Underground Railroad Hauntings

Sally Painter
Underground tunnels led from rivers to safehouses

History of Underground Railroad Hauntings

Many people risked their lives helping runaway slaves escape before and during the Civil War of the United States of America. This secret network of routes traveled through almost every state. Using the cloak of night, conductors guided slaves safely through the countryside. People offered their homes and farms as safehouses during the day. These stations had secret rooms located in the attics and basements. Many had underground tunnels. The emotions ran high, especially when being pursued by bounty hunters and slave catchers. Many hiding places were often the scene of tragic deaths and sometimes left behind restless spirits.

Famous Underground Railroad Hauntings

Almost every state has a ghost story of runaway slaves hiding in a house.

Prospect Place, Most Haunted House in Ohio

Also known as Trinway Mansion, Prospect Place is haunted by those who lived on the farm and the slaves who were trying to escape to freedom. The lineup of ghosts is very impressive. The basement of the mansion was a stopover for runaway slaves on their way to Canada.

The spectral cast includes:

  • A bounty hunter haunts the barn where farmhands hanged him.
  • A sick little girl fell to her death from an upstairs bedroom window. It was winter and the ground was frozen solid so her body was kept in the basement until a spring burial was possible. It's said the child wanders through the house and those who venture into the basement often hear her crying.
  • The child's mother sat in the basement by her body until she developed pneumonia and died. Her spirit can often be found in the little girl's bedroom or the basement.
  • Anna Adams-Cox, an abandoned wife, searches the property for her missing husband.
  • The missing husband, George, is seen roaming the house.
  • A slave, who died in the house, often stands watch over the little girl's body in the basement.

Hannah House, Indianapolis, Indiana

Restless spirits of runaway slaves haunt former stations

The Hannah House haunting soon began after runaway slaves hiding in the basement overturned a lantern. Several became trapped by the fire and burned to death. It's been reported that the upstairs rooms reek of the smell of dead bodies coming from the attic. Perhaps the burned slaves were hidden in the attic until they could be buried. Moans and wails echo through the house while doors open and close by themselves.

The Governor's Mansion was at one time a station for runaway slaves. A tunnel led from the basement to the St. Jones River, affording a secret passage to the safehouse. People have reported seeing ghosts ever since the mansion was built in 1790.

Some of those reports include:

  • An elderly man dressed in colonial period style clothing complete with a powdered wig
  • Female child with candle
  • A screaming slave who died when he hid inside a hollow tree and his head became stuck
  • Various apparitions and sounds, such as visitors experiencing a tugging on their clothes, shadows running and the sound of chains rattling in the basement

Hanson Home, Alton, Illinois

The town of Alton is considered one of the most haunted places in America. The Hanson Home, which later became the Enos Sanitarium, is known for a variety of paranormal activities. When it was built in 1857, Nathaniel Hanson had underground tunnels and rooms carved out of the bed of limestone. Many slaves died trying to make it across the Mississippi River. Others succumbed to disease, starvation and injuries. It's believed their restless spirits haunt the building and tunnels.

Hickory Hill, Harrisburg, Illinois

Claimed to be the state's most haunted place, Hickory Hill was once an underground railroad station and dubbed, Old Slave House. This station wasn't like the others. The owner, John Hart Crenshaw, operated a reverse underground station. Instead of aiding slaves to freedom, he tricked them to his home and sold them back into slavery.

Slave catchers brought slaves to him and Crenshaw sold the unsuspecting runaways to the salt mine owners. Slaves were often lured away from plantations and farms on the promise of freedom only to find themselves victims of Crenshaw's greed. He built an underground tunnel leading from the basement of his house to the river so the slaves could be transported in and out undetected. In the back of his house was a larger entranceway to the basement where entire wagons could roll inside to be loaded and unloaded without anyone seeing.

Cells with bars were discovered on the third floor attic. Some of the ghostly sounds and experiences have been:

  • Moans and wailing
  • The rattling of chains
  • Cold drafts
  • Cold hands touching a visitor's face or arm
  • Entities brushing against visitors

Find One Near You

Operating under the threat of death in order to free slaves meant the locations of many stations were lost to secrecy. Some were uncovered during renovations while others were recalled by local families. To find Underground Railroad Hauntings near you might take some research. One good resource is a compilation of paranormal investigations Encyclopedia of Haunted Place.

Was this page useful?
Underground Railroad Hauntings