From the New Orleans torture attic that inspired the latest series of American Horror Story to the Iowa cottage that witnessed the shocking unsolved ax murders of several children – welcome to America’s six most-haunted houses.
A shortlist of the most well-documented properties across the United States that are reportedly possessed by ghosts and other supernatural spirits has been compiled on the back of statistics that nearly one third of Americans claim to have experienced an encounter with the undead.
According to the ‘Haunted House Report’ on Realtor.com, 35 per cent of respondents claim they have lived or are living in a place that is haunted.
Known warning signs that a house may be inhabited are said to include having a cemetery on the property, if it is over 100 years old, whether it is close to battlegrounds or crime scenes or any quick transitions between owners, according to CBS.
Ed Kushins, a global travel expert, has put together a creepy criteria to determine the country’s most ghoulish abodes and their gruesome histories.
Some are even available to stay overnight.
1.) LaLaurie Mansion, New Orleans
Now: 1140 Royal Street, New Orleans, is said to be haunted by several slaves who died horrific deaths in a torture chamber at the hands of owner Madame LaLaurie
Built in 1832, this New Orleans manor is reputed to be haunted by several mistreated slaves – a story stemming from a fire in the building in 1834, when neighbors helping to save furniture from the flames reputedly found tortured slaves chained up in the attic by owner Marie Delphine LaLaurie, better known as Madame LaLaurie, a prominent Louisianan socialite and, it would later be discovered, serial killer.
Then: LaLaurie Mansion in 1832
The fire had started in the kitchen and upon entering the home, police found an elderly woman, the cook, chained to the stove from the ankle.
According to the New Orleans Bee of April 11, 1834, bystanders found ‘seven slaves, more or less horribly mutilated … suspended by the neck, with their limbs apparently stretched and torn from one extremity to the other’, who claimed to have been imprisoned there for some months.
Upon hearing this and once the fire was out, an angry mob descended upon the house and all-but completely destroyed it.
Actress Kathy Bates plays a character based on LaLaurie in the current season of American Horror Story, Coven.
The home, which was rebuilt to resemble the original, was owned by actor Nicholas Cage from 2007 until 2009.
Not much is known of LaLaurie’s life after the fire.
However writer Harriet Martineau documented that LaLaurie fled New Orleans during the mob violence, taking a coach to the waterfront and traveling by schooner from there to Mobile, Alabama and then on to Paris.
She is rumored to have died in Paris in a boar-hunting accident.
2.) Villisca Ax Murder House, Iowa
It has been a century since Josiah and Sarah Moore, their four children and two visiting children were hacked to death with an ax while they slept. The tiny town where they lived in Iowa has never been the same
This photo, taken in 2011, shows the bedroom of Herman, 11, Katherine, 9, Boyd, 7, and Paul Moore, 5, at the time of the Villisca ax murders. Investigators believe the killer or killers attacked the parents first before moving to the children
On a quiet residential street in the small Iowa town of Villisca sits an old white frame house.
On a dark evening, the absence of lights and sounds are the first indication to visitors that the house is different from the other homes that surround it.
Upon closer inspection,it’s doors and windows are tightly closed and covered.
An outhouse in the backyard suggests that this house does not occupy a place in the 21st century.
That’s because on the night of June 10, 1912, the six members of the Moore family who lived here and two other children were killed in what remains the state’s worst mass murder.
Parents Josiah and Sarah and their four children Herman, 11, Katherine, 10, Boyd, 7, and Paul, 5, as well as two of the Katherine’s friends Ina, 8, and Lena, 12, were all found with severe head wounds from an ax.
Investigators believed that all of the victims except for Lena Stillinger had been asleep at the time of the murders.
Investigators also believed Lena attempted to fight back because a defensive wound was discovered on her arm.
Lena was found on the bed with her nightgown pushed up to her waist and no undergarments on, leading to speculation that the killer or killers sexually molested her or attempted to do so.
While many suspects emerged, Rev. George Kelly, a traveling minister and suspected pedophile, was twice tried for the murders but was acquitted both times.
The case remains unsolved.
3.) Farnsworth House, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Used to house soliders during the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War, Farmsworth House Inn is now a bed and breakfast that is thought to be crawling in ghosts
The famous Civil War battle at Gettysburg was one of the bloodiest in its four-year history. Farnsworth House, named for Brigadier General Elon J. Farnsworth, was home to Confederate sharpshooters, who would shoot union soliders from the windows during the conflict.
It later operated as a makeshift hospital, and currently functions as a nine-room bed and breakfast.
Five of those rooms are said to be haunted by the ghosts of fallen soldiers, as well as a midwife called Mary, whom many guests have reportedly seen sitting on their beds at night.
4.) Joshua Ward House, Salem, Massachusetts
Joshua Ward House, 148 Washington Street, Salem. This brick mansion was built for merchant Joshua Ward in the 1780s on a foundation that had previously been owned by Sheriff George Corwin, who became known as ‘The Strangler’ for his role in the killing of many accused witches during the Salem trials of the 1690s. The spirits of his victims are said to still reside in the house today.
Inside: One of the rooms of the haunted Joshua Ward House
Today: Robert Murphy, owner of Higginson Book Company, bought Joshua Ward House in 1994, but it has been vacant for two years
The town of Salem, Massachusetts is no stranger to macabre record and disturbing legends and Joshua Ward House is one of its most prominent.
The Georgian/Federal style building was constructed by Joshua Ward, a wealthy merchant sea captain, in the late 1780s on foundations built by notorious former sheriff George Corwin.
Corwin was a bloody figure whose zeal added to the unfortunate events surrounding the Salem Witch Trials in the late 1600s.
Nicknamed ‘The Strangler’ for his preferred method of torture (which included tying his victims’ necks to their ankles until the blood ran from their noses), he is said to be responsible for death of countless witches.
One of them was Giles Corey, a man who stood accused of witchcraft who Corwin crushed to death by placing heavy stones on his chest in order to extract a confession.
Before he died, Corey curses the Corwin and all the sheriffs that would follow him.
Rumor has it every sheriff since Corey uttered this curse has died while in office or has been ‘forced out of his post as the result of a heart or blood ailment’.
Corwin himself died of a heart attack in 1696.
Today, many of Corwin’s victims, including Corey, are said to live in Joshua Ward House.
5.) Dock Street Theater, Charleston, South Carolina
Then: The building that stands on Charleston’s Church Street today is not the original Dock Street Theater, though it is thought to be haunted by some of its original actors, theater-goers and a local prostitute
Now: The theatre recently underwent a three-year, $18 million renovation
The tales of those that haunt the Dock St Theater – on the site of America’s first theater – is much different from the serial killer, soldier and witch-type ghosts usually heard.
It was originally constructed around 1809 as Planter’s Hotel by the Calder
It’s said that there are two entities that continuously wander around the theater. One of them was a famous actor by the name of Junius Brutus Booth, most famously known as the father of the man who killed President Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth.
The other ghostly creature, a nameless prostitute locals call “Nettie” who is believed to have frequented the area also in the 1800’s.
Nettie worked at the hotel and was struck by lightening standing on her porch.
She was killed instantly.
The theater recently underwent a three-year, $18 million renovation.
6.) Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina
A former major brickyard in South Carolina, at one time the Boone Hall Plantation used up to 225 slaves to keep up with the demand. The many who died working still roam the land, folklore says
These are the brickyard quarters where the slaves would live
Today: The gorgeous grounds of the Boone Hall Plantation in Charleston,
The Boone Hall Plantation, founded by Major John Boone and then sold to brothers John and Henry Horlbeck, is the final place on the list of America’s most haunted houses.
And like LaLaurie Mansion, it is said to be inhabited by mistreated slaves.
The brothers expanded the property’s brickyard and set some of their 225 slaves to work operating dangerous kilns for the local building industry beginning in 1817.
According to legend, the numerous spirit sightings at the plantation have all occurred within 20 feet of the kiln, and a slave girl and slave boy are the most commonly spotted.