Supernatural literature is filled with accounts from some of the “Most Haunted Houses in America.” Time and again, we have seen the lists of places that every ghost enthusiast is supposed to visit – the Lemp Mansion, Winchester Mansion, Whaley House, Myrtles Plantation, and the list goes on. But what about those houses that are not so widely-known? Perhaps they are only local haunts, or places that are off-the-beaten-path, but many of them are just as haunted – or even more so – than the American haunts that have become so famous. What follows is a look at just a few of the lesser-known haunted houses that dot the American landscape. There will definitely be more to come, so if the reader has a location that they would like to see featured, let us know, and we’ll include some of them in a future list!
Looking out over the Monongahela River in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, is Nemacolin Castle, which was once a famous site on the old National Road. The three-story mansion, with is ramparts and turret, actually pre-dates the town and was built on the site of Fort Burd, a garrison from the days of the French and Indian War. The Castle was built by Jacob Bowman, a local businessman, who owned a nail factory and a paper mill, and was later a postmaster, justice of the peace, and bank president in Brownsville. As his wealth grew, so did his family. After he fathered nine children with his wife, Isabella, he decided to build the mansion, which was completed in the early 1800s. In the years that followed, the house was not only a family home, but also a stop on the Underground Railroad. It remained in the Bowman family until it was eventually donated to the local historical society, which maintains it today.
Over the last few decades, the house has gained a reputation as one of the most haunted spots in Southwest Pennsylvania. Staff members and visitors to the Castle have reported strange happenings, from heavy, disembodied footsteps to slamming doors, the erratic behavior of lights, and full-bodied apparitions. The ghost of a little girl, who is normally seen in the middle part of the house, has been reported at least a dozen times over the past decade. Others have sighted a small boy, a stern-looking older woman, a ghostly little dog, and even an older man who is believed to be Jacob Bowman himself.
The Tinker Swiss Cottage in Rockford, Illinois, stands today as one of the most unusual homes in the state. It was built by Robert Tinker, an unusual man in his own right. Born on December 31, 1836 in Honolulu, Hawaii to missionary parents, Robert came to Rockford in 1856. He was employed as an accountant by Mary Dorr Manny, the wealthy widow of John H. Manny of the Manny Reaper Works. His inspiration for his amazing cottage came during his tour of Europe in 1862, where he fell in love with the architecture of Switzerland.
In 1865, after returning to Illinois, he began building his 27-room Swiss-style cottage on a limestone bluff overlooking Kent Creek. He surrounded his Swiss Cottage with over 27 acres of trees, vines, winding pathways, flowerbeds, and gardens. A three-story Swiss-inspired barn was added to the property which housed cows, chickens, and horses. In 1870, Robert and Mary Manny were married and became one of Rockford's most influential couples. Tinker became mayor of Rockford in 1875, was a founding member of the Rockford Park District and the CEO of the Northwest and IC Railroad lines. Mary Tinker died in 1901 and Robert later remarried her niece, Jesse Dorr Hurd. When Robert died in 1924, Jessie created a partnership with the Rockford Park District, allowing her to remain in the house until her death. After her death in 1942, the park district acquired the property and opened the home as a museum in 1943.
Over the years, visitors and staff members alike have experienced the hauntings here first-hand, from the sound of footsteps in the hallways and on the stairs, to voices, songs being hummed, and the eerie laughter of children. A home for terminally ill children was located nearby for more than 30 years and often, the children were allowed to play at the cottage. Could some of them linger behind at the place where they found happiness? Even skeptical staff members have been convinced of the haunting as they hear things they cannot explain and have seen objects move by something other than earthly hands.
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH
Located in the Capitol Hill section of Salt Lake City, Utah, is the McCune Mansion, built by Utah South Railroad and business tycoon Alfred McCune in 1900 at a cost of over $1 million. Born to a British Army officer and his wife in Calcutta, India, McCune immigrated with them to Utah Territory after they joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). By the time that he was 21, McCune had become a highly successful railroad builder and was connected to other millionaires of the era. He was a partner in the Peruvian Cerro de Pasco mines along with J. P. Morgan, William Randolph Hearst, and Frederick William Vanderbilt. He owned business interests throughout Utah and in parts of Montana, British Columbia, and South America. He and his wife, Elizabeth, traveled widely and at one point, Elizabeth was entertained by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle.
McCune wanted his home to be an extravagant display of his wealth and financed a two-year tour of Europe for architect S.C. Dallas, so that he could obtain design ideas. The new home towered over the surrounding streets and no expense was spared. It was constructed from red Utah sandstone, but other materials and furnishings were imported from all over the world. McCune and his wife lived in the home until 1920. Prior to moving to Los Angeles, they donated it to the LDS Church and it became the McCune School of Music. In the early 1950s, the mansion became the Brigham Young University Salt Lake City Center, until 1972 when it was moved to a larger location. It was sold in 1973 and became the Virginia Tanner Modern Dance School. Since then, the building has been privately owned, often used for wedding receptions and other short-term rentals.
Though it’s unclear why, the haunting in the house began soon after the McCunes moved out. Since then, the list of strange reports has continued to grow. Under the stairs is a room that was once used for music practice and although this is no longer its purpose, instrumental music is still heard coming from within. Two apparitions have been seen in the house- -- a man in a long, black coat and a little girl who resembles one of the portraits that hangs in the house. The young girl has been seen walking in and out of a mirror in the west end of the mansion. Another odd report involves phantom footsteps that begin and end in the center of rooms. There are also reports of items being moved about, furniture rearranged, lights turning on and off, and doors that unlock themselves, even after being secured for the night and double-checked. The identity of the house’s lingering spirits remains a mystery.
SPRING GREEN, WISCONSIN
Located in Spring Green, Wisconsin is Taliesin, a former summer home that belonged to its designer, Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s become famous as one of the finest examples of his signature “prairie-style” architecture, but what most people don’t know is that it was also the scene of a heinous crime in 1914 that left a haunting in its wake. Wright began building the house in 1911, soon after leaving his first wife and six children. He had been involved in a scandalous affair with Mamah Borthwick Cheney, the wife of one of his clients. She left her husband to move to Spring Green while Taliesin was still under construction. Although Mamah did not have primary custody of her two children, they were spending the day with her on August 15, 1914. Wright was in Chicago, supervising the construction of another project. While Mamah and her children were eating lunch with several workmen in the dining room, a servant named Julian Carlton (who had been fired earlier that day) locked them in the house, poured gasoline under the door, and set the house on fire. As the people trapped inside tried frantically to escape, Carlton attacked them with a hatchet, killing seven people, including Mamah and her children. The tragedy destroyed the majority of Taliesin and most of the records of Wright’s early work. Wright received a telegraph in Chicago and rushed to Wisconsin, only to find the mansion, and his life, in ruins.
Determined not to defeated by this terrible turn of events, he rebuilt Taliesin in Mamah’s honor. But bizarrely, the second house also met with tragedy. In April 1925, a lightning storm started a fire in the house’s telephone lines and it burned to the ground. Defiant against the forces of nature, Wright built a third incarnation of Taliesin on the same site and it has survived to this day.
Taliesin is one of the most visited of Wright’s home in the country – and the most haunted. After the murderous events of 1914, the bodies of the victims were taken to a cottage on the property called Tan-Y-Deri. It is in and around this cottage where Mamah’s ghost has been reported over the years. She is usually dressed in a long, white gown and while she is a peaceful presence, she is obviously restless and lost. It is also said that doors and windows open and close by themselves within the cottage and light sometimes turn on and off. Witnesses say that they sometimes close the place for the night, only to return the following day to find everything wide open. The events of the past have truly marked the house as a haunted place that will be forever linked to a tragedy of long ago.
The unique mansion known as Prospect Place, in the tiny town of Trinway, was built by George W. Adams, who came to Ohio from Virginia in 1808. Already wealthy, Adams had inherited his grandfather’s plantation but had freed all of the slaves his family owned before selling the farm. Adams hated slavery and chose Ohio as his new home because it was a free state. Within two decades, he was one of the wealthiest men in the region. He owned two flour mills, built bridges and canals, and helped develop the town of Dresden. In addition, he provided free grain for the poor and offered his home as a safe house for slaves who escaped the south using the Underground Railroad.
He built the Greek Revival-style Prospect Place in 1856. It was the first house in the state to have indoor plumbing and was fitted with a cupola on top of the house where a signal light could alert runaway slaves that the place offered food and shelter. Injured, sick, or wounded slaves who did not survive their journey to freedom are among the spirits still believed to linger in the house.
George Adams lived long enough to see slavery abolished in America before he died in 1879. He left his vast estate to his children, but over the years, relatives squandered it and by the middle 1950s, the house was abandoned. It was later sold to the Cox Gravel Co., which offered tours of the mansion, but it steadily declined. By the 1980s, time and vandals had reduced the place almost to ruins and it was slated for destruction. If not for the attention paid to the house by the famous Longaberger Basket Co. of Ohio, it might have been lost. Company founder Dave Longaberger had recently purchased and renovated a number of historic buildings in the area and he wanted to restore Prospect Place. Unfortunately, he passed away before work could be completed. But the house was rescued again, this time by George W. Adams – the great, great grandson of the original owner. Work to restore and preserve the mansion is ongoing today.
Prospect Place has long been regarded as the local “haunted house” by those who live in the area. The stories of the haunting date back many years and if even a portion of them are true, it is one of the most haunted houses in the state. In addition to the spirits of former slaves who linger in the house, there are also the ghosts of train accident victims who haunt the basement. After an accident on a nearly rail line, the wounded were brought to Prospect Place and the basement was turned into a temporary hospital. Their ghosts are now believed to haunt the underground rooms. Another ghost is believed to be that of a young girl who died in an accident at the house. Her ghost has been seen playing inside and outside of the mansion, and her girlish laughter has been frequently reported. A ghost who has been seen near a staircase on an upper floor is thought to be George W. Adams himself, or perhaps the spirit of William Cox, Adam’s son-in-law, who mysteriously vanished in 1886 after absconding with a large part of his wife’s inheritance. Some believe that he has been forced in death to return to the place where he carried out his betrayal.