places/travel 11 Intense Crimes And Stories Fueling Famous Hauntings

Harrison Tenpas
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Horrible hauntings are everywhere. But do you know the secret, gruesome backstories behind some of these famous spooky sites? Folklore tends to link real-life horrors with eerie paranormal occurrences. Whether it's a cold-blooded murder, a terrible fire, or a tragic suicide that features in these violent stories behind ghosts, they're all said to leave behind some spiritual mark. Even if you don't believe in paranormal activity, these stories are sure to send a chill down your spine.

Do you know the bloody real-life events that inspired The Amityville Horror? Have you ever considered what ax-wielding angry spirits might be lurking in Lizzie Borden's home? And why do homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright seem particularly prone to ghostly activity? Read on to discover the f*cked up backstories behind some of the most notorious hauntings of all time. Just remember to sleep with the light on.

The Amityville House Hosted A Mass Murder


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Photo: Kousto/flickr/CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Immortalized in the hit Amityville Horror film franchise, this house in the quiet New York village of the same name supposedly hosts frightening specters. Still standing on Ocean Avenue with its iconic, eye-like windows, this home was the site of the infamous mass murder of the DeFeo family. In 1974, Ronald DeFeo, in an alleged state of demonic possession, shot his entire family to death as they slept.

In 1976, George and Kathy Lutz, along with their three children, moved into the house. But they only stayed 28 days before they'd had enough. Aside from the typical bumps in the night, they encountered flies swarming the home, green slime oozing from the walls, and crucifixes turning upside down on their own. A Catholic priest was brought in in an attempt to cleanse the house, but he was told by a disembodied voice to "Get out!" It's impossible to say whether that message was from the spirits of the slain DeFeos, or something more sinister. Regardless, the Lutz family decided to move out immediately.   

Tortured Slaves Were Imprisoned In LaLaurie House


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Located in the French Quarter of New Orleans, the 19th century charm of LaLaurie House belies a grim and bloody history.

The house was home to Madame Marie Delphine LaLaurie, a prominent member of New Orleans high society. Legend has it that Ms. Laurie's home caught fire in 1834, revealing in its destruction her evil hobbies and pastimes. Local folklore says that the home's attic contained slaves held in small cages or nailed down to tables; shackled prisoners with their eyes and ears removed, fingernails ripped out, and mouths sewn shut; people flayed alive with open, festering wounds; and victims whose bones had been broken and reset to resemble grotesque, animal-like shapes.

Considering the horrible acts that took place in LaLaurie House, it's no wonder the building is considered to be one of the most haunted places in the region. Now remodeled as luxury apartments, occupants and visitors have reported hearing anguished screams bouncing off the walls, as well as seeing apparitions of slaves walking the balconies and yards.

The Lizzie Borden Home Was The Site Of Brutal Ax Murders


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Photo: dbking/flickr/CC-BY 2.0

There is an incredibly dark nursery rhyme that goes, "Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother forty whacks/when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one." This grim pair of couplets has been echoed by generations of children, and the century-old murders they detail took place in the house that still stands in Fall River, Massachusetts. 

On August 4th, 1892, Lizzie Borden informed her maid of a grisly discovery: her father, dead on the sofa, bludgeoned and mutilated by hatchet. Her stepmother Abby was found upstairs, a victim of the same brutal fate. Since Lizzie was the only person home during the murders - and she reportedly had a rocky relationship with her father and stepmother - she was immediately a suspect in the crime. Evidence, however, proved scant and Borden was ultimately acquitted, with no one else ever being charged. 

The Borden House stands today as a bed and breakfast, where guests can stay in the master bedroom belonging to the slain couple. But they may not be alone: visitors have reported hearing creaking floors, seeing unexplained shadows, and event smelling a faint floral scent - maybe the lingering perfume of the late Abby Borden. 

The Black Dahlia Murder Might Have Happened In John Sowden House


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Photo: Freebase/GNU Free Documentation License

In the trendy neighborhood of Los Feliz in Los Angeles looms a hulking, Mayan-inspired building created by the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The exterior has a brooding quality to it, but it's the history of the home - and what may still be in it - that gives passersby the creeps.

Commissioned and built in the 1920s by retired artist John Sowden, the house was purchased by Dr. George Hodel in 1945. Hodel was an acclaimed physician in the field of venereal disease, and his practice catered to many of Hollywood's elite. The doctor was also rumored to host hedonistic sex parties in the labyrinth-like home, and was said to beat his children in the basement. But that's not the most sinister act rumored to have taken place below ground in the Sowden house. In the early 2000s, Hodel's son Steve claimed that his father had been behind the infamous Black Dahlia murder - the unsolved death and mutilation of Elizabeth Short - and that it took place in the basement of the John Sowden House. 

While under investigation for the murder of Elizabeth Short, George Hodel fled the U.S. and spent his remaining days in Asia. Subsequent residents of the Sowden House have reported eerie occurrences in the home, including the sound of chains rattling, disembodied voices, and apparitions that appear to be Mr. Hodel himself. 

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Tuberculosis Patients Haunt Waverley Hills Sanitorium


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Photo: Public Domain/via Wikimedia Commons

Built in Louisville, Kentucky in 1926 to treat tuberculosis patients, the Waverly Hills Sanatorium saw thousands of deaths during its years of operation. Before medicines were developed to treat the disease, treatments ranged from crude to outright barbaric. With fresh air thought to be an effective remedy, patients were often left out in the elements, regardless of the season, or else placed in "sun rooms,"where their lungs would be exposed to ultraviolet light. There were bloodier treatments as well: the muscles and ribs of some patients were removed to allow the lungs to expand, or balloons were surgically implanted to expand the lungs by force - often with disastrous results. 

Deaths occurred at a high rate, an estimated one per hour at the height of the epidemic. Waverly Hills had to develop an effective method of disposing of the bodies, which they did with a literal body chute - a tunnel below the grounds that brought the deceased to a nearby railway, out of the sight of the living. This "death tunnel," along with the rest of the hospital, is said to be a hotspot for paranormal activity. Since the hospital was closed in 1982, visitors have reported hearing footsteps and disembodied voices, seeing strange shadows, and even encountering a young ghost named "Timmy," who is said to roll a ball around on the building's upper floors. 

A Hanged Woman Appears In Sauer Castle


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Photo: Freebase/GNU Free Documentation License

With its towering, gothic architecture - complete with a widow's walk - Kansas City's Sauer Castle certainly conjures the image of the classic haunted house. This historic structure overlooking the Kansas River is said to be one of the state's most haunted locations

Built by New York businessman Anton Sauer, the castle was home to his wife and 12 children, one of whom died in infancy and was buried on the property. Local rumors suggest the entire Sauer family was buried on the property, but that's just one of many bizarre tales attached to the home - it's also said that a woman hanged herself in the castle's tall tower, and that it holds buried bodies in a secret tunnel that leads to the river. 

With a long, dark history, it's no wonder that neighbors of Sauer Castle (now fenced off and crumbling) report strange lights and voices coming from the home. But perhaps the spookiest story of all is the local legend that every Halloween a man and woman can be seen dancing in the tower.

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The Taliesin Massacre Destroyed Frank Lloyd Wright's Life


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Photo: madame_urushiol/flickr/CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin is a home he built in Spring Green, Wisconsin as a personal refuge. Having been exiled professionally from Chicago after fleeing to Europe with the wife of a client, Wright retreated to Spring Green in an effort to re-establish his practice. 

Taliesin was built in 1909, and Wright's previously wed lover Martha "Mamah" Cheney moved in in 1911. Mrs. Cheney was said to be unusually strong willed and stubborn, and in August of 1914, she abruptly fired a loyal servant. Julian Carlton, the disgruntled employee, entered the home and doused gasoline around two rooms where Mrs. Cheney, her children, and some guests were having lunch. Surrounding the home's terrified occupants with a literal ring of fire, Carlton then ran into the flames, striking the victims with a hatchet and killing seven. Frank Lloyd Wright was said to never be the same after the terrible event.

As the site of a brutal massacre, it's no surprise that Taliesin is said to be haunted. Visitors have reported windows and doors opening and closing by themselves, along with a vision of Mrs. Cheney herself - though she does not appear angry, just restless and lost. 

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Ghostly Children Appear In The Villisca Ax Murder House


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Photo: WindRanch/flickr/CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

On June 9th, 1912 in Villisca, Iowa, one of the most heinous unsolved crimes in U.S. history unfolded. J.B. Moore, his wife Sarah, and six children (four of their own and two of their friends) were brutally murdered. As the family and their guests slept that hot summer evening, an intruder (or intruders) crept into their home and, one by one, bludgeoned each victim to death with an ax. 

Though there was no shortage of suspects in the Villisca Ax Murders - ranging from a state senator to a railway transient - no one was ever convicted. Perhaps it's this injustice that keeps the Moore family around the house today. Now a tourist attraction, the Villisca Ax Murder house offers guided tours of the historical crime scene. But potential visitors should beware: patrons have reported hearing children's voices, and seeing falling lamps, moving ladders, and flying objects.