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America's Most Haunted

Updated on July 12, 2012

America's Most Haunted

With Halloween just around the corner the mind tends to seek out the extraordinary. Although I think any time of the year is a fine time for a good scare, Halloween is especially so. It is the one time of the year when even the most devout of skeptics take pause and allows themselves to think, "What if?" With that in mind I have compiled a list of some of the most notorious haunted places in America. Lucky you if you live close enough to one of these places to make an All Hallow's Eve sojourn but if you don't, fear not. This is just the first in a series of articles that will explore the most reportedly haunted places all over the county.

The Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, CA
The Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, CA

The Winchester Mansion

The Winchester Mystery House has one of the oddest histories of any haunted place in the world. Built by Sarah Winchester, widow of famous gun manufacturer William Winchester, the house boasts over 160 rooms and has some very unusual features such as false doors, a staircase that leads to the ceiling, and a room built for séances.

After her husband's death in 1881 on the advice of a Spiritualist medium, Sarah sold her home in New Haven, Connecticut and headed west on the belief that she would be guided by her late husband's spirit to a new home. She reached the Santa Clara Valley in 1884 and purchased a six room home that sat on 162 acres.  The home was still under construction and remained so for the next 36 years. Operating under the belief that the spirits of people killed by Winchester firearms would seek retribution, Sarah built her home in a way that she though would offer protection from 'bad' spirits.

Sarah seemed to have an affectation for the number 13 which manifested itself in the construction. Almost every window contained 13 panes of glass, the walls have 13 panels, the greenhouse has 13 cupolas, some of the rooms have 13 windows and every staircase save one has 13 steps.

Of all the rooms in the house the séance room is perhaps the most notable. It is said that every night she entered this room and channeled the spirits of benevolent ghosts for the building plans that would keep her house safe from spirits who intended her harm. Every morning she met with her foreman and go over her hand drawn sketches of her changes and additions.

Sarah died in her sleep in the early morning hours on September 4, 1922. After her death the home was sold to a group on investors that planned to use the home as a tourist attraction, and today the house has been declared a California Historical Landmark. In 1923 guided tours of the house were offered to the public and since that time many strange events have been reported by visitors and workers at the home. Banging doors, footsteps, mysterious voices, cold spots, strange lights, the smell of chicken soup in the kitchen, and windows that bang so hard they shatter.

The Winchester Mystery house is located in San Jose, CA and offers guided tours to the public including special night time flashlight tours. If you are ever in the area I urge you to visit the home not only to admire the most unusual architecture, but you never know what might be lurking around the next corner or beyond one of the doors that opens to nowhere.

The Spooklight captured by photographer Marta Churchwell
The Spooklight captured by photographer Marta Churchwell

The Devil's Promenade

In northeast Oklahoma near the small town of Quapaw is the phenomena known as the Joplin Spook Light. It is seen as a strange, bouncing ball of orange light and has been visible almost nightly since it's first reported sighting in 1881.

The light is seen traveling east to west along a 4 mile stretch of road known as Devil's promenade, and according to locals the best time to see the light is between 10pm and midnight. The light has been described as being as small as a baseball up to the size of a basketball. It is said that the light has entered cars, floats above the treetops, or sways from side to side.

Many explanations have been offered to try explain the mysterious light including swamp gas, escaping natural gas, reflecting car lights, luminescence created by rotting matter, or electrical atmospheric charges. None have ever proven the source of the light. In 1946 even the Army Corps of Engineers could come up with no scientific reason for the appearance of the light. They called it "a mysterious light of unknown origin."

There are several legends that have been told trying to give a more supernatural reason for the appearance of the light. One claims that the light is the spirit of two young Quapaw Indians who were in love and committed suicide together. The story says that an Indian maiden fell in love with a young brave but her father would not allow them to marry as the young man didn't have a large enough dowry. The two eloped but were pursued by a party of warriors and chased to a bluff above the Spring River where they, not being able to bear the thought of being separated, leaped to their deaths. Another story is the light is the lantern of a miner's ghost who is looking for his missing wife and children. The legend says that the miner's cabin was attacked by Indians while he was away and when he returned he found his family missing. Yet another story tells the fate of an Osage Indian chief who was beheaded in the area and that the light is the torch he uses to light his way while he searches for his missing head.

Whatever story you may believe, the Spooklight definitely warrants a visit. Being almost a nightly occurrence, even the most skeptical amongst us will be wowed by the spectacle of this fiery light dancing just out of reach. Devil's Promenade is in the village of Hornet, MO. Take I-44 west from Joplin, MO. Just before the last exit at the Oklahoma border turn south on State Line Road. Devil's Promenade Road crosses State Line Road after about 4 miles.

The Lemp Mansion St. Louis, MO
The Lemp Mansion St. Louis, MO

The Lemp Mansion

At one time the Lemp family were owners of the largest brewery in St. Louis. Lemp's Western Brewing Co. introduced the first lager beer, Falstaff, which is still being brewed by another company today. The company started very humbly as a mercantile store where they sold vinegar and beer that they made themselves. The popularity of the beer led family patriarch John Adam Lemp to expand his brewing operations where they grew to be the first brewery to establish coast-to-coast distribution.

John Adam Lemp died in 1862 and his son William took over. The Mansion was originally built in 1868 by Julia Lemp's father and was purchased by William in 1876 for use as a residence and an auxiliary office.  The mansion was an impressive structure but William was determined to make his new home into a showplace and embarked on a huge renovation and remodeling project. It boasted radiant heating, a marvel at the time, an open-air elevator, and an underground tunnel that ran from the basement into a nearby cave. The cave was used as a natural storage area for beer and to finish the lagering process. After the invention of mechanical refrigeration, parts of the cave were re purposed for other interests. A large chamber was converted into an auditorium and theater and it was believed that the Lemp's hired actors for private performances. East of the theater a reservoir was converted into a swimming pool that piped hot water in from the brewery's boiler house.

In 1901 the downfall of the Lemp Empire began. Frederick Lemp, heir to the Lemp empire and William's Sr.'s favorite son died under mysterious circumstances. William never fully recovered from the loss of his son and in 1904 he shot himself in his bedroom.

In 1904 William Lemp Jr. took over the family business but the their troubles were far from over. 1906 marked a trying time for the business when nine of the large breweries combined to form the Independent Breweries Company. 1906 was also the year that Williams mother died of cancer. The company struggled along through a changed market, WWI, and poor business practices by Lemp Jr. until Prohibition closed the plant permanently.

The following years were fraught with tragedy for the Lemp family. Elsa Lemp committed suicide in 1920, and Lemp Jr. followed in her footsteps in 1922. By the late 1920s only Charles and Edwin remained of the immediate family, and as they became older they both became eccentric in their own way. Rumor has it that Charles was a germaphobe who constantly wore gloves to avoid contact with bacteria. In 1949 Charles was found dead by one of his staff. He was the fourth member of the Lemp Family to commit suicide. Edwin developed an irrational fear of being alone and he kept a constant companion with him at his estate. Edwin died of natural causes in 1970 and the Lemp family line died with him.

After the death of Charles, the mansion was sold and turned into a boarding house. Rumors of ghostly phenomenons spread and it became harder and harder to find tenants to occupy the rooms. In 1975 the boarding house was sold to it's current owner Dick Pointer and was converted into a restaurant and inn.

Since the death of Charles and the sale of the mansion, workers, tenants, and patrons of the current inn have reported various paranormal activities. Vanishing tools, feelings of being watched, glasses flying through the air, a piano that plays itself, voices and strange sounds, and even apparitions of spirits have been seen.

The Lemp Mansion is located at 3322 DeMenil Place in St. Louis, MO.

The Villisca House in Iowa
The Villisca House in Iowa

Villisca Ax Murder House

Located in the small town of Villisca, IA this house was home to a horrific crime where 8 people were murdered in their beds by an unknown, ax wielding assailant. On the morning of July 10, 1912 Ross Moore arived at his brother's house to find that every person there had been bludgeoned to death, their skulls crushed. The victims included Josiah and his wife Sarah Moore, their children Herman, Catherine, and Boyd, and two young friends of the children Lena and Ina Stillinger.

No one was ever convicted of these horrific crimes but suspicions in the small tight knit community ran rampant. The list of suspects included a state senator, a cocaine addict, a traveling preacher, and several drifters, and although Reverend George Kelly went through two trials he was acquitted. After almost 100 years the killer has taken the secret of the crime to his or her grave and to this day the case remains open.

The house has had many owners over the years but in 1994 it was purchased by Darwin and Martha Linn. The Linns are local farmers who already owned a museum in the area and felt that buying the house would afford them the opportunity to preserve more local history and the family history of the Moores. The Moore home has been completely restored and has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Several years ago the home was opened to overnight guests and reports of strange occurrences surfaced. Children's voices, laughter, odd sounds, lamps falling, and moving objects. Some aspiring ghost hunters even claim to have photographic evidence of paranormal activity.  The Linns have allowed several paranormal investigation teams to measure data in and around the house. Several of the teams have found results unusual enough to convince many people that this house is indeed haunted by the victim's of a horrible crime committed so long ago.


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    • Dave Powell profile image

      Dave Powell 

      7 years ago from Winchester, MA

      Great article.. voted up and amazing!

      I've been to the Winchester Mystery House, and it's truly creepy. It's also confusing... even the staff have to carry maps to keep from getting lost inside.

      And here are some (potentially) fascinating additions:

      * Sarah kept the place under continuous construction for 36 years because her psychic told her that she wouldn't die while construction was going on!

      * When the old TV show "That's Incredible" filmed there, they caught and broadcast what looked like a transparent image of Sarah walking outside a second-story window... where there was no place to walk!

      * During and San Fran earthquake of 1906, Sarah was trapped in a bedroom in a new wing that was being built. It took days to release her. And seeing that as a bad omen, she had the entire wing sealed off. It's only accessible now through the shallowest cupboard in the kitchen... which is backed by bricks and is only about an inch deep.

      * Similarly, when she once went down to the wine cellar to fetch a bottle, she saw a black hand print on the wall (probably from a construction worker). But seeing THAT as another bad omen, she had the entire cellar sealed behind a wall. And as far as I know, it's never been found... but I must research that! Naturally, it contained only the best wines... so the contents (especially the reds) are probably invaluable today!

      Thanks for reminding me about this wonderful place (and about others that I MUST visit)!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I stayed overnight at the Lemp mansion once. It's got a lot of the original fixtures, it's a beautiful piece of structural history, and it's in a historically preserved part of town. I didn't see a ghost but the ghost tour they run is really informative. Nice piece. :)


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