Take a tour of some of Missouri’s spookiest spots. 

It’s fall in Missouri — bonfires, football season, pumpkins, and…having the living daylights scared out of you?

Yes, it’s time to pack up the family car, don your ghost hunting gear, and head to a few of Missouri’s most haunted sites. Here are just a few of our state’s best spots for a little vacation and a whole lot of hauntings.

Missouri State Penitentiary – Jefferson City

Well over a hundred years after the state prison received its first inmate, the site was dubbed “the bloodiest 47 acres in America” by Time (the gas chamber was the site of 40 executions between 1937 and 1989). At its peak, the complex housed more than 5,000 inmates at one time. Since its closure in 1991, it has been a hotspot for hundreds of organized paranormal investigations, including episodes of “Ghost Hunters” and “Ghost Adventures.” A plethora of spooky occurrences have been recorded by visitors through the years including voices, humanlike shapes and figures, and even full apparitions. And sure, you can go on a normal historical tour of the prison, but we’ll save that for the rest of the year. Around Halloween, you’ll want to try a more chilling experience, like the two- or three-hour ghost tour, or even a ghost hunting class, for those curious about the equipment, tools, and skills needed to conduct paranormal research.

Katherine Reed, of the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau, says a fellow staff member recalls seeing a man in a white lab coat pacing one of the inaccessible penitentiary hallways; her co-worker has seen saw him numerous times over the years, always pacing the same hallway. The ghost has since been identified as “Fast Jack”; I took a tour at the penitentiary, where one of our tour guides said there was a lab technician that worked at the prison that was always pacing around in that manner. Another ghost tour participant saw a man in a white jacket crossing another inaccessible hallway sometime earlier, and after the tour guide shared the story of “Fast Jack” with him, he was visibly shaken for the rest of the tour.

Governor’s Mansion – Jefferson City

Coincidentally, the history of the mansion, built in 1871, is connected to that of the penitentiary —much of the construction work was done by inmates. Although there’s debate about the actual haunted-ness of the residence, claims of paranormal activity are mostly connected to the Crittenden family. Thomas Theodore Crittenden served as Missouri’s governor from 1881 to 1885. During his time in office, there was a terrible outbreak of diphtheria, and the disease took the life of his 9-year-old daughter Carrie, and so began stories of a young girl playing in the mansion attic. The almost 150-year-old home has plenty of creaks to make even the most fervent skeptic a little scared. For instance, there are many accounts of a child’s rocking horse rocking on its own in one of the attic bedrooms. If you want to see for yourself, the Missouri State Museum offers tours of the mansion throughout the year. Fall tours are scheduled Tuesday through Thursday from 9:30 to 11:30.

The Elms Hotel and Spa – Excelsior Springs

Opened in 1888, the hotel has what one might call an unlucky history, maybe even a curse. The building has burned down twice and is another location featured on “Ghost Hunters.”

The hotel and spa are a prime destination for those looking to enjoy the mineral water in Excelsior Springs. Two-time guest Paula Brumley says: “We stayed there once at the end of October. Just driving up to the hotel there was an eerie feeling. It’s a beautiful hotel that just feels like it has a lot of history.”

Brumley is right. The hotel has quite the historical past, with roots as a speakeasy in the prohibition era — later, it housed President Harry S. Truman on his election night in 1948. To accompany the abundance of history, the hotel has an abundance of spirits, including one from the speakeasy days that haunts the hotel’s lap pool, and a friendly housekeeper. Rent a suite at the luxurious destination and you can take your relaxing spa getaway with a side of ghosts.

The Lemp Mansion – St. Louis

The Lemp Mansion has been coined St. Louis’ most haunted spot and even “one of the 10 most haunted places in America” by Life magazine. The Lemp name was synonymous with beer brewing before the prohibition era, but now the family name might be even more synonymous with a curse. The Lemp family history is filled with unfortunate suicides and untimely deaths (find out more legendsofamerica.com), and it’s easy to see why the mansion is said to be haunted by members of the famous family. Hit TV shows including “Ghost Hunters,” “Ghost Adventures,” and “The Most Terrifying Places in America 2” have featured the building, now a restaurant and inn. Guests and employees of the house have experienced too many unexplained noises, sounds, and experiences to count. The Lemp Mansion offers haunted history tours most Monday evenings throughout the year.

Find more places to travel here.

Photo credits: Governor’s Mansion provided by Rebecca Gordon, The Elms by Jeff Knights at SnapTheMoment.com, Lemp Mansion by Tim Trunnell, Missouri State Penitentiary by Kathleen Wright