Haunted house stories have become a staple of pop culture; you don't need to look far to see the highway billboards challenging you to spend a night in a haunted house, or horror movies about homes built on Indian burial grounds. But are there haunted houses in real life, filled with the ghosts of former occupants and grisly murder victims? Thousands of people have testified to experiencing the supernatural at locations all across the world, and the notion of a place being "haunted" is a near-universal concept in world folklore. These haunted houses are said to be the real deal, complete with ghosts, spooks and weird things going bump in the night.
Whether these haunted homes are real or fake, haunted houses are some of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. Perhaps the mystery, such as the stairways to nothing at the Winchester House, is the real draw to these locations with visitors coming to some in the millions to decide for themselves if the haunting is real. Do you believe in haunted houses? The next time you're looking for a spooky place to visit, try one of these real haunted houses on for size.
The White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has been the home of every American president and his family since the John Adams administration in 1800. Homes in the US don't get much more historic, and few are reported to be more crowded with undead souls.
According to legend, the first First Lady to take residence in the mansion liked it so much that her spirit remains there today. Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, can reportedly be seen hanging laundry in the East Room from time to time.
Adams probably doesn't get much chance to be lonely, as Dolley Madison, wife of James Madison, has also been spotted hanging out in spirit form at the White House. Madison, who designed the Rose Garden during her husband's administration, allegedly returned to stop work on the garden's removal years later.
That's far from all of the haunting in this landmark. The Rose Room, also known as the Queen's Bedroom, is said to be the spiritual hot spot in the White House. The ghosts of everyone from President Andrew Jackson to President Abraham Lincoln is said to occupy that bedroom.
Finally, many visitors and residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue claim to have seen Abraham Lincoln's ghost walking the grounds. First Ladies Eleanor Roosevelt and Grace Goodhue (wife of Calvin Coolidge) told of spotting Lincoln's ghost in the appropriately-titled Lincoln bedroom. As well, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands claimed that, while spending the night at the White House, she heard Lincoln knocking at her bedroom door. (I'm sure it was perfectly innocent...)
But Is It True?
Most ghost stories seem to indicate that great traumas or intense emotions are what spark a haunting. Ghosts don't want to hang out just ANYWHERE. They occupy those locations where significant events went down. And it's hard to think of a more significant place where more dramatic decisions have been made than at the White House.
Still, with so many people walking through the White House every day, it seems an odd place for ghosts to be mucking about unseen. And a lot of the stories about White House hauntings are patently absurd, such as when Winston Churchill claimed to have been taking a bath in the White House, only to emerge nude and find himself face-to-face with Lincoln's ghost.
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Rose Hall House
Rose Hall House is one of the most famous and lavish homes in Jamaica. It was first constructed in the 1770s in Montego Bay, and was most recently refurbished in the 1960s. It is a popular tourist attraction.
In 1820, Haitian-born Annie Palmer married John Palmer of Montego Bay. John owned Rose Hall at this point, and ran it as a plantation, utilizing slave labor. John died soon after returning to Rose Hall with his Haitian bride. According to local legends, Annie was a psychopath who used voodoo to dominate the men of the plantation. She allegedly manipulated the string of new husbands she acquired over the years, as well as the slaves who worked on the plantation, tolerating them for a time, only to murder them when she lost interest.
Annie was said to have a freakishly high sex drive. When she became bored with her three husbands, all who died under strange circumstances, she would make male slaves join her in bed. When Annie grew tired of a slave, she would murder them as well. This ritual repeated itself for years apparently, all right there in Rose Hall House.
It's said that Annie was eventually killed in her bed by one of her victims, possibly a slave during the slave of the 1830s. Annie was buried in a special grave in the woods, but her spirit reportedly remains in the Rose Hall to this day. The site, in addition to being a tourist attraction, has been home to numerous seances and attempts to commune with Annie's spirit. She has come to be known as the "White Witch of Rose Hall."
But Is It True?
Almost certainly not. Aside from a novel apparently inspired by the house from the 1920s, there's nothing in the historical record to suggest even that "Annie Palmer" existed, let alone that she was a voodoo priestess using the house as a homebase for a bloodthirsty rampage. The story seems in many ways concocted out of the most depraved fantasies of the local European residents. In a study of the legend from the Fortean Times in 2007, author Benjamin Radford investigated the "White Witch" legends and concluded that they were entirely fictional. Even the pseudo-scientific paranormal investigations of the location have failed to produce any compelling indications of a supernatural haunting.
Located in San Diego, California, the Whaley House was built over the site where James Robinson (nicknamed Yankee Jim) was executed in 1852 after a conviction of grand larceny. Four years after the hanging, Thomas Whaley purchased the land and constructed the home for his family. (Hence the name.)
Yankee Jim was a relatively infamous character in the area, known for ambushing miners for their recently-obtained gold. Eventually, he and two other men were arrested for stealing a boat, and he was condemned to die. (To give you a sense for the way justice was meted out at the time, two of the jury members were also the owners of the stolen boat.)
On the day of the execution, Yankee Jim addressed the crowd that had gathered while standing in a cart. He said his execution was a miscarriage of justice, and argued that he was a good man who was known for donating to the poor. He was then hanged suddenly in the midst of speaking. In addition, the noose was set too low, allowing Yankee Jim's feet to touch the ground and prolonging his death.
After moving into the home built atop the site of this execution, the Whaleys began hearing strange noises, including the sound of boots stomping around the house. Soon enough, the stories spread that the ghost of Yankee Jim was still wandering the grounds, angry about his overly harsh sentence.
In the 1950s, the county decided to have the home renovated and restored, and the workers began to notice strange things, like doors and windows opening and closing themselves, or strange sounds. Some reported seeing not Yankee Jim but the ghosts of Thomas Whaley and his wife at the top of the staircase. A few refused to continue working on the site. Even television personality Regis Philbin has claimed to have seen the spirits in the home.
But Is It True?
Here's the most compelling evidence to date of the haunting of Whaley House, a photo that appears to show a smoke-like apparition:
BRIEF HISTORY LESSON: Anne Boleyn was the second wife of King Henry VIII of England. Henry grew displeased with her after she failed to produce a male heir (though she did give birth to a daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth). Henry decided he'd prefer to be with his new mistress, Anne Seymour, so he had Boleyn arrested and locked up in the Tower of London. It was there she was executed for high treason on May 19, 1536, and then buried. Blickling Hall in Norfolk was the home of the Boleyn Family from 1499 to 1507.
The circumstances surrounding Boleyn's death have made her a key figure of fascination in British history. Almost immediately after her execution, stories of her practising witchcraft and even laughing in the face of death started to spread. Even the Governor of the Tower of London, present at her execution, later said "this lady had much joy and pleasure in death."
Each year on May 19, it's said that a headless Anne Boleyn visits Blickling Hall. Apparently, she's a nostalgic ghost. According to local legend, Anne arrives each year in a carriage, led by a headless horseman. Though it's not exactly known where the head of the horseman lies, Anne carries her detached skull along with her for the ride. Anne's brother, Lord Rochford, and her father, Thomas Boleyn, are also thought to haunt the grounds.
But Is It True?
There are so many stories about Anne Boleyn's ghost appearing in various spots all over England, it's a bit difficult to take any of them too seriously. For example, on Christmas, Anne appears yearly in Kent near the spot where she first met and was courted by King Henry, as well as in Essex near Rochford Hall, where she spent considerable time as a girl. Either Anne is seriously committed to being a ghost... or English people are just fascinated by her and thus "see" her everywhere.