I’m a bit of a would-be movie buff but just lately I’ve had enough of romances, bromances and deep and meaningful films that sail straight over the top of my head. I mean, The Tree of Life, what was that about? And don’t even start me on Donnie Darko. So I’ve been watching less cerebral stuff like An American Haunting and The Amityville Horror – did you know these movies are based on real life events?
Anyway with the holiday season on the distant horizon it got me thinking about different types
of activity holidays this year. If you’re trying to drum up new and interesting holiday ideas and,
like me, the USA is your preferred destination, I challenge you to add this lot to your list.
Alcatraz, San Francisco
Immortalised (for me at least) in the Clint Eastwood classic Escape from Alcatraz, from 1934
to 1963 this foreboding place housed some of America’s most dangerous criminals, including
Al Capone. The inmates of Alcatraz suffered indescribable humiliation and deprivation. A
gradual slide into insanity was the norm. If it’s true that spirits return to haunt places where
they were traumatised, Alcatraz must be full of ghosts! One prisoner was once found dead
in a cell after screaming that he was locked in with a creature with ‘glowing eyes’. Guards
tell a tale of an additional figure in the prison line up with a dead man’s face and sobbing has
been heard from empty cells. Alcatraz remains a foreboding, desolate place, with a dank
atmosphere of death. Visit if you dare!
Winchester Mansion, San Jose, California
If you’re staying in California, take a tour of the Winchester Mansion, built in the late 19th
century by wealthy widow Sarah Winchester. It took workers 38 years of around the clock toil
to complete this bizarre mansion with its false doors, 47 fireplaces, 3 elevators and a séance
room. All to ward off evil spirits. It all made perfect sense to Sarah who was designing her
house as instructed by the ghosts she consulted on a nightly basis. Rumour has it that organ
music can regularly be heard in the Blue Room where Sarah died and the house is full of cold
spots and strange lights. Why not try a night-time flashlit tour and see for yourself?
The Villisca Axe Murder House, Villisca, Iowa
Hmm, I wonder what happened here? Villisca is now a remote town in an isolated corner
of Iowa. Back in the early 20th century it was a bustling, vibrant place until one night in June
1912 when tragedy struck. The six members of the Moore family (two parents, four children)
plus two of their childrens’ friends were slaughtered as they slept peacefully in their beds.
The murderer was never found, the motive remains unknown. Villisca was never the same
again. In 1998 the house was included on the National Register of Historic Places and the
home restored. The ghosts of the Moores and their guests are said to linger on in the house
where they met their untimely end and paranormal sightings and occurrences are frequently
reported. For the brave – or should that be slightly bonkers - overnight visits are available.
The Lemp Mansion, Missouri, Illinois
Continuing on the family theme, this mansion was another site of family tragedy. Owned by
the Lemp family, the creators of Falstaff beer, the family’s first tragedy occurred in 1904 when
William Lemp’s son died. Later William committed suicide in the house. Tragedy continued
apace as Lemp’s daughter also killed herself, later followed by William’s brother Charles.
Today the site is a fine dining restaurant but staff continually report apparitions, glasses flying
through the air, doors opening and banging shut. The ghost of William Jr’s illegitimate son
is also said to haunt the mansion. Born with Down’s Syndrome he was called ‘Monkey Face
Boy’ and spent his life locked up in the mansion’s attic where passers by claim his ghostly
face still appears at the window from time to time.
If those tales haven’t sent a shiver down your spine you need to get out there and visit! If you
prefer your activity holidays and adventure tours to take place in the daylight, head for more
salubrious destinations. Whatever your thrill of choice, get out there and have.. er.. fun. I’m
off back to the DVD rental store. Perhaps I’ll go for a nice rom-com this time.
Author Bio: Kate Smedley is an avid fan of activity holidays with a difference, but not that different.