This October 31st, as they do every year, millions of costumed kids — and a good number of grown-ups — will be fanning out across neighborhoods and going to parties in cities and towns all over the world. The creatures and characters on display will range from the topical (Ted Cruz, anyone?) to the classic (ghouls, pirates, witches, superheroes). But no single emblem captures the spirit of the holiday quite as neatly as that old stand-by: a ghost.
Way back in 1957, in an article titled “American Ghostly Legends,” LIFE magazine paid spooky tribute to some of the country’s most celebrated ghosts — and ghost stories. The magazine’s editors introduced the elaborate, multi-page feature thus:
Westover, a mansion on the James River in Virginia, said to be haunted by a young woman who died of a broken heart in the 18th century.
"The Baldwin Lights" are said to appear near railroad tracks in North Carolina, not far from where a train conductor was decapitated in 1867.
The ghost of Harriet Douglas Cruger is said to haunt her former home in Herkimer County, New York.
Mrs. Theodore Douglas Robinson, Harriet Cruger's great-grandniece, plays a piano in the reportedly haunted house.
The stairwell in the Octagon House in Washington, down which a lovelorn girl is said to have plunged to her death sometime in the 19th century.
A white horse was said to appear each time someone died at Cliff House, near Hendersonville, North Carolina.
The Bell Witch of Tennessee had only one aim in the afterlife: to haunt and harass a prosperous farmer named John Bell and his daughter Betsy.
The Bell Witch of Tennessee was said to have appeared to Betsy Bell near a tree like this one, warning Betsy not to marry the man she loved.
A garden at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., is said to be the site of a 17th-century murder of a young man by a father who forbade his daughter to see the lad. The father and daughter, caught by townspeople while they were trying to flee the scene of the crime, were both burned to death.
When the moon is full, the ghost of a young woman burned to death centuries before is said to haunt a garden at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., "and in the air can be sensed a pungent, lingering smell of smoke."
Not published in LIFE. Photo made for the article, "Ghostly American Legends," LIFE, Oct. 28, 1957.