Any other night, you can convince yourself the thumping you hear is caused by the wind, the creaking by the house settling. But Halloween begs for a scare, for you to suspend your disbelief and wonder, what if? Whether or not your believe in ghosts, spirits, or other supernaturals, stories of strange presences and unexplained phenomena seem to swirl around places with a past. That prickling sensation on the back of your neck can be eerie, but sometimes houses and other buildings have dark histories that are even more frightening, because they’re real.
It took Truman Capote six years to write Clutter Family Home - Holcomb, Kansas In Cold Blood, what he called a “nonfiction novel.” The gripping if not immaculately accurate story relates Richard "Dick" Hickock and Perry Smith’s murder of the Clutter family in 1959. The house was used as the setting for the 1967 film version and has gone through several owners since. Though there are rumors that 16-year-old Nancy’s ghost haunts the house, the current owners say there’s been no paranormal activity there. Plenty of people show up at the house anyway, just to see where the tragedy took place. National Register of Historic Places
A place that was once known as the Hryszko Brothers Soft Drinks Emporium doesn’t sound like it could be scary, but it was McMenamins White Eagle Saloon - Portland, Oregon a speakeasy, see? At various points in its history, it may have also housed a brothel and an opium den, and a bank vault door in the basement was likely used for shanghaiing (slipping drinkers knock-out drops and either robbing them or kidnapping them and forcing them to work as sailors). In its over-100-year history, the saloon also earned the nickname “The Bucket of Blood” and a reputation for ghosts. There are supposed to be three, in fact: a toilet-flushing Polish immigrant named Sam, a weeping prostitute named Rose, and a Chinese bouncer who’s supposedly pushed waitresses down the basement stairs. McMenamins
If you pull into a certain Dunkin’ Donuts in Baltimore, Md., you might not realize the dilapidated building next door was the site of a grisly murder in ‘94. Deborah Stevens -- or Sister Myra, as she was known -- told fortunes on the building’s first floor. She was beheaded “by a deranged man who thought the matriarch of one of the most powerful Gypsy clans in the country had put a hex on him,” according to the Gypsy Murder House - Baltimore, Maryland Baltimore Sun. As you can see in this video taken by filmmaker Dan Bell, the brick building, which is currently for sale, has been neglected for years, adding to its creepy aura. Dan Bell
Architect Cass Gilbert, who designed the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, was also commissioned for the Seaside Sanatorium, built for children with tuberculosis in the 1930s. It was designed specifically for heliotherapy, a treatment that involved patients spending large amounts of time in the sun. Like many other U.S. hospitals, it was used for various purposes while open, including a geriatric hospital and later became the Seaside Regional Center for the Mentally Retarded. It closed in 1996; now the area around it is becoming a state park. The buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places and are beginning to show their age. It’s not clear what will happen to them, but for now they’re home to Seaside Sanatorium - Waterford, Connecticut sightings of mysterious lights, sounds of footsteps, and feelings of being watched and unwelcomed. The Day Publishing Company
Perhaps the most famous haunted house in the United States, the Long Island murder of a couple and their four children inspired several books and movies. Ronald DeFeo, Jr. was convicted of killing his parents and siblings. Shortly after, the Lutz family moved into the DeFeos’ former home. They lived there all of 28 days, bedeviled by a supernatural presence that tore doors from their hinges and walls that oozed with a mysterious substance. They saw a demonic creature with glowing eyes who left footprints in the snow, and a swarm of insects attacked them. Okay, not really. Ronald DeFeo’s lawyer, William Weber, The Amityville Horror House - Amityville, New York made up the story along with the Lutzes, after drinking a lot of wine. Jay Anson, who wrote The Amityville Horror, embellished a lot of the details, too, but like a lot of supernatural creatures, the story just won’t die. NY Daily News
A three-story, seven-bedroom house in Ohio was just Mudhouse Mansion - Lancaster, Ohio recently demolished, putting an end to a parade of trespassers and a whole host of ghost stories. People have claimed to have seen glowing lights and heard voices in the abandoned, though mold-filled, house. There was a lot of difficult-to-believe folklore surrounding the house, including that a post-Civil War slave owner — this is in Ohio, remember — lived there and was murdered by one of his slaves who dug his way out of the locked outbuilding. Another story says the original Bloody Mary once resided in the house. Either way, the mansion is no more. Wikimedia Commons
Rent a room at The Galloway House Inn - Savannah, Georgia the Galloway House Inn, a plantation mansion turned bed and breakfast, and you could be sharing it with a stranger. Guests often report strange happenings, like slamming doors and ghostly figures that stand by their beds in the night. The house’s first owner, Richard Martin Lester, committed suicide by hanging in 1926, but it might not be him who’s still hanging around. After all, the current owners say the Galloway used to house a funeral home. The Galloway House Inn
Rural Exeter, Rhode Island was the site of the Rhode Island School for the Feeble-Minded in 1908. It’s first superintendent, Dr. Joseph Ladd, was a protégé of Dr. Walter Fernald, a eugenicist who was a The Rhode Island School for the Feeble-Minded - Exeter, Rhode Island proponent of involuntary sterilization for those whom he considered a burden on society. Throughout Ladd’s tenure, people were placed in the school for a variety of petty crimes. Women who had premarital sex were frequent residents, and as chronicled in the book , some were involuntarily sterilized, though it was against the law in the state. In 1952, a nine-year-old boy Exeter Girls vanished and only his head was found. Under Ladd’s successor’s tenure, there were more deaths due to neglect and the school was shut down because of the deplorable state of its dental clinic. After Dr. Smith was fired, the school was later closed for good. Before its demolition, trespassers would frequent the abandoned buildings and report voices, murmurings, and doors opening and closing on their own. The Ladd School Historical Society
Though today it’s a B&B with cottages, rocking chairs, and a gift shop, the Myrtles Plantation once held slaves. In 1796, General David Bradford, of the Whiskey Rebellion, escaped the United States and received 650 acres of land in what is now Louisiana. Twenty-four years later, he sold The Myrtles to his son-in-law, Judge Clarke Woodruff, who in turn sold it to Ruffin Stirling in 1834. The latter is responsible for most parts of the lavish mansion, which has a 125-foot long veranda, a 300-pound crystal chandelier, and a stained-glass entrance hand painted and etched with French crosses meant to ward off evil. Some might say they don’t work on the ghost of Chloe, Woodruff’s slave. They’d been having an affair, but Chloe feared she’d lose her position in the house when he started sleeping with another slave. In attempt to make herself indispensable, she tried to sicken Woodruff’s daughters with oleander leaves baked in a cake, so she’d have to nurse them back to health. Instead, they died, and several slaves, afraid they’d be accused along with her, hanged her and left her body in the river. Chloe has apparently The Myrtles Plantation - St. Francisville, Louisiana appeared in photos, and the daughters supposedly still laugh and play on the plantation. The Myrtles Plantation
The dark history of the Oregon State Hospital is all too real. The building once known as the Oregon State Insane Asylum, built in 1883, remains in use, though some parts Oregon State Insane Asylum - Salem, Oregon are now abandoned. If the domed structure looks familiar, it may be because it was the setting for the film adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Two incidents in the hospital’s past serve as symbols for the United State’s troubled mental health system over the years. In 1942, a patient who was helping in the kitchen substituted, either by accident or on purpose, roach poison for powdered milk while making scrambled eggs. Forty-two people died, and it helped spark some changes in the financing and staffing levels in psychiatric hospitals. It’s also home to the " Room of Forgotten Souls," which once held the remains of more than 3,400 patients who died between 1914 and 1971 in deteriorating copper canisters. The grounds also once housed a cemetery, but the whereabouts of the 1,500 bodies that were buried there are unknown. As for supernatural horrors, there are rumors of doors inexplicably closing, ghostly footsteps, and mysterious cold spots. David Maisel
Thanks to LaLaurie House - New Orleans, Louisiana American Horror Story: Coven, The LaLaurie House is more well known than ever. Socialite Madame Delphine LaLaurie and her husband, Dr. Louis LaLaurie, owned the house where she used to torture and murder her slaves. When a fire destroyed part of the three-story mansion in 1834, her cruel treatment was uncovered, but she fled before she could be tried for her crimes. So, is it haunted? Nic Cage, who used to own the house, called it “ghost-front property” but admitted he’d never experienced any hauntings. Library of Congress
Now a museum, Thomas Whaley’s Greek Revival-style home once housed a general store, courthouse, and theater. By the time the Whaley family moved in circa 1856, it was already haunted. “Yankee” Jim Robinson, a San Diego newcomer and thief, was hanged on the spot a few years earlier as Thomas Whaley stood in the crowd. The family would regularly hear footsteps or feel an otherworldly presence. After their deaths, Thomas and his wife, Anna, supposedly stuck around to haunt the place, too. She’ll play a random piano key or set the chandelier swaying. Two of their children — Thomas, Jr., who died of Scarlet Fever as a baby, and daughter Violet, who committed suicide after her con-man husband left her — are also said to linger in the house. The Whaley House - San Diego, California Whaley House Museum
When first erected in 1878, what was then known as the State Lunatic Hospital at Danvers was located in a rural area of Massachusetts. The location suited superintendent Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride, who believed patients should be treated humanely and thought beautiful settings would help restore balance in them. His philosophies reputedly didn’t carry into the next millennium, and there are rumors that doctors carried out so many lobotomies, it became known as the “birthplace” of the procedure. But actual sources for this are scarce. Still, before it was mostly demolished and its administration building turned into apartments, it inspired its share of Danvers State Hospital for the Criminally Insane - Danvers, Massachusetts ghost stories and horror. It’s possibly the inspiration for H.P. Lovecraft's Arkham Sanatorium, which in turn inspired the Arkham Asylum in the Batman universe. Oh, and of course, Danvers once went by another name: Salem Village. Danvers State Insane Asylum
Bannack, Montana went boom when gold was found in 1862, but the town took about 80 years or so to bust. Now a ghost town in both senses, its last residents moved out in the 1970s, but specters are said to haunt the town. During its early days, the sheriff, Henry Plummer, led a band of outlaws who stole gold during transport; vigilantes later hanged him. About 60 structures still stand, but enter at your own risk, says one DT staffer. She swears that even though she doesn’t believe in ghosts, she saw one outside Meade Hotel. He was dressed like a cowboy and remained in the same spot over the course of several hours. He kept calling “Hey, girlie” to her and no one else seemed to hear. Later, when she went into the hotel and tried to open a locked door, something scared her so bad — and she’s not even sure exactly what — that she swears she’ll never go anywhere near the town again. Others Bannack Ghost Town - Dillon, Montana have seen a ghostly figure in a blue dress at the hotel, believed to be Dorothy Dunn, the daughter of the manager who drowned in a nearby pond in 1916. Library of Congress
Twins Francis and Freelan Stanley were 19th century tech geniuses who created a photographic process and later invented steam-engine vehicles known as The Stanley Hotel - Estes Park, Colorado Stanley Steamers. In 1909, Freelan built the 140-room Stanley Hotel. He and his wife, Flora, loved the place so much, they’ve made it their permanent residence: They still haunt the lobby, guests and staff say. On the fourth floor, ghostly children are said to run down the hallways and bounce balls. Room 217 is said to be particularly ripe with paranormal activity. Legend has it the chief housekeeper accidentally set off an explosion when she lit a candle in the gas-filled room. She actually managed to survive. Yet despite her death many years later, she still performs her duties, tidying up beds and helping unpack suitcases. There must be something in the air, though. Stephen King awoke in the room after a nightmare with the plot of The Shining starting to take shape. The Stanley Hotel
The oldest building in Wyoming, built in 1872, used to house a federal then state prison. By 1903, it Wyoming Territorial Penitentiary - Laramie, Wyoming was part of the University of Wyoming’s School of Agriculture and held its experiment station. However, though all the inmates were transported to a new penitentiary before the school took it over, some say one prisoner never left. After killing his wife for going to work in a bordello he frequented, Julius Greenwelch was sent to the Wyoming Territorial Prison. A cigar maker, he managed to keep his business going while locked up by moving the operation inside. He soon died of a heart attack, but people continue to smell cigar smoke near his former cell. Visitors occasionally say they’ve seen his figure lingering in the same spot. Wyoming Territorial Prison Historic Association
While it’s not said to be haunted, what was once contained in the Flavel House is still pretty disturbing. Built in 1901, the home stood abandoned for more than 25 years after the family fled. Harry S. Flavel was accused of stabbing, but not killing, a man for driving too fast in 1983. Rather than head to jail, he, his mother, and his sister left the house one day. When Astoria officials unlocked the door in 2012, “Hatchet Harry" Flavel House - Astoria, Oregon they found what the hoarders had left behind: stacks of newspapers dating back to 1914, antique bicycles, floors so covered in debris you couldn’t walk on them, liquified food, and a dog in the refrigerator. Though “Hatchet” Harry — a nickname he earned after taking a hatchet to the house’s bannister — died in 2010, his sister, Mary Louise, finally reached an agreement to sell the house in 2014. In May, it sold to a lumber company owner for $222,000. The City of Astoria
Wrangell–St. Elias National Park gets Gakona Lodge and Trading Post - Gakona, Alaska scary cold, but nearby Gakona is the place to go for chills. Established in 1904, the lodge and trading post was a place for travelers to get supplies and spend the night. Rough and tumble the prospectors who passed through may have been, though, it wasn’t until the ‘80s that any spooky behavior was reported. Today, the owners refer to resident pipe-loving ghost John Paulson as the lodge’s “pleasant guardian,” who even obeys the new no-smoking rule. Library of Congress
Built in 1892 by a God-fearing, fruitful Irish immigrant named William Kehoe, the Kehoe House had plenty of room for him, his wife, and their 10 children. The foundry owner’s heirs sold the place in 1930, and since then it’s been a boarding house, funeral parlor, and home to Joe Namath. It’s now a haunted bed and breakfast. Instead of being a spooky presence, the ghosts of the Kehoe family, especially William’s wife, Annie, are William Kehoe House - Savannah, Georgia said to be welcoming. Rumor has it two of the couple’s children, twin boys, died in the home and can still be heard running about by guests. However, it doesn’t appear the Kehoes had twins; another story states it’s two sisters, close in age, whom guests hear. William Kehoe House
At some point during the early morning hours of June 10, 1912, someone took an ax to six members of the Moore family and their two young guests. The killer then covered the victims’ faces with cloth and Villisca Ax Murder House - Villisca, Iowa did the same to the mirrors and a few windows. He or she left a bowl of bloody water next to a plate of untouched food in the kitchen. No one’s ever solved the eight murders, though Reverend George Kelly was tried twice for the crime. At one point, he confessed to the murders, but do to a past history of mental illness, authorities weren’t convinced. The first trial resulted in a hung jury, while the second jury acquitted him. Now going by the distasteful name The Villisca Ax Murder House, it has become such an attraction for ghost hunters that its owner — who says she has notebooks full of sightings from visitors — rents it out to guests ($428 a night) who want to witness paranormal activity. In 2014, a man stabbed and critically injured himself while staying there, adding a new layer to its macabre history. Cyclops Optic/Flickr
A 142-year-old, Italian villa-style mansion is Sauer Castle - Kansas City, Kansas falling apart in Kansas City. No one lives there, and the owner’s property taxes are past due. The still-beautiful building has its share of admirers who want to see it restored, but it also draws those hoping to spot ghosts. Several generations of the Sauer family lived in the house, so it’s not surprising there have been deaths there, including a child who drowned. Though there are reports of mysterious lights and the sound of laughing and shouting in the empty house, Halloween is the night when lots of people show up to the house. Supposedly, you can see a couple dancing in the lookout tower. Garden City Police Department
Many ghost stories just have sightings of lights or mysterious figures, but poltergeist stories tell of spirits that make objects move or cause bodily harm. The Bell Witch is one of these legends. John Bell Sr., a farmer, and his family were frequently cursed by a supposed witch. There are a variety of somewhat conflicting accounts, but the occurrences that plagued the family include a presence that would slap and pinch, throw objects, and frighten animals. Decades after the events, Martin Van Buren Ingram wrote Bell Farm - Adams, Tennessee An Authenticated History of the Bell Witch, allegedly based on the diary of Richard Bell, John’s son. Did a family member die at the hands of the witch? Was she really a woman named Kate Batts? Was 11-year-old Betsy a victim or the inventor of the witch? "I've never found two accounts that were the same," the town’s historian says. There are lots of books and movies about the haunting, and A&E just aired a series about it. The Historic Bell Witch Cave Inc.
There’s a reason it’s called a “penitentiary.” When it was opened in 1829, the Eastern State Penitentiary — inspired by Quakers and initiated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania — it did away with the corporal punishment practiced at other prisons. Instead, it tried to nudge criminals toward a more spiritual and peaceful life. It looks like a Gothic church, and the prisoners were meant to live an almost monk-like existence, wearing hoods while outside their cells, staying silent, studying the bible, and doing work like shoemaking. However, in reality, it was much darker. They had their own cells, effectively spending their days in solitary confinement, which Eastern State Penitentiary - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania drove some insane. One prisoner died while being punished with an iron gag for trying to talk to his fellow inmates. Many other prisons died, too, and author Charles Adams calls the atmosphere a “stew of souls,” which may explain why many have felt strange energy in the place. Now the site of " Terror Behind The Walls," a truly epic haunted-house experience, the prison found a way to pay for much of its operating costs based on its haunted reputation. Eastern State Penitentiary
Happy Halloween: Get in the spirit with the best horror movies to stream
Diedinhouse.com can supposedly let you know if someone’s ever passed away in your residence. But some places are so notorious that all you have to do is ask the locals, and you’ll learn about unusual experiences or tragic events that took place behind closed doors. Some of these places have fallen into disrepair, while others have been turned into bed and breakfasts, where a ghostly encounter in the night may be included along with your morning coffee and pastries.
Galloway House Inn in Savannah, Georgia, for example, where you can stay for $129 a night. Guests have reported seeing a man at the foot of their bed and doors opening and closing without a probable cause. The former owner committed suicide, and many other houses on this list have a history of murders and other horrible deeds — like what took place at the LaLaurie house. They’re not necessarily haunted, per se, but they serve as reminders of man’s inhumanity to man, which can be much scarier.
We rounded up places all over the United States that have spooky presences or terrible pasts. We don’t blame you if you want to keep the lights on for this one.