- GhostsOfAmerica.com has 66,000 ghost encounters on file; that’s roughly 1 for every 50,000 Americans
- Maine is the “ghostliest” state, with 58 encounters per 100,000 residents
- Florida and New York state are the least haunted states —only 10.8 and 8.1 sightings per 100,000 people, respectively
- Ghosts of “girls” and “women” account for 44% of spirits encountered, “men” and “boy” ghosts at 38%, with the remaining 18% described as “children”
- The old gold rush town of Port Costa, CA is the most haunted place in America, with 53 ghost encounters among its 242 residents
- Some 55 (7%) of active U.S. Military bases in the United States have at least one ghost sighting reported, Fort Knox being the most haunted (90 reports)
Last Halloween, we looked at America’s most haunted states and cities, according to the number of user-reported haunted sites. This Halloween, we’re shifting from houses to ghosts, specifically where in the United States people are most likely to encounter them.
How can we do such a task? Based on reports of ghost sightings collated by GhostsOfAmerica.com, we were able to determine (😉) which U.S. states are the most ghostly, which cities have the highest ghost populations, and what types of ghosts are the most prolific.
Stephen King’s Maine Leads in Ghost Encounters per Capita
People have laid claim to 66,000 ghost encounters on GhostsOfAmerica.com, an online “authority” on ghost sightings. That’s roughly 1 ghost sighting for every 50,000 Americans! But what states lead the way?
Despite being one of the smallest states in the union, Maine has the highest ghost sightings per 100,000 residents rate (57.8) in the United States.
Perhaps that explains how Stephen King got the inspiration for his haunting novels, many of which are set in Maine, his birthplace.
“…an overwhelming majority of encounters with the spirits take place in small towns.”
North Dakota isn’t too far behind, with 52.5 paranormal encounters per 100,000 people. That state is host to many ghost towns (as in, vanishing small towns with little to no population), where abandoned homes seemingly offer plenty of living (?) space for the paranormal.
In the third spot, we found Oklahoma also ranked highly, with 48.2 ghost encounters per 100,000 residents. Perhaps it owes some of those encounters to the state’s rich and sometimes dark history on its journey to statehood.
The rest of the top 10 is made up of more lesser-populated states, including South Dakota, Wyoming, Vermont, Montana, and West Virginia. And what about the states with the fewest ghost sightings? They are New York (10.8 sightings per 100,000 people) and Florida (8.1). It’s almost as if ghosts deliberately avoid densely populated places.
City Lights? No Thanks! Most Ghost Sightings Happen in Small Towns
And what about the states with the fewest ghost sightings? That would be New York (10.8 sightings per 100,000 people) and Florida (8.1). It’s almost as if ghosts deliberately avoid densely populated places? Strange!
In fact, an overwhelming majority of encounters with the spirits take place in small towns.
Cities with up to 1,000 residents account for 12% of ghost sightings listed on GhostsOfAmerica.com. More than half (58%) of paranormal sightings were reported in cities with a population of 25,000 or fewer.
Cities with up to 1,000 residents account for 12% of ghost sightings listed on GhostsOfAmerica, and more than half (58%) of paranormal sightings are reported in cities with a population of 25,000 or less.
The Cities with the Most Ghost Sightings in America
Port Costa, CA tops the ranking of the ghostliest places with 2,190 encounters per 10,000 people, or, put more simply, 22 sightings of the spirits for its 100 residents.
Established just after the California Gold Rush, the town features the famous Burlington Hotel, which, according to local reports, may have been a brothel in the past and apparently appears to be haunted.
“’Cemetery’, the one place you’d think would be higher on this list, is mentioned in only 4% of ghost encounters!”
The town with the second highest levels of spiritual activity per capita is Yorktown, VA, with a very high 16 encounters per 100 people. Unlike Port Costa, Yorktown likely owes its ghostly status to its significant role in the American Revolutionary War, where George Washington effectively took it over after completing the Siege of Yorktown in 1781.
Many of the other places on our most haunted list are also small towns with fewer than 1,000 residents. Some, such as Jacksonboro, SC, and Axson, GA, are known for “ghost lights”. Others have a uniquely rich history, like Zoar, OH (founded by German Separatists in 1817 as a utopian Christian community) and Harpers Ferry, WV – the site of a Civil War battle.
No Place Like Home: 31% of Spirit Sightings Occur in Houses
Where do Americans tend to encounter ghosts? Nearly every one in three times, it’s in a home (31% of sightings).
The second most commonly mentioned site is schools (8% of sightings). Cemetery, the one place you’d think would be higher on this list, is mentioned in only 4% of ghost encounters!
Roughly 14% of encounters mention outdoor locations such as parks (4%), hills (3%), bridges (2%), fields (2%), highways, trails, beaches, and alleys (all ≈1%).
Other indoor locations include church (2%), store (1.5%), hotel, office, bar, and barn (all approximately 1%).
One of the more interesting entries squeaking onto the top 20 sites list is fort, with just under 1% of encounters with the paranormal being reported there. Apart from being a generic name for military fortification, it’s also a common part of city names, and, curiously enough, military bases.
Having checked spirit sighting locations against the list of active U.S. Military bases, it turns out 55 (or 7%) of them have at least one report of paranormal activity!
Chief among them is Fort Knox in Kentucky, known for guarding the large portion of the United States gold reserve, with as many as 90 reports of ghost sightings. (Apparently, ghosts are upset that they can’t bring that money with them.)
Other forts with reportedly significant ghost activity include Fort Sill (35 sightings), built during the American Frontier Wars, and Fort Bragg, the key base for training the U.S. troops during World War I and II.
Check the Bedrooms: Where Ghosts are Usually Spotted in Homes
Looking into accounts of ghosts spotted in homes and houses, the most commonly mentioned part of the home is the bedroom. That’s where 15% of reports of encountering the paranormal in a home refer to a bedroom. The places we traditionally see as creepy or scary, such as the basement (9%) or the attic (5%) don’t even make the top 10!
Meanwhile, the bathroom, kitchen, and yard are all parts of a home equally likely to be sites of spiritual encounters, with each being mentioned in 11% of ghost sighting reports.
Ghost Demographics: More Men than Women, More Girls than Boys
Finally, consistent with our last year’s report, we found relative gender parity in terms of demographics of the spirits haunting American homes.
This time, the most common ghost denomination is “girl”, mentioned by 12% of all ghost encounters. “Boys”, on the other hand, feature in just 7% of similar reports.
Conversely, ghosts of “men” marginally outnumber those of “women” (10% vs 9%), while the generic term “children” is mentioned in 8% of ghost encounters.
Sources and Methodology
Ghost sighting reports were collated from GhostsOfAmerica.com. Population figures for towns and cities were taken from the U.S. Census Bureau to estimate the number of haunted sites per 100,000 people.
Illustrations by Drew Shannon