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Haunted Mansion For Sale in Upstate New York

In Camden, N.Y., about an hour northeast of Syracuse, there’s a three-bedroom, two-bath, 4747 square foot home for sale. The 1880s Queen Anne style property is going for a cool $105,000, which is a steal—as long as the prospective buyer is all right with the fact that the property is almost certainly haunted.

Known as the W.H. Dorrance House, the home is listed under the National Register of Historic Places, but is in foreclosure and currently owned by Fannie Mae, which could mean it’s been underpriced to get multiple offers which will drive up the price at auction.

Now for the scary stuff. A scan of the home on Google street view reveals a bizarre series of white hand prints on a set of upstairs windows. If those weren’t eerie enough, apparently the most recent owners, who purchased the property for $234,000 a few years ago, left on mysterious terms almost immediately after buying. The house has now been uninhabited and subject to neglect for almost half a decade. Except by those ghosts, of course.

Also serving as unimpeachable evidence: The house looks like pretty much every home in every horror movie ever.  

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John Plumbe Jr., Library of Congress // Public Domain
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History
"The Thing": The Mysterious Teenage Ghost That Haunted Taft's White House
Original image
John Plumbe Jr., Library of Congress // Public Domain

“My dear Clara,” Major Archie Butt wrote in the summer of 1911, “It seems that the White House is haunted.” So began what would become the only written record of the mysterious Executive Mansion ghost known only as "The Thing."

That July, word of an apparition appearing to servants in William Howard Taft’s White House reached Butt, a military aide to the president who served as a kind of personal secretary and attaché. Reported encounters with a ghost had been scaring domestic staffers for months, as he recounted in a letter to his sister-in-law Clara. The spooky tale he told her remains an enduring question mark for White House scholars even today.

As the gossip of the time went, The Thing was felt more often than seen. Taft’s housekeeper—“a spooky little thing herself,” as Butt put it—reported that servants told stories of feeling The Thing appear as a slight pressure on the shoulder, as if a curious kid were leaning over to see what they were doing. Butt scolded the housekeeper, telling her, "ghosts have not the sense of touch, at least those self-respecting ghosts of which I have heard." But the servants maintained that it was, in fact, the spirit touching them.

“There’s a long tradition of White House ghosts,” Evan Phifer, a research historian at the White House Historical Society, tells Mental Floss. “Lincoln is a very popular one, Andrew Jackson—even a British soldier from the time of the War of 1812.” But The Thing is one of the more unusual White House spirits, because no one knows who he was. “It’s not a president or a first lady. It’s this unknown boy about 14 or 15 years old," Phifer says.

Several of the White House staff reported feeling this mysterious pressure on their shoulder, only to turn around to an empty room. Just one member of the household, though, said she actually saw the ghost. Marsh, First Lady Helen Taft’s personal maid, reported not just feeling the ghost leaning over her shoulder, but seeing the ethereal figure, whom she described as a young boy with light, unkempt hair and sad blue eyes. “Now who on Earth this can be,” Butt mused, “I cannot imagine.”

Taft responded to news of the spooky rumor with “towering rage,” Butt said, banning anyone in the house from speaking of the ghost under threat of firing. The president worried that the story would get out and the press would have a field day with the news. But his aide seemed to have a sense of humor about the whole situation. “I reminded him that the help was in such a state of mind that, if it was positively believed that the upper floor of the White House was haunted, the servants there could not be kept in their places by executive order,” Butt wrote.

Still, both of them found their curiosity piqued. Taft was “as anxious to hear about the thing as I had been,” according to Butt. And the aide, who was often on the receiving end of the housekeeping staff’s complaints, was afraid to let on just how intrigued he was by The Thing. “I don’t dare let any of them see how interested I am in it,” he told his sister-in-law. He hoped that the ghost would fade into the background as the year wore on and the staff got busier, relieving him of the duty of calming down superstitious domestic employees.

But even while publicly scoffing at the story, Butt was privately planning to research the mysterious boy’s possible origins. He asked several different servants to tell him their stories about The Thing, and told Clara that he was “going to delve into the history of the White House” to see if any boy matching The Thing’s description had lived—or died—there. But he never mentioned it in his letters to Clara again. It seems that he never did find out who the ghost might have been.

Modern White House historians are just as perplexed as he was. The only known youngster said to haunt the presidential residence is Willie Lincoln, who died during his father’s second year in office, possibly of typhoid fever. But Willie was 11 when he died, much younger than the description of The Thing. (Besides, Willie's ghost was already a known figure in Washington—the first reported sightings of his ghost in the White House date back to the 1870s.)

Whoever the paranormal figure might have represented, Taft was seemingly successful in squashing the rumors before they reached beyond the White House walls. “I didn’t really see the story in any papers of the time, so you could say that Archie Butt did a good job of keeping the story under wraps,” Phifer says. “This seems to be the only mention in the historical record of this ghost.”

Butt himself, though, was not long for this world. In April 1912, returning from Europe to the U.S. after a six-week leave of absence from the White House, he died in the sinking of the Titanic. And as for The Thing? Well, if Archie Butt ever did get to the bottom of the mystery, he took the story to his watery grave.

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Arthur W. Stewart, Library of Congress
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Visit a Famously Haunted Texas Hotel in October
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The Magnolia Hotel in 1936
Arthur W. Stewart, Library of Congress

Seguin, Texas, is a surprisingly popular destination for ghost hunters. The 27,000-person town located 35 miles outside of San Antonio has been featured on several ghost-hunting TV shows, thanks to the presence of the Magnolia Hotel, a spooky historic inn that’s reportedly home to at least 13 restless spirits—at least according to its owner.

This Halloween season, you can experience the Magnolia’s hauntings for yourself. The hotel, which sat vacant for two decades and has been under renovation for years, will open its doors to visitors on October 28, according to San Antonio news station KSAT. The public can get a rare glimpse of the building (and maybe some of its spookier residents).

The hotel’s origins stretch back to 1840, when one of Seguin’s founders, Texas Ranger James Campbell, built a two-room log cabin on the property. Campbell was killed shortly after, and the cabin ended up in the hands of various other owners who transformed it first into a stagecoach station, then into a hotel. Throughout the years, owners built new additions to the property, expanding the hotel. By the mid-1800s, it was the town’s largest inn, and it would retain the title well into the 20th century. In the 1930s, it was renovated into apartments, but was abandoned in the 1990s.

Throughout those years, the building was witness to plenty of violence. In the 1850s, its cellar served as a safehouse for women and children during attacks on the town by members of the Comanche tribe. For a while, that basement shelter also served as the town’s first jail.

In 1874, serial killer Wilhelm Faust was staying there for work when he snuck away to murder his wife, who was staying nearby, but killed a family friend’s young daughter instead. He later confessed to several other murders.

Current Magnolia owner Erin Ghedi says that the hotel is now home to at least 13 ghosts—which have been pinpointed “with the assistance of a well-known Texas psychic, and the owner's ability to communicate with the spirits,” according to the hotel website. But Ghedi is still trying to figure out who exactly the ghosts are, according to KSAT.

When the Russel Rush Haunted Tour stopped by the hotel to film, though, she told the crew that she and others have seen the ghost of the young girl killed by Wilhelm Faust roaming around the hotel playing with a ball, and the spirit of a prostitute who used to bring clients to the place in the 1880s. Ghedi also claims that ghosts have thrown heavy radiators and other objects across rooms and that people have felt their eyes being scratched in bathrooms. On the paranormal TV show Strange Town, ghost hunters saw mysterious mist floating through one of the hotel’s historic rooms during the night.

The hotel will be open on October 28 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. According to the Magnolia’s website, though the hotel doesn’t offer overnight stays just yet, its owners hope to in the future, so keep an eye out.

[h/t KSAT]

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