Real American haunted houses are often the scenes of past horror and traumatic events. True ghost stories about these places are abundant throughout the United States with some houses turned into haunted attractions. If you choose to visit any of these spooky places, beware the resident ghosts might resent your presence.
Real Haunted Houses in the United States
Many old houses across the country are plagued with fascinating levels of paranormal activity. An interesting pattern becomes clear from reviewing many stories of this phenomenon. It seems that most of these homes are steeped in a history of tragedy and death. This certainly holds true for the following authentic examples of real-life haunted houses.
Haunted Stone's Public House - Ashland, MA
Stone's Public House is a rustic restaurant and pub in Ashland, Massachusetts featuring the authentic old architecture of Mr. John Stone's original establishment, formerly known as "The Railway House" in 1834. The building has always attracted many patrons, and it was hugely popular even when it first opened. Coincidentally, there were also a number of tragedies that took place on the property that led to the building's eventual haunting by these various ghosts.
- In 1890, Burt Phillips walked onto the train tracks while drunk and was struck and killed by a train.
- Patrons and owners claim that John Stone's own spirit continues to haunt the house.
- In 1862, a ten-year-old girl named Mary Smith was struck and killed by a train on the tracks just outside the Railway House. Patrons claim to see her apparition peering out of a storage room window.
In the attic of this tavern, Mary's bloody dress remains untouched and undisturbed. Don't believe it? You can see the dress yourself in a video of author and investigator Jeff Belanger exploring the mystery of Stone's Public House.
The Public House restaurant is open for business six days a week, though paranormal tours are not available.
Villa Paula Poltergeist Activity - Miamia, FL
Villa Paula was built in 1925 in Miami, Florida, and served the first Cuban Consulate. Don Domingo Milord and his wife Paula lived there for six years until she died after her leg had to be amputated due to medical issues. A woman named Muriel Reardon, who had a great dislike for cats, lived there for the next 30 years. Subsequent owners and visitors report a tremendous amount of paranormal phenomenon from this house.
Poltergeist style activity reported at Villa Paula includes:
- Intermittent, unexplainable knocking on the front door
- Cats killed when slammed by a heavy iron gate
- Bedroom doors slamming shut on their own
- Reports of apparitions, including a Cuban woman in a full-length gown
- The strong smell of Cuban coffee
- Dishes and silverware tossed around the kitchen
The Villa Paula is not open for tours.
Ghosts of Forepaugh's Victorian Manor - St. Paul, MN
Forepaugh's is a Victorian mansion built by entrepreneur Joseph Forepaugh in 1870, in St. Paul, Minnesota. Joseph, his wife Mary and his two daughters enjoyed a wonderful life in this luxurious mansion until Joseph fell in love with one of the hired servants, a young maid named Molly. After Mary caught Joseph and Molly in bed, Joseph ended his relationship with Molly in order to save his marriage. After discovering she was pregnant, Molly hung herself from a chandelier on the third floor. Later on in 1892, Joseph shot himself in the nearby park.
Paranormal phenomena at Forepaugh's includes:
- Sightings of Joseph's apparition walking through the dining rooms
- Sightings of Molly's apparition near where she killed herself
- Lights turning on and off in the basement
- Molly's image allegedly captured in a wedding photo
- Loud footsteps heard on the third floor, but no intruders ever found
Wild West Haunting at St. James Hotel - Cimarron, NM
Some of the most intriguing, and apparently dangerous, paranormal activity can be found at the St. James Hotel in Cimarron, New Mexico. Built in 1872 by Henri Lambert, it was originally known as "Lambert's Inn." The establishment included a saloon, restaurant and 43 guest rooms. The building's history is bloody. A total of 26 murders took place at the hotel. Well known icons of the Wild West visited the hotel, including Clay Allison, Jesse James, Black Jack Ketchum and Buffalo Bill Cody. Multiple reports of paranormal experiences from guests led this hotel to be featured on Unsolved Mysteries.
Haunting activity at the St. James Hotel:
- Room 18 is where a former owner claims she was pushed down, and it is considered one of the most haunted rooms. Locals believe that the room is haunted by Thomas James Wright, a man who was murdered at his hotel room door after winning rights to the hotel in a poker game. The staff keep the room locked and unused.
- Henri's second wife, Mary Elizabeth, wore rose-scented perfume. Guests report occasionally picking up her scent in her old room, and hearing tapping on an open window until it is closed.
- Objects are constantly reported flying off walls and electrical devices behave erratically.
- Guests and staff report a variety of other entities and spirits materializing or making noise around the hotel.
Visitors can stay in the hotel or go for a tour. Tour dates and hours change seasonally, so check the hotel's website for up-to-date information.
America's Most Famous Haunted Amityville House - Amityville, NY
The Amityville house is probably one of the most famous haunted house cases of all time. Part of this is due to the massive media attention brought about by the book and movie series that appeared soon after the events allegedly happened in Amityville, New York.
The story of the Amityville house begins in 1974 with the killing of the DeFeo family at night while they slept. The slayings were carried out by their son, Ronald DeFeo, who claimed to have been possessed by evil spirits that caused him to murder his family so brutally. In 1976, the Lutz family then moved into the house and immediately reported the occurrence of strange phenomena. Incidents included:
- An infestation of house flies in the middle of winter
- Strange voices
- The sense of a presence in the house
- Moving objects
- Green substances leaking from the walls
- The increasing personality changes of the husband, George Lutz
These activities and more led the family to flee the house after only 28 days on the premises. Today, although the incidents themselves are largely controversial, the house still has a lot of interest for those who have read the story. The house is not open to the public, and the address has been changed to protect subsequent residents, none of whom, it seems, has ever reported anything strange in the house. Locals frustrated by the attention often tell tourists the home has been torn down.
Haunting at Axe Murder House - Villisca, IA
Villisca House is the location of a famous case in Iowa that is based around a gruesome family murder in 1912. On the morning of June 10, 1912, Josiah Moore, his wife Sarah, their children Herman, Catherine, Boyd and Paul, and two visiting friends Lena and Ina Stillinger, were all brutally murdered in their sleep by an ax murderer. The murderer was never found.
In 1994, local investors purchased the house and restored it to its 1912 condition. Sometime in 1998, the owners opened the house to overnight guests. Since then, numerous visitors have reported strange events, such as:
- A disc jockey who heard children's voices in the middle of the night
- A number of ghost tours have been interrupted by moving objects or children's laughter
- There have been reports of voices heard in the house, as well as apparitions of ghostly men with axes
Tours and overnight stays are available. Visit the official website for more info.
Tragic Ghosts of Lemp Mansion - St. Louis, MO
Life Magazine termed the Lemp Mansion in St. Louis, Missouri as one of the most haunted places in America. The beautiful home was originally the residence and headquarters of the Lemp Brewing Company, which had great success throughout the late 1800s. However in 1901, the Lemp Family fortunes transformed into a curse when Frederick, the son and future heir of owner William Lemp, died of heart failure. In 1904, William Lemp became despondent after losing his friend, Frederick Pabst, and shot himself in the head with a Smith and Wesson revolver while in his upstairs bedroom.
In 1920, as the Lemp brewing company collapsed and sold off the business, buildings and all assets, Elsa Lemp, the daughter of William Lemp, Sr., shot herself in the bedroom and died in the same manner as her father.
Charles Lemp, one of the two remaining sons, eventually took-up residence at the Lemp mansion and remodeled it. He lived in the house with two servants from 1920 until 1949 when he was found dead in bed. He'd also committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest with a revolver.
Later, the old mansion was converted into a boarding house, and residents immediately began reporting strange sounds and footsteps. The stories made it difficult for the owners to rent the rooms. The mansion again changed hands and the new owner, Dick Pointer, renovated the property and made it into an inn and restaurant. The construction workers reported seeing moving objects and hearing strange sounds; a few workers refused to work at the property. Visitors to the inn and restaurant often report the same phenomena, as well as a piano that plays by itself and ghostly apparitions.
The Lemp Mansion and Inn are open for business daily. Tours are offered seasonally; visit their website for more details.
Florida's Haunted Stranahan House - Fort Lauderdale, FL
The Stranahan House in Fort Lauderdale, Florida is well known as the most haunted house in Florida. Frank Stranahan built the house in 1906 as part of his barge ferry business. Stranahan also used the house as Fort Lauderdale's first post office as well as a trading post. His success would end with the onset of the Great Depression in 1927. On June 23, 1929, after losing his fortune and the money that his own family had entrusted to him, Frank attached a heavy iron gate to his ankles and jumped into the ocean and drowned. Today, local news stations often report about haunted events at the home. With six family members having died in the house over the years, it appears there are plenty of spirits to go around.
The Stranahan house is now a museum. Guided tours start daily at 1pm. Visit their site for more details.
Legendary Franklin Castle - Cleveland, OH
This beautiful castle in Cleveland, Ohio was owned by Hans Tiedemann in the mid 1800s. The sprawling mansion even had a turret and an entire ballroom on the fourth floor. There are numerous legends about this haunted house, including all of the following.
- Baby skeletons were supposedly found in the rear room of the house.
- Nazis staying at the house were reportedly shot by Tiedemann during an argument.
- Tiedermann's younger daughter Emma died of diabetes in the home.
- Tiedermann's wife died of liver disease.
- He allegedly murdered a servant who refused his advances.
- He allegedly killed a mistress who told him she wanted to marry someone else.
- Finally, the most pervasive rumor is that Tiedermann had a fight with his daughter, killed her, and then hung her from the rafters to make it look like an accident.
The Castle passed through the hands of various opportunists who attempted to charge the public for haunted tours. It is now being renovated into the Franklin Castle Club. Visit their Facebook page for details on hours and opening.
Legends and Truth in America's Haunted Houses
Keep in mind that many of the stories surrounding the most haunted homes are steeped in legend and myth. Always treat local legends as a starting point, and if you are interested in learning more about the truth, speak with former owners, local residents and the current owners to gain greater insight about the real stories behind the history of the houses. Also, if you're brave enough, you might want to try spending the night, if possible, to see if you can experience any of the paranormal phenomena yourself.