There's nothing like a good ghost story, but many people don't know the tragic backstories and dark secrets behind many of the US's most famous hauntings. Folklore tends to link real-life horrors with eerie paranormal occurrences, but it's easy to forget that these events happened to actual people. Whether it's a cold-blooded murder, a terrible fire, or a tragic death that features in these horrific stories behind ghosts and hauntings, they're all said to leave behind some spiritual mark. Even if you don't believe in the paranormal, these stories may just send a chill down your spine.
Do you know the real-life events that inspired The Amityville Horror? Did you ever look into the true story of Delphine LaLaurie after watching American Horror Story? Read on to discover the forgotten backstories behind some of the most notorious (alleged) hauntings in US history.
The Black Dahlia Might Have Been Killed In The John Sowden House
In the Los Angeles neighborhood of Los Feliz looms a hulking, Mayan-inspired building created by the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. 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 parties and orgies" in the labyrinthine home, and he was said to beat his children in the basement. In the early 2000s, Hodel's son Steve claimed that his father was the culprit 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 Short's murder, George Hodel fled the US and spent his remaining days in Asia. Subsequent residents of the Sowden House have reported eerie occurrences in the home, including the sounds of chains rattling, disembodied voices, and apparitions that appear to be Mr. Hodel himself.
The Ghost Of A Hanged Woman Is Said To Appear In Sauer Castle
Overlooking the Kansas River, Sauer Castle invokes the image of a classic haunted house and is said to be one of Kansas'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. Sauer died only a month later at the castle from tuberculosis and was buried at a nearby cemetery; his daughter's body was also moved to the cemetery to be with him.
Local rumors, however, suggest the entire Sauer family was buried on the property - and that's just one of many bizarre tales attached to the home. Some have also claimed that a woman hanged herself in the castle's tower, and that the home holds buried bodies in a secret tunnel leading to the river.
With a long, dark history, it's no wonder that neighbors of Sauer Castle report strange lights and voices coming from the home. But perhaps the eeriest story of all is the local legend that every Halloween, a man and woman can be seen dancing in the tower.
The Taliesin Massacre Destroyed Frank Lloyd Wright's Life
Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin was built in Spring Green, WI, as a personal refuge. Having been exiled professionally from Chicago after fleeing to Europe with the wife of a client, Martha "Mamah" Borthwick Cheney, Wright retreated to Spring Green in an effort to reestablish his practice.
Tragedy struck Taliesin on August 15, 1914, when the family cook, Julian Carlton, murdered Mamah, her children, and four others with a hatchet before pouring gasoline throughout the home and setting some of the bodies on fire. 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 rumored to be haunted. Visitors have reported windows and doors opening and closing by themselves, along with a vision of Mamah herself in a flowing white gown.
Ghostly Children Appear In The Villisca Ax Murder House
On June 9, 1912, in Villisca, IA, one of the most heinous unsolved crimes in US history unfolded. J.B. Moore, his wife, Sarah, and six children (four of their own and two of their friends) were 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 with an ax.
Though the case had no shortage of suspects - ranging from a state senator to a railway transient - no one was ever convicted. Some speculate that this injustice keeps the Moore family's spirits around the house today.
Now a tourist attraction, the Villisca Ax Murder House offers guided tours of the historical crime scene. In terms of alleged hauntings, patrons have reported hearing children's voices and seeing falling lamps, moving ladders, and flying objects.