Thomas Good / NLN via Wikimedia Commons //GFDL 
Thomas Good / NLN via Wikimedia Commons //GFDL 

7 More Haunted Places and the Ghost Stories Behind Them

Thomas Good / NLN via Wikimedia Commons //GFDL 
Thomas Good / NLN via Wikimedia Commons //GFDL 

Last week, we told you a quite a few ghost stories tied to specific locations. Below, a few more tales of spirits doomed to spend eternity wandering through estates, cemeteries, lakes, and more.

1. KREISCHER MANSION // STATEN ISLAND, NEW YORK

In 1884, New York brick magnate Balthasar Kreischer built two identical, mirror-image mansions on Staten Island for his sons Charles and Edward. One still exists, and is said to be haunted. In 1894, Edward Kreischer was found dead of a gunshot wound at his factory. He was just 43; the coroner ruled it a suicide. The Kreischer family eventually left the neighborhood, and of their homes, only Charles Kreischer’s house still stands. Although Edward Kreischer never lived there, there have been numerous tales of slamming doors and a ghostly woman’s voice wailing, said to be Edward's wife Freda mourning her husband’s death.     

In 2005, gangster Robert McKelvey was murdered at Kreischer Mansion, drowned in the brick pool, cut into pieces, and then burned in the mansion’s furnace. The caretaker of the house and another man were convicted of the mafia hit in 2009, and a third went into the witness protection program.  

The Kreischer Mansion, which was added to the Historic Register in 1968, has been on the market for years. If you’ve got $11.5 million—and nerves of steel—it can be yours.

2. THE MYRTLES PLANTATION // ST. FRANCISVILLE, LOUISIANA

The Myrtles Plantation house was built by David Bradford, who had been a respected lawyer in Pennsylvania until he took part in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. Wanted for arrest, he fled to Louisiana, leaving his family behind. There, he purchased 600 acres of land and, after a pardon in 1799, brought his wife and children to live there too.

The property passed to Bradford's son-in-law Clark Woodruff. Legend has it that during Woodruff's reign at the plantation, he had a relationship with a slave girl named Chloe while his wife was pregnant. Chloe became paranoid when Woodruff ended the affair, and he allegedly cut her ear off as punishment for eavesdropping. From that point forward, Chloe wore a turban to cover her scar. In an act of revenge, Chloe later poisoned a birthday cake meant for one of the children. Woodruff didn't indulge, but his wife and children did and subsequently died. As punishment, Chloe was hanged from a tree on the property. Today, the ghosts of Chloe and the children supposedly roam the plantation house—though there's no solid evidence she ever existed. (Records indicate that Mrs. Woodruff and two of their three children died of yellow fever.)

Ruffin Grey Stirling bought the plantation in 1834. Five of his nine children died there before reaching adulthood. The family lost their wealth in the Civil War. The next owner didn't have much luck either: Stirling’s son-in-law William Winter, who inherited the property, was murdered on the front porch in 1871, shot by a still-unknown assailant. The plantation passed through several owners since then, and, in addition to Chloe's spirit, is said to be haunted by Winter. These days, The Myrtles is operated as a bed and breakfast. You don’t have to stay the night, though, as it also has a restaurant and offers guided tours.

3. THE GRAY LADY // COLUMBUS, OHIO

Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio, is the final resting place of 2260 Confederate soldiers. Why Ohio? It was the site of a Union POW camp, which held 9400 rebel soldiers during the Civil War. A smallpox epidemic struck the camp in 1863, and the victims, both prisoners and those who worked at the camp, were buried there. After the war, the camp was dismantled; the cemetery was all that was left. In 1895, gravestones slowly began to replace wooden markers.

Louisiana Ransburgh Briggs was a Southerner from New Madrid, Missouri, whose father sent her north to Ohio to avoid the war. After it was over, she married a Union veteran—but never forgot her Southern sympathies. Briggs visited the Camp Chase Cemetery and placed flowers on various graves, even those covered with overgrowth. During her evening visits, Briggs wore a veil to hide her identity, earning her the nickname "the Veiled Lady of Camp Chase." She later spearheaded the efforts to reclaim and maintain the cemetery. After her death in 1950, reports of mysterious flowers appearing on graves—and the sounds of crying—were attributed to the ghost of Mrs. Briggs, who then came to be known as "The Gray Lady." Briggs' spirit seems particularly active at the grave of a 22-year-old soldier from Tennessee named Benjamin F. Allen. (There have also been reported sightings of Confederate soldiers' ghosts at Camp Chase.)

4. GRACE BROWN // BIG MOOSE LAKE, NEW YORK

Grace Brown was in love with Chester Gillette. After hearing that her boyfriend was consorting with other women, she pleaded with him to marry her. After all, Brown was pregnant with their child. Gillette took her to a resort in the Adirondacks, which she hoped would result in an elopement. Instead, on July 11, 1906, the couple went for a boat ride on Big Moose Lake, where Gilette beat her with a tennis racket and threw her overboard. She could not swim. Brown’s body was recovered the next day; an autopsy confirmed the pregnancy. Gillette was tried and found guilty of murder, and executed in 1908.

To this day, the ghost of Grace Brown is often seen standing on or sinking into the water, or walking along the shores of Big Moose. Those who live nearby or work at one of the resort hotels sometimes report strange happenings inside too, which they blame on Brown's ghost. 

5. FREDERICK FISHER’S GHOST // CAMPBELLTOWN, NSW, AUSTRALIA

Frederick Fisher was a local businessman who had been in and out of prison. His neighbor George Worrall held power of attorney over Fisher's property while he was incarcerated. On the night of June 17, 1826, Worrall announced that Fisher had fled to England to avoid more legal trouble. Worrall soon disposed of Fisher's assets, and the suspicious citizenry had him arrested. Worrall blamed four other men, who were also arrested. But where was the evidence of any actual wrongdoing? According to legend, a local farmer, John Farley, saw the ghost of Fisher sitting on a bridge, pointing to an area where his body was subsequently found. The ghostly story was not used as evidence in the trial, but Fisher's body was recovered on October 25, and Worrall was convicted of the murder and hanged. The story was made into a movie in 1924. And now, every November, Campbelltown holds the Festival of Fisher's Ghost.

6. CHERRY HILL HOUSE // ALBANY, NEW YORK

Philip and Maria Van Rensselaer had a large house built in 1787, where their family lived for five generations. By 1827, Elsie Lansing Whipple, married to John Whipple, was the lady of the house. The couple hired a drifter named Joseph Orton as a handyman—or so they thought. The man's real name was Jesse Strang, and it turns out he was hiding from the wife and children he had abandoned. 

Supposedly, Elsie hated her husband, but could not divorce him because he would then get her family fortune. Instead, she began an affair with Strang and convinced him to kill John. After a failed attempt at poisoning, Strang shot and killed Elsie's husband. Strang and Elsie Whipple were both arrested. Strang tried to blame Elsie for the murder, but was nonetheless found guilty and executed. Thousands of people turned out to witness his hanging. Elsie Whipple was tried separately for aiding and abetting the murder, and was acquitted, presumably due to her social standing.     

Ghosts are said to haunt the house called Cherry Hill to this day, although witnesses are divided as to whether the ghost is that of John Whipple or Jesse Strang. There are still bullet holes in the roof of the mansion, now a museum, from the night Whipple was murdered. 

7. CHASE VAULT // CHRIST CHURCH PARISH, BARBADOS

The Chase Family Vault in Christ Church Parish, Barbados was built in 1724 and used by the Chase family beginning in 1807. Remains were interred and sealed with marble and cement. When Thomas Chase, a man with a reputation for cruelty, died in 1812, two of his young daughters were already interred in the vault. Mary Anne was only two years old when she died, and her older sister Dorcas later died under unusual circumstances. When the crypt was opened for their father’s burial only a month after Dorcas’, the coffins already there had clearly been moved. (The toddler’s coffin was found standing on its end.) All three caskets were repositioned and the vault was resealed. Twice in 1816 and once in 1819, the crypt was opened for further burials; each time, the previous coffins were found flipped over or turned end-to-end. The island governor ordered a seal placed on the door and sand put on the floor to retain evidence of any break-ins.

Yet when the crypt was next opened, the seal remained unbroken, the sand was intact, and the coffins had once again moved. That's when the family decided to relocate the coffins of their loved ones elsewhere. The vault has not been used since.

Skeptics maintain that underground water seepage is to blame, because that could, theoretically, move the coffins without seeming to disturb a layer of sand. As the mausoleum is built of coral, leakage does seem to make sense. Other researchers are convinced that the story is just plain untrue, since contemporary accounts are lacking.

See also: 8 Haunted Places and the Ghost Stories Behind Them

14 Haunting Facts About the Winchester Mystery House

Despite the Winchester Mystery House's cheerful appearance, this massive California mansion's history is edged with tragedy, mystery ... and maybe some ghosts. Naturally, it has inspired a chilling horror movie, Winchester, which opens in theaters today. But before you go to the movie theater, wander through the curious past of one of America's most infamous homes.

1. THE WINCHESTER HOUSE IS NAMED FOR ITS MISTRESS.

Sarah Lockwood Winchester—the wife of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester, whose family created the Winchester rifle that was heralded as "the gun that won the west”—designed and oversaw the construction of the sprawling Queen Anne-style Victorian mansion that bears her name. Construction on the 24,000-square-foot home, which is located at 525 South Winchester Boulevard in San Jose, California, began in 1886.

2. MANY BELIEVE SARAH BUILT WINCHESTER HOUSE OUT OF FEAR.

Overcome with grief in the wake of her husband's death from tuberculosis in 1881, folklore states that Sarah sought out a spiritualist who could commune with the dead. While she was presumably looking for solace or closure, she was instead given a chilling warning.

Through the medium, William told his widow that their tragedies (the couple had only one child, a daughter named Annie, who died at six weeks old) were a result of the blood money the family had made off of the Winchester rifles. He warned that vengeful ghosts would seek her out. In order to protect herself, William said that Sarah must "build a home for [herself] and for the spirits who have fallen from this terrible weapon."

Sarah was advised to leave their home in New Haven, Connecticut, behind, and move west, where she was to build a grand home for the spirits. There was just one catch: construction on the house could never stop. "If you continue building, you will live,” the medium warned Sarah. “Stop and you will die."

3. THE HOUSE WAS UNDER CONSTANT CONSTRUCTION FOR 38 YEARS.

Sarah Winchester's bedroom, on the second floor of Winchester House
Sarah Winchester's bedroom

In 1886, Sarah purchased an eight-room farmhouse in San Jose, California, and began building. She employed a crew of carpenters, who split shifts so construction could go on day and night, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, for 38 years. The work only stopped on September 5, 1922, because the octogenarian mastermind behind the home died of heart failure in her sleep. It's said that upon hearing the news of Sarah's death, the carpenters quit so abruptly they left half-hammered nails protruding from walls.

4. THE HOUSE IS FULL OF ARCHITECTURAL ODDITIES.

Sarah issued many bizarre demands to her builders, including the building of trap doors, secret passages, a skylight in the floor, spider web windows, and staircases that led to nowhere. There are also doors that open to blank walls, and a dangerous door on the second floor that opens out into nothing—save for an alarming drop to the yard far below.

5. AN EARTHQUAKE ONCE RATTLED THE HOUSE AND TRAPPED SARAH.

In 1906, the great San Francisco Earthquake caused three floors of the then seven-story house to cave in. A 1900 postcard of the place shows a tower that was later toppled by the natural disaster. That tower—plus several other rooms destroyed in the disaster—were never rebuilt, but cordoned off. As for Sarah, she was safe but stuck in the Daisy Bedroom, named for the floral motif in its windows. She had to be dug out by her staff, as its entrance was blocked off by rubble.

6. THE HOUSE WAS DESIGNED LIKE A LABYRINTH.

Some say the labyrinth layout was meant to confuse the ghosts, allowing Sarah some peace and a means to escape them. She was the sole architect of this extraordinary home, and no master building plan has ever been uncovered. So Sarah may be the only person who ever truly knew all of its secrets. When movers were called in after her death, one lamented its labyrinthine design that includes many winding hallways. One mover told American Weekly the Winchester House was a place "where downstairs leads neither to the cellar nor upstairs to the roof."

7. SOME SAY THE SYMBOLS IN THE HOUSE POINT NOT TO GHOSTS, BUT FRANCIS BACON.

An alternate theory on the Winchester House's perplexing design declares that Sarah was creating a puzzle full of encryptions inspired by the work of English philosopher Francis Bacon. There's speculation that clues to the house's true meaning are hidden in the ballroom, the Shakespeare windows, and the iron gates. This theory suggests that Sarah was a member of a mystic society like the Rosicrucians, or a secret society like the Freemasons—or possibly both.

8. THERE ARE OTHER THEORIES, INCLUDING THAT SARAH WAS "CRAZY."

Others speculate Sarah was coping with her grief with a flurry of activity, or that she was simply "crazy." However, Winchester Mystery House historian Janan Boehme paints a happier picture, imagining that the continual renovations reminded Sarah of the good times when she and William built their New Haven home together.

"I think Sarah was trying to repeat that experience by doing something they both loved," Boehme told the Los Angeles Times. She also suspects that Sarah was just an ardent—albeit eccentric—philanthropist who used her family fortune to purposefully employ the San Jose community. "She had a social conscience and she did try to give back," Boehme offered, noting the hospital Sarah built in her husband's name. "This house, in itself, was her biggest social work of all."

9. ONCE IN WINCHESTER HOUSE, SARAH WAS RECLUSIVE, BUT NOT ALONE.

There is only one known photo of the widow Winchester, which was taken surreptitiously. Though she was reclusive, she was never alone. She had 18 servants, 18 gardeners, and the ever-present construction team working on the grounds. Every morning, Sarah met with the foreman to discuss the always-evolving building plans. And it's said that each night, she visited the Séance Room to speak with the spirits, who weighed in on plans for the house's unusual design.

10. THE HOUSE WAS AS OPULENT AS IT WAS ODD.

The home boasts 950 doors, 10,000 windows, 40 stairways, 52 skylights, 47 fireplaces, six kitchens, plus a trio of elevators, and once-groundbreaking elements like wool insulation, carbide gaslights, electricity, and an indoor shower, complete with a sewage drainage system.

11. NO ONE IS SURE HOW MANY ROOMS THE HOUSE HELD.

Following Sarah's death, Winchester House was converted into a tourist attraction. But when trying to get a room count, the new owners kept coming up with different numbers. After five years of renovations, they estimated the number of rooms to be about 160, which is the number most often quoted today.

12. SARAH HAD AN OBSESSION WITH THE NUMBER 13.

Among the secrets Sarah took to her grave was why she insisted that so many things relate to the number 13. The Winchester House has many 13-paned windows and 13-paneled ceilings, as well as 13-step stairways. Even her will had 13 parts, and she signed it 13 times. But the pièce de résistance might be the house's 13th bathroom, which contains 13 windows of its own.

13. IT’S A NATIONAL LANDMARK.

The Winchester Mystery House earned landmark status on August 7, 1974. The fascinating mansion is still owned by the family (families?) who purchased it from the Winchester estate in 1922 for $150,000—however, their identity is another Winchester House mystery. But thanks to them, tourists can now explore 110 of the 160-some rooms Sarah dreamed up. The Winchester Mystery House even boasts special tours on Halloween and Fridays the 13th.

14. IT’S REGULARLY CITED AS ONE OF THE MOST HAUNTED PLACES IN AMERICA.

To this day, Winchester House is a destination for believers who hope to have a paranormal encounter of their own. A popular spot for such activity is the corridors of the third floor, where tour guides have claimed to hear footsteps and disembodied voices whisper their names.

In a Reddit AMA, a Winchester House tour guide confirmed that the house’s third floor—only a portion of which is accessible during house tours—is definitely the spookiest part of the house, “because that's where the servants lived, so there's been a lot of reported activity there. Also, when you are on that floor you can never really hear any of the other tours, so you feel pretty isolated.”

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
6 Historical Methods for Contacting the Dead (and Their Drawbacks)
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

'Tis the season for getting in touch with the spirit realm. (This applies no matter what month we're in right now; 'tis always high time to get your séance on.) But there are several different ways you can go about it. Do you Ouija? Should you go wandering around a haunted house? No, you should probably pick up the psychic telephone.

Lapham's Quarterly helpfully charted out some of historical ways you could (supposedly) go about contacting the dead, from Chinese Fuji writing—a method that's kind of like a Ouija board, but using a stylus to make letters in sand instead of a board—to past-life regression via hypnosis. The chart lays out how each ghost-whispering concept works, and its theoretical drawbacks. Because there are always drawbacks.

Transfiguration, for instance, lets you see a spirit's face through the body of a medium, but that's a whole lot of hard work for your medium. You can listen for electronic voice phenomena via a recorder, but you have to buy the recorder first. F. R. Melton's 1921 invention, the balloon-powered psychic telephone, was a great option—except when his son George wasn't around to work it. And past-life regression, as you might imagine, holds “potential for new levels of self-hatred." No one wants to find out that their past self was a total jerk.

There are plenty of scientific and cultural explanations for seeing ghosts that don't involve the actual spirits of the dead returning to the Earthly plane, but if you're into the history of the occult, this is a great primer on spirit-conjuring traditions.

[h/t Lapham's Quarterly]

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