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Many of us will have been to organised haunted houses on Halloween with our friends but not many of us will have visited a real life haunted mansion. Across the world several iconic buildings standout as the most haunted properties of all time including 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville Long Island which was the basis for the horror novel “The Amityville Horror” after a six person murder took place in the house. Similarly a haunted rectory in Essex England has had unexplained occurrences for several generations. The Winchester Mystery House, once owned by the infamous Sarah Winchester who inherited millions of dollars from her husband's arms company, is highly regarded as one of the most haunted houses in the world.
Join us as we discover some of the real life historical haunted houses with a fascinating and eerie history. Let us know if you have heard of any more haunted houses across the world and whether you have visited any of them!
Amityville (Long Island, New York)
112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville on the south shore of Long Island, New York was the historical inspiration behind Jay Anderson’s 1977 horror novel “The Amityville Horror”. It is also the basis of several film adaptations released from 1979 onwards, all of which include the word Amityville.
On 13th November 1974, Ronald Joseph Defeo Jr. Killed his Father, Mother, two brothers and two sisters in the house. He was convicted of second-degree murder in November 1975 and sentenced to 6 terms of 25 years to life in prison. He died in custody in March 2021.
112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville is a 1927 built, large Dutch colonial house and is situated in the quiet suburban neighbourhood. After the murders at the house, George and Kathy Lutz along with her three children moved into the house after purchasing it for a very reduced price. Shortly after moving in they claimed that doors were ripped open, locks were bent and hinges were damaged as well as windows being suddenly flown open and green slime poured out of the ceiling as well as cloven hooved footprints were left in the snow. The Lutz family remained in the house in Amityville for 28 days. Several investigations were conducted into their claims of paranormal activity in the house including with a self steered vampire ologist and ghost hunter Stephen Kaplan. The Lutz family were sued and they admitted that almost everything in their testimony and the 1977 book the Amityville horror was fictional. Stephen Kaplan fell out with the lads family and went on to write a book called The Amityville Horror Conspiracy with his wife published in 1995.
The novel the Amityville horror is based on these fabricated events and it has been the subject of much controversy due to no real evidence being put forward that the house is actually haunted.
Several paranormal enthusiasts have visited the house since but over the years the home has been renovated and the address changed to discourage Thrillseekers from visiting it. The local residents in Amityville were said to be unhappy with the attention the story brought to the town and the house was placed on the market in May 2010 with the value of US$1.15 million. A local resident bought the home for US$950,000.
Borley Rectory (Essex, England)
Psychic researcher Harry Price has named Borley Rectory in Essex as “the most haunted house in England”. The rectory was built by the Reverend Henry Dawson Ellis Bull In 1862 who was the rector of the parish. It replaced the house earlier built on the site that had been destroyed by fire in 1841. An extension was later added to accommodate the rector’s 14 children.
Local legend claims that a Benedictine monastery was built in the area around 1362 and a monk from the monastery had a relationship with a nun from a nearby convent. After their relationship was discovered, the monk was executed and the nun was reportedly bricked up in the convent walls still alive. However in 1938 this legend was proved to have no historical basis and could’ve been fabricated by the rector's children.
The rectory has been allegedly haunted ever since it was built and rose to prominence in 1929 after the Daily Mirror newspaper published an account by psychic researcher Harry Price who wrote two books supporting claims of paranormal activity in the house. A study by the Society for Psychical Research rejected most of the sightings as fabricated but this has not dampened public interest in the stories relating to Borley Rectory. Several books and television programmes, including a 1975 BBC program named The Ghost Hunters, have been created discussing the hauntings at Borley Rectory.
It is said that the first paranormal events to happen in Borley Rectory happened around 1863 with a few locals discussing having heard unexplained footsteps within the house. In 1904 Bull's daughters claimed they saw what they thought was a ghost of a nun around 40 yards from the house and tried to talk to it. The local organist Ernest Ambrose claimed to have seen an apparition on several occasions at the rectory. In the next four decades several people claim to have witnessed many paranormal events at the site including seeing a phantom coach driven by two headless horsemen.
New owners of Borley Rectory moved in in 1927, the Reverend Guy Eric Smith and his wife found the skull of a young woman inside a cupboard and later reported hearing sounds of servant bells despite them being disconnected, lights appearing in windows and unexplained footsteps. Smith’s wife also believes she saw a horse drawn carriage at night.
Later in 1930, the Reverend Lionel Algernon Foyster and his wife Marianne moved into the home along with their adopted daughter Adelaide. Several strange incidents were noted down at the time and sent to researcher Harry Price. These events included bellringing, window shattering, the throwing of stones and bottles, wall writing and locking Adelaide in a room with no key. Both Marianne and Adelaide claimed to have been attacked by something horrible in the house too. It was reported much later that Marianne had actually been having an affair with a lodger in the house and that she sometimes used paranormal explanations to cover up her liaisons.
Casa Loma (Toronto, Canada)
The large Gothic revival castle Casa Loma in Toronto, Ontario, Canada was constructed from 1911 to 1914 as a residence for financier Sir Henry Pellatt. The house cost around $3.5 million and took 299 workers three years to build the 98 rooms covering 64,700 ft.². It was the largest private residence in Canada and included an elevator, a large oven big enough to cook an ox, two vertical passages for pipe organs, a central vacuum, two secret passages, a pool and three bowling lanes in the basement.
Today Casa Loma is a tourist attraction and museum which fully embraces the Halloween and haunted feeling every October where it is transformed into an immersive theatrical experience scaring visitors. The castle offers ghost tours led by Canada’s most haunted and boasts ghost stories as far back as the 1930s.
One of the most prolific sightings of paranormal activity at Casa Loma is the white lady who typically appears on the second floor but has also been seen in the basement. She has been described as possibly a maid who worked in the castle in the early 1900s around the time where many people in Toronto are dying of influenza. She has been spotted by many guests and staff as they have been cleaning up at the end of the day. Some guests believe they have also seen sightings of Sir Henry Pellatt who originally commissioned the building of Casa Loma and his wife Lady Mary Pellatt for whom he built the castle. During an event at the castle, in more modern times, a young boy panicked when he saw a man standing in a second floor window. When asked to describe who the man was, he pointed at a picture of Sir Henry and asked, “Why is he so mad?”. A female spirit believed to be Lady Mary has been spotted and filming her has been attempted but to no luck.
Staff members at Casa Loma have said mediums have visited the castle and claim that Sir Henry and Lady Mary are not trapped there but choose to come back to the castle from the afterlife. They have named it “an intelligent haunting”.
Corvin Castle (Romania)
One of the seven wonders of Romania, Corvin castle is a Gothic renaissance castle in Hunedoara. Construction began in 1446 by order of Viovode of Transylvania John Hunyadi who wanted to build upon the former keep built by Charles I of Hungary.
Tourists to the castle are told that Vlad The Impaler, Prince of Wallachia was held prisoner by John Hunyadi. It is also mentioned as the inspiration for Castle Dracula in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula. However this has later been disproved.
The castle is one of the largest in Europe and has been destroyed several times over the years. Legend has it that three Turkish prisoners were locked up in the dungeons at the castle for many years and were promised that if they dug until they found water they would be released. After the man who made the promise had passed away his wife threw the Turkish men back into prison and one of the men cursed the castle. The castle did have a lot of prisoners over its time and there is said to have been a torture chamber and a room that housed live bears where the dead were thrown.
There are also stories of a monk being bricked up alive into a wall because he was a spy. Many people have said that they have heard footsteps, seen shadows and fieldhands on the back when visiting the castle.
Winchester Mystery House (San Jose, California)
The famous Winchester Mystery House in San Jose California was a personal residence of Sarah Winchester the widow of William Wirt Winchester, the firearms magnate. It suddenly became a tourist attraction nine months after the death of Sarah Winchester and it is well known for having a Victorian and Gothic style with many architectural abnormalities.
The Winchester Mystery House has been claimed to be “the most haunted place in the world” but there is no evidence to support this belief - much of the lore regarding this Winchester house remains a myth.
Sarah Winchester was left a large inheritance from her husband in 1881 and by 1885 she moved to California from New Haven, Connecticut. Along with the Winchester Mystery House, she purchased several homes and properties in Atherton as well as a large property in Burlingame and a houseboat. Winchester died on the 5th of September 1922 at the age of 83. It is estimated that Winchester inherited around US$20 million and earned US$1,000 per day in royalties from her inheritance.
The Winchester Mystery House is architecturally interesting as Sarah Winchester designed the rooms one by one. She was known to rebuild and abandon construction if progress did not meet her expectations which resulted in the house having a maze like design. In 1897 in the San Jose News, it was reported that the seven story tower was torn down and rebuilt 16 times. Multiple levels up to 5 were added to different parts of the house and Victorian, Gothic, and Romanesque features were added. There is an intricate pattern on the ballroom floor, two windows including quotes from Shakespeare and bedrooms on the second floor have adjoining sitting rooms and sewing rooms. It also includes chandeliers from Germany, furnishings from Asia and paintings from France. By the time Winchester died the house had 160 rooms with 2000 doors and 10,000 windows with a total of 47 stairways and 47 fireplaces with 13 bathrooms and 6 kitchens.
So is the Winchester mystery house haunted? Local residents have claimed that they have heard ghostly music coming from the house but this has later been attributed to the fact that Winchester would often play the pump organ in the grand ballroom overnight when she couldn’t sleep.
Winchester was also known for holding parties for the spirits in her home which featured lavish meals on gold plates but no such plates were discovered on her death. As well as these parties, it was claimed that Winchester had nightly seances in the blue room or in a closet by herself from midnight until two in the morning talking to ghosts and spirits about what construction should be accomplished on the house the following day. Modern records show that the blue room would’ve actually been the gardeners bedroom so it seems unlikely nightly seances for happening.
Many visitors and tour guides have discussed experiencing cold spots and hearing footsteps and odd sounds as well as whispering, slamming and smelling cooking smells when visiting the Winchester mystery house.
Paranormal investigator Joe Nickell believes that in order to appear in public healthy and undeterred by her illnesses, Sarah’s peers gave her a mysterious reputation feeding the gossip in the local community and newspapers about spooky happenings at the house. Locals believed that Sarah Winchester may have felt tremendous guilt resulting from all of the deaths caused by Winchester rifles and the fact that she inherited so much money from the arms company but there has been no substantial evidence for this.
Further folklore has suggested that architectural features across the house linked to the number 13 such as 13 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms and 13 windows in certain rooms are down to the fact that Winchester had a superstitious fascination with the number. However this has been disproved due to many of the features equalling 13 being installed after Winchester's death.
Longtime rumours about hauntings and seances still hold weight with visitors entering the Winchester Mystery House as tourists as the story has a morbid fascination that spans generations. Pop culture may also be responsible for the continued legacy of these haunted happenings at the Winchester mystery house as several films, TV episodes and podcasts have been created referencing the Winchester Mystery House and Sarah Winchester herself.
Wukang Mansion (Shanghai)
The Wukang mansion, in the former French Concession of Shanghai was designed by Hungarian Slovakian architect Laszlo Hudec in 1924 and has been the residence of many celebrities. It is an eight story high building and is the oldest veranda style apartment building in Shanghai. Legend has it that its original name “Normandie” was to commemorate a World War I battleship however no such battleship existed in the French Navy at that time. The mansion looks like a ship from one direction and is reminiscent of the Flatiron building in New York City.
It was originally built for western employees of companies located in the area. Several celebrities have lived in the building including Wu Yin, Wang Wenjuan and Zheng Junil as well as Soong Ching-ling, the widow of President Sun Yat-sen.
In a dark period of history, local residents refer to the building as “the diving board” due to dozens of suicides by intellectuals and others who were persecuted during the cultural revolution as state enemies. One of the people who allegedly fell from the building is Shangguan Yunzhu, known for Chinese propaganda films in the 1940s to 1960s. It is said that she threw herself to her death from the balcony at 3 am on the 23rd of November 1968. Some 40 years later, a resident of the Wu-Tang mansion reportedly saw her ghost haunting the building reliving her final moments in a never ending loop. This gained a lot of international attention but it seems to be false.
There you have it. The most haunted houses from across the world, all with fascinating paranormal history. These unbelievable haunted homes in China, America, Romania, China, and Britain Have an enduring quality that is loved by paranormal enthusiasts and dark tourists looking to experience landmarks with morbid curiosity.
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