5 Gorgeous Haunted Houses + Their Spooky Histories

If walls could talk, these homes would scream.

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Sometimes, the most beautiful homes are also the most haunted. Stately Southern mansions, vibrant Victorians and even well-cared for Colonials can harbor undead inhabitants and boast spine-tingling tales of ghosts, murder and intrigue. Read on to learn about five of America’s loveliest yet most haunted houses and, if you're brave enough, plan a visit just in time for Halloween!

The Winchester Mystery House

Cupid Fountain

Cupid Fountain

This pretty fountain depicts Cupid.

Photo by: Winchester Mystery House ©Copyright Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House, Copyright Winchester Mystery House

Even with no knowledge of its chilling history, the stately Winchester Mystery House stands out. The quirky Queen Anne-style Victorian, under construction from the late 1800s until the death of its owner in the early 1900s, is made even more eye-catching by its hodgepodge of window shapes, pointed finials, turrets, gables and bold exterior paint. Comprised of over 160 rooms, the gigantic San Jose, California mansion was occupied by Sarah Winchester, widow of William Wirt Winchester (heir to the Winchester Rifle fortune) until her death in 1922.

After an unsettling encounter with a psychic, Sarah feared the ghosts of people killed by Winchester rifles were haunting her. In order to evade and confuse the disgruntled spirits, she designed and built her massive home to contain and control those ghosts. A baffling architectural smorgasbord, the house took decades to build and includes many strange details such as trap doors, staircases leading nowhere and Sarah Winchester’s fascination with the number 13, which is echoed throughout the home's design.

The House of the Seven Gables

House of the Seven Gables in Salem, Mass.

House of the Seven Gables in Salem, Mass.

The House of the Seven Gables is one of the oldest houses in the United States, the subject of a famous book by Nathaniel Hawthorne and a well-known tourist attraction.

Photo by: ©iStockphoto.com/kickstand

©iStockphoto.com/kickstand

At a glance, the House of the Seven Gables, or the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, is simple and stunning. The dark clapboard siding provides a lovely contrast to the bright gardens, and the many large, Georgian style windows create an incredibly attractive facade for the Salem, Massachusetts house.

Built in 1668, this Colonial-style home is thought to be among the oldest wooden structures in America and is remarkably well-preserved for its 300-plus years. Some might know this house from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1851 novel of the same name or the related movies, but it's also famous for its slew of paranormal activity. Mysterious shadows have been seen in the upper windows, as well as unexplained activity from faucets and lights. Some also say that the ghost of Hawthorne’s cousin, Susanna Ingersoll, who lived in the residence, as well as that of a young boy, still occupy the space.

Ashton Villa

Ashton Villa, Texas.

Ashton Villa, Texas.

Ashton Villa, built in 1858-59, was the first of Galveston Broadway palaces, as well as the first brick house to be built in Texas.

Photo by: Getty/Buyenlarge

Getty/Buyenlarge

Built in the mid-1800s, Ashton Villa is a stately mansion in Galveston, Texas and is the oldest brick home in the state. Built by businessman James Moreau Brown, the structure is a handsome specimen of the Italianate Villa style, with a symmetrical construction, dramatic eaves and ornate wrought iron railings and columns adorning the front balcony.

Ashton Villa is reported to still be inhabited by one of its previous residents, Bettie Brown, daughter of James Brown. Her once over-the-top personality seems unwilling to fade in the afterlife. People report seeing Bettie in the house’s Gold Room and on the staircase. Aside from that, there are reports of fans turning on and off, furniture with a mind of its own and even ghostly piano music that some attribute to Bettie’s sister, Matilda.

Franklin Castle

Franklin Castle

Franklin Castle

Another Queen Anne Victorian, Franklin Castle in Cleveland, Ohio, has been called one of Ohio’s most haunted locations. The imposing stone structure with its turrets, balconies and intricate stone carvings is at once creepy and captivating. With its imposing appearance, it’s not surprising that this home boasts a doleful past, marked by rumors of murder, an arson attack and paranormal happenings.

The home’s story begins in the late 1800s, when it was built for the Tiedemann family. Subsequent owners and visitors would report mysterious occurrences, such as light fixtures moving of their own accord and the voices of crying children. In addition, there have been more sinister discoveries in the home, such as that of human bones hidden in the tower room. As if that weren’t creepy enough, there are tunnels concealed beneath the house that were supposedly the site of murderous acts committed by the home’s first owner.

Myrtles Plantation

Myrtles Plantation

Myrtles Plantation

Photo by: Bogdan Oporowski/Wiki Commons

Bogdan Oporowski/Wiki Commons

From the outside, this stately St. Francisville, Louisiana house is the picture of elegance and class. The residence features delicate ironwork on a spacious veranda, hand-painted stained glass and an over 300-pound crystal chandelier. General David Bradford built the home in 1796 after fleeing imprisonment for his involvement in the Whiskey Rebellion. Since that time, it's rumored that the home has been the site of numerous tragic deaths and paranormal occurrences. On more than one occasion, shadowy figures have appeared in the background of photographs taken at the property. Other strange happenings include a piano played by unseen hands, sightings of the ghostly figures of a previous owner’s two children and unexplained handprints on a reportedly haunted mirror. 

More Haunted American Homes

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The Chelsea Hotel

The infamous Chelsea Hotel in New York City is one of the area's spookiest landmarks. Built in 1884, the hotel has been home to many notable writers, musicians and artists over the years. Even though many of its most famous occupants have since died, visitors claim to have spotted the apparitions of Dylan Thomas, Eugene O'Neill and Thomas Wolfe.

Photo By: ©iStockphoto.com/Chris Schmidt

Winchester Mystery House

The Winchester Mystery House is a 160-room Victorian mansion brimming with bizarre architectural features and a very eerie origin. With features such as secret passageways, labyrinth-like winding hallways and a seance room, this eccentric house is rumored to have been built for spirits themselves.

Photo By: Frontdoor.com

The Amityville House

In 1974, six members of the DeFeo family were found slain in this home; eldest son Ronald DeFeo Jr. was later convicted of murdering his parents and siblings. A year later, the Lutz family moved in but quickly moved out after reports of unexplained paranormal activity — strange odors, unexplained cold drafts and an apparition that took the form of a demonic pig-like creature.

Photo By: Doug Kerr

The Cassadaga Hotel

The town of Cassadaga is famous worldwide for its spiritualist community and paranormal activity. The Cassadaga Hotel sits at the center of this spooky small town, which is otherwise dotted with old cottages that are home to the many mediums, psychics and other spiritualists who live there. The hotel, which houses a number of spirits, also features a very powerful energy vortex that even skeptics have admitted to sensing.

The White House

For years there have been reports that the White House is a hotbed of haunted activity. Visitors, staff and even White House residents have reported seeing the ghosts of Abraham Lincoln, Abigail Adams and Andrew Jackson, to name a few. FDR, Dwight Eisenhower and Winston Churchill are among those who claimed to have seen the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. More recently, the Obamas claim to have repeatedly heard strange sounds and felt a sensation of someone gnawing at their feet in the middle of the night.

Photo By: ©iStockphoto.com/Deejpilot

Myrtles Plantation

Touted as "one of the most haunted houses in America," the Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville is one of the creepiest places in the South. Legend has it that since the house was built in 1797, dozens of deaths have occurred from illness, poisoning and murder. Visitors and former residents claim to have witnessed many strange occurrences: disappearing jewelry; waking to find themselves completely tucked into their beds; furniture that moves on its own; a grand piano that plays by itself; mysterious handprints; and objects and people appearing and disappearing randomly in photographs.

Photo By: FrontDoor.com

The Joshua Ward House

Once home to wealthy sea captain Joshua Ward, the Joshua Ward House was built in 1784 and originally owned by George Corwin, the High Sheriff during the Salem Witch Trials. For many years, Corwin's remains were housed in the basement, though they eventually were moved to a nearby cemetery. Rumor has it that Corwin's spirit still haunts the house.

Photo By: from FrontDoor.com

The LaLaurie House

One of the spookiest homes in the French Quarter, the LaLaurie Mansion was home to Dr. Louis and Delphine LaLaurie, a socially prominent family in the early 1830s. Rumor has it that Delphine treated her slaves brutally, chaining the cook to the stove, chasing another slave girl with a whip and causing her to jump to her death, and torturing and mutilating many others in a secret attic room. The house, which was owned by actor Nicolas Cage from 2007 to 2009, has been haunted by screams of agony coming from the apparitions of Delphine's slaves ever since.

Photo By: adrigu, CC BY 2.0

Franklin Castle

Built in 1865 for the Tiedemann family, Franklin Castle makes a spooky first impression with its sandstone exterior, round corner tower and gargoyle embellishments. Those who have been inside the mansion, which is known locally as the most haunted house in Ohio, claim to have witnessed an eerie woman in black staring out the tower window, small children crying and strange happenings like doors flying off hinges and spinning lights. The possible cause? Four of the Tiedemann children died in the home, and owner Hannes Tiedemann was rumored to have killed his 13-year-old niece in a hidden passage and his mistress in the tower.

Photo By: Corey Balazowich, CC BY-ND 2.0 featured on FrontDoor.com

The Whaley House

Now a museum run by the Save Our Heritage Organisation, San Diego's Whaley House was designated an official Haunted House by the U.S. Department of Commerce in the 1960s due to frequently heard heavy footsteps of the ghost of "Yankee Jim" Robinson, who was hung on the property in 1852 before the house was built. Other ghostly sightings include owners Thomas and Anna Whaley (Anna was reportedly seen by Regis Philbin), and even the family dog.

Photo By: Smart Destinations, CC BY-SA 2.0., featured on FrontDoor.com

The Lemp Mansion

The opulent Lemp mansion, built in St. Louis in the 1860s, was inhabited by the William Lemp family, who were wealthy brewers with a streak for suicide. Four Lemp family members of various generations committed suicide — three in the Lemp mansion itself. Named one of America's most haunted houses in 1980 by Life magazine, the mansion is currently a restaurant and inn that offers paranormal tours of the home.

Photo By: Tyson Blanquart, CC BY-SA 2.0, featured on FrontDoor.com

Villisca Ax Murder House

On June 12, 1912, all six members of the Moore family and two young houseguests were found bludgeoned to death by an ax in their home, turning this bucolic setting into the scene of a grisly crime. The murderer was never found, but the house in Villisca still boasts wandering spirits, children's crying voices and a door that mysteriously opens and closes. Today, the house is open for daytime tours and overnight sleepovers — if you dare.

Photo By: Jennifer Kirkland, Flickr, featured on FrontDoor.com ©2010 Jennifer Kirkland

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