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Friday, October 26, 2012

13 Days of Halloween: Haunted Houses Part 2

10.) 508 East 2nd Street
Other Names: The Villisca Axe Murder House
Location: Villisca, Iowa
Year Built: 1865
Famous Owners: The Moore Family
There isn’t a sadder tale around regarding the origin of a haunted house than that of the Moore family and their home in Villisca, Iowa. Josiah and Sarah Moore lived at 508 East 2nd Street with their 4 young children (Herman, Katherine, Boyd and Paul) where they were considered a prominent family in the community, both through Josiah’s fledgling business and Sarah’s dedication to the local church. On the night of June 9th, 1912 the Moore family attended a special program held by the Villisca Presbyterian Church for the community’s children, which was overseen by Sarah Moore herself. Two young girls who were friends with the Moore children, Lena & Ina Stillinger were also in attendance; they lived much further away and would have to walk in the dark to their grandmother’s home to spend the night, as the program wasn’t slated to end until sundown. Instead of doing that, Josiah Moore telephoned the girl’s parents and gained permission to let them stay the night at their home. The family and the 2 girls reached the Moore house around 10 PM that night; It would be the last time anyone would see them alive.
Thanks to a vigilant neighbor, the Moore home was investigated by Josiah’s brother Ross well after 9 AM, far past the time that the family would have risen for the day. What he found would stun the small town of Villisca and the entire nation; all 8 occupants of the house had been bludgeoned to death in their sleep with the blunt end of an axe as they slept. Police discovered that all of the doors had been locked at the time of the murders, leading many to believe that the murderer entered the home before the Moore family had returned from the church, and then waited in hiding for them to fall asleep. The murder weapon, an axe belonging to Josiah Moore was found the in the downstairs bedroom that had been occupied by the Stillinger sisters that night. All of the window coverings had been drawn, and a basin of bloody water was found in the downstairs kitchen. The police could find no obvious perpetrator for the crime, and to this day the gruesome murder of an entire family remains unsolved.
Although many theories have materialized in the years following the murder in Villisca, the house has served as a reminder to all passer-byers of the horror of that night and the injustice of the murderer never being caught. Today the home is a national historical site and open to tours and overnight stays to those willing to put themselves in the same place as the murdered Moore family. There have been several reports of strange activity in the homes, most notably the sound of children’s voices and laughter. Objects fall or roll across the floor, banging sounds can be heard in the attic, and several paranormal investigation groups have come from the house with unexplainable tapes and photos.  Some debate over if the property is in fact haunted still exists; recent caretakers have not agreed on the subject, leaving many amateur ghost hunters to weigh in. Is the Villisca Axe Murder House haunted? Perhaps you should stay the night and find out.

9.) 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Other Names: The White House
Location: Washington, D.C.
Year Built: 1792
Famous Owners: Every United States President
No house in America is more recognizable than the White House, which has served as the residence of the sitting President of the United States for well over 200 years. The neoclassical style building has endured the growth and changes of the nation from infancy to what it is today, and has survived an attempted burning by the British army, several wars, and tons of later additions. It’s no surprise that a property so entrenched in history would be reported to be haunted, but some wouldn’t believe the number of famous figures that are supposed to haunt its halls.
Abigail Adams, wife of President John Adams moved into the White House in 1797 where her primary jobs included caring for the home and tending the laundry. Supposedly, you can sometimes still see her doing just that, caring laundry in her outstretched arms heading towards the East Room , clad in a lace cap and shawl. David Burns was a businessman alive during the mid-1700’s who sold most of the land that would make up Washington D.C. and the White House to the United States, and apparently is still there. President Franklin D. Roosevelt himself is reported to have heard the sound of a man’s voice in the Yellow Oval Room, announcing himself as “Mr. Burns.”
Andrew Jackson is also believed to inhabit the White House; the Rose Room, which served as his chambers during his presidency, is supposedly one of the most haunted rooms in the house. Mary Lincoln-Todd claimed years later to hear the sound of Jackson stomping around and swearing in the White House halls, perhaps reliving his famous defeat at reelection to John Quincy Adams. President Harry Truman even wrote to his wife Bess about a possible encounter with Jackson on at least one occasion.
Of course, the most widely reported ghost sighted on the White House grounds is Abraham Lincoln who has supposedly haunted the presidential home since his death at the hands of an assassin in 1865. Lincoln has appeared to a great number of first ladies, including Grace Coolidge, Lady Bird Johnson, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands apparently met Lincoln during a visit years ago, when he knocked on her door one night wearing his customary top hat, causing the poor woman to faint. Winston Churchill also reportedly saw Lincoln one night after exiting the bath, finding the famous President in front of his fireplace. It is well known among staff and residents of the White House that any pacing from the upstairs floors is attributed to the 16th president, who supposedly makes his presence known to those in charge during times of strife in the country.

8.) 2467 San Diego Ave.
Other Names: The Whaley House
Location: San Diego, California
Year Built: 1857
Famous Owners: Thomas Whaley
The Whaley House is the second house on our list to be officially designated as haunted by the state of California, and is supposedly the single most haunted house in the United States. The house itself was built over the former gallows of San Diego, and its first reported ghost belongs to James “Yankee Jim” Robinson, who was hung there in 1852. Thomas Whaley apparently didn’t think anything of the location’s history apparently, because he bought and built on the property only 2 years later. Thomas Whaley had moved to California with his wife and 6 children after the death of an infant son and a fire that destroyed their store. The next death on the property would be Violet Whaley, Thomas’ daughter, who committed suicide in the house in 1882 after her new husband ran out on her. She was only 22 years old.
Over the next several years, many more Whaley’s would lose their lives within the home, mostly from old age; Anna, Thomas’ widow, and four of their children would pass away there as well. There are also stories about a young girl named Annabel Washburn, the supposed playmate of one of the Whaley children breaking her neck and dying in the backyard. No record exists of such a family in the area however, and there are no police reports of death records referring to this accident. What is known is that several guests of the Whaley House and museum have reported strange occurrences and even full blown apparitions of the former Whaley family.
Perhaps the most well-known sighting, TV personality Regis Philbin claimed to have seen an apparition of Anna Whaley while touring the home in 1964. Guests have seen other apparitions of women, as well as young girls, and even Thomas Whaley himself. A little girl who was visiting with her family several years ago began waving to an empty window of the house, only to later tell her parents that he was the same man pictured in the portraits of Mr. Whaley. The legends of ghosts are not just limited to humans either; supposedly, a little spotted fox terrier roams the Whaley House’s halls as well.

7.) 3322 DeMenil Place
Other Names: Lemp Mansion
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Year Built: 1868
Famous Owners: The Lemp Family
The Lemp Mansion located in St. Louis, Missouri has the special designation of being home to the first lager beer manufacturer in the United States, after it was erected William J. Lemp in 1860’s. Lemp came from Germany, where he had been taught the process of brewing beer by his father in Eschwege. William discovered that the grounds under St. Louis were perfect for making a cave system for aging beer, and by the 1870’s he had created a sprawling tunnel system under the streets of the city for his beer company. Lemp rose to fame and fortune with his company, but it would all go sour in the early 1900’s, leading many to believe that the mansion his family inhabited and the tunnels underneath are now haunted.
The Lemp family would have its first brush with tragedy in 1901 when William’s favorite son Frederick died from mysterious causes; Frederick’s death would haunt his father for the next three years, until he took his own life within the mansion. The company which had been taken over by William Jr. would suffer misfortune as well, closing down completely in 1919 at the start of prohibition. The brewery would be sold for a fraction of its actual worth soon after, leaving the rest of the Lemp family to inhabit the mansion at 3322 DeMenil with a diminished fortune. The next tragedy would be in 1920 when William Jr.’s sister Elsa committed suicide as well at the mansion. William Jr. would follow her soon after, also ending his own life some 18 years after his own father. Charles Lemp, William’s brother also killed himself there, and his own son William III died there of a heart attack at age 42. The last of the Lemp’s would die there in 1970, when Edwin Lemp, William Lemp Jr.’s brother would pass away at age 90.
With all of the heartbreak and ended lives connected to the Lemp Mansion, it’s no wonder that it’s reported to be haunted. Today you can tour the mansion, or even sleep in the home overnight. Several television shows have filmed on the property, attempting to capture any sign of the now deceased Lemp family. If you’re really looking for some scares, you can also tour the abandoned tunnels once used by the Lemp Brewing Company; it’s a genuine haunted attraction that sees hundreds of patrons a night during the month of October. Whether there really are ghosts in Lemp Mansion, or just actors in costumes down in the tunnels, we may never know (unless you want to check for yourself!)

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