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America's Most Haunted: Six Seriously Spooky Sites

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Having recently bought a 103-year-old house with some scary stories of its own, I approached this subject with some trepidation. After doing the research, I probably won't sleep for days.

The Ghost of Nyack

What do you do when you've just bought a haunted house? The people of Nyack, New York knew that the 5,000 square foot Victorian house was haunted, but Helen and George Ackley were only informed when they moved in. Strange things happened to them over the next 20 years.

One ghost would wake my wife up every morning for school by shaking her bed. When spring break came, my wife made a loud announcement before going to sleep that it was spring break, there was no school and she wanted to sleep in. Her bed did NOT shake the next morning.

While painting the living room Helen saw one of the ghost looking in approval of the color. She always got the feeling that the ghost liked the renovation they had done on the house.

When the Ackleys sold the house in 1990, Jeffrey and Patrice Stambovsky put $32,000 in escrow, then backed out of the deal when they learned the house was haunted. Helen Ackley refused to refund the deposit, and the Stambovskys sued. In what has been called the Ghostbusters ruling, the New York Appellate court ruled that the haunting should have been disclosed to potential buyers, since it is unlikely that a normal home inspection would uncover such a condition.

The Clutter House

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Herb Clutter of Holcomb, Kansas designed his two story brick home with five bedrooms and three bathrooms for his growing family in 1948. In November of 1959, Herb and wife Bonnie and their two teenagers were found bound and shot to death. In addition, Herb Clutter appeared to have been tortured. Richard Hickock and Perry Smith were convicted of the crime. They had heard the Clutters were wealthy, but they only found $50 cash for all their trouble. Smith and Hickock were hanged in 1965. The crime was documented in Truman Capote's novel In Cold Blood. Some say the ghost of Nancy Clutter, Herb Clutter's popular teenage daughter walks the halls of the home at night. The house was up for auction in 2006 but was withdrawn when no bids were sufficient.

The Stanley Hotel

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The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado is on the National Register of Historic Places. It has hosted numerous celebrities, including Stephen King, who was inspired to write The Shining after staying at the Stanley. Many believe the Stanley is haunted, but the spirits are benign. Founder F.O. Stanley's presence in felt in the billiard room, which was one of his favorite haunts when he was alive, as well. His wife Flora loved music, and can sometimes be heard playing piano in the hotel's music room, even though she died decades ago. The sound of children can often be heard on the fourth floor, where the servant's quarters were in days gone by. Stephen King stayed in room 217, but hotel employees say that the most haunted room at the Stanley is room 418. (image by Rob Lee)

The Horror of Amityville

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The house at 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, New York was the scene of six murders in 1974. Ronald "Butch" DeFeo Jr. shot and killed his parents and four siblings. See crime scene pictures here. DeFeo is serving six consecutive life sentences, while his wife Tracy has a website maintaining his innocence. The next year, George and Kathleen Lutz bought the house and moved in. They stayed only 28 days. The Lutzes reported a long list of malevolent paranormal phenomena, the basis of the book The Amityville Horror, which was made into a film in 1979. Since that time, many of the Lutz's claims have been questioned.

The Crescent Hotel

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The 78-room Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas was built in 1886. It was a popular destination for those wishing to bathe in the area's healing springs. Later it was a women's college, a junior college, a hospital for a quack who sold the cure for cancer, and once again a hotel. It boasts several different stories of resident ghosts, many featuring doctors, nurses, and cancer patients.

Cheesman Park

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Cheesman Park is an 80-acre park in Denver, Colorado which began as a cemetery. It became the final resting place of many criminals and paupers. A nearby smallpox hospital contributed more of the deceased. In 1893, a part of the cemetery was made into a park, and the graves of some paupers were dug up for removal, often haphazardly so that many body parts were left behind. Around 2,000 bodies were never moved. When Cheesman Park opened, visitors and nearby residents reported ghosts roaming around. Voices can be heard when no one else is there, and specters are seen at night. (image by pbo31)

Update: For those of you who've asked, the Winchester Mystery House was featured in the post 10 Notable Staircases. Waverly Hills Sanatorium was the subject of its own post last year.

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‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0
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Get Your GIFs Ready for This International Public Domain GIF-Making Competition
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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0

Excellent GIF-making skills can serve you beyond material for your clever tweets. Each year, a group of four digital libraries from across the world hosts GIF IT UP, a competition to find the best animated image sourced from public domain images from their archives.

The competition is sponsored by Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), New Zealand’s DigitalNZ, and the National Library of Australia’s Trove, all of which host millions of public domain works. The requirements are that the source material must be in the public domain, have a 'no known copyright restrictions' statement, or have a Creative Commons license that allows its reuse. The material must also come from one of the sponsored sources. Oh, and judging by the past winners, it helps if it’s a little whimsical.

The image above won the grand prize in 2015. And this was a runner-up in 2016:

via GIPHY

This year’s prizes haven’t been announced yet (although Europeana says there will be a new one for first-time GIF makers), but last year’s grand prize winner got their own Giphoscope, and runners-up got $20 gift cards. (Turns out, there’s not a lot of money in public domain art.)

Not an expert GIFer yet? You can always revisit the audio version of DPLA’s advanced GIF-making tutorial from last year.

The fourth-annual GIF IT UP contest opens to submissions October 1.

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