8 Harrowingly Haunted Historic Houses
With a full collection of spooky specters, horrible happenings, and terrifying tales, these houses are truly homeowner nightmares
Most old homes have been around long enough to hold some sort of secrets. But when the houses are grand and the secrets are gruesome, you end up with a spooktacular historic house. Check out these eight great homes with ghosts who roam the halls, and find out which ones you can visit in time for Halloween.
A wife jumps to her death from a balcony after discovering her husband having an affair with a slave in 1861, and two weeks later the slave is found hanged; these are just two of the reasons this home is dubbed by some as the most haunted in Savannah. Built in 1836, this architecturally glorious antebellum home faces restored Madison Square in the city's historic district and was one of the first two homes designated as a Georgia state landmark, despite its paranormal reputation. Tourists can venture inside on tours for the architecture and antiques, or the ghostly activity.
Bull Valley, Illinois
The wife of this home's namesake was a big believer in the Spiritualism movement, which feared the consequences of spirits trapped in corners—or so the explanation goes for this 1865 house's strange construction, which left out right angles altogether. But perhaps it is the fact that only three of the couple's 10 children survived to adulthood that explains the supernatural occurrences—like opening desk drawers and turning doorknobs—that are rumored to have plagued the building in modern times. The local police department, which is currently housed there, has even reportedly lost officers who quit after spooky experiences.
Charleston, South Carolina
Found among the colorful houses of the Charleston waterfront, this 1843 Neoclassical house survived the Civil War siege of Charleston to be renovated later in the Second Empire style. Now the inn embraces its dark side and calls itself "Charleston's Most Haunted Inn," as guests have seen a headless torso in Room 8 and a calming, shadowy male presence deemed the "Gentleman Ghost" in Room 10. The former is possibly a casualty of the Civil War and the latter perhaps an early-20th-century owner's son who threw himself from the roof to end his life.
St. Augustine, Florida
This foreboding tower was built in 1874 to replace its predecessor—the last in a line of structures dating back to a late-1500s Spanish watchtower, which was commissioned as a lighthouse in 1824 but eventually washed away in an 1880 storm. The nearby keepers' house, built in 1876, housed the tower operators until the light was automated in 1955. When featured on the TV show Ghost Hunters, investigators heard a woman's voice utter "help me" and filmed a clip of a shadowy figure peeking over a landing railing. Witnesses have reported seeing a woman in white and a little girl during stormy weather. The girl may be one of the three children killed on the 1874 construction site while playing on a rail handcart that rolled out of control and into the sea. Curious ventures can enter the tower for historic or ghost tours.
German immigrant Hannes Tiedemann made his fortune as a wholesale grocer and banker, and built this mansion in 1883 in one of Cleveland's tonier neighborhoods. It's since been home to the German American League for Culture, and Michael DeVinko (aka, Mickey Deans, Judy Garland's last husband), among others. Regarded as Cleveland's most haunted house, the grand structure is said to be visited by the ghosts of Hannes's wife, Louise, and their daughter Emma, who died before the house was completed.
New Orleans, Louisiana
A wealthy auctioneer named neither Beauregard, nor Keyes, built this Federal-style house in 1826 in the French Quarter. (The namesakes are later residents Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard and 20th-century author Frances Parkinson Keyes.) The ghosts who haunt the house are rumored to be numerous, including a chess master who went insane while living there, a number of cats and dogs, and the General himself, who is one of the dozens of participants in a ghostly Battle of Shilloh that occasionally takes over the main hall. Try to catch the battle for yourself with a guided tour.
Charles City, Virginia
Overlooking the banks of the James River, this 1726 Georgian mansion and its surrounding grounds was the setting of a number of historical happenings. It was the birthplace of Benjamin Harrison V, Declaration of Independence signer and governor of Virginia, and of ninth U.S. president William Henry Harrison, as well as the ancestral home of William's grandson and 23rd president, Benjamin. It's also the place where Civil War General Daniel Butterfield composed the military dirge "Taps." Ghosts who are said to haunt the house include William Harrison IV (Benjamin V's father) and two daughters, who were killed in 1744 by a freak lightning strike while they tried to close a window. The infant Benjamin, who was in one of his sister's arms at the time, survived, but his sister's ghost can nonetheless be seen carrying a baby when she appears. Hear about all the history in person from a tourguide in period garb.
You may recognize this sprawling estate and its imposing live oaks as the location used for Louis's abode in the movie adaptation of Anne Rice's Interview with The Vampire. Jacques Telesphore Roman built the Greek Revival house in 1837. The ghost stories abound at Oak Alley: phantom figures in windows (perhaps the last resident, Josephine Stewart), staff members being touched when no one is near, unexplained lights in empty rooms, and sounds of a horse drawn carriage driving up plantation gravel roads. Give ghost hunting a try for yourself during a tour or overnight stay in the plantation cottages.