AMERICA'S 10 MOST MOST HAUNTED PLACES
Compiled by Troy Taylor & April Slaughter
BELL WITCH CAVE
Few accounts of ghostly phenomena in American history can compare to that of the Bell Witch. Beginning in 1871 and lasting nearly four years, the Bell family was plagued by disturbing experiences in their home. What began as simple yet inexplicable rapping and scratching noises quickly escalated into violent personal attacks. When the entity responsible for the anguish found its voice, it claimed to be the “witch” of Kate Batts, a former neighbor who’d fostered resentment for John Bell over bad business dealings. John fell ill and would eventually die, all at the hands of the witch who was more than willing to take credit for his demise. The spirit left the family in peace for seven years, only to return to taunt them again for weeks. Whether or not the ghost was the spirit of Kate Batts or something far more sinister, nobody really knows, but it is speculated that when it retreated, it took up residence in a cave close to the Bell home near the Red River. Many who visit the cave today report experiences such as hearing the sound of footsteps, seeing apparitions, and even feeling as though they have been pushed or slapped. Some believe the ghost of Kate Batts is the culprit, while others believe the cave’s famous resident was never a human at all..
WAVERLY HILLS SANATORIUM
This massive structure was built in 1926 to house and treat patients afflicted with tuberculosis; a disease that gripped much of the nation, but was particularly prominent among the residents of Louisville. Hundreds of patients were admitted and treated for the disease, but many of them did not survive. Treatments were not only painful and usually ineffective, they were often deadly. Bodies were removed via the “bloody chute” which was a tunnel leading from the back of the building down a hill to a railway where they were kept out of site of the surviving patients. By 1943, advances in medicine had nearly eradicated the disease in the U. S. and the sanatorium closed. A year later, it was re-opened as the Woodhaven Geriatrics Sanitarium and would remain in operation until 1982, when conditions and budget cuts led to mistreatment and the neglect of patients and the state of Kentucky shut it down permanently. Waverly Hills has exchanged hands a number of times over the years, but one thing remains constant… visitors to the building continually experience a wide range of paranormal phenomena from hearing disembodied voices, feeling an ominous presence, to seeing shadow figures move from room to room. With so much and death and suffering that occurred within its walls, is it any wonder that the sanatorium is considered one of the most haunted locations in the country?
THE MYRTLES PLANTATION
Near St. Francisville, Louisiana
This plantation was originally built in 1794, and in the many years since, has become a home of ghostly legend. The most famous of which tells of a jaded house slave named Chloe, who – knowingly or not – poisoned her master’s wife and children. Another tale includes the tragic death of previous owner William Winter, who was shot on the porch of the house and then wounded, made his way into the house and up the staircase to the 17th step where he collapsed and died in the arms of his beloved. While stories such as these would certainly support the claims of paranormal activity within the home, they are unfortunately untrue. No record exists of Chloe, and those she allegedly poisoned all died at different times from yellow fever. William Winter was indeed shot, but died immediately and did not stumble into the house. Even so, there are a few ghosts of the Deep South that have made The Myrtles their home. The apparition of an African American woman wearing a green bonnet has been seen (and photographed) on the premises. Children are often seen playing in and around the house and peering into windows. The grand piano on the first floor often plays on its own, only to stop as soon as anyone enters the room to investigate. The legends of The Myrtles may not be accurate, but one thing remains true… it is a home with a deep history that continues to haunt visitors to this day.
THE LEMP MANSION
St. Louis, Missouri
The Lemp family began building their empire in the beer brewing business in St. Louis in 1838. Driven and quite successful, the Lemps enjoyed many prosperous years in the industry, but with success also came hardship. Death would first visit the family when it came for William Lemp Sr.’s eldest son, Frederick. In 1901, and at only 28 years of age, his health rapidly deteriorated and he passed away, leaving his father completely devastated. Ultimately unable to pull himself out from underneath the sadness, William retired to his room in the family home on the morning of February 13, 1904 and shot himself with a .38 caliber revolver. His daughter Elsa Lemp Wright would follow in his footsteps in 1920 after struggles with a rocky marriage and the decline of the family business. The Lemp plant was eventually sold to the International Shoe Co., which devastated William Lemp, Jr. By December 1922, Will had slipped into a terrible depression and social withdrawal and he too took his own life in the Lemp family home. The remaining Lemp brothers, Charles and Edwin, were largely involved in other ventures, but tragedy would reduce the family yet again. In May of 1949, Charles was found dead in the home he’d loved, a victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Edwin passed away at his estate in Kirkwood at the age of 90 in 1970. The family home was sold after Charles’ passing, and while it briefly served as a boarding house, it fell into disrepair until 1975, when it was purchased and remodeled as a restaurant and inn by Dick Pointer. During renovation, the Pointer family experienced phantom footsteps and voices in the house. Restaurant staff have reported seeing apparitions appear and vanish at will, glasses inexplicably flying from the shelves, and hearing the bar piano play entirely on its own. In 1980, an article appearing in LIFE magazine named the Lemp Mansion as “one of the most haunted houses in America.”
THE BATTLEFIELDS OF GETTYSBURG
Famous haunts across the country attract large numbers of ghost hunters every year, but few of them can compare to the allure and reputation of Gettysburg. Three bloody days of battle during the Civil War in June of 1863 resulted in a large number of casualties, and this small town was ill-prepared to handle the fall out. Nearly one third of all the soldiers engaged in battle here were dead by the end of the third day; a catastrophic loss leaving bodies strewn in all directions. The wounded were treated in homes and businesses that were made into makeshift hospitals while the dead were exposed to and rotted in the Pennsylvania summer heat. The suffering and death that occurred in the fields, in local homes, and the surrounding areas has left a lasting impression on the land, as is evident by the sheer number of paranormal encounters that are experienced and recorded here. It is said that when the ladies of Gettysburg traveled through town following the battle, their only relief from the overwhelming stench of death were scented handkerchiefs pressed tightly to their faces. “Phantom smells” of peppermint and vanilla are experienced by visitors even to this day. Apparitions seem to frequent homes and various other buildings, disembodied voices and the sounds of war still linger in the air. The most active location in Gettysburg is an area called The Devil’s Den. Visitors find it difficult to keep their electronic gear up and running, as inexplicable failure is common here. Many people have often encountered an unkempt man amongst the boulders, who approaches to speak with them and suddenly vanishes. Soldiers are seen, gunfire is heard, and the weight of the devastation that occurred here is quite often felt. Those who visit the battlefields of Gettysburg come hoping for an encounter with those on the other side… and few are disappointed.
THE STANLEY HOTEL
Estes Park, Colorado
This beautiful and historic hotel, which sits in the picturesque community of Estes Park, has been home to ghostly activity experienced by staff and guests alike for years. Famed writer Stephen King was so impressed by the hotel that it became the inspiration behind his novel The Shining. No one knows exactly when the activity began in the hotel, or why, but experiences have long been a part of the hotel’s mystique. Nearly every room has been host to one phenomenon or another, though most of the activity seems to occur on the fourth floor. Guests often report that items are inexplicably moved in their rooms, and children are heard at odd hours running and playing in the hallways. F.O. Stanley (of Stanley Steamer fame) and his wife Flora opened the hotel in July of 1909, but neither seem to have left it behind. It is not unusual for guests and staff to briefly encounter F.O. walking through the lobby, and the sound of the piano playing on its own in the Music Room is often attributed to Flora. The beauty and comfort of the Stanley Hotel attracts hundreds of people every year; more, if you count those who remain unseen.
THE WINCHESTER MYSTERY HOUSE
San Jose, California
Haunted houses are interesting, but there aren’t any in existence that can compare to the oddity of the Winchester Mystery House. The story begins with the birth of Sarah Pardee in 1839 to a family in New Haven, Connecticut. At the age of 23, Sarah married William Wirt Winchester, heir to the Winchester rifle empire. Life seemed to be going well until disaster struck four years later. Sarah had given birth to her first and only child, Annie, but the infant fell ill and passed away a mere nine days later. Sarah drew inward from the loss, and struggled to regain a balanced emotional footing. In 1881, Sarah lost her husband William to pulmonary tuberculosis, which only added to her agony. Urged by a friend to visit a Spiritualist medium for guidance, Sarah was told that a terrible curse loomed above her family for all of the deaths the Winchester rifles had been responsible for. The medium relayed to Sarah that her husband wished for her to move on and build a home she could inhabit with the spirits of those who’d lost their lives to the weapon. In order to remain living, Sarah needed to keep construction on the home constant. If she ceased, she would die. Sarah and her vast fortune moved west, eventually settling in California’s Santa Clara Valley in 1884. She purchased an existing six bedroom house resting on 162 acres and immediately began construction on her new home. As time passed, the house continued to grow. Crews worked round the clock to add entire wings, doors that were joined to windows. There were countless staircases that led nowhere; a blind chimney that stop short of the ceiling; closets that opened to blank walls; trap doors; double-back hallways; doors that opened to steep drops to the lawn below; and dozens of other oddities. Sarah also maintained a connection to the spirits in her home by communing with them in a séance room she had constructed for that purpose. After one such session on September 4, 1922, Sarah retired to her bedroom where she passed away at the age of 83. The mansion is now a California Historical Landmark, and many believe that the spirits Sarah worked so hard to appease still occupy the house. Inexplicable footsteps, banging doors, strange lights and cold spots are just a few of the things reported to have occurred in the home over the years.
BACHELOR’S GROVE CEMETERY
This cemetery sits on land first set aside for burial in 1844. Now largely abandoned and sheltered by trees on the edge of the Woods Forest Preserve, this piece of land has become fairly well known for the accounts of paranormal phenomena it has produced over the years since the last recorded burial in 1989. Problems arose in the 1960s when vandalism and decay descended on the cemetery. Headstones were broken, stolen, and defaced. Caskets were unearthed and bones strewn about the ground. Rumors of occult rituals taking place also began to surface. Today, the cemetery is unkempt, overgrown, and surrounded by a large chain link fence, which has proven to be a poor deterrent for anyone determined to enter the premises. The apparition of a horse has been seen emerging from a small stagnant pond near the rear barrier of the cemetery, pulling a plow and driven by the ghost of a man who had allegedly drown when the horse plunged into the pond, dragging him under. The apparition of a woman wandering aimlessly around the cemetery, holding an infant has been a common sight, though she seems unaware (or perhaps disinterested) in interacting with anyone who encounters her. The surrounding area seems to be equally active, as phantom vehicles have appeared only to vanish on the nearby roadway. For several decades, individuals have reported the appearance of a phantom farm house appearing and disappearing from sight in various locations nearby as well. Many cemeteries are often rumored to be haunted; the phenomena experienced at Bachelor’s Grove leave little doubt that it is.
YORKTOWN MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
Tucked away in a small south Texas town sits a privately owned vacant building that was once the Yorktown Memorial Hospital. Built in 1950 and operated by the Felician Sisters of the Roman Catholic Church, the hospital remained in operation until it closed its doors in the late 1980s. It is reported that close to 2,000 people passed away in the building, and over the years, stories of strange occurrences have poured out from within its walls. Caretakers of the property often see and hear sounds emanating from within, as though the hospital were still in working order. Women crying out as if in labor, the groans of individuals in a great deal of pain, disembodied conversations, and shadowy figures moving from room to room are commonly experienced. Investigators who have repeatedly visited the building report encountering spirits who have identified themselves on several occasions and seem to recognize them upon their return, engaging in lengthy conversations via Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) and the use of Instrumental Transcommunication (ITC) devices. Orbs of light (seen with the naked eye) have been witnessed moving about the halls and doorways of Yorktown, and the activity within is no less active in the daylight hours than it is at night. While no one knows exactly what sets this hospital building apart from any other, one thing remains clear… Yorktown is one of the most consistently active paranormal locations in America.
THE VILLISCA AX MURDER HOUSE
On the morning of June 10, 1912 the bodies of eight individuals were discovered bludgeoned and blood-soaked in the Moore family home in the tight-knit community of Villisca. J.B. Moore, his wife Sarah, their four children Herman, Catherine, Boyd, and Paul were all murdered, their skulls crushed with an ax, along with Lena and Ina Stillinger, two young girls who had spent the night. J.B. Moore’s brother Ross had been alerted by neighbor Mary Peckham who became concerned about the family’s well-being when she realized there was no activity in the usually busy home. Ross’ discoveries of the bodies sent the community reeling, as nothing quite like this had ever happened in their town before. News spread quickly, and soon the house was overrun with those curious about the murders, which likely destroyed whatever evidence there might have been. While there were several suspects in the case, it was unfortunately never solved and remains a mystery to this day. In the years that have passed since the grisly discovery, the Moore home has had various owners and tenants, but in 1994 it was purchased and restored as closely as possible to its original condition by Darwin and Martha Linn. Individuals who have stayed in the house have reported waking to the sound of children’s voices when there were no children present at the time. Children’s laughter, moving objects, and strange banging sounds are just a few of the experiences many have had in the Villisca Ax Murder House.