Halloween's Best Haunted Historical House Tours
10 beautiful old homes you can visit for a real scare this season
We've shown you famously haunted historical houses like the Lemp Mansion and the Carnton Plantation. But here are 10 breathtaking historical homes with special Halloween events scheduled for the old-house lovers out there. Dare to take a candlelight tour or attend an overnight paranormal investigation at one of these places? Featuring everything from a New York City row house to a Texas villa, you can plan a trip to marvel at the beautiful period details and haunting histories of these great American homes.
In 1749, Scottish merchant and would-be founding trustee of Alexandria, John Carlyle, purchased two of the best lots in Alexandria, and put up this beautiful mansion—with its unique stone cornice and ornate woodwork—by the early 1750s. Just in time for General Edward Braddock to use the Georgian-style home to plan the French and Indian War.
The place stayed in the Carlyle family until 1827 and eventually served as a Civil War hospital, a particular point of interest for visiting ghost hunters. A 6-year-long restoration began when the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) acquired the property in 1970.
You can visit to see an annual reenactment of Colonel John Carlyle's 1780 funeral (with a reading of his last will), or go on a Historical Haunt ghost tour. Call 703-683-3451 or visit nvrpa.org for more information.
Andrew Jackson's 1819 Greek Revival brick mansion was built on a site chosen by his wife, Rachel Donelson Jackson, who passed away right before his presidential inauguration in 1829. A fire destroyed most of the structure in 1834, and the home stands now as it did after its 1835 restoration, in which all the ceilings were raised and all the windows enlarged. Porches became two-story galleries with Corinthian columns, and elegant double doors open to a central hall with a grand, circular staircase. The interior boasts scenic French wallpaper, marble mantelpieces, and a beautiful library-office.
The home was passed to The Ladies Hermitage Association in 1889. Some of the ladies took turns sleeping there to keep watch while renovations were in progress. Once, the women were awakened by the sound of a horse galloping up and down the main stair; many believe the phantom rider to have been Andrew Jackson himself, demanding they get to work.
Check out the annual, kid-friendly Hauntings at The Hermitage with ghost stories, haunted hay rides, and more. Call 615-889-2941 ext. 211 or visit thehermitage.com for more information.
Cape May, New Jersey
Dr. Emlen Physick's sprawling four-acre estate, a 1879 Victorian mansion, has changed hands only three times in its 130-year history. The home made news in 1878 for its unique Stick-style, featuring geometric decorative elements and irregular rooflines that contrasted with its more traditional neighbors. The exterior features oversized corbelled chimneys, jerkin-head dormers, and porch brackets, while the interior showcases classic Victorian molding, fireplaces, and furniture.
The herb garden on the grounds is a replica of one planted there in the 1800s, but that's not all that remains from the past. Psychic medium Craig McManus, the author of The Ghosts of Cape May, has identified many spirits still residing at the Physick Estate: The most prominent ones are Physick's Aunt Emilie, and the spirits of Physick's beloved dogs.
The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts hosts Phantoms of the Physick Estate and ghost tours (kid-friendly and evening options available). Call 800-275-4278 or visit capemaymac.org for more information.
This mansion, listed by the Ohio Underground Railroad Association, was built in 1856 by abolitionist G.W. Adams. The Greek Revival-Italianate is the last remaining of five similar Dresden-area mansions. The home had many innovative features for its time, including a unique refrigeration system in the basement. In the 1980s, local businessman Dave Longaberger saved the 29-room mansion from the wrecking ball. Its current owner—a descendant of G.W. Adams—has continued the restoration.
Locals are familiar with the tale of Constance Cox, a young girl who took a fatal fall off a balcony one winter in the 19th century. Since the child couldn't have a proper burial until the spring, her body was kept in the basement icebox where her mother visited with her. The site of numerous paranormal investigations, ghost hunters maintain that the spirits of both Constance and her mother remain at the house.
Prospect Mansion welcomes visitors for paranormal investigations and tours, but warns of "interacting with the spirit of the bounty hunter in the barn." Call 740-617-4200 or visit prospectplace-dresden.com for more information.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Fort Lauderdale founding father Frank Stranahan built this Florida vernacular-style house for his new bride, Ivy, in the year 1900. Built of Dade county pine, the place changed functions as often as Stranahan changed professions: The house served as a post office (and Stranahan as the county's first postmaster), a community center, and a town hall. Overwhelmed by losses during the collapse of the 1920s and a hurricane in 1926, the owner ended his life on the grounds. Ivy, Fort Lauderdale's first schoolteacher, went on to lease the ground floor as a restaurant and continued to live in the upper quarters until her death in 1971. The home was then acquired by the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society, which began a restoration in the 1980s.
The place now stands in its 1913 configuration. According to John Marc Carr's Haunted Fort Lauderdale, up to six ghosts inhabit the home, including the ghost of Frank Stranahan himself.
Stranahan House docents dressed in traditional mourning clothes will escort you through the parlor, staged for a Victorian funeral, and a tour of tombstones dating back to the 1800s. Call 954-524-4736 or visit stranahanhouse.org for more information.
Built by sea captain John Turner in 1668, this traditional colonial home existed 24 years before Salem gained notoriety for its witch trials. The house stayed in Turner family hands for three generations, until Susan Ingersoll—cousin to Nathaniel Hawthorne—acquired it. Hawthorne visited the home, by then known as the House of Seven Gables, and was inspired to write his 1852 classic novel of the same name.
As the oldest surviving wooden mansion in the country, the house has undergone countless renovations in its 340-year history. Georgian-style changes made in a 1725 remodel have been preserved. A mysterious "secret" staircase that Turner added in 1692 can still be seen in the main chimney. Another mysterious feature of the place is a female apparition, who locals believe to be Susan Ingersoll. Some claim to see the woman peering through windows.
Check out October events, including Legacy of the Hanging Judge and Spirits of the Gables ghost tours. Call 978-744-0991 or visit 7gables.org for more information.
New York, New York
This 1832 red brick and white marble row house was bought by wealthy hardware merchant Seabury Tredwell just three years after it was built. The late-Federal and Greek Revival building ten stayed in Tredwell family hands for nearly 100 years. Tredwell's daughter, Gertrude, was born in the house and lived there until she died in 1933, having never married. It is said that Gertrude's lonely spirit remains in the house, still bitter at her father's disapproval of her choice for a suitor.
Because of Gertrude's long tenure as owner and resident, the house underwent no changes in its century with the Tredwell family. It remains the only structure in Manhattan to have been preserved in its original configuration, with period furniture and conserved details. The place features formal double parlors with black and gold marble mantelpieces, ornate plasterwork, mahogany pocket doors, and the work of the best New York cabinetmakers of the time.
The Merchant's House Museum offers candlelight ghost tours and an 1865 Seabury Treadwell funeral reenactment. After the Treadwell service, visitors can follow the coffin to the New York City Marble Cemetery. Call 212-777-1089 or visit merchantshouse.org for more information on these and many other seasonal events.
Tarrytown, New York
Frederick Philipse, an Anglo-Dutch merchant, built this three-story fieldstone house in 1683. He housed over 20 servants and a number of tenant farmers on the grounds of this commercial agricultural powerhouse: A single mill could churn out 15 tons of flour in a week. After he died in 1702, the house's condition slowly deteriorated until a major restoration was completed in the 1960s.
Situated in the area of New York made famous by the writing of Washington Irving, the manor's grounds include a millpond described in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the original Dutch Reformed Sleepy Hollow Church, built for tenants and workers in 1697. The interior features period artifacts, accompanied by touchable reproductions for visitors to explore. The foreroom kas, or storage cabinet—full of reproduced documents that visitors can handle—is a crowd favorite.
The grounds of the manor will be transformed into a haunted landscape visited by the Headless Horseman and other ghosts from Hudson Valley lore for the annual Horseman's Hollow event. Call 914-366-6900 or visit hudsonvalley.org for more information.
Wealthy hardware businessman J.M. Brown's 1858 home was the first brick mansion built in Texas. The Italiante sports window cornices and intricate wrought-iron portico grillwork on the exterior, opulent gold leaf molding throughout, and original carved antique furniture. In 1900, the house went on to survive that year's notorious hurricane, which killed over 8,000 people, because the owners opened the front and back doors to let floodwater flow through the house. One of Brown's daughters sat atop the main staircase and excitedly watched as water reached the tenth tread.
Named the third most haunted place in America by The Discovery Channel, accounts of the sound of phantom marching can perhaps be explained by the place having served as army headquarters in the 1860s. The ghost of Miss Bettie Brown, the original owner's eccentric daughter, often shows herself on the second floor landing.
While Ashton Villa considers itself a "serious house museum that deals only in historical facts" and doesn't typically acknowledge the paranormal reputation of the place, they are hosting special "Are We Haunted?" October tours (409-765-7834; galvestonhistory.org). The villa is also the starting point of Galveston's annual Living Dead Tour (409-789-9911; galveston.com)
St. Francisville, Louisiana
General David Bradford headed to the French colony of Louisiana and built this home after his involvement in the Whiskey Rebellion forced him to flee federal troops trying to suppress the uprising in 1794. The plantation underwent a series of restorations in its 215-year history, including a mid-19th century addition that doubled the size of the main house. Despite the remodels, the raised cottage still features all of its original flooring and most of its original windows. The interior features beautiful Rococo Revival-style marble mantles and hand-painted stained glass accents.
Double dormers and lace grillwork on the 120-foot veranda are as famous as the spirits said to inhabit the house, billed as "One of America's Most Haunted Homes." While there is some dispute with regard to the origins of the spirits at the plantation, the National Parks Service confirms that at least one Reconstruction-era murder took place there.
The Myrtles Plantation welcomes visitors for historical tours and seasonal mystery tours. Call 800-809-0565 or visit myrtlesplantation.com for more information.