13 American Murder Houses
Lore has it the spirits of violent crime victims remain after their corporeal existence has ended. These murder houses literally have personalities all their own
This Georgian mansion—known as Manhattan's oldest surviving house—was built in 1765 by a British Colonel and served as George Washington's headquarters during the Revolution. Stephen Jumel, a French emigrant, moved in with his wife Eliza in 1810. Notoriously obsessed with wealth, Eliza was made rich after Jumel's mysterious death at the mansion in 1832. Her quick marriage to former Vice President and infamous duelist Aaron Burr fueled speculation that she was responsible for Stephen Jumel's death—a theory that has only been confirmed by psychics. The Morris-Jumel Mansion is now a museum, where visitors have reported paranormal encounters with Mrs. Jumel herself. In one incident, the woman's spirit materialized to tell a group of school children to "Shut up!"
Built in 1704, this English-style coaching inn housed remarkable guests, including George Washington and General "Mad Anthony" Wayne, for whom the place was named. Edgar Allan Poe stayed for five years, revising his classic The Raven. Adding to its canon of lore are hundreds of reports of paranormal encounters, mostly with the spirits of Hessian soldiers. In 1848, the inn served as a polling site and a worker reported bumping into a green-coated soldier in the cellar. Hessian soldiers wore green jackets and, in a well-known Revolutionary War murder, patriots are said to have killed and buried one in the inn's cellar. Another popular spirit is that of a beheaded soldier whose head appeared on a shelf in the 1990s, vanishing only after sending the inn's maitre d' into a frenzy. The 1990s proved a particularly bad decade for the inn; co-owner James Webb was found dead in a third-floor office in 1996. Guy Sileo, friend and business partner to the victim, is currently serving a life sentence for the murder.
Delphine LaLaurie was the well-known wife of a doctor, and a socialite who threw glamorous parties in this massive Creole-style home. But, she's gone down in history for her violent sadism, and the abuse and murders of hundreds of the estate's servants. In 1834, a cook set the kitchen ablaze with hopes that the visiting fire brigade would expose the LaLauries. It was then that the mangled and tortured bodies of servants—some apparently used in medical experiments—were discovered in a locked attic room. The LaLauries fled before they could be tried and punished for their crimes. More recently, human remains dating back to the 19th century have been found in the home's floorboards. The property is now believed to be haunted and is privately owned by actor Nicolas Cage, who bought it for more than $3 million.
J.B. Moore, his family, and two guests, were murdered in this home by an intruder on June 12, 1912. The case was never solved, but suspects at the time included a traveling preacher and then-U.S. Senator Frank F. Jones. Jones was a business partner of Moore's, and the two had bitterly parted ways in the weeks before the murder. The landmark Villisca Axe Murder House now operates as a museum—a fate not uncommon to murder houses.
Antiques dealer Jim Williams was a local hero for his efforts in restoring Savannah's historic homes. He chose The Mercer House—built for singer Johnny Mercer's great-grandfather during the Civil War—in which to work and live. In 1981, Williams' young assistant Danny Hansford, called "Savannah's most popular escort" by one source, was shot in the study of the house. Williams was tried for the murder a record four times, and threw a grand fete when he was acquitted in 1989. Of course, there haven't been any parties of that magnitude since, as Jim Williams' died suddenly on the property a few months later. But, according to the book Georgia Ghosts by Nancy Roberts, a couple of tourists witnessed a phantom revival of the party in 1994, on the five-year anniversary of Williams' acquittal celebration. The tourists claimed that the house was bright and alive with the clinking and clanking of a festive gathering, although no one was at home. The Mercer Williams House Museum is open to the public and run by Williams' sister, Dr. Dorothy Kingery, who has never witnessed paranormal activity there.
Andrew Borden, an affluent bank director, was all but beheaded with a hatchet as he napped on August 4, 1892. His second wife, Abby—who infamous stepdaughter Lizzie Borden referred to as “Mrs. Borden”—met a similar fate in an upstairs bedroom. Everyone but the judge was convinced that Lizzie was responsible for the killings, as she was tried and found not guilty the following year. The Borden house, a Greek Revival, has since been restored and now operates as The Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast. Unlike some murder houses, this museum and B&B flaunts its grisly past with this tagline: "Apart from that bloody murder all those years ago, our hospitality is impeccable!"
This 19th-century row house was the childhood home of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Conrad Aiken. In 1901, Aiken listened from his room as his parents argued, then heard his father count to three before shooting his wife and himself. The young Aiken emerged from his room to find the lifeless bodies of his parents, a scene that would influence his future writings. Years after the murder-suicide, Aiken moved back to Savannah and purchased the house next door to this one. The current owners agreed to a paranormal investigation, documented by Court TV's Crime Library where an infrared video revealed over fifty orbs, and digital voice recording captured a man's voice whispering, "Do you want to know what I know?"
Three members of the Pennsylvania Dutch community found themselves in a simultaneous rut of bad luck. They believed themselves to have been hexed by one Nelson Rehmeyer. Hex-clearing called for the burning of the alleged witch's spell book. What started as a visit to retrieve the book turned into one of the country's most sensational murders. On November 27, 1928, the three men strangled and beat Rehmeyer to death when he refused to comply with their demands. In an effort to cover their crime, they tried to burn the house down. But, the fire died quickly, leaving plenty of evidence pointing to the killers. It is said that the spirit of Nelson Rehmeyer haunts Rehmeyer's Hollow, also called The Hex House, which opened as an historical exhibit in 2007.
In the 18th century, Savannah was a thriving port town crawling with the likes of Blackbeard and other bloodthirsty pirates. Around 1753, the need arose for a tavern and inn near the harbor. This two-story property became The Pirate's House, where there are said to have been countless brawls ending in thousands of kidnappings and deaths. Currently operating as The Pirates' House Restaurant, its walls are adorned with framed pages from an early edition of Treasure Island. Many of the novel's scenes are said to have taken place here, and protagonist Captain Flint is rumored to have died at the house. Old ghost stories and new accounts of paranormal encounters make the Savannah eatery a popular spot for spook seekers.
This Queen Anne was built by wealthy brick manufacturer Balthazar Kreischer in the 1800's as part of a family estate, along with another mansion for his son, Charles. Shortly after a filial blowout between father and son, Charles' mansion mysteriously burned down, with the younger Kreischer and his wife perishing in the flames. Locals are convinced that the spirits of the couple continue to dwell at this mansion.
More recently, Gino Galestro of the Bonanno crime family ordered an affiliate, Robert McKelvey, killed in 2006. Former marine Joseph Young took the job for an $8,000 paycheck. At the time, Young served as the caretaker for the desolate mansion and decided to make it the backdrop for this modern-day murder for hire. Young, along with four accomplices, strangled and stabbed McKelvey, evenutally drowning him in an ornamental pond on the property and cremating his body in the house's incinerator. The incinerator has since been replaced and the property may become part of an assisted-living complex for senior citizens.
Builder John Moynahan built this Dutch Colonial for his growing family in the 1920s. According to the Long Island Village Voice, Moynahan built his house sideways because he didn't like mowing the lawn. The home became infamous with the coupling of the 1974 DeFeo murders, and the alleged paranormal terror endured by subsequent owners George and Kathy Lutze. The Lutzes bought the six-bedroom house at a bargain rate about a year after Ronald DeFeo Jr. used a shotgun to kill his family at the urging of dark shadows and voices in the house. After the Lutzes deserted the place in 1976, they reported everything from DeFeo's dark shadows and voices, to black slime oozing through keyholes and swarms of flies. One book and two major motion pictures later, the address and trademark attic windows have been changed. The Amityville Horror House is now privately owned and in residential use by owners who don't care for thrill-seeking visitors.
Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright built this as his home after leaving his first wife for a woman named Martha Borthwick in 1911. On August 15, 1914, while Wright was away on business, estate worker Julian Carlton bolted the dining room doors and started a fire. Borthwick, her children from a previous marriage, and a few others were inside. The arsonist then waited outside with an ax for anyone trying to escape. After the tragedy, Wright rebuilt the wing only for it to be destroyed again by an electrical fire in 1925. Taliesin was repaired a final time to serve as Wright's studio where the famous Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, and Guggenheim Museum in New York were designed. According to Haunted Wisconsin, the lost and wandering spirit of Borthwick has been spotted at Tanyderi, a nearby cottage on the property where firefighters took victims of the fire after the tragedy.
This Greek Revival is the site of one of the most gruesome mass slayings in New Orleans history. In the late 1830s, wealthy plantation owner Jean Baptiste LaPrete bought the pink French Quarter residence as a vacation home. Soon after, he added the trademark wrought-iron lace rails to the balconies and set out in search of a renter to occupy the property when he wasn't using it himself. A rich young man from Turkey answered LaPrete's call and moved in with a tremendous entourage, complete with a harem and eunuchs. The house became renowned for its mysterious parties, which neighbors experienced in the music and incense escaping through cracks in the door. One morning, a passerby noticed something less pleasant escaping from under the door. It was blood. Authorities entered the house to find everyone within dismembered and mutilated. The renter, who came to be known as "The Sultan," was buried alive in the courtyard. While pirates have been blamed for the murders, it is theorized the Turk was the brother of an actual sultan, who ordered his male relatives executed in an effort to eliminate competition for the sultanate.