For some, Halloween isn’t about pumpkin carving, costumes and candy; it’s all about the horror. And many of these scare seekers turn to haunted houses to get their yearly dose of terror and dread between the dark walls where monsters and ghouls lie in wait. These Halloween attractions are a great way for people to experience thrill and terror in a safe and controlled environment. The characters can’t harm you, there are real humans under the masks and the experience is over after 15 minutes or so.
But in real haunted houses across the United States, the scary stuff doesn’t just happen during the spooky season. And it’s not over in 15 minutes, either. Instead, the hauntings have been going on for decades. In these homes, spirits rearrange furniture, knock items off shelves and fill the halls with sounds of footsteps, whispers, laughter and screams.
Are you intrigued by these kinds of homes? If so, you’re at the right place. We researched a number of homes in the country and listed what we think are the most terrifying ones. Read on to learn about these homes, their stories and the reasons their previous owners can’t seem to leave. Even the most skeptical reader may be spooked by this list of real haunted houses – if not by the homes themselves, perhaps by some of their horrifying histories.
10. The Kreischer Mansion
Built in the mid-to-late 1880s, the Kreisher Mansion is a beautiful 2.5-story Victorian home in the Charleston neighborhood in Staten Island, New York. It boasts a number of original features including ornate chandeliers, Victorian wallpaper and Stick Style architecture. It’s also the crime scene of one of Staten Island’s most infamous mob murders.
In 2005, the home’s caretaker and mob associate, Joseph Young, was hired by the Bonanno crime family to kill another associate, Robert McKelvey, at the home. Once the gruesome deed was done, the body was incinerated in the furnace on the property. Surprisingly, this isn’t the only dark story from the home’s past. Edward Kreischer, the original owner’s son, is believed to have died by suicide in the home and a cook is said to have been killed in the home as well.
Current residents have reported hearing slamming doors and footsteps and seeing apparitions in the home. There have been similar claims in the past including accounts of loud banging and pictures thrown from the walls.
The home has been used for several purposes including a failed restaurant, a recording studio and, as recent as the past few months, the site of a concert series.
9. 1 Laveta Place
This Nyack, New York, home isn’t just believed to be a real haunted house; it’s legally declared so by the New York Supreme Court. In the popular 1991 case, home buyer Jeffrey Stambovsky wanted out of the purchase upon learning the house was haunted – something the seller, Helen Ackley, didn’t disclose. The Court ended up declaring the house officially haunted and ordering the disclosure of the haunting to any future buyers.
Apparently, that didn’t bother some people, including a few celebrities. Over the years, the house has been home to film director Adam Brooks, singer Ingrid Michaelson and rapper Matisyahu. And while it’s known to many Nyack inhabitants as the “Ghost House,” there haven’t been any sightings of the bed-shaking, American Revolutionary poltergeists that Ackley publicly reported during her time in the home.
If you want to live in a real haunted house, you’re in luck. 1 Laveta Place is currently for sale for just under $2 million. If its celebrity doesn’t sway you, perhaps its Hudson Riverfront views, original wood features and stained-glass windows will.
8. Lizzie Borden House
Home to the infamous unsolved double murders of Andrew and Abby Borden, the Lizzie Borden Houseis named after Andrew’s daughter and the prime suspect in the case, Lizzie Borden. While she was acquitted of the charges against her, many believe it was Lizzie who killed her father and stepmother with a hatchet on August 4, 1892.
Today, the Lizzie Borden House, located in Fall River, Mass., has been turned into a bed and breakfast that hosts tours and overnight stays for brave guests. The owners restored the home to look as it did at the time of the murders. They also make a point to display the actual crime scene photos from the day the bodies were discovered. Visitors can take one of the daily tours, attend a “Paranormal Night” or spend the night in one of the rooms of the house (including the very room where Abby was killed).
7. The Myrtles Plantation
The Myrtles Plantation is an antebellum mansion in Louisiana and claims to be one of the “most haunted homes in America” – with good reason. Built in 1796, the plantation now serves as a bed and breakfast to visitors from across the country as well as the home to numerous spirits who lived (and died) there.
Among a long list of spirits residing there, the most notorious are the original owner’s wife, two children and the slave girl who purportedly killed them. Known as Chloe, the slave girl is said to be the most active ghost in the home, often seen wandering the property and showing up in picturesfrom staff and guests alike.
The Myrtles Plantation offers day, evening and private tours that cover the history and mysteries of the home. You can also book a stay in the haunted mansion starting at $175 per night.
6. Villisca Ax Murder House
Just as its name suggests, the Villisca Ax Murder House is named after the gruesome ax murder of the Moore family and two overnight guests on a quiet night in 1912. Among the eight killed, six were children. To this day, the crime is unsolved.
In 1994, the Villisca, Iowa home was purchased, restored and listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places and is now open for day and overnight tours. Visitors of the home have reported feeling cold spots and hearing children talking, giggling and screaming. Those who are curious but too afraid to visit the home in person can find several YouTube videos of electronic voice phenomenon (EVP) recordings and guests playing ball with the Moore children.
5. Lemp Mansion
The Lemp Mansion in St. Louis was home to the Lemp family, who built a brewing empire by introducing lager beer to the city. While amassing a fortune, the Lemp family experienced a series of unfortunate events after moving into the mansion in 1876. After the mysterious death of his favorite son in 1901, William Lemp committed suicide in the home in 1904. When Prohibition caused the Lemp brewing dynasty to come to an end, Lemp’s other son, William Jr., committed suicide in the same place as his father. 27 years later, Lemp’s third son, Charles, committed suicide in the mansion as well. It’s also believed that William Jr. had an illegitimate son who was kept in the attic and also passed away in the home.
Today, several members of the Lemp family are said to haunt the property, which has been turned into a restaurant and inn. The haunted mansion now hosts overnight guests, weddings, holiday events and mystery dinner theaters. Those who are interested in the paranormal can attend a haunted tour or go on a ghost hunt through the home with a real paranormalist.
4. The Pink Palace
Unlike the rest of the haunted houses listed here, the Pink Palace didn’t start out as a home. Instead, it was originally built as a gentlemen’s club in 1891 and became a private home a few years later. Throughout its history, it has also served as an apartment building and as the headquarters for the local chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, who painted the home its famous pink color.
Another way this home differs from many others on this list is that it doesn’t have a horrific past. The spirit who haunts this home is thought to be a previous owner who acts more like a protector of the home and its inhabitants. Known as “Avery,” this spirit is said to manifest just before disaster strikes. One story involves Avery appearing just before a fire broke out in the kitchen. Another tale states that Avery once appeared to a woman taking a bath. In her fright, she jumped out of the tub moments before two robbers threw a cement block through the bathroom window just above the bathtub.
While the privately owned home isn’t open to the public for haunted tours, it’s open for showings. That’s because the Louisville, Kentucky, home is currently for sale. If you’re interested in purchasing the home and potentially acquiring your own ghostly guardian, contact a Rocket HomesSM Agent to get more information.
3. The Whitney
The Whitney is a historical Detroit gem and one of the most haunted buildings in the Motor City. It was built for Flora Whitney, the first wife of David Whitney, a lumber baron who was also said to be the wealthiest man in Detroit. Construction of the home started in 1890 and wasn’t completed until 1894. Unfortunately, Flora passed away before the home was finished and she was never able to see it in its full grandeur – a fact that many believe has bothered her spirit after death. Mr. Whitney was the first person to pass away in the home in 1900, but he wouldn’t be the last. In 1917, his second wife, Sara, passed away in the home too.
“This is where the history gets a little more interesting,” said Tony Muzzi, General Manager for the Whitney, which now serves as an upscale restaurant, dessert parlor and lounge.
According to Muzzi, after Sara’s death, the medical society moved into the building which then served as a tuberculosis ward and hospice over the years. Due to this, “Quite a few individuals have passed away in the home,” he says.
With so many different deaths in the home, who exactly is it that haunts the mansion?
“That’s a loaded question,” says Muzzi. “I don’t know. There are definitely children in the carriage house, and they can be heard through multiple EVPs. We also know there is a woman’s presence that is definitely felt in the third-floor bathroom.”
The staff may not know who exactly haunts the mansion, but they’re pretty sure they understand why.
“We know they are here to protect the home,” says Muzzi. “You look through all of the trials and tribulations Detroit has experienced and this mansion – arguably the most ornate building in Detroit – has somehow survived it all unscathed.”
While the intentions of the spirits may be good, they still frighten the people who visit and work in the home. While one guest saw the apparition of a woman having a coughing fit in the bathroom, others have seen a floating light, heard sounds of a woman humming or recorded children’s voices in the carriage house where the Whitney children used to play. One of Muzzi’s most notable experiences is when he heard the piano playing one night while he was alone in the haunted mansion, a story he’s shared on Travel Channel’s “Most Terrifying Places in America.”
For those who are truly intrigued by the mansion’s hauntings, the restaurant hosts a paranormal dinner tour every first and fourth Sunday. This includes a Historical Champagne Tour, five-course dinner and a paranormal expedition that includes a presentation of findings from the restaurant’s in-house paranormal investigations team. Of course, you can also visit for dinner or a drink, walk around the restaurant and get more information from the staff.
“I would always encourage people to check it out for themselves. Come in for dinner or a cocktail or happy hour and talk to the staff. They have cool stories of their own, too,” says Muzzi.
2. The Winchester Mansion
Also known as the Winchester Mystery House, the Winchester Mansion in San Jose, California, was owned by Sarah Lockwood Winchester, widow to William Wirt Winchester of Winchester Rifle fame. As the story goes, following the death of her 6-week-old daughter and loss of her husband to tuberculosis years later, Sarah was told by a psychic that to protect herself from vengeful spirits she must build a home for her and the ghosts of those killed by the Winchester Rifles. Along with the command was one catch – the construction of the home could never end. And so, in 1886, Sarah moved into an eight-room farmhouse and began a construction project that would end up spanning 36 years. Guided by the spirits, Sarah designed and oversaw the construction, which went on 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 52 weeks a year until her death in 1922. When construction ceased upon her death, the result was a sprawling, labyrinth-like mansion with roughly 160 rooms, 47 stairways and fireplaces, 13 bathrooms and 10,000 windows. Unique features of the home include a staircase that leads to nowhere, a room with no floor or ceiling, windows in the floors and doors that open to nothing – all in an attempt, they say, to confuse the spirits that live there. Of course, there’s also the recurrence of the number 13 – 13 windows in the 13thbathroom, closets with 13 hooks, 13-paneled ceilings and 13-step stairways.
So do spirits really live in the bizarre home that was built for them? According to the U.S. Commerce Department, there’s at least one spirit that resides there. Why else would they certify the home as haunted? And those who have experienced paranormal activity inside the mansion agree. Staff and guests have claimed to feel taps on their shoulders or see the ghost of a man pushing a wheelbarrow in the basement. Others have experienced the feeling of being watched. Some say the victims of the Winchester Rifle haunt the home while others say it’s Sarah Winchester herself.
See for yourself by taking one of the daily tours the haunted mansion offers. There’s also a new fully immersive Halloween attraction happening now through November 2. The event, known as Unhinged, features a haunted house-like walkthrough of the home, light shows, midway games outside, desserts and Halloween-themed cocktails throughout the event.
1. The LaLaurie Mansion
If you’ve spent any time in New Orleans, you may have heard of the LaLaurie Mansion. A popular stop on city ghost tours, the French Quarter house is said to be the most haunted mansion in New Orleans due to its former notorious owner, Delphine LaLaurie. While many of the truly macabre stories of LaLaurie’s treatment of her slaves has been exaggerated over time, it’s true that she brutally tortured them – and there’s proof. The first public incident happened in 1833 when she chased one slave with a whip until the girl died upon falling off the roof. She was fined and forced to sell her other slaves, whom she later repurchased and sneaked back into the home. She continued to torture them until April 1834 when a fire in the home uncovered her true cruelty. The fire, believed to have been started by a slave in an attempt to escape, uncovered several people chained in a room, beaten and starved to near death. Onlookers were so distraught at their condition that they attacked the residence, damaging the interior and stripping it of its spoils. LaLaurie, who was never charged for her crimes, escaped to Paris to live out the rest of her life.
The paranormal activity reported over the almost 200 years since the fire includes claims of phantom footsteps, moans and screams, feelings of negative energy and physical attacks. The home is also believed to be cursed since previous owners – most notably, Nicholas Cage – have experienced bankruptcy, insanity and even death.
The home was last purchased as a private residence in July 2010 and, while the mansion is a popular haunted attraction, its interior is off-limits to the public and paranormal investigators alike. You may not be able to explore inside this real haunted house, but you can view the outside of the home from the street at 1140 Royal Street.
Buying A Home? Check For Signs Of Haunting
Whether these stories intrigue you enough to want to purchase a haunted house of your own or terrify you enough to take all measures to ensure your next home is spirit-free, here’s how to check for a possible haunting when buying a home:
· Google the address of the home and see if any suspicious headlines pop up.
· Work with a real estate agent who is a local expert and may know a little more about the history of the area. A good agent will prioritize your needs, so make sure to tell them exactly what you want in the home – or want to avoid.
· Talk to the neighbors and see if they know anything about the home’s history.
· Ask the seller’s agent if they’re aware of any deaths, criminal activity or paranormal happenings in the home. In most states, they’re obligated to disclose any information they know, but only if they’re asked about it.
· Read the disclosures carefully. While they may not specifically say the home is haunted, you may be able to read between the lines.
· Walk through the home. You may experience paranormal activity firsthand or be able to detect negative energy. If you feel uneasy, trust your gut.
For more information on purchasing a home, check out our home buyer guide. It will help you discern whether it’s the right time to purchase and direct you on how to get approved for a mortgage, find the right agent and close on your home.