Thursday, October 29, 2009

Most Haunted Houses (Plus a Few Other Haunted Places Too)

I don't really believe in ghosts, that's my youngest son's department (he used to swear that the Loch Ness Monster was out there and it provided hours of family entertainment) and with today's list it's all about places you could go if you wanted to play ghost buster.

And notice that Alaska makes a nice little showing in the rankings? Shows how cool we are.

Myrtle's Plantation1. Myrtles Plantation
This historic home was built in the late 18th century and rumors have built up over the years to give it more ghosts than you can shake a stick at *shake shake*. These include a former slave who was hung in the yard for killing two little girls (though evidence that he existed, let alone terrorized in a murderous rage, is tenuous at best).

While he himself spends his holidays haunting the place he's joined, of course, by the the ghosts of the two children he supposedly got rid of. Of course.

However, the only confirmed murder to happen on the premises was that of William Drew Winter, an attorney who lived at Myrtles from 1860 to 1871. He was shot on the side porch by a stranger then staggered into the house and began to climb the stairs to the second floor (isn't this all very dramatic?) but collapsed and died and his dying footsteps can be heard on the staircase to this very day!

The great part about this house though is that besides these happy occurrences it is said that the ghosts of other slaves occasionally show up to mournfully ask if they can do any chores. Can you imagine something so wonderful? I can only guess at how that improves the property value, having built-in maid service. Man, how much would I'd love to have people wafting through my home, saying nothing but "Ma'am, are there any other chores I can do?" Sweet.

In addition to this it's said that the grand piano will sometimes play by itself, repeating one haunting chord. Now that does sound like my house. The piano is going all the time and it's the same stuff over and over and over . . . Bon Jovi, Journey, Green Day, Cold Play . . . definitely haunting and distressing.

Maybe my house is haunted too.

2. The White House
Yes, that White House. Apparently Mr. Obama has house guests that he may not even be aware of. They say (whoever "they" may be) that former president Harrison can be heard digging through the attic--did you even know the White House had an attic?--and the ghost of Abigail Adams has been seen in the hallways. Seems like I remember the Clintons having a hard time saying goodbye to the place as well and hanging around long after the party was over . . .

But the most common ghost is, of course, Mr. Lincoln himself. That's right, get this: Eleanor Roosevelt once said she felt the presence of Lincoln watching her as she worked in the Lincoln bedroom. (That proves he's haunting the place right there). But then a clerk claimed to have seen the ghost of Lincoln sitting on a bed pulling off his boots. But the funniest one is when Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was awakened by a knock on the bedroom door. Answering it, she was allegedly met with the ghost of Abe Lincoln staring at her from the hallway.

Because if you're queen you're used to getting strange knocks on your bedroom door in the middle of the night and it's oh-so-normal to get out of bed and answer it yourself. I can just picture her there in her nighty with night cream on her face and the tiara on her head coming to the bedroom door. Somehow I'm doubting the old girl's story.

But then Calvin Coolidge's wife reported seeing the ghost of Lincoln on several occasions, standing with his hands clasped behind his back, at a window in the Oval Office, staring out in deep contemplation toward the battlefields across the Potomac. So there.

The Whaley House3. The Whaley House
In old town San Diego stands the Whaley House which was converted into a museum after earning the title of "Most Haunted House in America." I guess that fits if you consider that the house was haunted even before it was finished--they had used the property as a site for hanging and a man was executed there in 1852 so it was just asking for trouble to put a house on that spot.

Kind of like building your swimming pool on top of an relocated Indian burial site, huh?

I'd go through the long list of ghosts that make an appearance there but it's not that exciting--the Whaley family lived there so long that all sorts of people ended up dying there so it's kind of obvious that it was voted as "most likely to be a ghost house" but I'm extremely skeptical. They say that a ghost is present when a room has a cold spot. If that were the case then it would seem that Alaska would have more than its fair share of ghosts but we don't seem to get that many around here.

Maybe ghosts don't like snow either.

LaLaurie House4. The LaLaurie House
Delphine LaLaurie (and I'll say right here that regardless of what I'm about to reveal about her her name is simply smashing) was twice widowed and she was caught mistreating her slaves which was all it took for rumors to run wild. By all accounts she was a very nasty lady who whipped slave girls for minor infractions (as if it's acceptable to whip slaves for major infractions, or to have slaves at all?) and when neighbors began to complain she ended up fleeing the country, eventually dying in France I believe.

But still, her victims' ghosts remain to remind us of her cruelty and her house remains as a tribute to the times. As an interesting side note Nicholas Cage bought the place and then sold it a year or two ago. Apparently he liked the stories about it too.

The Queen Mary5. The Queen Mary
This famous ship was permanently docked and made into a hotel which I would very much like to visit because in World War II my grandfather traveled to Europe as a GI, sleeping on its deck, back in 1943.

I'll have to ask him if he saw any ghosts. Supposedly the ghost of a sailor who was crushed while trying to escape a fire haunts regularly and the ghost of a child who drown in the pool makes appearances, as if there'd be any room for ghosts with all those soldiers crawling the place.

6. The Bell House
Somewhere in Tennessee (not sure where) back in the 1860s there lived the Bell family who had their lives inconvenienced by a ghost that came to be known as Kate (why are ghosts never named Lateesha, Zoey or Jasmine?) Claiming she was a witch (not sure how this communication was received or if it was just a given based on circumstances) she began to harass the farmer until he grew so sick he took to his bed.

He eventually died and--get this--next to his bed was a suspicious bottle containing black liquid. Bell's breath also had the same smell as the liquid and when they gave a drop to the cat he died instantly. Potent stuff, no? Anyway, investigators made the completely logical deduction that Bell must have had the bottle of poison administered to him by a spirit--probably that Kate person who'd been haunting him.

Makes sense. A lot more sense than, say, his WIFE tried to get rid of him, right? Because why would she want him dead? It makes so much more sense that it was a mysterious disembodied spirit that had at one time taken the form of a half-rabbit-half-dog creature leaping through the corn fields which he supposedly saw one day. Lots more sense.

Whatever. It makes for a good story I guess because it's been made into books and movies.

Eastern State Penitentiary7. Eastern State Penitentiary
I bet if you took every state in the country and added up all the ghost stories, Pennsylvania--specifically Philadelphia--would have more ghosts per capita than any other place in the U.S. It's true.

I guess if you're famous enough to have housed Al Capone within your walls then you're due for a few ghosts. Rumor has it that Al Capone was haunted by the ghost of someone he offed during the St. Valentine's Day massacre though somehow I'm doubting this. I have a hard time seeing Capone with a conscience--even with so selective a conscience.

Other apparitions include a shadow-like figure that scoots quickly away when approached, a figure that stands in the guard tower, an evil cackling coming from cellblock 12 and another shadowy figure who has been seen sliding down the wall. Yup, none of those things sound like they fit in in a prison. It must be ghosts.

The Anchorage Hotel8. The Anchorage Hotel
I'm including this for hometown sentimentality. This fun little place is in downtown Anchorage (yes I've been there) and in the guest register they have a place where people can share their encounters.

Um, with spirits that is.

The city's first police chief, John Sturgis, was shot in the alleyway outside the hotel and died shortly thereafter and his ghost is said to roam around. There have also been reports of an unnamed female ghost who was jilted at the alter because her fiance left to look for gold. She hanged herself in her wedding dress (so the story goes) and now hangs out at the hotel in an eternal honeymoon.

9. The Congelier House
This used to carry the title of Most Haunted House in America (one has to wonder how the award is given out--and is there a medal or monetary prize that accompanies the title?) and I have to say that if you judged it solely on violence and rumor, this one beats the Whaley House all to pieces.

Built by a Yankee carpetbagger in Pittsburg (see? What did I tell you--it's always Pennsylvania. Maybe because it rhymes with "Transylvania"?) it got its reputation when the lady of the house found the master dabbling with the maid whereupon she got him with a knife and whacked off the poor girl's head. Yes, that's bloody I know. True? I don't know. But it's got ghosts with a vengeance.

It was said Thomas Edison built some kind of contraption to facilitate conversation with the dead (apparently he wanted to one up that dumb Alexander Graham Bell for beating him to the telephone) all because of what he saw on a visit to the Congelier house.

The Winchester House10. The Winchester House
Saving the best for last this is the only house that seems to be actually and legitimately odd for a plausible reason.

Sarah Winchester was the widow of William Winchester of Winchester rifle fame and when her husband and baby daughter died suddenly, leaving her with 40 million dollars and too much time by herself she went west and built this strange 160-room mansion from the depths of her grief.

Rumor was that she was told by a medium or by the ghost of her husband, whichever angle makes you happier, that she was being punished for all the people the Winchester guns had killed and that the house she built needed to be under continual construction or she would die. And anyone who has been through a remodel knows exactly how she feels.

At any rate she took the ghost as his word and the house is this crazy concoction of halls and stairways and tributes to the number thirteen. Chandeliers were modified to hold thirteen candles, some hallways and stairways lead nowhere and there are spiderweb motifs around the grounds. I think I'd be interested in seeing the place just for kicks.

What else are you going to do on Halloween?

Sponsored by Forty Fish Eggs


Michemily said...

I've been to the Winchester House. Very interesting place. What I would do to be able to build whatever I wanted.

The Source said...

Great list! Some very interesting stories. Weird. But interesting. We have an over abundance of creepy stories down here in the South...even a supposedly curse pillar that was once part of a slave market. Rumor is that anyone who tries to remove that pillar will be struck dead. So, umm, it's still standing there...on the street corner...all by itself...and people will literally cross the street to avoid touching it!

Debbie said...

Enjoyed the haunted house post, but isn't The Myrtles located in St. Francisville, Louisiana rather than New York? A Google search yielded only a Louisiana location, but not one in New York.

Peruby said...

Loved the eerie post.

I also wanted to mention that I made the Bolognese sauce (minus the carrots). I even bought capers, which I have never had before.

It was (IS) terrific. Thanks!

K said...

I've been to Eastern State Penitentary. Truly creepy, even during the day. I don't know if I would say that the place is haunted, but it's easy to psych yourself out when you stand alone in one of the cells. Just imagine what it would be like to be in solitary confinement for years because you stole someone's horse? It gives you a new appreciation for Jean Val Jean and Charles Darnay. Even if you're not into scaring yourself (like me), you can enjoy this place. I think you have to sign an affadavit releasing ESP from liability before you tour the place, though?

Scribbit said...

Source--that is horrible/creepy/fasciating.

And Debbie, I would completely believe your information over mine. I tried to find where it was located and had a hard time coming up with it and NY sounded weird to me when I found it, obviously I was off.

april said...

I read somewhere that that last house was originally 7 floors, but due to an earthquake (in the 90's, was it?) it's now only 4 floors. Or something like that.

Anonymous said...

I've actually seen a ghost. No other explanation. When I said what I had seen the people who lived there knew the ghost as someone from the family who had been dead for sometime. I still try to say NO WAY but it happened and I can't deny it. J

Laurie said...

Excellent post! I love the Delphine LaLaurie house. I wish I had the money to buy it. Sorta like the name, ha ha. But you missed the most infamous haunted house in Lousiana, the Myrtles in St. Francisville. I know acquintances who have had bad experiences there. Even my mom, a stalwart soul, refused to stay there when her friends stayed the night. She got a good deal of kidding about it but she stayed at the unhaunted St. Francisville Hotel while her friends waited for ghosts at the Myrtles.

Mrs. Ohtobe said...

I've been to the Winchester House twice and I love it for all it's weirdness and yes, some of the rooms are pretty creepy.

Heart2Heart said...


I've visited the Winchester House which I found very interesting. Beautiful victorian elements everywhere you look. The interesting things are the stairways that end at the ceilings and doors that open to walls.

I have also stayed the night on the Queen Mary and can honestly say no ghosts for us. I have even been on a Ghost Tour and nope, nothing. It still makes for very active imaginations I guess.

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

Jill in MA said...

The Winchester Mystery House is very fun to visit. It's totally bizarre what that woman did there. She was apparently very short and she made all the stairs very shallow. It's difficult navigating, especially for tall people. If you're ever in San Jose, *definitely* check it out!

Stephanie Frieze said...

I've only been to the Winchester House, but I like this itinerary!

Mom24 said...

It's funny, I don't believe in ghosts, but I wouldn't want to stay in some of these houses.

Julianna's birthday is Sunday--crossing my fingers that that is your first snow.

Lucy said...

Ehhhh....I never have believed that Lincoln ghost story. And I've been all over the Queen Mary and I've never seen a ghost or even wet footprints dang it. You don't get to go into the pool area now but about 20 years ago, they let people walk all over it. And been there done that with Mrs. Winchester's house. No ghosts but there are weird things in that house. I think Mrs. W. was a bit touched.

Laurie said...

Cage put the LaLaurie house on the market about 6 months ago. You can still purchase it through Sotheby's Realtors. Price is about 2 1/2 million.

Janelle said...

I was started to get really disappointed, not seeing the Winchester Mansion on your list, but then I got to the end and saw that once again, you came through. I lived about 2 miles away from it for one transfer on my mission, but never had the opportunity to visit it.

The only other place that I know of off the top of my head that would be a good/plausible addition to this list would be Alcatraz.

I've heard a lot about the little girl on the Queen Mary. My great-grandfather was in the navy during WWII, and he and my great-grandmother lived in Long Beach all my life. Somehow, I've never been on the QM, but my dad has a few times, and I've been to it (back when the Spruce Goose was still there, too!). My dad is the type that never "let" me win at checkers, and I've heard him talk about the little girl's ghost.

Anonymous said...

Been to the Bell House... definitely some interesting stuff there! It's in Adams, Tennessee. Not too far from Nashville :)

Terresa said...

I've always wanted to visit Winchester House.

We're going trick or treating to our neighbors this Halloween. when my kids are older I'd like to take them to an outdoor haunted field (like the ones they have around Provo & SLC, Utah).

Janelle said...

Here's an interesting article I just read about the medical side of ghost sightings.

a happy heart blog. said...

What an interesting thing about your grnadfather. Where is the Queen Mary docked? That would certainly be a neat place to visit. Fun list!

~Seth and Nancy~ said...

i guess steven king got the idea for rose red from the last house!

angie said...

Oh my stars. I love hearing about "haunted houses" and your commentary was fantastic. I LIKE the skeptic in you! :) I've always wanted to go to the Winchester house.

Tracy M said...

I grew up just down the street from the Winchester House, and you know, as many times as I walked/drove/rode the buy by it, I never, ever went in!

Isn't that the way it is with things that are everyday?