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“Officially Haunted Places” – Fact or Faked?

My friend Jade Walker asked me not too long ago, “What makes a place officially haunted anyway? Is there even such a thing?”

Since this is a question I’m asked all the time, and since tonight is the big premiere of Syfy’s newest show, Fact or Faked, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to officially address the topic.

The answer is: yes and no.


There are places that have haunted reputations. There are sites, such as the ones listed on my Find Haunted Places page, that list such sites. There’s also William Hauck’s always popular Haunted Places: The National Directory.

But is there an organization that makes an official determination about a place’s haunted-ness?


The Department of Commerce’s List of 20 Official Haunted Places. (Or 30. It’s sometimes also referred to as that.)


William C. Uchtman, who sometimes guest blogs here as Thor2000, brought the Dept. of Commerce’s List of Official Haunted Places to my attention. He made reference to it in his guest blog about the Whaley House.

Since I had never heard of it before, I immediately started checking into it. I scoured the Department of Commerce‘s site for the list. I turned up zilch.

If I’ve learned anything from my idle, Javier Ortega at GhostTheory, it’s this: if it sounds official but you find no evidence, be skeptical.  That’s advice that hasn’t failed me yet.

When I couldn’t find the Dept. of Commerce’s list, I asked Thor where he’d gotten the info. He told me from a news clipping. Luckily he’s uber diligent about documenting his haunted places too and was able to scan the clip to share with me. (Exhibit A below.)



There is no such thing as the Department of Commerce’s List of Haunted Places. Or, as I found out via another article about “authenticated” ghosts, there is no government agency of any kind which has ever made such a declaration. Apparently to give a haunted place more weight, some authors take liberty about putting in an impressive sounding name of an organization that authenticates ghosts. Little is more impressive sounding than a governmental agency.


You’re not going to believe me of all people is stating this but: there is no such thing as haunted places.

There are stories of haunted places. That’s about it.

There are those instances, like the Brown lady ghost pic taken in 1936 of a ghost floating down a staircase. No one has yet been able to debunk it. The verdict on whether it’s fact or faked might never be reached.

Then there are the paranormal investigators who claim to catch evidence in the form of orbs, EVPs, meter readings, and (mostly) questionable pictures and videos.

It’s interesting. It’s kind of weird. But no one has caught legitimate, irrefutable proof of ghosts –yet. True proof won’t come until an “actual” ghost (whatever that turns out to be) is “captured” (via film or some other as yet unidentified means) and the results can be consistently replicated.

Until that happens, all there is are stories. Pure and simple.

Which means people like the ones on “Fact or Faked,” as well as the rest of us who love paranormal mysteries, will have plenty more evidence to review.

And all that means is there’s a whole lot more haunt jaunting to allegedly haunted places in search of possible answers!

Courtney Mroch
Courtney Mroch, otherwise known as HJ's Ambassador of Dark and Paranormal Tourism, is an author, traveler, and ghost enthusiast. When she's not writing, jaunting, or planning her next trip, it's a safe bet you'll find her in one of three places: on a tennis court somewhere, on a yoga mat somewhere, or watching a horror movie somewhere. She currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.

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22 thoughts on ““Officially Haunted Places” – Fact or Faked?

  1. Okay, so this is a really great post, as always! I will re-read it after I get over the shock of how great you did with your blogs face-lift! You can’t even see the scars! It looks amazing doll!

    Mommy D!

  2. Great post, and I love the new layout!

    Anyways, it’s interesting to point out that since the advent of TV shows like “Ghost Hunters,” “Ghost Adventures,” and the like, you have to be very careful about places claiming to be haunted, especially if they will profit from it. Once Fort Mifflin was featured on “Ghost Hunters” they raised their prices for a paranormal investigation to $900 for one night! Other places are doing similar things, and a lot of the “ghost tours” now feature guides who blatantly fake “experiences” during the tour as to create a buzz. So it’s always good to look for stories pre-“Ghost Hunters” to see what’s a real story of a haunting and what’s propaganda in order to boost business or maybe get on TV.

  3. There are more inaccuracies in the Whaley House article you presented here.

    Washburn story – No birth certificate, no death certificate and no Washburn family. However there is a spirit of a little girl. As of yet she has not identified herself to me or anyone else that I am aware of.

    Yankee Jim Robinson hung on the property – No evidence there was ever a gallows on the property, also no logical reason for there to be a gallows at that location. I am actively investigating this. There is strong evidence of another location and perhaps a reason why Yankee Jim would be haunted Thomas Whaley.

    My understand on the certification issue is that this was used for publicity back in the 1960’s to generate interest in Whaley House as a house museum. Commerce being the critical word. They do not certify houses, think about how silly that sounds. This has been repeated over and over. It is roughly like when the Travel Channel gives their top 10 most haunted houses, it is by reputation not certification.

    Bonnie Vent

  4. THANKS, Mommy D! I’m no graphics genius like you, but if I have a template I can fiddle enough to get something going on.

    THANKS, Jason! I didn’t know that Ft. Mifflin had cashed in like that. I knew about Eastern State and some others so it doesn’t surprise me. I completely agree with everything you said. Caution is key. Too many people trying to cash in on the “ghost” craze.

    Bonnie: EXCELLENT info in your comments. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving them. I’d love to know what you come up with. And that “commerce” thing. That immediately struck me as off when I first heard it, so I wasn’t too surprise when I found nothing about it. But it also makes me mad because others don’t always think to question it, keep repeating it, which doesn’t benefit anyone.

    Anyway, thanks so much to you all for your wonderful comments!

  5. @Jason & @Courtney Mroch; Fort mifflin has a long, 223 year, history of stange occurances. They do not need to “fake” them. Paranormal “groups now account for most of the funding that keeps Fort Mifflin solvent, said fort bookkeeper Lorraine Irby, who started bringing in paranormal groups in 2004.”Even though it doesn’t fit our [history-based] mission statement, it is considered a fund-raising program,” Irby said. “The paranormal program is making the money so we can pay for our programs.”
    The $900 quoted is for 10 people from 6 PM until 8 AM with breakfast.

  6. THANKS so much for stopping by with a comment, Save Fort Mifflin. Listen, I’m all for new forms of funding to help preserve our nation’s history. (Well, heck, history anywhere regardless of nationality.) The prices at Ft. Mifflin are actually a bit more fair than at Eastern State. You seem to allow more time AND you provide breakfast. (My most favorite meal of the day!) Plus, in the end it all goes to a great cause.

    If I gripe about prices 9 times out of 10 it’s because I don’t have enough money to finance my haunt jaunting habit and go see all the haunted places I want to!

    Again, thanks for stopping by with your comments!

  7. A combination of all of the above. The scientific experements are now revealing the truths that many of us have know intuitively (whether they listen to their ‘feelings’ or not); such as quantum physicists. That having been said; even when a psychic/medium is involved in an investigation; they should investigate scientifically, in order to provide further proof.

  8. Fort Mifflin is haunted! There have been pictures, EVPs, and many personal experiences.
    The paranormal programs were started from popular demand by the local Paranormal communities! Many investigations have been done by Paranormal Investigators who have been doing this for MANY years and have always been professional with their findings and are more apt to debunk.

  9. I don’t think anyone is disputing the activity at Ft. Mifflin, Lorraine. Just that it’s one of those places that’s both suffered and profited from its paranormal notoriety. Definitely it’s a haunted place. It’s now just a super popular one. That’s both a blessing and a curse.

  10. I have to agree with Lorraine,Fort Mifflin is indeed haunted. My team and I have gotten many pieces of scientific evidence to prove that Fact.EVP’s for one thing,so many class A evp’s it’s unbelievable! I wouldn’t call any of it’s popularity a curse at all. It is helping bring people in to Fort Mifflin.To keep it’s history alive.As they say you can’t have the paranormal without the history..the sad thing however is when people come through the gates,and only care about catching an evp or a photo.Not taking into consideration these spirits are still human being’s ..just without the body.Also volunteering is a great way to help the Fort! Which is what my team and family does!
    I would say that this historic location.Deserves all the recognition that it can get! If you truly want to spend the night in one of the most haunted places in America,go to Fort Mifflin. While you are there remember this is all to support the Fort…to keep it alive for generations to come!

  11. In response to Jason’s comments about Fort Mifflin raising it’s prices after shows like Ghost Hunters ect. Fort Mifflin has been doing the paranormal programs since 2004.Long before any show was involved…It has been haunted all along..238 years of it. All GH did was make that public knowledge!

  12. Lorraine: OH! LOL. Hey, I admire your passion for Ft. Mifflin to want to make sure the story’s known!

    Lisa: Same with you. It’s awesome when people are as passionate about preserving historic places. And that ghosts bring in revenue to help support the cause is even better. I also liked your point that the “spirits” are humans. They deserve respect. That’s one of my pet peeves when people don’t show respect –for the people or the places.

    And right on that you volunteer. Very glad you stopped by to share your thoughts and love for Ft. Mifflin!

  13. Jason…. I belonged to a research group from Philadelphia in 1999, long before the T.V. shows were even thought of. Our group went to Fort Mifflin at this time to do a “5 hour paranormal investigation” and paid $100.00 each…. There were many of us who did get “scientific evidence” Now it is ONLY $90.00 each and get bed and breakfast and get to research all night! I have always given this money gladly, knowing it was going to this wonderful Historical Landmark and to be able to do what I have a passion for!

  14. I am a volunteer at Fort Mifflin. Fort Mifflin has not “cashed in” on anything! Mike is correct. The price is only $90 each for any overnight. Other events by paranormal groups are presented there as well as those by the living history reenactors. Fort Mifflin on the Delaware is a gem. You will get incredible activity not only during the night but daytime as well. The daytime price is Adults $6, Seniors $5, Children (6 to 12) and Veterans $3. Children 5 years and younger Free! I’d say that is quite a bargain.

  15. yes! I was just reading “Ghost Stories Of California” and the author Barbara Smith talks about the Whaleys house and says it’s on that list too! But I can’t find it anywhere! Where did the author from that clipping and this book get the name for such an “offical list” if one can not be found? Was there once a list and the government decided against it? Or was someone bored and just pulled it out of their hat? More questions! lol It’s confusing and frustrating when your researching something and cannot find it. ANOTHER thing this book states is we have sightings and personal experiances from ghost dating back to ancient rome, but why do we not have any cases of haunting cavemen? something else to think about. The autor states that the energy from the spirit might dissapate after so long, but then why doesnt others? I know some hauntings are cause by tramatic events but you have to think, wouldnt there be events like that during the time cavemen where around?

  16. Cavemen! My husband always wonders why there’s no dinosaur ghosts, but we never thought about cavemen. Good one, Erin! And interesting even that author you read had referenced that fake document.

  17. even if there were irrefutable proof somebody would always try and say it was bogus even if it slapped them in the face. just how it is. im a believer and i am convinced. they may believe otherwise but i would never change my opinion

  18. Good point, Scott. Except if it’s irrefutable by definition it can’t be refuted, but…I know what you mean. I think to really believe you have to experience it for yourself. That’s the only true irrefutable proof. The rest? Well…it’s almost like hearsay. Even if you see it. Because if you’re witnessing it via a photo or video people will always thinks it’s been doctored somehow. But very good comment. Thanks for taking the time to share it.

  19. First off; that photo of the “woman” on the stairs… really? I can tell you that’s not a ghost after 2 seconds of looking, not that I’m the type to only look for that long or generally draw a conclusion that fast. But come on that “apparition” looks exactly like the lighting on the stairs next to it. They are identical. If you are looking through something translucent it will affect the light passing through it evenly except where thicker or vise versa. In that photo the shadow from the overhang on each step is just as dark as everywhere els in the photo. If it were being seen through a ghost you would expect it to have an effect on this. Furthermore why does anyone think that a spirit can take visible form, on film or not? Pretty sure astral projection works but you CANNOT make yourself visible to the physical plane. Why would spirits be any different? And even better is the evp. The use of electricity in the human body by our nervous system is a physical process. If the spirit leaves the body it no longer has a need or ability to produce electric current. More likely you are picking up the ions which constantly flow from the ground to the ionosphere and vary greatly from one hour, or even minute, to the next.

  20. Bravo, Mac! Ever since I’ve been active with Haunt Jaunts, no one has explained the “mechanics” of why we actually might be struggling to “catch” ghosts on film as well as you have. Very interesting/enlightening comment. I’m glad you took the time to leave it! Thx!

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