It's that time of year when the air turns crisp and pumpkin-spice everything warns us that Halloween is near. Whether or not you stop when a black cat crosses your path, it is undeniable that some famous landmarks in the U.S. have a spooky and mysterious past. Here are five famous buildings that are known for more than their aesthetic attributes:
One of the most recognizable buildings in the world is the Empire State Building. King Kong chose the Art Deco building as his last stand, further cementing the building’s iconic role in society. Constructed in 1931, the 102-story building ascended higher into the sky than any other building in the world until the World Trade Center was constructed in 1972. The Empire State Building isn’t without its tragic history or its ghosts, as the 86th-floor observation deck was the scene of more than a dozen suicides prior to the installation of a safety net. It is said that the spirits of some of the victims haunt the deck to this day.
One such ghost is described as a young woman dressed in 1940s-era clothing complete with trademark red lipstick. Several reports have the woman pacing frantically back and forth with tears in her eyes before rushing through the safety fence and jumping over the edge before disappearing. A person who saw the ghost in 1986 claimed the spirit talked to her and reported that she lost her husband during the war in Germany. Some believe the ghost is that of Evelyn McHale, who jumped from the building on May 1, 1947, and was the subject of an infamous photograph in Life Magazine taken moments after she landed on top of a limousine.
A long commute after a hectic day may make some people feel as if they are dead, but those passing through Grand Central Terminal in New York City might encounter the literal dead, as some think several passengers experienced the ultimate commuting delay. Curbed New York reports include a man who vanishes while waiting for a midnight train when there isn’t a midnight train and "an apparition of a man with a black mustache wearing a black suit in the balcony area, watching the crowd below."
The Campbell Apartment, which was used as an office space by railroad tycoon John W. Campbell in the 1920s, is said to be haunted by Campbell. The space, which Campbell decorated in an opulent manner, was accessed by a semi-hidden staircase from the terminal’s balcony. Campbell, who often entertained in the space, even added a pipe organ at one point. Until this past summer, a Prohibition-era styled cocktail lounge operated for years in the space, and employees reported seeing a well-dressed couple having a drink on the balcony after closing in addition to experiencing gusts of wind absent of windows or doors nearby and hearing the sounds of organ pipes.
Los Angeles City Hall may be a bustle of activity during the day, but it is said that nighttime is where the real action happens, with the majority of the spooky spots specifically on the second, third, fourth, 27th and 28th floors. Completed in 1928, the building once housed a morgue and is the current site of the mayor’s office. Eerie reports include strange noises and an overall feeling of not being alone or that one is being watched. Closed-circuit security cameras have even picked up images of human figures walking in the halls. Adding to the creepiness is something in the back hall of the Tom Bradley Room, which is on the 27th floor and features portraits of Los Angeles’ former mayors. Among the paintings is one completed around 1900 that represents a man with eyes depicted as if they are seemingly watching visitors. Additionally, sightings of the ghost of an unknown well-dressed man in 19th century clothes has interrupted city council meetings.
After stints as a World War II troopship known as “The Gray Ghost,” a luxury ocean liner and, now, a hotel, the Queen Mary was named to TIME’s Top 10 Most Haunted Places in America list in 2008. The ship hosts dozens of hot spots for ghosts and strange occurrences, including the first-class swimming pool, where two women drowned and whose ghosts have been spotted sporting 1930s-era bathing suits on the deck; the Queen's Salon, where the “Lady in White” dances alone in the shadows; the engine room around “Door 13,” which crushed at least two people to death, including a young sailor spotted in his blue coveralls walking the length of Shaft Alley; and the third-class children’s playroom, where visitors often hear the sound of a baby crying. Several of the first-class state rooms have reports of lights flickering, knocks, doors slamming, water running, phones ringing, drastic temperature changes, high-pitched squeals and, occasionally, sightings of the ghost of a 1930s-dressed man. The Queen Mary, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, embraces its paranormal reputation and even sells tickets to multiple events, including night tours and Dining with the Spirits events.
As the oldest commercial building remaining in the central city, the Bradbury Building is a downtown landmark known to those outside of Southern California for its “supporting roles” in movies like Blade Runner, Disclosure and (500) Days of Summer. What’s not well known is its architectural history that is steeped in mystery. It’s rumored that the building’s developer, Lewis Bradbury, turned to his architect’s untrained assistant, George Wyman, to design the building. Wyman and his wife are rumored to have then used a planchette to communicate with Wyman’s deceased brother, who reportedly told them through the device “take Bradbury building and you will be…successful,” though successful was supposedly written upside down. The result was nothing short of breathtaking, with an abundance of natural light, ornamental cast iron and geometric-patterned staircases. It’s no surprise that spirits love the basement.