Haunted houses have a long history, with stories as old as Pliny the Younger’s tale, an ancient Roman story of an Athens villa haunted by a chained man, to the ghost stories found in Arabian Nights. They remain an ever-present part of human society, one that parapsychologists attribute to violent events taking place in the related buildings. So, it is no surprise that the sites of some of humanity’s most gruesome acts bear the echoes of those murders.
Here are 10 of the most infamous American murder houses and vacant lots to be found in the United States and the spirits that may haunt them.
1. The Hex Murder House - Near Stewartstown, PA (pictured above)
In 1928, local witch Nellie Noll told John Blymire that recluse Nelson Rehmeyer was the source of his bad luck. Although both were avowed pow-wow men, also known as practitioners of hex magic, Blymire set out to break his “bad luck spirit” by burning 60-year-old Rehmeyer’s copy of the Pow-Wows spell book and burying a lock of his hair.
With the help of young John Curry and Wilbert Hess, Blymire tied up and beat Rehmeyer in his home in an attempt to secure the book. Rehmeyer refused to relinquish the tome, and the subsequent beating resulted in his death. The trio of attackers then set Rehmeyer's body aflame to break the hex. Rehmeyer's spirit reportedly haunts the Hex House to this day. The site periodically opens its doors to the public, allowing visitors to inspect marks on the floorboards from Rehmeyer’s murder.
2. Kreischer Mansion - Staten Island, NY
In 1885, German businessman Balthasar Kreischer had a pair of stately mansions built for his sons, Edward and Charles. Within a decade, the senior Kreischer died, his brickworks operation closed, Edward had committed suicide, and a fire obliterated Charles' mansion. The remaining mansion changed hands over the years. By the 2000s it was vacant. Former marine Joseph Young became the property's caretaker.
In 2005, Young was hired by the Bonanno crime family to kill Robert McKelvey, and he did so by strangling, stabbing, and drowning the man on the Kreischer Mansion grounds–before dismembering and burning the body in the furnace in the cellar. Rumor has it that the Kreischers haunt the residence, including a spectral woman who peers from the windows.
3. Amityville House - Amityville, NY
John Moynahan had this Dutch Colonial built on Long Island’s south shore in the 1920s, but the DeFeo family brought it to infamy. In 1974, Ronald “Butch” DeFeo Jr. killed his parents and four siblings there at the behest of a dark presence. A year later, the Lutz family moved in, only to discover that Ronald's demons lingered.
First, local priest Father Mancuso was threatened by a monstrous voice during a blessing; then, the parents began having vivid nightmares, with wife Kathy feeling embraced by an unseen force. Meanwhile, father George discovered a hidden room in the basement, and daughter Missy befriended an invisible, demonic pig named Jodie. Cold spots, strange odors, spectral slime, and cloven footprints followed, until the family fled the house within weeks of moving in. At one point, demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren visited and photographed a demonic boy, though no hauntings have been reported since.
4. Cleveland Strangler Murder House - Cleveland, OH
In 2005, Anthony Sowell was released from prison after serving 15 years for attempted rape. Despite a decorated career in the US Marine Corps, he had a history of assaulting women and girls, including his 11-year-old niece. Still, no one suspected his murderous tendencies.
When his friends and neighbors complained of his home’s horrid smell, Sowell blamed it on his stepmother, who lived with him, or the nearby sausage factory. Then, in 2009, after sexually assaulting another woman, police searched his home and found the bodies of almost a dozen local women, including two on his living room floor. The relatively inconspicuous home was later demolished out of respect to the victims, whose spirits have since seemingly rested in peace.
5. Gardette-LaPrete House - New Orleans, LA
This Greek Revival house in New Orleans’ French Quarter is haunted by one grisly legend. The abode started as a vacation home for plantation owner Jean LaPrete in the 1830s. After adding its wrought-iron lace rails, LaPrete rented the house to a wealthy young Turk known as “The Sultan.” So the story goes, the handsome stranger brought with him an entourage of concubines, eunuchs, and compatriots, all of whom participated in lavish, late-night parties with incense and wild music.
Then, one morning, a passer-by noticed blood seeping from the door, and police entered to discover the entire group dead and dismembered, with “The Sultan” buried alive in the courtyard. While the tale straddles the line between fact and fiction, many claim the home still radiates a very real dark energy. To this day, visitors regularly hear shouting and weeping from within, while ghostly faces peer from the upstairs windows.
Related: 9 Most Haunted Places in New Orleans
6. Villisca Axe Murder House - Villisca, IA
In 1912, this rural house was the home of Josiah B. Moore, his wife, and four children. However, one cool summer evening, someone entered the Moore homestead and used an axe to slaughter everyone inside, including two visiting children. The ghastly crime was discovered by a concerned neighbor, and an intense investigation followed.
Word fast spread, and suspects included a nameless highwayman, a well-known traveling minister, and even then-Senator Frank F. Jones. The crime remains unsolved to this day, and the spirits of those who lost their lives allegedly remain inside the home. Although they commonly move objects and cause furniture to fall over, one paranormal investigator almost lost his life when staying the night, as he wound up stabbing himself by morning.
7. Lizzie Borden House - Fall River, MA
In August of 1892, this abode was the site of the crime that inspired the infamous rhyme. Affluent banker Andrew Borden was discussing finances with his late first wife’s brother after months of interfamilial tension when he decided to go for a walk. In the intervening hour, someone entered the house and hit his new wife Abby multiple times with a hatchet. Upon his return, Andrew laid upon a couch in his parlor to nap but was nearly beheaded by the same killer smashing his skull.
Although the public turned on Lizzie, Andrew's daughter, as the killer, a local judge acquitted her due to circumstantial evidence. The building has since been restored as a museum and bed and breakfast, where many visitors report hearing Lizzie cackling on the stairs and seeing her parents wandering the grounds.
8. Manson Family Murder House - Los Angeles, CA
This Los Angeles estate became infamous in 1969, when the Mansion Family broke in and killed actress Sharon Tate, hair stylist Jay Sebring, and two others inside the house. A fifth victim, Steven Parent, had been killed as the killers approached the property. Under Charles Manson’s order to make the murders “as gruesome as you can”, the family members horrifically mutilated the victims. Tate begged for the life of her unborn child, only for her attackers to stab her in the stomach before leaving the word “pig” written in blood on the front door.
The property was later owned by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, who took the door when he left. In 1994, the house itself was knocked down and replaced. Although no ghosts linger on the site, voices and footsteps were heard during the construction of a nearby house, whose residents report cold winds and apparitions.
9. John Wayne Gacy’s House - Outside of Chicago, IL
The crimes of this killer clown will forever haunt American history, and are made all the more disturbing because John Wayne Gacy buried his victims’ bodies beneath his otherwise banal suburban home. Gacy's wife noticed a certain smell, but Gacy blamed dead mice in the crawl space. Upon his arrest in 1978, however, police excavated the property and unearthed the remains of 29 individuals under the house and in the backyard and garage.
The work took months due to an especially brutal winter, and the house was mostly destroyed in the process, resulting in its razing in 1979. Afterwards, rumors spread of his victims’ ghosts haunting the property, especially as the soil appeared to remain barren in the intervening years. A new home was built on the property in 1988, though the address was changed by the new owner.
10. Jeffrey Dahmer’s Apartment - Milwaukee, WI
The majority of Jeffrey Dahmer's crimes were committed at his residence in the Oxford apartment complex in Milwaukee. Dahmer lured unsuspecting victims to his one-bedroom flat with the promise of cash in exchange for sexual favors. He then drugged his victims with sleeping pills and murdered them. Afterwards, he dismembered their bodies, disposed of their torsos in a vat of acid, and refrigerated their limbs to eat later.
Eventually, in 1991, after two separate instances of victims escaping, police arrested Dahmer and discovered the human abattoir in his flat. The building was purchased by Marquette University and torn down in 1992 out of respect for the victims–and out of fear that it would become a morbid tourist attraction. It remains a vacant lot, with no word on the souls of the young men who perished there.
This Story Was First Published on Occult Museum.