Whether or not you believe that ghost, ghouls and other related spirits exist, there’s no doubt that Americans have a fascination with the paranormal. From pop culture to literature, tales of hauntings enjoy prevalent placement in media and folklore, alike. And with so many alleged examples of lost souls residing in old homes and buildings, there’s no shortage of eerie fables to go around.
While there are many purportedly haunted houses, TheBlaze has collected a group of the most horrifying, bizarre and intriguing structures around. After all, it’s Halloween, so we thought we’d give you an editorial treat. Below, find America’s five most haunted residences:
The LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans, Louisiana, is known for its supposed hauntings. Horrific stories of abuse and torture have been reported as occurring in the home during the 1830s at the hands of Madame Delphine LaLaurie, a wealthy woman who was well-known in social circles at the time. Zillow continues:
In one tale, Delphine was whipping the child of a slave when the child broke away and ran to the roof, falling to her death. But the turning point came when a fire broke out in the mansion and when help arrived, they witnessed horrific scenes of punishment and torture inflicted on the slaves.
When rescue workers made it to the scene, they purportedly found the slaves bound and shackled in the home’s attic. Almost immediately, LaLaurie disappeared and was never heard from again; some claim that she fled to France, where she later died. The New Orleans Times-Picayune has a more gruesome explanation of what unfolded:
A fire breaks out at the house. Rescuers discover tortured, tormented slaves locked and chained in rooms in the attic. More than a dozen slaves are found – some chained to a wall and in a horrible state. Some were strapped to crudely fashioned operating tables while others were confined in cages made for dogs. Human body parts were scattered around the attic. Some firefighters are said to have fainted at the sight.
The entire neighborhood gathers and storms the house. Madame Lalaurie escapes by carriage just ahead of the mob and takes a schooner from St. John’s Bayou to St. Tammany Parish. She is said to have gone to Paris but her whereabouts remain unknown. Rumors persist that she lived on the Northshore until her death.
Following the atrocities that were discovered, ghostly sounds and sightings were reported. See a full timeline of the horrific events here.
The Winchester House
According to Zillow, this particular haunted home has an odd history (the real estate web site calls it “perhaps the most bizarre haunted home” in America) that sets it aside from the rest. Rather than paranormal activity randomly entering into The Winchester House, some supernatural actions that were taken by its owner may have intentionally brought spirits into the fold.
Sarah Winchester designed the structure (she was the widow of William Winchester, founder of Winchester rifles) after some traumatic life events unfolded. Winchester was apparently so disturbed by the death of her daughter and her husband (the former passed away in 1866 and the latter in 1881) that she took drastic measures.
Rather than finding peace on her own, the distraught wife allegedly consulted with a medium who told her to build a home that would ward off evil spirits.
The house’s construction took 38 years, beginning in 1884 and continuing until 1922, when Winchester died, Zillow reports. Now, here’s where the story gets creepy. The never-ending design process resulted from seances that were held each night during which Winchester asked her dead husband how the home should be built. An official web site for the residence explains:
During the early years of construction, this resulted in some awkward and impractical concepts such as columns being installed upside down – though some suggest this was done deliberately to confuse the evil spirits.
But this is how the Winchester Mystery House™ became known as “the house built by the spirits.” John Hansen stayed with Mrs. Winchester for many years, redoing scores of rooms, remodeling them one week and tearing them apart the next…
Mrs. Winchester may have been trying to confuse evil spirits, or simply making mistakes, but there were no budget ceilings or deadlines to meet. This resulted in many features being dismantled, built around, or sealed over. Some rooms were remodeled many times. It is estimated that 500 rooms to 600 rooms were built, but because so many were redone, only 160 remain. This naturally resulted in some peculiar effects, such as stairs that lead to the ceiling, doors that go nowhere and that open onto walls, and chimneys that stop just short of the roof!
According to the official web site, “psychics have said that there are three spirits currently residing in the mansion.” Click here to read more.
The Whaley House
The third most haunted — and arguably, most creepy — home in the U.S. is The Whaley House. While it’s no longer a residence, the San Diego, California, structure inspired such horror that even the U.S. Commerce Department purportedly classified it as haunted in the 1960s. Entrepreneur Thomas Whaley built the home in 1857 on the same site where “Yankee Jim” Robinson, a man convicted of grand larceny, was hanged.
While legend has it that Whaley saw the hanging, which took place a few years before he purchased the property, he wasn’t phased by it in the least. Soon after the brick home was built, bizarre sounds were heard. The first, among them, were heavy footsteps, which Whaley believed to be Yankee Jim’s. After the bizarre occurrences, Zillow reports that two tragedies unfolded in the home — Whaley’s son died of scarlet fever and his daughter committed suicide.
But Yankee Jim isn’t the only alleged ghost still ghouling around the place. TIME reports:
Whaley and his wife are also said to inhabit the house, announcing their presence with cigar smoke and perfume. Visitors have also reported sightings of a startlingly lifelike young girl in a long dress lounging in the dining room.
“We had a little girl perhaps 5 or 6 years old who waved to a man she said was standing in the parlor. We couldn’t see him. But often children’s sensitivity is greater than an adult’s,” June Reading, former curator of the museum, once said.
Read more about the home, which is now a museum, here.
The Lizzie Borden House
Many Americans know the Lizzie Borden’s story. The young woman was at the center of a highly-publicized trial in the late 1800s after her father and stepmother were found axed to death at the family’s home in Fall River, Massachusetts. It was August 4, 1892 when the violent crime unfolded — one that Lizzie was eventually cleared of by a jury. History.com has more:
Shortly before noon on August 4, 1892, the body of Andrew Borden, a prosperous businessman, was found in the parlor of his Fall River, Massachusetts, home. As neighbors, police and doctors arrived at the scene, the body of Abby Borden, his wife, was discovered in an upstairs bedroom. A week later, Andrew’s younger daughter, Lizzie, was arrested for the double murder. In an era when women were considered the “weaker” sex and female murderers were nearly unheard of, the trial—and subsequent acquittal—of Lizzie Borden made her a media sensation. Officially, the case remains unsolved, but Lizzie Borden may very well have taken an ax and ended her parents’ lives on that sweltering summer day.
Today, the home is a bed and breakfast and it’s said that Andrew and Abby are still roaming the building’s halls. The official Lizzie Borden web site provides history of the crime, live cams that paranormal enthusiasts can use to investigate the home — and plenty more.
Of particular note are the current owners’ entrepreneurial efforts to provide thrill-seekers with a unique, if not horrifying, experience:
Since the murders on August 4, 1892 the house has been a private residence. Now for the first time the public is allowed not only to view the murder scene, but is given an opportunity to spend a night (if you dare) in the actual house where the murders took place.
We offer two two bedroom suites, Lizzie & Emma’s Bedrooms, and Abby & Andrew’s Bedrooms (this suite has a private bath); the John Morse Guest Room, Bridget’s Attic Room and two additional spacious attic bedrooms (the Jennings & Knowlton Rooms), each of which offer a double bed in a room with Victorian appointments.
Guests are treated to a breakfast similar to the one the Bordens ate on the morning of the murders, which includes bananas, jonny-cakes, sugar cookies and coffee in the addition to a delicious meal of breakfast staples.
Find out more about the Borden house here.
Eastern State Penitentiary
While not a home in the traditional sense, Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary certainly did house plenty of Americans. The prison, which was built in 1829, was the first in America to implement solitary confinement, as those being housed in the building did everything — from eating to working out — by their lonesome.
According to TIME, when prisoners left their cells, guards covered their heads with a hood so that they remained in confinement. As a result of the extreme measures, which were eventually abandoned due to overcrowding, it is widely believed that mental illness resulted among some of the prisoners.
Following this, Eastern State penitentiary operated as a normal jail from 1913 until its closure in 1970. Al Capone, among others, resided within its walls during that time. TIME has more:
Visitors to the prison—and there are many, for Eastern State is now a museum and Halloween haunted house—report footsteps in the yards, the sound of someone pacing in the cells, eerie noises, and lonely wails that drift through the cold, dark corridors. Cell Block 12 is famous for its disembodied laughter, and one guard tower appears, on some nights, to be occupied by a shadowy figure keeping watch over the empty prison.
Today, visitors can view the establishment all year long, learning about its deep history and eerie past practices. And, during the Halloween season, the former prison is transformed into a haunted house — one that horrifies attendees throughout the autumn.
For more haunted American homes, be sure to visit TruTV’s interactive list.