Some locations simply seem to lend themselves to hauntings, perhaps due to the dramatic or grisly events that occurred there in the past. Over the centuries, sightings of spectral armies have been reported on famous battlefields around the world, including important battle sites from the English Civil War in the 17th century, the bloody Civil War battlefield of Gettsyburg and the World War I sites of Gallipoli (near Turkey) and the Somme (northern France).
Another particularly active center for paranormal activity is the HMS Queen Mary, a cruise ship built in 1936 for the Cunard-White Star Line. After serving in the British Royal Navy in World War II, the 81,000-ton ship retired in Long Beach, California in 1967; the plan was to turn it into a floating luxury hotel and resort. Since then, the Queen Mary has become notorious for its spectral presences, with more than 50 ghosts reported over the years. The ship’s last chief engineer, John Smith, reported hearing unexplained sounds and voices from the area near the ship’s bow, in almost the same location as a doomed British aircraft cruiser, the Coracoa, had pierced a hole when it sank after an accidental wartime crash that killed more than 300 sailors aboard. Smith also claimed to have encountered the ghost of Winston Churchill–or at least his spectral cigar smoke–n the prime minister’s old stateroom aboard the ship. Many visitors to the Queen Mary have reported seeing a phantom crewmember in blue overalls walking the decks. Around the ship’s swimming pool, reports have been made of mysterious splashes and ghostly women in old fashioned bathing suits or dresses, along with trails of wet footsteps appearing long after the pool had been drained.
Among major cities, New York is especially rich with ghost stories. The spirit of Peter Stuyvesant, the city’s last Dutch colonial governor, has been seen stomping around the East Village on his wooden leg since shortly after his death in 1672. The author Mark Twain is believed to haunt the stairwell of his onetime Village apartment building, while the ghost of poet Dylan Thomas is said to sometimes occupy his usual corner table at the West Village’s White Horse Tavern, where he drank a fatal 18 shots of scotch in 1953. Perhaps the most famous New York ghost is that of Aaron Burr, who served as vice president under Thomas Jefferson but is best known for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804. Burr’s ghost is said to roam the streets of his old neighborhood (also the West Village). Burr’s spectral activity is focused particularly on one restaurant, One if By Land, Two if By Sea, which is located in a Barrow Street building that was once Burr’s carriage house.