that Sands had been murdered by Levi Weeks, an alleged lover who lived in the same Greenwich Street boardinghouse as Sands did. Levi was the brother of Ezra Weeks, a prominent New York City architect who designed landmark buildings like the Hamilton Grange. With his brother's help, Levi hired an all-star defense team that included Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr—and beat the charges. Ever since, people have reported strange shrieks and flashes of light emanating from the well, which remains untouched in the basement of a clothing store at 129 Spring Street.

33. NORTH CAROLINA

A drawing of the pirate Blackbeard's head hanging from a bowsprit.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The infamous pirate Blackbeard—whose real name was Edward Teach—is said to haunt a cove on Ocracoke Island, in the Outer Banks, where he was executed by members of the British navy in 1718. Blackbeard's head was severed and hung from the bowsprit of one of the British sloops, and his body tossed overboard. The body swam around the ship several times before succumbing to its watery grave. Some tales say that a headless figure has been spotted splashing around in the small, sheltered bay, which is known as Teach's Hole. Other reports say Blackbeard has been seen roaming the beaches with a lantern, looking for his lost head.

34. NORTH DAKOTA

The church in Sims, North Dakota.

Once a thriving pioneer outpost, today Sims is a ghost town in more ways than one: Its only permanent resident is a spirit. Known as the Gray Lady of Sims, she's said to be the wife of a minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, one of only a few buildings remaining in town. According to legend, she fell ill and died in the church parsonage sometime between 1916 and 1918, after which her husband married her sister and left the region. By the mid-1930s, the Gray Lady had begun haunting the parsonage's second floor, pulling back the curtains, opening and closing windows, and pumping its well with her invisible hand. Her antics so spooked the congregants, they wrote a letter to a local bishop to complain about the supernatural activity, which they said kept scaring off new ministers. The spectral figure is said to still haunt the church, which is home to an active congregation.

35. OHIO

The spooky Moonville Tunnel in Ohio.
Jayson Shenk, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The darkest, most desolate stretch of the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad ran through Moonville, Ohio. According to local legend, an epidemic once spread through the tiny community and trains were forbidden from stopping there. Running low on supplies, residents sent a volunteer with a lantern to flag down a cargo train on the edge of town. The idea was that the train's conductor would start to slow down after seeing the man outside town and come to a stop by the time he cleared the passage. But the plan never had a chance to come to fruition: The volunteer was late getting to the tunnel, and the oncoming train struck and killed him before he could reach the other side. Today, the Moonville Tunnel is one of the few remaining landmarks from the defunct mining town, and some visitors still claim to see a ghostly figure carrying a lantern in the darkness. Others are convinced they've encountered one of the many other souls who are said to have lost their lives at the location.

36. OKLAHOMA

The Skirvin Hilton Hotel at night.
Matthew Rutledge, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Decades ago, when the owner of what’s now the Skirvin Hilton Hotel in Oklahoma City discovered that he had impregnated a housekeeper, he responded by locking the maid in one of the rooms. She was to stay there even after she had the baby. However, the despairing housekeeper had other plans and threw herself and the baby out the window. Nowadays, her spirit tends to get a lot of press for terrorizing NBA players. Opponents of the Oklahoma City Thunder typically stay at the century-old hotel, and athletes have reported hearing a baby's cry in their rooms and knocks at their doors. They've also seen drawers open and doors close without reason. The New York Knicks once blamed a loss on a restless night caused by the prank-playing spirit. "She is an apparitional sixth man, of sorts," The New York Times reported.

37. OREGON

The interior of an empty movie theater.
iStock

The Kuhn Cinema in Lebanon, Oregon is a relic of movie houses gone by—ornate and without the trappings of a generic multiplex. But preserving that kind of legacy isn't without some risk: Legend has it that a theatergoer once plummeted from a second-floor balcony to her death. Now, her image can be allegedly be seen flickering on the screen, shocking patrons into spilling their sodas.

38. PENNSYLVANIA

The group of rocks in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania known as Devil's Den.
iStock

There’s no shortage of haunted spots related to the Battle of Gettysburg, but Devil's Den may be the most infamous. Local lore has it that the rock formation was viewed as a cursed place long before the Civil War. When Confederate and Union troops clashed at the site in July 1863, the craggy boulders gave them a convenient place to hide. Battalions were separated, and men on both sides were ambushed. Some of the bloodiest, most confused fighting of the battle took place at Devil’s Den, earning it the nickname the "Slaughter Pen" from soldiers. A few days after the battle ended, Union soldiers returned to the area and found it still littered with the bodies and viscera of the fallen. Some Confederate soldiers were allegedly tossed into crevices between boulders and left to rot. It's said that the spirits haunting the area sometimes appear in photographs—that is, when photography equipment works there at all.

39. RHODE ISLAND

A photo of Mercy Lena Brown's grave in Rhode Island.
Josh McGinn, Flickr // CC BY ND-2.0

In the late 19th century, the people of Exeter responded to an outbreak of "consumption"—tuberculosis—with an infamous vampire panic that ended in the exhumation, mutilation, and cannibalization of the corpse of Mercy Lena Brown. Science knew little of tuberculosis, and superstitions quickly spread that the wasting away it caused was due to the nefarious influence of undead family members. Mercy died at age 19 in January 1892, shortly after her mother and her sister. Since her corpse was the best preserved of the three, she was singled out as a vampire and blamed for the illness of her brother, Edwin, who had also contracted tuberculosis. Villagers cut out Mercy's heart, burned it, mixed the ashes with water, and made Edwin drink the concoction. Edwin died two months later. Mercy's spirit still lingers forlornly about her disturbed grave.

40. SOUTH CAROLINA

According to some historians, America's first convicted female serial killer was a Charleston woman named Lavinia Fisher, who ran an inn called the Six Mile House with her husband John. Most of Lavinia's victims were wealthy men traveling alone. She would offer her unfortunate guests a cup of poisoned tea, then direct them to a room with a specially designed trapdoor bed. When the ill man laid down, John pulled a lever and the guest fell into a pit below the house. There John would make sure the man was dead and relieve him of his valuables. The story goes that the couple was caught when a traveler—who hated tea but was too polite to decline Lavinia's offer—poured his cup into a nearby plant and retreated to his room. As he sat at his desk that night, he was shocked to see his bed plunge into a pit. He ran out of the inn and told the police, who soon found the bodies of missing travelers buried nearby. The couple were hanged, and legend has it that Lavinia's ghost still haunts her cell at Charleston's Old Jail.

41. SOUTH DAKOTA

The exterior of the Old Fairmont Hotel in Deadwood, South Dakota.
Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The Fairmont Hotel—formerly a brothel and saloon, now an oyster bar—is widely considered the most haunted landmark in South Dakota. The place has seen its share of jealousy and heartbreak: There's the ghost of a man who shot the client of his prostitute girlfriend, and then accidentally shot himself; there's the spirit of an angry fellow whose girlfriend died of syphilis; and there's the ghost of a prostitute named Maggie who jumped out a window to her death. On more than one occasion, visitors have reported seeing an apparition with red hair and a green dress—perhaps Maggie herself—lurking in the hallways upstairs.

42. TENNESSEE

Cannons on Chickamauga battlefield in Tennessee.
iStock

The Chickamauga battlefield, which in 1863 saw a key Union defeat and one of the bloodiest battles in the Civil War, is now home to a haunting monster known as Old Green Eyes. One legend maintains that the creature was a Confederate soldier whose head was blown off during the battle. His spectral head floats around the battlefield, searching for his missing body. Another, apparently older tale claims that Old Green Eyes is a humanoid monster, with glowing green eyes, light-colored waist-length hair, and huge deformed jaws sporting massive fangs.

43. TEXAS

A photo of the Elm Creek, Texas watershed
J. T. Mitchell/Three Lions/Getty Images

In the frontier days, a settler family eked out a living on the banks of Elm Creek near San Antonio. One day, the son of a wealthy merchant in town passed through their property and was bitten by the family mule. Enraged, the young man began beating the animal and wouldn't stop. The family depended on the mule for their living and in desperation pelted the man with stones until he left—but before he did, he vowed revenge. That night, he rounded up a posse and set fire to the family home. The men came armed and waited to gun down the family members as they fled the fire. When the mother ran out, she was deformed nearly beyond recognition: Her fingers had fused almost into hooves and the flesh on her face sagged terribly. With a screech, she hurled herself into the creek, where her ghastly spirit remains. Locals say they still hear shrieks coming from the creek and nearby woods, and some have reported a terrifying creature with hooves dropping onto their cars and scratching at their windows, trying to get inside.

44. UTAH

Cub Island on the Great Salt Lake
By Cory Maylett, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the first gravediggers in Salt Lake City, Jean Baptiste was otherwise unremarkable; he lived with his wife in a two-bedroom home in town, had few friends, and was punctual. He was, perhaps, unusually well off for a gravedigger—and authorities learned the reason why in 1862. In just three years, Baptiste had robbed the graves of more than 300 people, stripping them of clothing and possessions, and dumping their naked bodies back in the caskets. The police found his home filled with clothing; he'd sold many of the possessions. Baptiste showed up in court wearing a suit a local storekeeper had been buried in. Banished to a remote island in the Great Salt Lake, Baptiste vanished six weeks later. Many say his ghost roams the southern coast of the lake carrying an armful of wet, rotting clothing.

45. VERMONT

Boot prints in the snow.
iStock

If you ever stay at the Green Mountain Inn in Stowe, Vermont during a snowstorm, listen carefully for the sounds of boots tapping on the rooftop. You may hear Boots Berry, the ghost that's said to have haunted the inn since his tap dancing days at the turn of the 20th century. Boots was born to the inn's horseman and chambermaid in the building's servants' quarters in 1840. As an adult, he followed in his father's footsteps and became a successful horseman. He even achieved hero status after gaining control of some runaway horses pulling a stagecoach.

But his glory days were short-lived: Boots developed a drinking problem that got him fired from the inn and landed him in jail. It was one of his fellow inmates at a prison in New Orleans that taught him how to tap dance. Years later, Boots's quick feet came in handy: He was back at the Green Mountain Inn in 1902 when he learned that a girl was stuck on the building's roof during a snowstorm. Recalling the secret route he took to the roof during his own childhood, he arrived there in time to return her to safety. Unfortunately, Boots himself wasn't so lucky and he slipped and fell to his death.

46. VIRGINIA

George Wythe
New York Public Library Digital Gallery, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The Wythe House, a colonial-era Georgian townhouse, draws its name from George Wythe, the country's first law professor and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Wythe was an eminently respectable judge, but his great nephew, George Wythe Sweeney, was his opposite: a profligate gambler with a mounting debt problem. By 1806, the elder Wythe was widowed and childless, and Sweeney was one of his last remaining heirs. Eager to hasten his inheritance, Sweeney offered to move into his great uncle's house to look after the old man. At the first opportunity, he slipped arsenic into Wythe's coffee. The judge fell violently ill and died two weeks later—but not before he grew suspicious and wrote Sweeney out of his will. Legend has it that Wythe's spirit never left his house.

47. WASHINGTON

Perhaps it's no surprise that Kell's Pub, on the former site of Seattle's first full-service mortuary, would be home to several spooky tales. One of the most famous surrounds a mischievous little girl with long red hair who was apparently looking for pals. One day, a young mother came in for a job interview at the bar with her small daughter, who was told to go play by herself while the mother spoke with a manager. Halfway through the interview, the little girl appeared with a rag knotted in the shape of a doll. Confused, the mother asked her daughter where she had gotten the toy. The little girl replied that her new friend, a little girl with long red hair in the corner, had shown her how to make it. Surprised, the manager and mother insisted there were no other little girls at the bar, and sent her off to play again. A little while later, the mother called for her daughter and received no reply. After a frantic search, she finally found her sitting on the floor, playing with the rag doll and conversing with a spectral presence. The mother whisked her daughter away, never to return to the bar again.

48. WEST VIRGINIA

Photo of Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia
iStock

The Appalachian woods of West Virginia are stalked by the Tailypo, a strange, cat-like creature [PDF] with long claws, sharp teeth, and a thick, hairless pink tail. Legend has it that one winter night, a hermit living deep in the woods with his dogs was about to go to bed hungry when the Tailypo crawled into his cabin. The man lunged at the revolting creature with a hatchet, managing to lop off its tail before it scurried away. Overcome with hunger, he cooked the fleshy tail into a stew and ate it for dinner. Throughout the night (or over a couple of nights, depending on who's telling the tale), the creature returned, calling in an inhuman voice, "Tailypo, Tailypo … where is my Tailypo?" The hermit sent his dogs after the creature; they didn't return. Despite the unsettling voice outside his door, the man fell into an uneasy sleep just before dawn, only to wake up and find the creature, with its red eyes, staring at him from the edge of his bed—just before the Tailypo ripped him apart. Hunters and hikers say that on some nights, they can hear a strange refrain on the wind: "Tailypo! Tailypo! I got my Tailypo!"

49. WISCONSIN

Visit Appleton's Riverside Cemetery during a full moon and you might see one of its historic tombstones ooze blood. Located on an isolated wooded bluff, the grave is the final resting site of Kate ("Kitty") Blood, the daughter of an influential 19th-century settler who has been the subject of many a bloody tale. According to one legend, Blood murdered her husband and children with an axe before killing herself—but that can't be true, because her spouse, George W. Miller, outlived her by 42 years, as you can see right on her tombstone. Another account says that Blood's husband murdered her, and yet other speculative accounts have her pegged as a witch. The real-life Blood died in 1874, reportedly from tuberculosis, at age 23, and Appleton's community mourned her loss. Blood's remote grave and evocative maiden name likely played a part in the formation of these spooky tales. Today, they play such a large part in Appleton's historic lore that a local grocery store has even sold tombstone-shaped cookies with Blood's name on them.

50. WYOMING

The exterior of the Carnegie Library in Green River, Wyoming.
Erin Kenney, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In Sweetwater County's library system, you don't need to pick up a book to experience a good ghost story: just stay overnight. The branch at Green River was accidentally built on top of a graveyard. (Construction workers, believing that the graves had been relocated ages ago, were shocked when they dug up caskets.) Patrons and employees have come home telling spooky tales ever since: A few years ago, a reporter is said to have stayed at the library overnight and discovered a voice speaking into his tape recorder. Another time, a janitor was vacuuming the bottom floor when he noticed a lightbulb glowing on an upper floor. He went up to turn it off. But when he returned downstairs, his vacuum cleaner had gone missing—that is, until he heard the vacuum running by itself, upstairs.

Written by Michele Debczak, Colin Gorenstein, Kirstin Fawcett, Shaunacy Ferro, Kat Long, Bess Lovejoy, Erin McCarthy, Lucas Reilly, Jen Pinkowski, Nico Rivero, Jake Rossen, and Jenn Wood.

The Best Bookstores in All 50 States

Robert Kim, Getty Images
Robert Kim, Getty Images

From their resident cats to that old book smell, there's something about wandering up and down the aisles of a brick-and-mortar bookstore that online merchants could never replicate. In honor of Independent Bookstore Day (April 27, 2019), Mental Floss has picked the best bookshop in every state—plus a few others we loved, too.

  1. The Best Bookstore in Alabama: Alabama Booksmith // Homewood, Alabama

One of the Birmingham area's hidden gems, the Alabama Booksmith is a unique delight for book-lovers and collectors alike. Since a remodel in 2012, the shop has featured an inventory consisting exclusively of signed book copies. The store has another special touch, too: Every book is displayed face-out so that customers can more easily discern whether or not something is right for them.

Other Alabama Bookstores We Love: Reed Books (Birmingham), Page & Palette (Fairhope)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Alaska: Title Wave Books // Anchorage, Alaska

The cleverly named Title Wave Books is not only the largest bookstore in Alaska, but also one of the biggest used bookstores in the entire country. In addition to its massive catalog of over 500,000 books, the store houses many vinyl records, audiobooks, and DVDs. And if for some reason you aren't interested in checking out the books, the store also has a host of events including Scrabble and chess nights.

Other Alaska Bookstores We Love: The Writer's Block (Anchorage), The Homer Bookstore (Homer)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Arizona: Changing Hands Bookstore // Phoenix & Tempe, Arizona

An exterior view of the Changing Hands Bookstore
An exterior view of the Changing Hands Bookstore
Mike Moore/Getty Images for Corday Productions

With locations in both Phoenix and Tempe, Changing Hands Bookstore encompasses the best of Arizona literature. The Tempe location has been in business since 1974, and its success allowed them to open their second store in a repurposed restaurant in central Phoenix. The Phoenix location is home to the must-visit First Draft Book Bar—after all, how often you can be served booze at a bookstore?

Other Arizona Bookstores We Love: Antigone Books (Tucson)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Arkansas: Dickson St. Bookshop // Fayetteville, Arkansas

A community favorite located only a short distance away from the University of Arkansas campus, Dickson St. Bookshop features a plethora of literary classics and much more. With thousands of books onsite, it's frequently named not just one of the best bookstores in Arkansas, but also one of the best in the nation. Owners Donald Choffel and Charles O'Donnell have been in charge from the very beginning in 1978.

Other Arkansas Bookstores We Love: WordsWorth Books & Co (Little Rock), Nightbird Books (Fayetteville)

  1. The Best Bookstore in California: Green Apple Books // San Francisco, California

Competition for San Francisco's book lovers is fierce—the city is also home to famous independent bookstores like City Lights—but Green Apple Books remains a beloved local luminary. The store, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017, has grown over the decades to occupy a two-story, sprawling space in the city's Richmond District. Filled with books both new and used, the store sells not just hardback literature, but e-books and audiobooks, magazines, LPs, and more. In 2014, it expanded its wares to a second location, Green Apple Books on the Park, located near Golden Gate Park. Online, it offers services like the Apple-a-Month Club, which sends subscribers a new fiction paperback each month, while its two stores host readings by local writers and literary legends alike. (It's also a popular haunt for literature-loving celebrities—it has previously been frequented by the likes of Robin Williams, Oliver Sacks, and more.)

Other California Bookstores We Love: City Lights Bookstore (San Francisco), The Last Bookstore (Los Angeles), Book Soup (Los Angeles), Time Tested Books (Sacramento), Chaucer's Bookstore (Santa Barbara)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Colorado: Tattered Cover // Denver, Colorado

Denver’s storied Tattered Cover has been around since 1971 and has been through numerous transformations: moving locations, opening satellites, adding cafes and, at one point, having a (since closed) restaurant and bar. Considered one of the most successful independent bookstores in the country, it now sells new and used books at four different outposts in Denver and Littleton, Colorado as well as operating several stores at the Denver International Airport. You can find international bestsellers alongside indie literature and a wide range of used volumes. It hosts writing workshops, book clubs, literary readings, film screenings, and storytime for kids, and in 2019, launched the one-day Colorado Book and Arts Festival.

Other Colorado Bookstores We Love: Book Cranny (Arvada), Boulder Bookstore (Boulder), Capitol Hill Books (Denver)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Connecticut: R.J. Julia Booksellers // Madison, Connecticut

An image of the store front of RJ Julia Booksellers.

R.J. Julia has been one of Connecticut's premier book destinations for decades, and for good reason. Named one of New England magazine’s "Best Bookstores to Spend the Day" in 2018, the Madison-based bookstore features a large selection of books and gifts, knowledgeable staff, and a great cafe. It's more than just a place to stop by and grab a new paperback, though. The store hosts more than 300 events every year, and owner Roxanne J. Coady is dedicated to finding every reader their perfect book. In 2009, she launched Just the Right Book, a personalized book-of-the-month subscription service, and recently expanded it to include a Just the Right Book podcast that features interviews between Coady and bestselling authors. If you can't stop by the store in person, we recommend using R.J. Julia's "What's Your Perfect Next Read" online quiz to find your new favorite book.

Other Connecticut Bookstores We Love: Hickory Stick Bookshop (Washington Depot), Byrd's Books (Bethel)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Delaware: Browseabout Books // Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Founded in 1975, Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware is a local legend—so much so that the company's 40th anniversary party was attended by Delaware's governor and multiple state senators. In 1992, Browseabout took over a former open-air mall that once housed seven stores and evolved to sell gifts, toys, and stationery alongside books and a coffee bar. Poets.org lists it as one of its favorite poetry-friendly bookstores, while writer Anna March extolled its virtues in the literary journal Tin House in 2013, calling it "a thing to behold—best sellers and beach books, yes, but also a strong kids section; travel books and literary fiction with an extensive back catalog; books by local authors; and a selection of essays, poetry, plays."

Other Delaware Bookstores We Love: Bethany Beach Books (Bethany Beach), Acorn Bookstore (Smyrna)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Florida: Books & Books at The Studios of Key West // Key West, Florida

There are several locations of Books & Books, which has stores around South Florida (and one in the Cayman Islands), but the Key West affiliate of the chain has a special place in book lovers' hearts for one reason: It's the only store that was founded by Judy Blume and her husband, George Cooper. Located in a former Masonic Temple that now serves as a nonprofit arts space, it's just what you would expect from a bookstore owned by a literary luminary. The store is designed with readers in mind, with reading lights and a curated selection of literary fiction, poetry, art books, magazines, and new bestsellers, plus an entire room devoted to professional-grade art supplies. Oh, and it's perhaps the only bookstore where you can get book recommendations straight from the mouth of Judy Blume.

Other Florida Bookstores We Love: Key West Island Books (Key West), Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore (Delray Beach)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Georgia: Charis Books // Atlanta, Georgia

Charis Books And More has been an Atlanta institution since 1974, making it the oldest independent feminist bookstore in the southern United States. Charis's inventory is stocked with books that fall into diverse categories, like LGBTQ fiction and non-fiction, food issues and body image, anti-ableism, race, and reproductive rights. As part of its mission to support local, independent authors, Charis encourages writers of all backgrounds to request to have their books sold in the store. The shop also hosts about 270 literary, social justice, and educational events a year.

Other Georgia Bookstores We Love: Book Nook (Decatur), Avid Bookshop (Athens), A Cappella Books (Atlanta)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Hawaii: Talk Story Bookstore // Hanapepe, Kauai

The exterior of Hawaii's Talk Story bookstore.
Paul Schultz, Flickr // CC By 2.0

The westernmost bookstore in the United States, Talk Story Bookstore has over 150,000 new, used, and out-of-print titles to choose from, whether it's mysteries or Hawaiiana. As the only bookstore on Kauai, it's a much-loved community resource, and patrons praise its friendly owners, Ed Justus and Cynthia Lynn, who have been in business since 2004. As you're browsing the books and records, keep an eye out for the store's cat/guardian angel, Celeste.

Other Hawaii Bookstores We Love: da Shop: books + curiosities (Honolulu), BookEnds (Kailua)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Idaho: Rediscovered Books // Boise, Idaho

Founded in 2006, Rediscovered Books is known as the go-to community bookstore for literature geeks. With more than 30 book clubs (including a Comic Book Book Club, a Macchiato and Murder one, and a noon-hour Lit for Lunch group) and a litany of special events ranging from author signings to their so-called "infamous" Book & Booze nights, there's sure to be a reading group to meet any adult special interest. And for the kids, there's a weekly Tasty Tales storytime with snacks from the local Guru Donuts.

Other Idaho Bookstores We Love: The Well-Read Moose (Coeur d'Alene), BookPeople of Moscow (Moscow)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Illinois: Anderson's Bookshop // Naperville, Illinois

A beloved part of the Naperville, Illinois, community since 1875, Anderson's Bookshop is still operated by fifth-generation descendants of the original founders. It's a hub for author events, book clubs, children's reading activities, and a huge selection of books. Catch the monthly staff picks of new and older titles offered at a 25 percent discount. Recent selection included Meghan Cox Gurdon's The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction and Brad Meltzer's The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington.

Other Illinois Bookstores We Love: Bookman's Corner (Chicago), The Book Cellar (Chicago)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Indiana: Hyde Brothers // Ft. Wayne, Indiana

Hyde Brothers claims to be "Indiana's best-loved bookstore," and who are we to argue? This charming secondhand bookshop brims with titles jostling for space on floor-to-ceiling shelves. There are plenty of step stools and rolling ladders to help you find what you crave among the store's specialties—history, literature, nature, sports, horror, religion, and more. And while you're there, don't forget to pet Scout and Sherlock, the bookshop's two kitties.

Other Indiana Bookstores We Love: Indy Reads Books (Indianapolis), Main Street Books (Lafayette)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Iowa: The Haunted Bookshop // Iowa City, Iowa

Spoiler alert: This secondhand bookshop isn't actually haunted (it's named after the Christopher Morley novel of the same name). While that may be disappointing, this 41-year-old shop's inventory definitely isn't. Spread over 10 rooms in an 1847 mansion, the collection spans fiction, world cultures and history, art and writing, regional history, science and nature, and much more. The store's feline employees Nierme and Logan keep an eye on it all.

Other Iowa Bookstores We Love: Source Book Store (Davenport), Plot Twist Bookstore (Ankeny)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Kansas: Rainy Day Books // Kansas City, Kansas

The first stop for authors and their fans in Kansas City is usually Rainy Day Books. The shop was one of the first in the U.S. to focus on author events to create a community around books and reading, and today, it has one of the busiest schedules in the country. That's in addition to a selection of books featuring emerging writers as well as bestsellers. Recent staff picks included Therese Anne Fowler's A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts and Maxwell King's The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers.

Other Kansas Bookstores We Love: Watermark Books and Cafe (Wichita), The Raven Bookstore (Lawrence)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Kentucky: Joseph-Beth Booksellers // Lexington, Kentucky

One reviewer called Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington the "world's largest small bookstore" and that's a pretty apt description for this literary treasure trove. CEO Adam Miller says the store carries "more titles than any of the national bookstore chains in the country." JB, as it's called locally, has six outlets in both Kentucky and Ohio, but the Lexington branch is perhaps the most beautiful one. Grab a book and a bite to eat from the store's Brontë Bistro, and enjoy the atmosphere as natural light filters into the building through a skylight in the high, vaulted ceiling.

Other Kentucky Bookstores We Love: Carmichael's Bookstore (Louisville), Roebling Point Books and Coffee (Covington)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Louisiana: Faulkner House Books // New Orleans, Louisiana

Faulkner House Books in New Orleans
Lisa Cericola, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

It's only fitting that As I Lay Dying author William Faulkner's former apartment in New Orleans was converted into a bookstore. Located on Pirate's Alley in the historic French Quarter, Faulkner House Books is just as charming as you'd expect. Naturally, you'll find a number of Faulkner titles on the store's wooden shelves, but the outlet also specializes in Modern First Editions, Southern Americana books, and the works of Tennessee Williams and Walker Percy.

Other Louisiana Bookstores We Love: Garden District Book Shop (New Orleans), Cottonwood Books (Baton Rouge), Bent Pages Bookstore (Houma)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Maine: Longfellow Books // Portland, Maine

Portland has been called the "hippest city" in Maine, so it's perhaps no surprise that the coastal town is home to roughly a half-dozen indie bookstores. If you only have time to visit one, though, make it Longfellow Books. Named after Portland native Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the store hosts regular book launches, poetry readings, and book clubs (including one that focuses on international mystery books). Ideal for browsing, Longfellow hosts a variety of odd and unusual titles.

Other Maine Bookstores We Love: Owl & Turtle Bookshop Café (Camden), Annie's Book Stop (Wells), Gulf of Maine Books (Brunswick)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Maryland: Second Story Books // Rockville, Maryland

Second Story Books's cavernous warehouse in this Washington, D.C. suburb is crammed with used books, rare volumes, antiquarian collections, art and antiques, and much more, all arranged in delightfully specific categories (Byzantine studies or polar exploration, anyone?). Be ready to hunt for buried treasure at 50 percent off the cover price. There's another, smaller location in D.C.'s Dupont Circle neighborhood too.

Other Maryland Bookstores We Love: The Book Escape (Baltimore), Ukazoo Books (Towson), Normal's Books and Records (Baltimore)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Massachusetts: Trident Booksellers & Cafe // Boston, Massachusetts

With so many colleges in the state, it makes sense that Massachusetts also has an impressive array of bookstores to cater to all those students. Trident Booksellers & Cafe not only has great books, but something that's just as essential to college kids: A cafe that serves breakfast until midnight. After grabbing a meal or coffee, guests can browse the books and one of the most impressive magazine selections in the city.

Other Massachusetts Bookstores We Love: Raven Used Books (Cambridge), Titcomb's Bookshop (East Sandwich), Grolier Poetry Book Shop (Cambridge)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Michigan: John K. King Used and Rare Books // Detroit, Michigan

John K. King Used and Rare Books in Detroit, Michigan
Liza Lagman Sperl, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Book lovers could easily spend all day at John K. King Used and Rare Books in Detroit. The store houses more than a million books spread over four stories, with 25,000 volumes in the rare books room alone. Don't let the intimidating size stop you from popping in: Staff members hand out maps to guests as soon as they enter.

Other Michigan Bookstores We Love: Brilliant Books (Traverse City), Kazoo Books (Kalamazoo)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Minnesota: Wild Rumpus // Minneapolis, Minnesota

Wild Rumpus bookstore in Minneapolis
Kent Kanouse, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Though the inventory here might be geared toward younger readers, it would be hard for any true book lover to pass up a visit to this charming shop that takes its name from Where the Wild Things Are. Opened in 1992, Wild Rumpus endeavors to be more than just a bookstore—it hopes to turn curious kids into lifelong readers. The store has teamed up with the Autism Society of Minnesota to host a biweekly story time for sensory-sensitive youngsters, which takes place before the store opens to the public. While the store itself is more laid-back than "wild," it is home to a menagerie of pets—including birds, a trio of rats named for A Wrinkle In Time characters, a mischievous ferret named Ferdinand, and a couple of chinchillas named Caldecott and Newbery. It's hardly surprising that the store was named Publishers Weekly's Bookstore of the Year in 2017 (or that it was the first children's store to ever achieve that honor).

Other Minnesota Bookstores We Love: Magers & Quinn Booksellers (Minneapolis), Sweet Reads (Austin)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Mississippi: Square Books // Oxford, Mississippi

"Three bookstores 100 feet apart" boasts Oxford's Square Books. All located at the historic town square, the main bookstore holds court in an older building with a block-long second-level balcony. They also have a separate children's bookstore and "Off Square Books," a full store for lifestyle books (cooking, travel, photography, etc.) and bargain buys. Along with the usual author events, Square hosts Thacker Mountain Radio, a live weekly show that features both literary and musical talent—it's no wonder Publishers Weekly named Square Books their Bookstore of the Year in 2013.

Other Mississippi Bookstores We Love: Lemuria Books (Jackson), Reed's Gum Tree Bookstore (Tupelo)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Missouri: Left Bank Books // St. Louis, Missouri

Left Bank Books in St. Louis, Missouri
Left Bank Books in St. Louis, Missouri
Paul Sableman, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Founded in 1969 by a group of Washington University grad students who wanted a central place with a wide variety of literature, St. Louis's Left Bank Books is now celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Left Bank has grown into cultural institution—it's become a center for community outreach, it has a foundation for helping improve literacy in the St. Louis public schools, and it hosts multiple open book clubs each month, including a gay men's group, a lesbian group, a "read the resistance" night, and a book group dedicated to horror novels.

Other Missouri Bookstores We Love: Prospero's (Kansas City), Well Read Books (Fulton)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Montana: Country Bookshelf // Bozeman, Montana

Country Bookshelf, Bozeman
Country Bookshelf in Bozeman
Amy Guth, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Established way back in 1957, the Country Bookshelf has an old-timey feel and knowledgable staff that frequently earn it accolades. In addition to author events and a bookclub, the store partners with Bozeman schools and the Bozeman Public Library to help promote literacy with a program known as "One Book—One Bozeman."

Other Montana Bookstores We Love: Shakespeare & Co. (Missoula), Tumbleweed Bookstore and Cafe (Gardiner)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Nebraska: Indigo Bridge Books // Lincoln, Nebraska

Functioning as both a bookstore and a coffee shop, Indigo Bridge is a great hangout spot for any kind of reader. The store has a particularly strong connection to the local community, with some of its spaces designed by children. Furthermore, all of the coffee sales are donated back to the community.

Other Nebraska Bookstores We Love: The Sequel Bookshop (Kearney), A Novel Idea Bookstore (Lincoln)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Nevada: Sundance Books and Music // Reno, Nevada

Sundance Books and Music in Reno
Sundance Books and Music in Reno
Trevor Bexon, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Does anyone get a lot of reading done in the same state as Las Vegas? Apparently so: Sundance has been in business since 1985 and in its current location for the past eight years. Their selection is housed in a converted Victorian mansion that's become a monument to the written word. It's also minutes from the airport so you can pick up titles for your travels.

Other Nevada Bookstores We Love: Bauman Rare Books (Las Vegas), Copper Cat Books (Henderson)

  1. The Best Bookstore in New Hampshire: Gibson's Bookstore // Concord, New Hampshire

If you need a little more incentive to log off Amazon and go into a physical bookstore, Gibson’s in Concord makes a compelling case. In business since 1898, the store not only houses books and baristas but also acquired local toy store Imagination Village to incorporate educational toys and games.

Other New Hampshire Bookstores We Love: Book and Bar (Portsmouth), Escape Hatch Books (Jaffrey)

  1. The Best Bookstore in New Jersey: Montclair Book Center // Montclair, New Jersey

Fans have mused—semi-seriously—that being locked in the Montclair Book Center for the rest of your life wouldn't be so bad. The shop boasts over 10,000 square feet of shelves stocked to the brim with new and used titles.

Other New Jersey Bookstores We Love: Books and Greetings (Northvale), WORD (Jersey City)

  1. The Best Bookstore in New Mexico: Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeehouse // Santa Fe, New Mexico

Relax with a book and organic, locally roasted coffee indoors or on the patio at Collected Works in Santa Fe, which boasts over 30,000 titles and plenty of author readings. Fans of the bookshop point to its relaxed, inviting atmosphere and fresh desserts as reasons to linger.

Other New Mexico Bookstores We Love: Page 1 Books (Albuquerque), Bookworks (Albuquerque)

  1. The Best Bookstore in New York: The Strand Bookstore // New York, New York

The exterior of the Strand Bookstore
Eunice, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The Strand's multi-story collection of books is so plentiful it bleeds out into the sidewalk. The store claims its bookshelves hold 18 miles' worth of new, used, and rare books.

Other New York Bookstores We Love: Housing Works Bookstore Cafe (New York City), Binnacle Books (Beacon), Dog Ears Bookstore (Buffalo)

  1. The Best Bookstore in North Carolina: Main Street Books // Davidson, North Carolina

There's stiff competition in North Carolina, but Main Street Books in Davidson is one of the finest literary establishments in the state. In business since 1987, the store was actually built out of an old general store, and offers a plethora of programs and activities for book lovers. As part of the bookstore's subscription program, "The Matchbox," customers can elect to receive a staff-approved book from the store's kids' books, first editions, or paperback titles each month.

Other North Carolina Bookstores We Love: Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe (Asheville), City Lights Bookstore (Sylva)

  1. The Best Bookstore in North Dakota: Zandbroz Variety // Fargo, North Dakota

In May 1989, brothers Jeff and Greg Danz realized their longtime dream of opening the kind of store where they would want to shop, launching the first location of Zandbroz Variety in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It became so popular that they decided to head north to open a second location in Fargo just a few years later. The Fargo store features a trippy mix of smart and quirky goodies, but books are undoubtedly the main event, with a special section dedicated to local authors and titles that explore the history of the area (which is just as interesting to visitors as it is longtime residents). But there’s also a full supply of greeting cards, toys, jewelry, housewares, and other trinkets. They also brew a mean cup of coffee, giving you one more excuse to never want to leave the store’s delightfully eclectic confines.

Other North Dakota Bookstores We Love: Main Street Books (Minot), Sweets N Stories (Oakes)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Ohio: Loganberry Books // Cleveland, Ohio

Loganberry Books—named after owner Harriet Logan—has been offering Clevelanders an alternative to big bookstore chains since 1994. Considering that Loganberry boasts over 100,000 new, used, and rare titles, the shop certainly gives mainstream outlets a run for their money. (Another perk is the store's resident cat, Otis.) Online, Loganberry Books also runs helpful service called "Stump the Bookseller," which lets customers describe books they can't quite recall the title of, in hopes that other bibliophiles will be able to fill in the gaps.

Other Ohio Bookstores We Love: The Ohio Book Store (Cincinnati), Ashland Books (Ashland), Gramercy Books (Bexley)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Oklahoma: GypsySnark Books // Stillwater, Oklahoma

This little used bookstore and bric-a-brac shop in Stillwater covers pretty much any genre you might want—get lost in the sci-fi and horror nook, or search through shelves on the presidents, gardening, or local history and authors. Its unusual name reveals its owner's varied interests: Founder Susan Thomas, a retired analyst with the U.S. Forest Service, spent years studying gypsy moths. She also has always loved the Lewis Carroll poem "The Hunting of the Snark." Combine the two, and you get GypsySnark.

Other Oklahoma Bookstores We Love: Full Circle Bookstore (Oklahoma City), Chapters (Miami)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Oregon: Bloomsbury Books // Ashland, Oregon

For nearly 40 years, Bloomsbury Books has worked to make the pleasure of reading as pure as possible. It's named for an early 20th century London literary society called the Bloomsbury Group—one in which Virginia Woolf was a central figure, just as she is at this Bloomsbury. Ask the staff for recommendation, then relax with your new tome in their cozy on-site coffeeshop.

Other Oregon Bookstores We Love: Powell's Books (Portland), Gold Beach Books (Gold Beach)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Pennsylvania: Farley's Bookshop // New Hope, Pennsylvania

Whether you know it or not, there’s one thing that can turn any bookshop from good to great: a resident cat. At Farley’s, that would be Butter—an adorably attentive feline who serves as both greeter, security, and insurance that you'll make a repeat visit. Located in bustling downtown New Hope, a picturesque enclave nestled on the Delaware River, Farley's has been in business since 1967. The shop has that lived-in feel that makes you kind of nostalgic for the time before Amazon existed, and its friendly staff is full of bibliophiles who seem magically able to figure out what it is you're looking for even if the only description you can utter is "a true crime book with a black cover by that guy." It's also worth noting that the store has a private parking lot, which is a rarity in the area and a godsend for shoppers who have a tendency to lose all track of time when surrounded by an impossibly well-curated collection of literature.

Other Pennsylvania Bookstores We Love: Head House Books (Philadelphia), The Old Library Bookshop (Bethlehem), Books Galore (Erie), City Books (Pittsburgh)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Rhode Island: Cellar Stories // Providence, Rhode Island

Cellar Stories prides itself on being "the largest used and rare bookstore in the smallest state in the U.S." The shop has graduated from the basement location that inspired its name to a Providence store big enough to house over 70,000 volumes. It's a great place to find books related to Rhode Island and New England history, as well as obscure science fiction novels, cookbooks, vintage paperbacks, and more.

Other Rhode Island Bookstores We Love: Barrington Books (Cranston), Spring Street Bookstore (Newport)

  1. The Best Bookstore in South Carolina: Blue Bicycle Books // Charleston, South Carolina

Don't let the small(ish) storefront fool you: Blue Bicycle Books on Charleston's Upper King Street, located just a few blocks from the College of Charleston, takes up a substantial amount of real estate: It goes back 172 feet. It has ample space for as many as 150 people to attend the more than 200 author events the store hosts each year. David Sedaris, R.L. Stine, Sue Monk Kidd, Bill Murray, and Neil Gaiman are just a few of the hundreds of authors who have stopped by since Blue Bicycle opened in 1995. The shop devotes a chunk of its shelf space to local Charleston authors as well as military history (The Citadel and Fort Sumter are just a stone's throw away, after all), but it doesn't shy away from bestsellers and other new titles. The shop also deals in rare signed first editions from the likes of Harper Lee and William Faulkner. In an effort to engage its community of young readers and writers, the store also hosts a summer writing camp for kids and the annual YALLFest, which attracts more than 12,000 YA fans (not to mention top authors in the genre) to the city each November.

Other South Carolina Bookstores We Love: M.Judson Booksellers (Greenville), Fiction Addiction (Greenville)

  1. The Best Bookstore in South Dakota: Mitzi's Books // Rapid City, South Dakota

For more than a decade, Mitzi's has been offering Rapid City's literati an amazingly well-curated selection of books in a comfy-cozy shop that kind of feels like an extension of your own living room. You'll get no dirty looks here if you decide to plop down in a chair and while away an afternoon reading one of the knowledgeable staff's latest book recommendations. In fact, hanging around is encouraged. Best of all, there's just as much variety in the well-stocked children's book section, making a visit to Mitzi's an easy all-ages affair.

Other South Dakota Bookstores We Love: The Book Zealot (Watertown), Prairie Pages Bookseller (Pierre)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Tennessee: Parnassus Books // Nashville, Tennessee

Parnassus Books ("An Independent Bookstore For Independent People") has become an oasis for Nashville book lovers. Indeed, it was designed that way: Bestselling author Ann Patchett and publishing veteran Karen Hayes opened Parnassus in 2011 at a moment when Nashville had zero other bookstores, drawing on Patchett's childhood love of smaller-scale, personable bookshops. "I wanted to re-create that kind of bookstore, one that valued books and readers above muffins and adorable plastic watering cans," she writes on the Parnassus website. Highlights include books by local authors, a standout biography section, a passionate staff, regular author events (including a Saturday story time), and a "Conscious Aging" book club.

Other Tennessee Bookstores We Love: Burke's Book Store (Memphis), Landmark Booksellers (Franklin), novel., (Memphis)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Texas: BookPeople // Austin, Texas

The city of Austin, Texas, has gone through rapid changes in the last 10 years. While restaurants have gotten more expensive and buildings have gotten taller, some staples of the city remain. The charm of "old" Austin can still be found at BookPeople, a local favorite since 1970. Every bookseller there is extremely well informed, they're never out of stock of the classics, and they are always promoting new, great literature. Some of the biggest authors in recent memory have made their way through for readings and events. It's been the best bookstore in Austin since they opened their doors, and it's always worth stopping by.

Other Texas Bookstores We Love: Interabang Books (Dallas), Burrowing Owl Books (Canyon), The Twig Bookshop (San Antonio)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Utah: The King's English // Salt Lake City, Utah

King's English bookstore in Salt Lake City, Utah
Christian Harrison, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Ann Berman and Betsy Burton wanted a place to work on their novels when they opened King’s English in 1977. They ended up committing themselves fully to the business, and today, King's English is one of the most beloved bookshops in Utah. Though it has attracted some famous fans, like author James Patterson (who gave the store a grant to build its children's section), it's still a community business where employees remember your name and your reading preferences.

Other Utah Bookstores We Love: Weller Book Works (Salt Lake City), Back of Beyond Books (Moab)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Vermont: Northshire Bookstore // Manchester Center, Vermont

This warm, family-owned bookstore has been around since 1976, although it moved across the street to take over the beautiful premises of a historic inn. With a great selection, plenty of reading nooks, and a dedicated staff (some of whom have been there for decades), you're sure to find your next favorite read. Close to a third of the shop is dedicated to kids' books, which makes it a perfect excursion for little ones. There's food, too, at the Spiral Press Café, in case customers get peckish.

Other Vermont Bookstores We Love: The Vermont Book Shop (Middlebury), Crow Bookshop (Burlington), Bartleby's Books (Wilmington)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Virginia: Chop Suey Books // Richmond, Virginia

Chop Suey Books in Richmond, Virginia
Russ Walker, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

According to its website, Chop Suey Books has its name because its original location was on the former site of George's Chop Suey, whose rusted sign remained on the wall even after the eatery had gone. But the term chop suey, which roughly translates to "a little bit of this, a little bit of that," also symbolizes the store's eclectic approach, which ranges across subject matter and material. Today the shop is home to two floors of books, both used and new, as well as a very sweet black-and-white cat known to lounge in the shop windows.

Other Virginia Bookstores We Love: One More Page Books (Arlington), BookPeople (Richmond), Blue Whale Books (Charlottesville)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Washington: The Elliott Bay Book Company // Seattle, Washington

A community mainstay since 1973 (even if some still mourn the original, historic Pioneer Square location), Elliott Bay Books is the place to find the latest books from established names and rising stars alike. New releases (as well as some older gems) are prominently displayed with hand-written notes from the sales staff, and the local history section is particularly strong. A downstairs area is one of the best places in town to catch local and touring authors, and the cafe is a perfect spot to refresh or even work on a laptop (provided you can find a seat). For serious bibliophiles, it's a must-see destination in the Pacific Northwest.

Other Washington Bookstores We Love:: Third Place Books (Seattle), Auntie's (Spokane), Darvill's Bookstore (Eastsound, Orcas Island)

  1. The Best Bookstore in West Virginia: Taylor Books // Charleston, West Virginia

It would be easy to lose track of time and accidentally spend an entire day at Taylor Books, Charleston's one-stop shop for all things artsy. Sure, the brick-walled building is charming, and there are thousands of books to choose from, but those aren't the only draws. Customers can also grab a coffee and scone (lovingly made by owner Ann Saville) from the built-in cafe, take a pottery class, stroll through an art gallery, and attend live musical performances on the weekends.

Other West Virginia Bookstores We Love: Paradox Book Store (Wheeling), Books and Brews (Hurricane)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Wisconsin: Dotters Books // Eau Clair, Wisconsin

This independent, woman-owned bookstore works hard to curate its selection to focus on women, authors of color, and smaller publishing presses. One of the ways Dotters stands behind their selections? Every book is forward-facing, meaning no books can be hidden away in the corner of a shelf. And if you can't make it into the beautiful little shop, its monthly subscription service will mail that month's book club pick in addition to a new recommendation list and a locally designed bookmark.

Other Wisconsin Bookstores We Love: Boswell Book Company (Milwaukee), Village Booksmith (Baraboo)

  1. The Best Bookstore in Wyoming: Sidekicks Bookbar // Rock Springs, Wyoming

This bright, cozy little enclave in downtown Rock Springs has everything you need for a relaxing evening in, with or without your favorite bibliophile friends. Find a book on their floor-to-ceiling wall of titles, tuck into one of many white couches that wind through the shop, and order some wine and charcuterie. Sidekicks has partnered with Jackson Hole Winery, so the selection of local wines is as well-stocked as the bestsellers up front.

Other Wyoming Bookstores We Love: Jackson Hole Book Trader (Jackson), Sidekicks Book & Wine Bar (Rock Springs)

By Colin Ainsworth, Erika Berlin, Michele Debczak, Shaunacy Ferro, Kat Long, Bess Lovejoy, Emily Petsko, Javier Reyes, Jake Rossen, and Jenn Wood.

The 15 Best TV Series Finales of All Time

Ursula Coyote, AMC
Ursula Coyote, AMC

What makes a great TV series finale? It depends on the show, of course. But no matter what series you may be watching, you want a finale that ties up loose ends without being annoyingly completist, gives you heart without seeming overly sentimental, and of course makes you feel just as happy, sad, thrilled, or compelled as you did with each previous episode. It’s a very tricky needle to thread, and some series have undoubtedly done it better than others.

In celebration of what it takes to deliver a great final episode, here are (some of) the greatest series finales of all time.

1. The Sopranos // “Made In America”

“Made In America” is, infamously, the episode of television that made millions of viewers briefly think that their cable had just gone out at some crucial moment, when in reality what happened was creator David Chase simply decided one seemingly random moment was the exact second where Tony Soprano’s journey would end. The series finale of The Sopranos spent the better part of its runtime wrapping up a mob war that crippled the family, and then devoted its final minutes to a family dinner set to Journey. Fans still debate the meaning and merits of the final scene, but the sense of palpable unease Chase built up in those last moments—signifying Tony’s perpetual state of watching his back—were a brilliant way to end a show that began as a meditation on existential dread in the first place.

2. Six Feet Under // “Everyone’s Waiting”

The final minutes of “Everyone’s Waiting” are among the most famous in the history of television, and even if the rest of the episode had been a disappointment, they would still rank among the greatest farewells in the medium. As it is, Six Feet Under's final episode with the Fisher family is a gripping, heartfelt, and bitterly funny gem, all building to that last montage. As Sia’s "Breathe Me" plays, we see the deaths of every member of the main cast, which reminds us that death takes many forms beyond mere tragedy, all culminating in the last breaths of Claire. Just thinking about it is enough to make fans of the show burst into tears.

3. Breaking Bad // “Felina”

Few series finales have ever faced such high expectations and managed to rise to meet them so powerfully as Breaking Bad did with its final episode in 2013. “Felina” has everything you could ever want from a Breaking Bad send-off: Walt’s final conversation with Skyler, that incredible revenge shoot-out featuring the rigged machine gun, Jesse’s defiant cry of freedom as he drives away, Walt’s collapse, and that little smile of victory on his face. Some series finales deliver what you want; others deliver what you need. “Felina” somehow manages to do both.

4. M*A*S*H // “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen”

M*A*S*H was on longer than the Korean War was actually fought, and was more than 250 episodes into its run by the time “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” aired and became one of the most-watched television events in the history of the medium. You’d think the staff of the 4077th might have run out of things to say after such a run, but the series finale manages to be absolutely jam-packed, featuring everything from Hawkeye’s dark repressed memories to Klinger’s wedding. It all builds to that final shot of “GOODBYE” written in stones, which still ranks as one of the most iconic moments in TV history.

5. The Americans // “START”

The Americans quietly became one of the best shows on TV before finally winning a bunch of awards for its final season, and with good reason. The final adventures of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings as they contemplated a return to Russia and an end to their double lives in America were among the best the series ever delivered, all building to a final episode that stuck the landing in every possible way, from the thrills of their final escape to the emotional payoff of their daughter Paige’s big decision.

6. The Wire // "-30-"

The Wire was never going to end anything in a clean, cut-and-dried way, but its series finale did mange to wield the various talents at play in the series to end everything on an ambitious and fairly comprehensive note. The finale reckoned with many of the same questions the entire series did—from the nature of justice to the fragility of power systems and how far people will go to keep them in place—as it worked to resolve the homeless serial killer hoax, illegal wiretapping, and the all-important future of Tommy Carcetti. One last montage reminds us that life goes on in Baltimore, whether the show’s characters have reshaped it for the better or not.

7. Seinfeld // “The Finale”

The series finale of Seinfeld is also among the most divisive in the history of television, and it all begins with an amusing swerve. The show leads off by making us think Jerry and George are about to embark on a typical sitcom sendoff, bidding New York City farewell as they head to California to make a television series, but then the real plot kicks in as the show’s quartet of main characters is arrested for literally doing nothing as a man is carjacked.

The brilliance of the show’s protagonists getting in trouble for the very same thing they’d been doing for nine seasons in a “show about nothing” then pivots to a trial that does play by the sitcom rule of allowing old fan-favorite characters to come back as witnesses, then launches into a wrap-up that mocks the characters, the show’s fans, and the show’s own place of seeming importance in the pop culture landscape. Sitcom finales are usually more like curtain calls; "The Finale" was a provocative final joke.

8. Battlestar Galactica // “Daybreak Parts 1-3”

The finale of Battlestar Galactica might be a little too metaphysical in nature for some viewers, but there’s something about the sense of totality running through it that makes it a perfect sendoff for a series that always placed everything on the line with every single story it told. As the surviving humans of the fleet finally defeat their Cylon enemies, Starbuck sends them to a new home, and they agree to abandon all of their old technology and live among the primitive humans already present on what turns out to be our Earth. It’s a beautiful blending of victory, bittersweet goodbyes, seismic changes to everyone’s lives, angels, the future, and—believe it or not—“All Along the Watchtower.”

9. Star Trek: The Next Generation // “All Good Things…”

“Encounter at Farpoint,” the series premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation, is a famously slow, bloated affair that was a sign of things to come for the relatively weak first season. “All Good Things…” brilliantly repurposes that story as a time travel saga in which Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) learns that Q, the alien being who put humanity on trial back in the premiere, is continuing his test of the human race by placing Picard in three different eras of his life. It’s a brilliant conceit that makes an elegant circle out of the series while also allowing Picard to give viewers a grand tour of the series’ entire history, including his own future.

10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer // “Chosen”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer spent weeks setting up its series finale, laying out a last stand that would either end Buffy and her gang of allies forever or wipe Sunnydale off the face of the Earth—or both. The final battle itself has since been dwarfed by more epic series like Game of Thrones, but what makes “Chosen” so magical isn’t its fight scenes, but its heart. With her own army of potential Slayers at her back, Buffy asks Willow to perform a spell that will give them all the powers of a Slayer, leading to one of the most empowering montages in the history of television. Then, even while mourning absent friends, Buffy is able to look toward tomorrow.

11. Newhart // “The Last Newhart”

So many sitcom series finales are all about final goodbyes. Very often characters leave their longtime TV homes for somewhere new, leading to tearful farewells or at least a final moment for everyone to spend one last day together. Newhart absolutely blew that premise up with a twisty, joke-filled finale that includes the entire town being turned into a resort, a five-year time jump, and that brilliant final scene which reveals all of Newhart to have been the dream of Dr. Bob Hartley, Newhart’s character from The Bob Newhart Show. The level of ambition is admirable. That the ambition translated to genuine laughs is wonderful.

12. Twin Peaks: The Return // “Part 17 and Part 18”

Twin Peaks famously ended its early ’90s run with a cliffhanger, which then led to the joyous reception that accompanied The Return, an 18-hour monument to creative freedom which everyone hoped would finally provide some answers. In true David Lynch fashion, though, the answers we got were often difficult to parse. And by the time it was all over, we were left with even more questions. The final two hours of The Return are among the most mind-meltingly intense episodes of television ever devised, all building to a daring and stunning final scene that still has fans talking.

13. The West Wing // “Tomorrow”

The West Wing played the long game with its series finale thanks to a year-long election storyline, which meant that its final episode was always going to be the combination of both an end and a beginning. The intense election story—which included a live debate episode—culminated in the inauguration of a new president, and a farewell to Martin Sheen’s President Josiah Bartlet, but the sense of transition inherent in the plot managed to imbue the series with a new sense of potential energy as it made the turn toward home. Watching “Tomorrow,” you can’t help but fantasize about what it will be like for Josh Lyman and Sam Seaborn to be together in the White House again, changing the world in all new ways. That emotional weight meant that, after seven years, we actually all felt like we could use a little more of The West Wing.

14. Halt and Catch Fire // “Ten of Swords”

Mackenzie Davis as Cameron Howe in Halt and Catch Fire
Bob Mahoney, AMC

Halt and Catch Fire never got the audience it deserved when it was airing, which means many people likely don’t know just how brilliant and daring the show got in its final seasons, which included a time jump, a shocking death, and the dawn of the internet age. “Ten of Swords” is all about closing old chapters and starting new ones, and sends the show’s trinity of remaining major characters in promising new directions, even as they all come to terms with the fact that they can never again recapture what they once had.

15. 30 Rock // “Last Lunch”

30 Rock was one of the most acclaimed comedies of its era in part because of its outright refusal to ever be straightforward about anything. Every plot was jokes on top of jokes and references on top of references, creating a show that rewards viewers who can’t get enough of rapid fire wit (and deserves rewatching). “Last Lunch” continued that tradition while also managing to inject some genuine emotion into the affair, as Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) and Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) reconcile their friendship in a half hour packed with so many gags and callbacks you could watch it half a dozen times and still not catch everything.

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