I’m pretty sure I live with a ghost. I live in a little fourplex built in the 1920s just off one of the older streets in Houston proper. When you live somewhere that’s nearly 100 years old, the building is bound to have seen some things.
While I haven’t actually seen my ghost, my Taurus intuition tells me she’s there – and that she’s a she. I don’t mind her one bit. She’s pretty playful and enjoys knocking things over to let me know she’s around.
For the longest time it was the “M” on my bathroom shelf. One night when I had a friend spending the night, she kept pushing open my bedroom door no matter how many times I closed it. Just last week, it was knocking over a book end in the living room and tipping over a stack of items in my kitchen.
There are worse roomies a spooky little girl could have.
Her presence last week got me thinking about haunted houses – not the kind that only pop up in October. Truly haunted homes – big Victorian mansions or quaint little houses where you’d never expect something creepy to happen.
So in today’s haunted #TravelTuesday post, we’re taking a trip around America to visit three of the creepiest haunted houses in the country.
3 super creepy haunted houses in America >>>
Winchester Mystery House – San Jose, California
We’ll start with one of the most notorious – the Winchester Mystery House in California. Visiting this place is definitely on my bucket list.
The home was built by Sarah Winchester, widow of William Winchester who owned Winchester Repeating Arms Company. In 1866, the couple lost their only daughter to illness, and the loss was devastated Sarah. It took more than a decade for her to recover, and just as she did Sarah also lost William to tuberculosis.
At the suggestion of a friend, Sarah visited a medium in hopes of finding peace. During the session, the medium channeled William who told Sarah he and their daughter were taken by a curse, a result of the lives taken by Winchester rifles. To repent, William told Sarah to move west and build a home for herself and all the spirits of those killed by Winchesters.
Sarah did just that. She bought a farmhouse in California and began reconstructing it into a home full of maze-like hallways, odd staircases, secret passageways and more. Per the Winchester Mystery House website, the house’s unique design may have been done to keep ghosts from following Sarah. She was highly paranoid about letting bad spirits into her home.
To appease the good spirits in the house with her, Sarah was said to hold nightly seances and took direction from friendly spirits while attempting to block the advice of the bad ones.
With that kind of history, there is no shortage of hauntings. Creaking floorboards, rattling doorknobs, odd footsteps and breathing have all been reported by staff members. Much like the Spooky Little Apartment, the Winchester Mystery House ghosts enjoy playing tricks on visitors – unlocking doors, flipping on lights and leaving puddles of water, as through from rain, in strange places are all on the list. You can read more haunting stories right here. (They’re even organized room by room!)
I could never cover all of the Winchester Mystery House’s amazing history, facts or hauntings in such a short blog post – I highly recommend spending some time getting lost on the house’s website. It’s a wealth of information.
Amityville – Long Island, New York
The story of Amityville is complex and one that is still being debated to this day.
On Nov. 13, 1974, Robert DeFeo Jr. is said to have murdered his father, mother and four siblings in the middle of the night. He went to work as normal the next day and around 6:30 p.m. burst into a local bar yelling that his parents had been shot. Later that night at the police station, he confessed to killing his whole family – a story that has changed repeatedly over the years. He was tried and convicted, but it was argued he was not guilty by reason of insanity.
Living in a house where so many people were murdered is unnerving enough. But Amityville gets interesting when the next family moves in.
On Dec. 18, 1975 George and Kathy Lutz and their three children moved into the home. They would only live there 28 days. On the day they arrived, a priest was also present to bless the home. Upon entering the bedroom that belonged to the two younger brothers DeFeo had murdered, the priest said he heard a voice tell him to “get out”. He didn’t tell the family about the voice, only advised them not to use it as a bedroom.
From that first night in the home, the Lutz family says they felt the power of the house. Personalities changed. Random potent scents, such as vile and perfume, filled the home. Black stains appeared on toilets and could not be removed. In the dead of winter, dead flies were found in the bedroom the priest warned them against using as a bedroom. Kathy claimed to be touched by unseen hands. George developed a habit of waking up at 3:15 a.m. – the time the murders occurred. Even the family dog seemed affected. The family begged the priest to return for a second blessing, but he refused.
After 28 days, the Lutz family left the house and never returned.
So would you buy the home, which as of June 2016 was back on the market for $850,000? If you actually believe the Lutz family’s story, your answer would be “hell no”. However, most locals call the home the Amityville Hoax.
While the murders did take place there, many believe the Lutz family made up their story and sold it to make money off living in the home. Their story would go on to become a popular book in the late 1970s and a popular horror movie by 1979. (Incidentally, the first horror movie I recall watching. And it creeped me out because it seemed plausible in some way, shape or form.)
I’ll let you be the judge of what’s fact and fiction, but in the process of making up your mind, I highly recommend checking out the documentary, “My Amityville Horror“. I watched it last October when it was still available on Netflix, but it’d be well worth a rent on Amazon.
As for me? I looked up the Amityville house on Google Earth as I was working on this post out of sheer curiosity, then later for the image above. As soon as I positioned my view to be directly in front of 112 Ocean Ave., I got this inexplicable sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was weird and made me feel like it was a bad place. While several families have lived in the house since with no incidents, I don’t think I’ll be driving by – or purchasing it – anytime soon.
Franklin Castle – Cleveland, Ohio
This castle, along with a trip to the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame, are on my list for a Cleveland trip.
The Franklin Castle, also known as the Tiedemann Mansion, is located in the heart of Cleveland. The home was built in the 1880s by Hannes Tiedemann, a wealthy barrel-maker and grocer, for himself and his family. The Tiedemanns would also house fellow Germans immigrating to the United States when they first arrived in Cleveland.
The house’s history turned sinister quickly. It is said Hannes murdered a niece he deemed insane by hanging her from the rafters – his way of putting her out of her misery. Hannes also allegedly murdered a young woman – stories differ on whether she was his mistress or not and whether he went mad because she wished to marry another man. While no secret passageways exist today, it is rumored that in the late 1800s the mansion was full of them – a perfect spot for Hannes to carry out his nefarious activities. One site suggested there was even a secret passageway leading to Lake Erie, which was most utilized during prohibition.
Over the next decade illness took a toll on the Tiedemann family, claiming the lives of several children. After his wife died in 1895 (some say she was murdered by Hannes himself), Hannes sold the home to the Mullhauser family. Their time in the castle was short and uneventful. In 1913, they sold the building to the German Socialist Party.
The German Socialist Party used the home as their headquarters, holding meetings and events. While their exact activities are unknown, stories range from party members using the mansion as their Nazi spy headquarters during World War I to a mass political killing of up to 20 members.
In 1968 the home would change hands again to James Romano, and that’s when things began to get creepy. James and his wife intended to make Franklin Castle into a restaurant. They quickly changed their minds. One daughter claimed to see a crying girl on one of the upper floors, but no crying girl was to be found when the Romanos investigated. Mrs. Romano often heard phantom piano music playing in the home, along with footsteps, voices and other unexplained noises.
Uneasy, the Romanos sought the help of a priest who declined to perform an exorcism but advised that he felt a bad presence in the home. The couple then turned to the Northeast Ohio Psychical Research Group for help. Allegedly, the team of ghost hunters fled the property screaming. In 1974, they sold the home.
The next owner, Sam Muscatello, invited media in, and they experienced strange phenomenon such as tape recorders being thrown off shoulders and chandeliers swinging unnaturally, among other things. Muscatello even discovered a pile of bones in one of the walls which police confirmed as belonging to humans.
The home changed hands several more times, including a brief stint of ownership by Judy Garland’s last husband, Michael DeVinko, and also suffered a large, damaging fire at the hands of arsonists. In 2003, it looked as though the home would finally return to its original 1800s glory when it was bought by a land developer. His plan was to make it a tourist attraction, but after several years it was discovered he’d done no work and possibly even used the building for pornographic films.
In 2011, the building was rezoned for family dwelling and has been under renovations since 2012. According to a local Cleveland TV station, it’s set to open this September. Earlier this year the team of Destination America’s Paranormal Lockdown spent three days in the castle investigating every floor.
Which haunted house would you visit?
Share it in the comments, and don’t forget to check out my other haunted #TravelTuesday posts. Stay tuned for more haunted spots to visit around the globe every Tuesday this summer.
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