Fair warning: Reading this collection of scary haunted house stories in the dark or by yourself is likely to keep you up all night (as was surely the case for me). Or, at the very least, send a chill down your spine—even if you consider yourself the bravest of the brave. Oh, is that a challenge? Why yes, it is. Without further ado, we invite you to read about the following 18 scariest real-life haunted house stories from the creepiest places around the country. In case you’re feeling really fearless and ready to get freaky, you can actually book a stay at most of these places—and greet the ghosts yourself, so happy hauntings ahead.
1 The Lemp Mansion in St. Louis, Missouri
Starting strong with a very scary house: The Lemp Mansion in St. Louis, which is known to be one of the most haunted places in America due to a tragic history.
The 33-room home was built in the 1860s by William Lemp, a successful brewery owner who ended up killing himself in 1904 after the youngest of his four sons, Frederick, died. A few years later, his wife also died of cancer in the house. Then, in 1922, William Lemp Jr., shot himself in the same room William Sr. killed himself.
As if that weren’t enough tragedy for one place, in 1949, Charles Lemp—William’s third son—shot his dog in the basement of the home and then killed himself in his room. That same year, the house was sold and transformed into a boarding house, where reports of hauntings began. According to Destination America, witnesses have experienced burning sensations and slamming doors.
Today, the Lemp Mansion is a restaurant and inn that also holds events. On Sunday night, the inn hosts a Murder Mystery Dinner.
2 The Villisca Axe Murder House in Villisca, Iowa
On June 10, 1912, Josiah and Sarah Moore were bludgeoned to death inside of their home in Villisca, Iowa. Their four children—and two friends who were spending the night—were also killed, and to this day, the crime remains unsolved. Their home is considered one of the most haunted houses in the country, and guests are drawn to it. People even pay $400+ to stay for one night.
“Tours have been cut short by children’s voices, falling lamps, moving ladders, and flying objects,” says the Villisca Axe Murder House website. And, in 2014, a paranormal investigator stabbed himself after spending the night. “Skeptics have left believers,” adds the website.
3 Jean Harlow House in Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles is one of the best destinations for haunted-house hunting, and this Bavarian-style home in Beverly Hills has a particularly gruesome history. In 1932, it was home to the iconic actress Jean Harlow and her abusive husband, Paul Bern, who shot himself in the head while standing in front of the mirror. Their butler discovered him and called MGM instead of the police, so there were tons of rumors that it wasn’t actually suicide. Many suspected Bern’s ex-girlfriend, a suspicion exacerbated by her jumping off a boat to her death a couple days later. Jean moved out after his death but died only a few years later at the age of 26.
But wait—it gets creepier. In 1963, celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring bought the home and lived there with his girlfriend, Sharon Tate, until she left him for Roman Polanski. They were still friends, and remained so until both of them were murdered by the Charles Manson cult. Tate was the same age as Harlow when she passed.
But back to when the couple lived in the Harlow House. Tate told several friends of creepy occurrences in the home and even mentioned it in interviews. For example, once, when she was sleeping in the master bedroom alone, she saw a “creepy little man.” Her friends say she she believed it to be Paul Bern’s ghost. She was so freaked out when she saw the alleged ghost that she ran out of the room and then saw a hanging shadowy corpse with its throat slit in the hallway. There are also stories about two other people dying in the swimming pool over the years.
4 SK Pierce House
Massachusetts has no shortage of haunted mansions, it seems, and the SK Pierce Victorian is one of the state’s eeriest. The original occupant, Sylvestor Pierce, had just started making his fortune in the furniture business when he built this home for himself, his son, and his wife, Susan. As a man about town, he hosted many notable people in his 7,000 square foot home throughout the years, including President Calvin Coolidge, Bette Davis, and Norman Rockwell.
Only a week after moving into the home, Susan fell ill and passed away from a mysterious bacterial disease. A year later, he remarried Ellen, a woman thirty years his junior, and had two more children. Years later, when both Sylvester and Ellen had passed away, his sons embarked on a fiery feud about the property as well as the furniture company, but the Great Depression swept in and made their choice easier since the company basically went bankrupt.
The youngest son, Edward, was given control of the home when he turned it into a boarding house. It became a hotspot for illicit activities (including the murders and sudden, tragic deaths of several occupants) according to local lore. As a result of these violent ends, guests have reported every kind of haunting imaginable, from visions of apparitions to flying objects, disembodied sounds, pressure, temperature drops, and more.
5 Mudhouse Mansion
Located in Fairfield County, Ohio (until recently), the Mudhouse Mansion has a bad reputation. Nobody can seem to agree on when it was built, but it dates back sometime between the 1840s and 1900. Unlike the other abandoned mansions on this list, you sadly can no longer visit it, as the home was demolished in 2015 after not being occupied since the 1930s. The last resident (at least legally speaking) was Lulu Hartman-Mast, and the current owner of the property is her relative Jeanne Mast.
Because there’s so little information about who lived here and when, and because abandoned places tend to ignite the dark side of the imagination, there are tons of legends around alleged atrocities occurring (and consequent hauntings). The sources don’t seem to be very credible, though.
6 455A Sackett Street
You never hear as much about haunted apartments as haunted houses, which is strange—considering that apartments have much more turnover, and therefore a higher likelihood of something (or someone) evil having lived there before you move in.
That was definitely the case with 455A Sacket Street in Brooklyn. One woman who grew up there writes about her firsthand experiences, including unexplained fires, seriously bad energy, family tragedies, personal suffering, and, here’s the kicker: the body of a child discovered in the wall after several suspicious sightings of a similar-looking shadow child in the mirror.
You can read her full account here, as well as commenters who also lived there and corroborate these claims. I’ll definitely not be requesting an in-person viewing for this place—private balcony or not—if this address ever pops back up in my StreetEasy feed.
7 Hotel Monte Vista in Flagstaff, Arizona
The Hotel Monte Vista has numerous paranormal guests they can’t get rid of. The hotel, which opened as the Community Hotel in 1927—named after the townspeople who helped raised the funds for its construction—has a history of underground opium dens, speakeasies, and gambling. Today, the hotel is known for the paranormal activity that haunts some of the rooms and halls.
Guests who’ve stayed in room 220 have experienced the TV changing channels on its own accord, and some have said they felt cold hands touching them in their sleep. There’s also reportedly a phantom bellboy who knocks on doors and announces “room service,” but when guests get to the door, no one’s there. One of the more popular—and possibly most disturbing encounters—is the sound of an infant crying in the basement. The hotel website reads, “Staff have found themselves running upstairs to escape the sound of the cries. Though the sounds are very real to those who hear them, there has been no information that has explained the phenomenon.”
8 Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana
Rumored to be on top of a burial ground is the Myrtles Plantation in Louisiana, which is the home to at least 12 different ghosts. Built in 1796, ghost stories center around the tale of an enslaved woman named Chloe, who had her ear chopped off after she was reportedly caught eavesdropping. Seeking revenge, Chloe killed two of the master’s daughters by poisoning a birthday cake. She was then hanged by her fellow enslaved people, and today is reportedly seen wandering the plantation with a turban on to conceal her ear.
If you want to investigate things for yourself, you can stay at the plantation for $175/night.
9 Hotel Cecil in Los Angeles, California
More cursed than haunted, downtown L.A.’s Hotel Cecil got such a bad rap that it actually changed its name to Stay on Main. If you’re a true crime and paranormal super fan, you’ve likely already heard of it. Where to begin? So many bad things have happened here—there’s literally an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to its violent history. The first recorded death by suicide is in 1931, followed by a long string of similar deaths in 1932, 1934, 1937, 1938, 1939, and 1940.
At some point in the ’30s, one man was pinned to the exterior wall by a truck. A woman murdered her newborn in the building in 1944, and the pattern of suicides continued into the ’60s. In 1962, a woman jumped from the ninth floor window and landed on a pedestrian, killing them both. It’s worth noting that two of the women who died by suicide apparently jumped while their husbands were asleep in the room.
In 1964, tenant Goldie Osgood was brutally murdered, a crime which has remained unsolved. Next, in the ’80s, the infamous serial kill Richard Ramirez (the “Night Stalker”) stayed at the hotel and in the 1990s, Austrian serial killer Jack Unterwege lived there. Other weird things kept happening but the weirdest is definitely the disappearance and death of 21-year-old traveler Elisa Lam.
A few weeks after Lam went missing, her body was discovered in the rooftop water tank after visitors and tenants complained about a funky taste. They later found odd footage of her in the elevator from the night of her disappearance. It’s difficult to make out what she’s doing; it looks like she’s either playing hide-and-seek with someone outside the elevator, or she’s frightened and attempting to hide from someone but the doors won’t seem to shut. Authorities ruled the death accidental drowning—but because you need a key to access the roof, many suspect foul play.
10 Lui Family Mansion in Taiwan
Built in 1929 in Baroque style, the Minxiong Ghost House (aka the Lui family mansion) is a place with a heartbreaking history. Located in the Taiwanese countryside, it’s been abandoned since the 1950s when the family fled abruptly. Like all mysterious places, there’s plenty of lore around the family and why they left the once-beautiful place.
Local legend says the maid was having an affair with her employer, Liu Rong-yu, and when the secret came out, she jumped down the well to her death (but since she did not live to tell the tale, who’s to say another family member didn’t push her?). Then she came back to haunt the family until they finally left. A few years later, it was occupied by members of the Kuomintang of China (KMT), many of whom were also thought to have died of suicide, which exacerbated its reputation as haunted. People who visit report plenty of ghostly sightings.
11 Los Feliz Murder Mansion in Los Angeles, California
During the mid 20th century, this large Los Feliz home was the (seemingly) happy home of Dr. Harold Perelson and his family, until the horrific night of December, 6, 1959 when he murdered his wife in her sleep with a ball-peen hammer and attempted to murder his three children before drinking acid to kill himself.
Fortunately, his eldest daughter let out a scream when he struck her in the head, waking up the younger children who then walked into the hallway to find out what was going on. During the commotion, they were all able to flee. Before the murder-suicide, he was a successful doctor who invented a new type of syringe after investing most of money into its research and production, but he got screwed out of the rights, leading investigators to blame financial problems. Other creepy details include a passage of Dante’s Divine Comedy left open on his bedside table.
Two years later, it was sold to the Enriquez family, who used it as “storage unit,” and their son continued to to do so until he sold it to a couple in 2016 who had plans to fix it up. But it seems to have scared them off because within a few years it’s on the market again. Photographers also report a feeling of needing to “run away” from the house when they get close up to it.
12 Villa de Vecchi in Italy
Villa de Vecchi is foreboding, alright. Just consider that looming fog blanket! Located near Lake Como, Italy, the “House of Witches” dates back to 1854-1857, when it was built as a summer house for Count Felix De Vecchi. The family was only able to spend a few years there, as their lives were mired in tragedy right after it was built.
First, the architect died a year after construction. Then in 1862, Count De Vecchi came home to discover his wife murdered and his daughter missing. When he could not find her after a year of searching, he died by suicide. His brother then moved into the home and his family continued to live there until WWII. It’s been vacant since the 1960s, and an avalanche in 2002 wiped out all the houses in the area… except this one. Spooky.
13 The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas
In 1937, millionaire inventor Norman G. Baker posed as a doctor and turned the hotel into a hospital that he said could cure cancer. Have the chills yet? Baker, who had a fetish for purple, painted many sections of the hospital in the color, and today, the chimneys remain that same color. In addition to wearing purple shirts and ties, he drove a purple car as well. People came from all over with hopes of curing their cancer, and many who were “treated” died.
Eventually, Baker was exposed and run out of town, and today the property is an active hotel. It’s said to be haunted by several ghosts, including a bearded man wearing Victorian clothing and a five-year-old girl.
14 Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah, Nevada
In 1907, Mizpah Hotel opened as one of the first luxury hotels in Nevada. With a rich history and elaborate decor, the hotel is best known for its legend of the “Lady in Red.” While the date remains unclear, the story goes like this: A woman was murdered in her room on the fifth floor. Some say it was a jealous ex-boyfriend, while others say the Lady in Red had been caught cheating by her husband and he killed her in a jealous rage.
Those who’ve stayed at the hotel say the Lady in Red whispers in men’s ears and leaves pearls from her broken necklace on guests’ pillows. Guests can stay in the Lady in Red suite to experience it themselves, and if that’s too much for you, the Red Lady Bloody Mary at the hotel restaurant should suffice.
15 The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was designed to house 250 patients when it opened in 1864. Fast forward to the 1950s, when the facility reached its peak and had more than 2,400 patients living in overcrowded and inhumane conditions—with some even kept in cages. In 1994, the asylum closed, and today, there are reports of paranormal activity, with souls of patients lingering and roaming the halls.
You can take an overnight ghost hunt tour from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. at the Asylum, a two-hour paranormal tour from 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., or a 90-minute day tour.
16 Merchant House Museum in New York, New York
Seeing as it’s the only preserved and intact family home from the 19th century in all of New York City, it makes sense that this house has also been the source and subject of many ghost stories. The Tredwell family lived here for over 100 years, and the last family occupant was Gertrude, the youngest daughter, who died in the home in 1933. Staff, visitors, and even passerby say they experience weird, disembodied things here.
Don’t buy it? Take a candlelit ghost tour of the museum to decide for yourself. And even if you don’t catch an apparition out the corner of your eye or hear children playing and floorboards in empty rooms, you’ll at least get the sense that you’re intruding on someone else’s space, in a completely different time, since it’s virtually the same as was when Gertrude died.
17 The Queen Anne Hotel in San Francisco, California
In 1890, the Queen Anne hotel in San Francisco was an etiquette school for girls. Today, it has 48 rooms for guests, though some believe the ghost of Miss Mary Lake, the school’s headmistress, still lingers. Folks who stay in room 410, Miss Mary Lake’s former office, have woken up to find their blankets closely tucked around them in bed or their clothes unpacked.
18 Lizzie Borden House in Fall River, Massachusetts
In 1892, Lizzie Borden was the main suspect for the axe murders of her father and stepmother. Borden was tried and acquitted of the murders, and guests who visit Lizzie’s house in Fall River, Massachusetts say she can be heard cackling about it. Others say that you can sometimes hear a maid screaming for help, and that Lizzie’s slaughtered parents stalk the grounds. You can experience the paranormal activity yourself by visiting the Lizzie Borden House, which is now a museum and bed and breakfast.
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