If you’re a fan of all things macabre, you can rest easy. According to The Washington Post, enjoying the spookier things in life is normal and exciting. In fact, there is a clear scientific reasoning behind wanting to seek out experiences that might be a little bit scary, like books, movies, or even haunted houses. “When we’re in a safe place, and we know it, it takes less than a second for us to remember we’re not actually in danger. Then we switch over to enjoying it,” Margee Kerr, a sociologist, told the newspaper. “It’s a kind of euphoria. That’s why you see people go right from screaming to laughing.”
We are wired to love the tingle in our toes when we hear a particularly spooky story — or visit a particularly haunted house. And we are lucky because we have some of the scariest and most ghastly pieces of real estate in the world right here in the United States. There have been horrific murders, sightings of past residents, and things that go bump in the night. Here are the stories of the scariest houses in the USA. Read on … if you dare.
1. The White House: Washington, D.C.
The residence of America’s First Family holds many secrets. The White House is one of the most famous haunted houses in the country, mostly because of the kinds of ghosts said to hang around. According to The White House Historical Association, President Abraham Lincoln, although assassinated at Ford’s Theatre, is said to roam the halls of the mansion. His likeness was spotted by world leaders like Winston Churchill and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands while they were staying on the property. The sightings occurred years apart in different parts of the house, making it seem more likely that the two definitely saw something.
Lincoln isn’t the only one hanging around his former home. Abigail Adams, wife to one president and mother to another, has been spotted doing laundry in the White House’s East Room. President Harry Truman also believed the house to be full of ghosts, like President Andrew Jackson and President Grover Cleveland (via The Washington Post). We must note, however, that most encounters with ghosts at the White House have been entirely friendly, proving that not all spirits carry ill will.
2. Bell Witch Cave: Adams, Tennessee
In rural Tennessee, far enough into the country where no one could hear your screams for help, there is a spooky story that stretches over an entire farm. According to the Historic Bell Witch Cave, the trouble began in 1804. This was when John Bell and his family moved to the area from North Carolina. Things were normal at first, but then the family started to experience hair-raising events in 1817, exactly 13 years after moving. Was this unlucky amount of time just a coincidence?
First, they started seeing strange animals darting in and out of the shadows around the farm. Was it just a black cat, or something more sinister? Then, these otherworldly visions began making sounds, and these sounds, in turn, became whispers. Whispers that turned into a clear voice that wouldn’t leave the family alone. The voice somehow physically manifested within the home, preying on young Betsy Bell and beating her unconscious. News of these evil events spread throughout the community, and locals began to gather at the farm, hoping to experience it for themselves. It is said that the Bell Witch killed John after tormenting him and his family for years. Because of this, Tennessee is the only state to officially recognize an unseen force as lethal.
3. LaLaurie House: New Orleans, Louisiana
The LaLaurie house has a terrible backstory. There was a horrible fire and an awful history of abuse which makes one thing very clear: this house is definitely haunted. According to “Tales from the Haunted South,” Madame Delphine MacCarthy Lalaurie was a wealthy member of New Orleans society in the early nineteenth century. She relied on exploiting the labor of enslaved individuals to maintain her lavish lifestyle. Not only that, but she did so with extreme cruelty. Her ruthless behavior earned her much notoriety, even by historical standards.
On April 10, 1834, her New Orleans mansion began to burn. While Lalaurie escaped to safety, she left the enslaved people locked inside to be burned alive. When the community heard of this inhumane act, they rioted. Over 4,000 people gathered near the mansion, with some even breaching its walls and looting what was left of the charred remains. The Lalaurie family fled and eventually left Louisiana to return to Paris. Another private residence now stands in place of the original mansion at 1140 Royal Street, but the souls of those trapped inside are said to linger around the area, demanding justice.
4. George Corwin House / Joshua Ward House: Salem, Massachusetts
Is there a house that isn’t haunted in Salem? According to the Salem Witch Museum, the owner of the house, George Corwin, worked as the High Sheriff during the famous witchcraft trials of 1692. He was known at the time for his strict adherence to the law and punitive way of carrying out punishments. At only 25 years old during the height of the witch hunt, it’s quite clear that he didn’t come into power because of his life experience or education. Instead, he just had good family connections. He had two very powerful uncles: Judge Jonathan Corwin and Judge Wait Winthrop, as well as an important father-in-law, Judge Bartholomew Gedney. Corwin oversaw the gruesome deaths of many townsfolk, including Giles Corey, who was crushed by stones.
After his reign of terror, his house at 148 Washington Street fell into disarray and was eventually replaced by the home of Joshua Ward, which still stands to this day (via Spellbound Tours). Many believe that Corwin’s ruthless, murderous spirit still lingers on the property, as the home has been subjected to many paranormal investigations.
5. Lemp Mansion: St. Louis, Missouri
The Lemp Mansion is now a hotel that you can stay in. But it’s not for the faint of heart: The ghosts visit the inn so regularly that there are even tours you can book specifically to speak with them. According to the Lemp Mansion Restaurant and Inn, each tour takes great care to teach each visitor about the spooky past of the home, including its paranormal (and normal!) history. Then, at the end of the tour, guests are led into a room, the door is shut, and the lights are extinguished. From there, the tour guide attempts to make contact with the other realm.
You might receive a visit from Johann Adam Lemp, a German immigrant who arrived in St. Louis in 1838. He built his fortune in food, drink, and real estate before passing his thriving business to his descendants. He might ask where things went so wrong, as his family began to experience death after mysterious death, leading some to believe they were cursed (via Legends of America). Frederick Lemp died of a heart attack at age 28 — he had been the picture of perfect health before. William Lemp, his father, was overwhelmed after the death of his son and later his best friend, died by suicide in 1904. And that’s only the beginning.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
6. The Conjuring House: Harrisville, Rhode Island
One of the most haunted houses in America is the home that inspired the 2013 movie “The Conjuring.” It earned its terrible reputation when multiple children died on the property over the years. According to the Sun Journal, the farmhouse was built in 1736. In the 1970s, a family by the name of the Perrons lived in the home, but they weren’t the only ones there. There was a spirit, and it “was playful at first, but then it started to become more sinister, more dark,” said Cory Heinzen, the current owner of the house. “[There were] physical attacks, mystery illnesses.”
The Heinzens are paranormal investigators, so it makes sense that they would be drawn to purchasing the property. However, they are not sure that the spirit that tormented the Perron family, and later famous ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren, is still around. “We had doors opening, footsteps and knocks,” Heinzen said, “I’ve had a hard time staying there by myself. I don’t have the feeling of anything evil, (but) it’s very busy. You can tell there’s a lot of things going on in the house.”
7. Boldt Castle: Alexandria Bay, New York
A series of broken hearts haunt this unfinished castle in upstate New York. According to the official site of Boldt Castle, the owner of the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, George C. Boldt, wanted to build himself a castle of his very own on Heart Island. He wanted the structure to rival any castle in Germany and started construction in 1900 to honor his wife, Louise. However, one day in January 1904, he stopped all construction. Louise unexpectedly died, and George didn’t want to finish the castle anymore. The team honored George’s wishes, and the property was abandoned. The castle grounds lay vacant for over 70 years until 1977 when locals decided to attempt to restore the home as a historical monument.
Nowadays, you can tour the Haunted History Trail, of which Boldt Castle is a part. If you pay close enough attention, you might see the weeping ghost of George Boldt, pining for his long-lost bride.
8. Lynnewood Hall: Elkins Park, Pennsylvania
This empty Pennsylvania mansion has a tragic Titanic connection. According to Coffee & Mystery, construction on the building was finished in 1900. Owner Peter Widener built the home after his beloved wife, Hannah, tragically died during a yacht trip off the coast of Maine (via Love Property). But that’s not the only death at sea for the Widener family. In fact, Hannah Widener’s death was just the first of many associated with the family and home, and they all occurred under tragic circumstances.
Unfortunately, Peter invested heavily in the Titanic. He must have bought into the idea that it was the world’s first unsinkable ship. So much so that when it set sail in 1912, Peter’s oldest son George and George’s son Harry were both on board. It is said that George threw a big party on board to celebrate his father and the maiden voyage. They both lost their lives when the ship sank. The home was eventually abandoned and fell into disrepair, but it’s said that the spirits of the Widener family are still there.
9. The Castle: Beaufort, South Carolina
An old Frenchman is said to haunt this castle’s halls. According to Explore Beaufort SC, way back in 1562, the Huguenots came to the U.S. from France. They founded a colony on Parris Island in South Carolina called Charlesfort. The men were led by a general named Jean Ribaut, and there was a jester among the company called Gauche. Gauche was very short in stature but compensated by being aggressive and always ready to fight. He went to Beaufort to fight a battle, where an enemy spike killed him. While the mansion was not yet built when Gauche took his last breath, he took it on the very spot the home would be built.
Years later, the home was purchased by local doctor Joseph Johnson. This was when reports of a ghost on the premises began. Johnson and his family recalled moments when they would hear messages seeping from the walls in French. They saw bloody handprints on their windows, furniture move on its own, and doors slam with no warning. Once, Johnson even saw his daughter having a tea party with the ghost, and visitors would claim they saw apparitions.
10. Molly Brown House: Denver, Colorado
Molly Brown is a famous survivor of the Titanic disaster in 1912. She is often touted as unsinkable, as she rowed a lifeboat for almost eight hours before ensuring everyone on board was safely on the Carpathia. However, her house in Denver, Colorado, is definitely haunted. According to Hampden Dentistry, Molly’s full name was Margaret Tobin Brown. She owned the house at 1340 Pennsylvania Street with her husband, J.J. Brown, who made his fortune in mining.
Guests of the mansion, now a museum, have made reports over the years of strange occurrences. Often, you can smell the smoke from the pipe that J.J. used to smoke wafting through the house. There have also been apparitions of deceased servants scurrying down the back staircase of the house, as well as the outline of a cat playing in the hallways (via Denver7). Some may say this house only has these stories because it’s old, but those who saw these ghosts would beg to differ. They insist that something spooky really is happening on the property.
11. Snedeker House: Southington, Connecticut
If you’ve seen the 2009 movie “The Haunting in Connecticut,” you know that some scary stuff went down in the Snedeker House. According to Live Science, the entire film is based on a true story. In 1986, the family rented a home and soon discovered embalming tools in the home’s basement. It was then that they realized the house used to be a morgue. The Snedeker children began seeing terrifying visions of demons and ghosts throughout the home, while both parents reported physical assaults from otherworldly beings. Once, while the mother mopped the floor in the kitchen, the water she was using allegedly turned to blood.
The family has been very open about their experiences in the home, telling the story many times on credible platforms, like the Discovery Channel. However, one person is confident that the Snedekers made it all up: their landlady. She said that no other tenants ever had any issues and that it was odd they continued to stay in the house for two years.
12. Amityville Horror House: Amityville, New York
If you’re a big fan of horror films and want to explore the story behind “The Amityville Horror,” just head to New York. According to ABC News, the house is located at 112 Ocean Ave and cost George and Kathy Lutz just $80,000 in December 1975. Its low price could have been that one year before, a young man named Ronnie DeFeo lived in the house with his family. One night, as his siblings and family slept, he took a gun and murdered them. As a precaution, the Lutz family had local priest Father Ray Pecoraro bless the house. However, the priest became very ill during the blessing and began to bleed from his hands.
The family agreed to no longer live in the house, but the horror followed them. “There were … odors in the house that came and went,” George Lutz said. “There were sounds. The front door would slam shut in the middle of the night … I couldn’t get warm in the house for many days.” The family eventually fled the house and wrote a book about their experiences, which was then turned into one of the most popular horror franchises of all time.