Haunted houses have a long history, with stories as old as Pliny the Younger’s tale, an ancient Roman story of an Athens villa haunted by a chained man, to the ghost stories found in Arabian Nights. They remain an ever-present part of human society, one that parapsychologists attribute to violent events taking place in the related buildings. So, it is no surprise that the sites of some of humanity’s most gruesome acts bear the echoes of those murders.
Here are ten of the most infamous American murder houses and vacant lots to be found in the United States and the spirits that haunt them.
1. The Hex Murder House
Rehmeyer’s Hollow Road, Shrewsbury, PA.
In 1928, local witch Nellie Noll told John Blymire that recluse Nelson Rehmeyer was the source of his bad luck. Although both were avowed pow-wow men – or practitioners of hex magic, Blymire set out to break his “bad luck spirit” by burning 60-year-old Rehmeyer’s copy of the Pow-Wows spell book and burying a lock of his hair.
With the help of 14-year-old John Curry and 18-year-old Wilbert Hess, he tied up and beat Rehmeyer to death in his home when he refused to give up his book. They then set his body aflame to break the hex. Though his wife and daughter escaped harm because they lived on an adjoining farm, the elder pow-wow man reportedly haunts the Hex House to this day. You can visit historical exhibits there, including burn marks on the floorboards from Rehmeyer’s murder.
2. Kreischer Mansion
4500 Arthur Kill Road, Staten Island, NY.
In 1885, German businessman Balthasar Kreischer had a pair of Queen Anne mansions built for his sons. Within a decade, the senior Kreischer died, his brickworks closed, and both sons perished, Edward by suicide and Charles in a fire that destroyed his mansion. The remaining house was left empty until new owners turned it into a restaurant, and a mafia front before once more being left vacant, employing formerMarinee Joseph Young as its caretaker.
In 2006, Young was hired by the Bonanno crime family to kill Robert McKelvey, and he did so by strangling, stabbing, and drowning the man on the Kreischer Mansion grounds – before dismembering and burning the body in the furnace in the cellar. Rumor has it that the Kreischers haunt the residence, including a spectral woman who peers from the windows.
3. Amityville House
112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, NY.
John Moynahan had this Dutch Colonial built on Long Island’s south shore in the 1920s, but the DeFeo family brought it to infamy. In 1974, Ronald “Butch” DeFeo Jr. killed his parents and four siblings there at the behest of a dark presence. A year later, the Lutz family moved in, only to discover that his demons lingered.
First, local priest Father Mancuso was threatened by a monstrous voice during a blessing; then, the parents began having vivid nightmares, with wife Kathy feeling embraced by an unseen force. Meanwhile, father George discovered a hidden room in the basement, and daughter Jodie befriended an invisible, demonic pig. Cold spots, strange odors, spectral slime, and cloven footprints followed, until the family fled the house just 28 days after arriving. At one point, demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren visited and photographed a demonic boy, though no hauntings have been reported since.
4. Cleveland Strangler Murder House
12205 Imperial Avenue, Cleveland, OH.
In 2005, Anthony Sowell was released from prison after serving 15 years for attempted rape. Despite a decorated career in the US Marine Corps, he had a history of assaulting women and girls, including his 11-year-old niece. Still, no one suspected his murderous tendencies.
Although his friends and neighbors complained of his home’s horrid smell, Sowell blamed it on his stepmother, who lived with him, or the nearby sausage factory. Then, in 2009, after sexually assaulting another woman, police searched his Mount Pleasant home and found the bodies of almost a dozen local black women, including two in his living room. The relatively inconspicuous home was later demolished out of respect to the victims, whose spirits have since seemingly rested in peace.
5. Gardette-LaPrete House
1240 Burgundy Street, New Orleans, LA.
This Greek Revival house in New Orleans’ French Quarter started as a vacation home for plantation owner Jean LaPrete in the 1830s. After adding its wrought-iron lace rails, LaPrete rented the house to a wealthy young Turk known as “The Sultan.” The handsome stranger brought a vibrant entourage of concubines, eunuchs, and compatriots, all of whom participated in lavish, late-night parties with incense and wild music.
Then, one morning, a passer-by noticed blood seeping from the door, and police entered to discover the entire group dead and dismembered, with “The Sultan” buried alive in the courtyard. Although the case remains unsolved, authorities suspect the stranger may have been an actual Sultan killed by competitive relatives. To this day, visitors regularly hear shouting and weeping from within, while ghostly faces peer from the upstairs windows.
6. Villisca Ax Murder House
508 E. 2nd Street, Villisca, IA.
In 1912, this rural house was the home of Josiah B. Moore, his wife, and four children. However, one cool summer evening, someone entered the Moore homestead and used an ax to slaughter everyone inside, including two visiting children. The ghastly crime was discovered by a concerned neighbor, and an intense investigation followed.
Word fast spread, and suspects included a nameless highwayman, a well-known traveling minister, and even then-Senator Frank F. Jones. The crime remains unsolved to this day, and the spirits of those who lost their life in the home are still restless. Although they commonly move objects and cause furniture to fall over, one paranormal investigator almost lost his life when staying the night, as he wound up stabbing himself by morning.
7. Lizzie Borden House
230 2nd Street, Fall River, MA.
In August of 1892, this Greek Revival was the site of the crime that inspired the infamous rhyme. Affluent banker Andrew Borden was discussing finances with his late wife’s brother after months of interfamilial tension when he decided to go for a walk. In the intervening hour, someone entered the house and hit his new wife Abby 18 or 19 times with a hatchet, with daughter Lizzie and maid Bridget supposedly none the wiser. Upon his return, Andrew laid upon a couch in his parlor to nap but was practically beheaded by the same killer smashing his face 11 times.
Although popular opinion turned on Lizzie, a local judge acquitted her due to circumstantial evidence. The building has since been restored as a museum and bed and breakfast, where many visitors report hearing Lizzie cackling on the stairs and seeing her parents wandering the grounds.
8. Manson Family Murder House
10050 Cielo Drive, Los Angeles, CA.
This Los Angeles estate rose to fame in 1969, when the Mansion Family broke in and killed actress Sharon Tate, hair stylist Jay Sebring, and three others. On Manson’s order to make the murders “as gruesome as you can”, the five were horrifically mutilated. Near the end, Tate begged for the life of her unborn child, but her attackers stabbed her 16 times before leaving the word “pig” in blood on the front door.
The property was later owned by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, who took the door when he left, but it was knocked down in 1994 and replaced. Although no ghosts linger on-site, voices and footsteps were heard during the construction of a nearby house, whose residents report cold winds and apparitions.
9. John Wayne Gacy’s House
8213 Summerdale Avenue, Chicago, IL.
The crimes of this killer clown are etched into Americans’ minds, but it is perhaps most disturbing because he buried victims’ bodies beneath his otherwise banal suburban home. Only his wife noticed a certain smell, but Gacy blamed dead mice in the crawl space. Upon his arrest in 1978, though, police excavated the property and unearthed the remains of 29 individuals under the house and in the backyard and garage.
The work took three months due to an especially brutal winter, and the house was mostly destroyed in the process, resulting in its razing in 1979. Afterwards, rumors spread of his victims’ ghosts haunting the property, especially as the soil remained barren in the intervening years. A new home was built on the property in 1988, though the address was changed by the new owner.
10. Jeffrey Dahmer’s Apartment
924 North 25th Street, Apartment #213, Milwaukee, WI.
The majority of this infamous cannibal’s crimes were committed at this modern Oxford apartment complex. Dahmer lured unsuspecting victims to his one-bedroom flat with the promise of cash in exchange for sexual favors and then drugged them with sleeping pills. Afterwards, he dismembered their bodies, disposed their torsos in a 57-gallon vat of acid, and refrigerated their limbs to eat later.
Eventually, in 1991, after two separate instances of victims escaping, police arrested Dahmer and discovered the human abattoir in his flat. The building was purchased by Marquette University and torn down in 1992 out of respect for the victims – and because no one wanted to live there. It remains a vacant lot to this day, with no word on the souls of the young men who perished there.
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