8 Haunted Retail Stores Where You Can Browse for Ghosts

If you think that haunted houses and cemeteries are the only places spirits reside, get ready to call your local Ghostbusters. All across America, rumors swirl surrounding weird experiences at some of the most trafficked places in the country—retail stores! Want to make your shopping experience just a little bit creepier? Check out any of these locales below.


As one of the most famous public markets in the country, Pike Place Market is known for a lot of things: fresh coffee, fresher fish, and paranormal activity. The Seattle Times reported on a number of figures who supposedly walk through walls or vanish into thin air—one older gentleman named Frank apparently likes to introduce himself to the living outside of a restroom at the Alibi Room. Various other spirits also have names, like Princess Angeline, Madame Nora, and the "Fat Lady Barber."

At one point in the early 1900s, one section of the market was home to a mortuary. Currently operating in the basement of that space is Kells Irish Restaurant and Pub. Its manager, Patrick McAleese, recalled some eerie instances to the Times, such as a wall mirror inexplicably shattering, only to have the shards fall into a neat pile. "You think someone must be pulling your leg," he said. "But then you don't see anyone."


New Yorkers can brush elbows with a ghost while doing some light shopping in Soho. The legend dates back to 1799, when Gulielma Elmore Sands tried to elope with her fellow boardinghouse tenant, Levi Weeks. Eleven days later, her body was found at the bottom of the well in Lispenard's Meadow—which is now 129 Spring Street. Since 2014, it's been the site of a COS retail store.

Levi was arrested, tried, and acquitted in the first major murder trial in America that was fully recorded by a court stenographer. His attorneys? Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr! But Sands's ghost is said to roam the area, a warning to other girls who might try to run off with their lovers. Curious shoppers can still see the well in COS—just head to the back of the men’s department in the basement.


Since its opening in 1973, the CherryVale Mall in Rockford, Illinois has been the site of some spooky vibes. The Rock River Times noted that mall employees reported feeling watched or followed after the venue closed at night. Others have reported that certain stores would be a mess in the morning, with clothing scattered or displays knocked over, even if the space was cleaned before being locked up. And, on an even more unsettling note, some even claimed that bathroom doors were held shut by an unknown force.


OK, technically the Kmart in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho isn’t haunted—but one of its cash registers reportedly is! Employee Tamara Dobbs told the Coeur d'Alene Press that from her very first day at the store, she noticed register No. 2 was strange. Specifically, that it was haunted by a male presence and, she claims, "He monkeys with all the sales."

The store’s manager, Lauren Larson, noted that employees "just don't like to be assigned to work on it" because it frequently freezes, clears its memory, and transactions are lost. In his words, the register is "an independent thinker" that "loses its mind," though technicians can't seem to find a specific problem with the machine.


Browse Awhile Books, which specializes in rare and out-of-print books, is rumored to be home to as many as 13 ghosts. Paranormal sightings reportedly include books randomly falling off shelves, voices being heard, footsteps in areas without customers, and, yes, actual ghost sightings. Brian Stephenson, director of the Valley View Paranormal Society, experienced a couple of particularly unsettling incidents, according to the Tipp News Daily. In one, he was scratched a number of times in the basement, and in another, he claimed to have been partially possessed and to have blacked out momentarily while in the sci-fi room.


Owner John K. King told the Detroit Free Press that strange occurrences had been happening in his store for decades. He dates it back to when items belonging to a woman who committed suicide were brought into the space. Soon after, employees reported hearing footsteps and doors slamming, but when the woman's things were moved out, King said everything went back to normal. "Nothing happened ever again that was weird," he said. "It doesn't mean she's not there, but I just haven't noticed her." A local psychic claims the bookstore may still be active though, based on a late, former employee who may be keeping tabs on his basement office.


A haunted toy store sounds like a solid horror movie plot, but it’s rumored to be a reality in Sunnyvale, California. According to Stranger Dimensions, the legend goes as such: The store was built on property that was formerly a plantation. The plantation’s owner, Martin Murphy, hired a preacher named Johnny Johnson. "Crazy Johnny," as the preacher was nicknamed, was in love with Murphy’s daughter, Elizabeth. Unfortunately, Elizabeth was planning on marrying a lawyer, and, as the story has it, Johnny was angrily chopping wood one day and fatally wounded himself by accident. His ghost reportedly wanders the land—now home to the Toys "R" Us—looking for Elizabeth. The usual objects coming off of shelves and footsteps have been reported, but the best anecdote (i.e. the one most becoming of a religious apparition) was of employees once hearing a voice whisper "the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away" over the intercom system.


The Dimond Center shopping mall in Anchorage, Alaska was reportedly built above an ancient burial ground of Native Alaskans. People have claimed to hear drum and flute music and to have seen various ghosts in native dress wandering the hallways. But most spooky are the claims that transparent wolves are also prowling the mall!

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6 Historical Methods for Contacting the Dead (and Their Drawbacks)
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

'Tis the season for getting in touch with the spirit realm. (This applies no matter what month we're in right now; 'tis always high time to get your séance on.) But there are several different ways you can go about it. Do you Ouija? Should you go wandering around a haunted house? No, you should probably pick up the psychic telephone.

Lapham's Quarterly helpfully charted out some of historical ways you could (supposedly) go about contacting the dead, from Chinese Fuji writing—a method that's kind of like a Ouija board, but using a stylus to make letters in sand instead of a board—to past-life regression via hypnosis. The chart lays out how each ghost-whispering concept works, and its theoretical drawbacks. Because there are always drawbacks.

Transfiguration, for instance, lets you see a spirit's face through the body of a medium, but that's a whole lot of hard work for your medium. You can listen for electronic voice phenomena via a recorder, but you have to buy the recorder first. F. R. Melton's 1921 invention, the balloon-powered psychic telephone, was a great option—except when his son George wasn't around to work it. And past-life regression, as you might imagine, holds “potential for new levels of self-hatred." No one wants to find out that their past self was a total jerk.

There are plenty of scientific and cultural explanations for seeing ghosts that don't involve the actual spirits of the dead returning to the Earthly plane, but if you're into the history of the occult, this is a great primer on spirit-conjuring traditions.

[h/t Lapham's Quarterly]

Michael Tackett - © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.
9 Horror Movies Inspired by Real-Life Events
Michael Tackett - © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.
Michael Tackett - © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.

While most horror movies are complete works of fiction, the genre occasionally offers up stories that are based on terrifying and jaw-dropping real-life events, like the nine collected here.


Premise: A supernatural killer stalks his prey while they dream during deep sleep. 

Real-Life Inspiration: Wes Craven based A Nightmare on Elm Street on a series of newspaper articles from the Los Angeles Times about a strange phenomenon where young Asian refugees would mysteriously die in their sleep. It was reported that many would refuse to sleep, citing terrifying nightmares that they feared would lead to death.

According to Craven, the paper "never correlated [the three articles], never said, ‘Hey, we’ve had another story like this'":

The third one was the son of a physician. He was about twenty-one; I’ve subsequently found out this is a phenomenon in Laos, Cambodia. Everybody in his family said almost exactly these lines: "You must sleep." He said, "No, you don’t understand; I’ve had nightmares before—this is different." He was given sleeping pills and told to take them and supposedly did, but he stayed up. I forget what the total days he stayed up was, but it was a phenomenal amount—something like six, seven days. Finally, he was watching television with the family, fell asleep on the couch, and everybody said, "Thank god." They literally carried him upstairs to bed; he was completely exhausted. Everybody went to bed, thinking it was all over. In the middle of the night, they heard screams and crashing. They ran into the room, and by the time they got to him he was dead. They had an autopsy performed, and there was no heart attack; he just had died for unexplained reasons. They found in his closet a Mr. Coffee maker, full of hot coffee that he had used to keep awake, and they also found all his sleeping pills that they thought he had taken; he had spit them back out and hidden them. It struck me as such an incredibly dramatic story that I was intrigued by it for a year, at least, before I finally thought I should write something about this kind of situation.

2. CHILD'S PLAY (1988)

Premise: A serial killer's soul possesses a toy doll and wreaks havoc.

Real-Life Inspiration: In 1909, Key West painter and author Robert Eugene Otto claimed that one of his family's servants placed a voodoo curse on his childhood toy, Robert the Doll. Supposedly, the doll would mysteriously move from room to room, knock furniture over, and conduct conversations with Otto. Robert the Doll was left in the attic until Otto's death in 1974, when new owners moved into his Florida home. The new family also claimed mysterious activities would happen in the house connected to the doll. Today, Robert the Doll is on display at the Custom House and Old Post Office in Key West, Florida.


Premise: A young family moves into a house where a murder was committed, and experiences strange and terrifying occurrences.

Real-Life Inspiration: Based on the book of the same name, The Amityville Horror follows the paranormal events that terrorized the Lutz family. In 1975, the family moved into 112 Ocean Avenue where, unbeknownst to them, Ronald DeFeo, Jr. had brutally murdered his family 13 months before they arrived. While in their new home, the family claimed that they saw green slime on the walls and red-eyed pigs staring into their kitchen and living room. After less than a month, the Lutz family moved out of the small town of Amityville, New York.

4. PSYCHO (1960)

Premise: A secretary goes on the run after she steals $40,000, only to wind up in a motel where the innkeeper and his mother are more than they appear to be.

Real-Life Inspiration: Psycho's Norman Bates is loosely based on convicted murderer and grave robber Ed Gein, who, during the late 1950s, killed women and unearthed corpses in Wisconsin. He also fashioned human skin into tiny keepsakes and knickknacks, such as face masks, belts, and chair coverings. Psycho's novelist Robert Bloch based Bates on Gein, but changed the character from a grave robber and murderer into a serial killer who dressed like his mother. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Silence of the Lambs also based their serial killers—Leatherface and Buffalo Bill, respectively—on Gein.

5. THE EXORCIST (1973)

Premise: Two Catholic priests perform an exorcism on a young girl who is possessed by the devil.

Real-Life Inspiration: The Exorcist's author and screenwriter William Peter Blatty based the novel and film on a Washington Post article from 1949 headlined, "Priest Frees Mt. Rainier Boy Reported Held in Devil's Grip." The article followed Jesuit priests William S. Bowdern, Edward Hughes, Raymond J. Bishop, and Walter H. Halloran participating in the rite of exorcism on a boy with the pseudonym "Roland Doe" in Maryland. According to the priests, they allegedly experienced the boy speaking in tongues, the bed shaking and hovering, and objects flying around during the ordeal. The exorcism was one of three official Catholic Church-sanctioned exorcisms in the United States at the time.

"Maybe one day they’ll discover the cause of what happened to that young man, but back then, it was only curable by an exorcism," William Friedkin, the director of The Exorcist, told Time Out. "His family weren’t even Catholics, they were Lutheran. They started with doctors and then psychiatrists and then psychologists and then they went to their minister who couldn’t help them. And they wound up with the Catholic church. The Washington Post article says that the boy was possessed and exorcised. That’s pretty out on a limb for a national newspaper to put on its front page ... But you’re not going to see that on the front page of an intelligent newspaper unless there’s something there."


Premise: An aunt tortures and abuses her niece, and a neighborhood boy fails to alert the authorities.

Real-Life Inspiration: Based on Jack Ketchum's novel of the same name, The Girl Next Door is based on the murder of Sylvia Likens, a 16-year-old girl from Indiana in 1965. Sylvia and her sister Jenny were left in the care of Gertrude Baniszewski, a family friend, when their parents left town as traveling carnival workers. Baniszewski, along with her children and a few neighborhood kids, locked Sylvia in the basement, where they tortured and abused her until she died of a brain hemorrhage and malnutrition.


Premise: Two paranormal investigators help a family who move into a secluded home plagued by weird events.

Real-Life Inspiration: The Conjuring is based on real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren and their experience with the Perrons, a family who moved into a Rhode Island farmhouse and experienced ghostly and terrifying occurrences in 1971.

"When Insidious came out and was successful the story about the Warrens came to me and I was like, 'Oh, my gosh, this is really cool,'” director James Wan told Entertainment Weekly in 2013. "But I didn’t just want to make another ghost story or another supernatural film. One thing I had never explored was the chance to tell a story that’s based on real-life characters, real-life people. So those were the things that led me to The Conjuring."

The Warrens also had a possessed Raggedy Ann doll that was the inspiration for the spin-off film Annabelle. Allegedly, a demon spirit possessed the Raggedy Ann doll, which is currently on display and under lock and key at the Warrens' Occult Museum in Monroe, Connecticut.

8. OPEN WATER (2003)

Premise: Two scuba divers become stranded in shark-infested waters after their tour group accidentally leaves them behind.

Real-Life Inspiration: Open Water is based on American tourists Tom and Eileen Lonergan, a couple who were lost at sea when their tour group left them behind while scuba diving near the Great Barrier Reef in Australia in 1998. When the diving company realized the mistake two days later, they organized a search party, but the Lonergans were never found. The only thing that was found was a diver's slate (an underwater communication device) with a S.O.S. message on it that read, "[Mo]nday Jan 26; 1998 08am. To anyone [who] can help us: We have been abandoned on A[gin]court Reef by MV Outer Edge 25 Jan 98 3pm. Please help us [come] to rescue us before we die. Help!!!"

9. THE BLOB (1958)

Premise: A mysterious alien life-form terrorizes a small town and consumes everything in its path as it grows bigger and bigger.

Real-Life Inspiration: Believe it or not, The Blob is based on a New York Times article from 1950 titled, "A ‘Saucer’ Floats to Earth And a Theory Is Dished Up." The story followed four Philadelphia police officers who came into contact with a strange gooey material, which is now believed to be "Star Jelly," a transparent gelatinous substance. When one of the officers tried to move the goo, it started to dissolve and evaporate, so there was nothing to show the FBI when they arrived on the scene except a spot on the ground.


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