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8 Haunted Houses You Can Buy Right Now

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In real estate, the only thing more important to buyers than location is whether a property has ever hosted an exorcism. Unfortunately, not all states require disclosure when a home is believed to be haunted. Others, like Massachusetts, compel sellers to admit if something has happened that could result in a “psychological impact” to occupants.

While realtors may not want to get into whether a home has tested positive for blood in the walls, we do. Check out eight houses with haunted histories that you can purchase right now.

1. THE ANN STARRETT MANSION // PORT TOWNSEND, WASHINGTON

As devoted husbands go, George Starrett set a standard. After marrying his fiancé, Ann, Starrett set about constructing a material monument to their romance. Work was completed in 1889 on this eight-bedroom, eight-bath home, which Starrett topped off with a spectacular 70-foot-tall dome tower that features paintings of Ann depicting all four seasons. Used as a bed and breakfast for years, visitors have claimed sightings of a red-haired woman believed to be Ann; others have spotted the couple’s nanny staring back at them from a mirror in what was once her bedroom. Fortunately, the entities appear to be friendly. The house is currently listed as a residential property for $850,000.

2. THE PRIESTLEY HOUSE // CANTON, MISSISSIPPI

Originally built by physician James Priestley in the 1950s, this Greek Revival home stayed in the Priestley family until the 1990s. When new owner Frankie McMillan moved in, she became concerned that Priestley’s wife, Susan, hadn’t gotten the message to clear the premises. McMillan claimed to have seen Susan in hallways and in the bedroom where the woman is believed to have died. The home was restored in 2004 and is listed for $699,000.

3. THE HOUSE ON PLANT AVENUE // WEBSTER GROVES, MISSOURI

From 1906 to 1944, a railroad car salesman named Henry Gehm occupied this 3871-square-foot pad near St. Louis. As legend has it, Gehm had dealings with a circus for transport compartments and somehow came into possession of a bear that he kept tied to a tree in the backyard. The animal’s ghost is now said to haunt the land; prior owner Robert Wheeler told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1975 that he heard footsteps in the third-floor study room. If you’re interested in interacting with a paranormal zoo animal, the home can be yours for $500,000.

4. THE MORTICIAN’S WIFE HOME // DUNSMUIR, CALIFORNIA

Built in 1912, this Victorian located in Southern California has one feature not even most haunted houses can boast of: an on-site mortuary. Once the home of a mortician who used it as a viewing and chapel area—and who was later said to have spent weeks there post-mortem because his wife couldn’t bear to part with him—current owner Brad Warner has reported a fireplace spontaneously extinguishing itself and French doors slamming shut. Yours for $475,000.

5. THE SALLIE HOUSE // ATCHISON, KANSAS

How spooky does a house have to be that its current owner recommends it as an hourly rental? Pretty spooky. The Sallie House in Atchison is up for sale at $499,900 and is being openly marketed as a tourist attraction. The rash of ghost sightings, upside-down picture frames, and other unusual activity has no definitive source, though some believe a young woman named Sallie died of appendicitis in the home. In 1992, when the Pickman family moved in, stories of odd scratches on occupants and a ghost’s eerie propensity to return the TV remote to the armrest made the rounds. When they moved out in 1994, the home became a revolving door of paranormal investigators and other brave spirits.

6. THE WATCHER HOME // WESTFIELD, NEW JERSEY

While not haunted by spirits, this $1.19 million home is still struggling with uninvited attention. After a family closed on the property in 2014, they began to get a series of unsettling letters from an anonymous source. “My grandfather watched the house in the 1920s and my father watched in the 1960s,” one message read. “It is now my time. Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I requested?” In addition to a sadistic voyeur, the home also comes with beautiful hardwood flooring.

7. THE AMITYVILLE HOME // AMITYVILLE, NEW YORK

This might be one of the most infamous addresses in history. In 1974, Ronald DeFeo, Jr. lost his mind and murdered six family members on the premises of 108 Ocean Avenue. In 1975, the Lutz family moved in and promptly reported a series of supernatural occurrences, from strange noises to oozing walls. Their account was turned into a book, The Amityville Horror, and several movies of the same name. Listing agent Gerald O’Nell maintains the accounts were embellished to help DeFeo with his criminal defense. Of the four subsequent owners, he said, “none of them ran out of the house screaming.” And hey, it’s got a sun room. On sale for $850,000.

8. THE MA BARKER HOUSE // LAKE WEIR, FLORIDA

Families surrounding this lakefront property in Ocklawaha probably didn’t think much of the older woman and her four grown sons when they rented a home there in 1934. Weeks later, they found out that the polite “Mrs. Blackburn” was infamous criminal matriarch Ma Barker, who had aided her sons in several kidnapping and robbery excursions. The FBI surrounded the house, firing 2000 rounds of ammunition into it as Ma and son Freddie fired back. By the end, both were dead.

The bullet-riddled home, which was recently up for sale at a price of $889,000, is said to be inhabited by the ghost of Ma, who likes to switch lights on. (Freddie was apparently evicted in an exorcism years ago.) In a strange turn, the owners were able to sell the land earlier this year but not the house itself, which will remain on site until it’s either relocated 800 feet away or dismantled and moved entirely. Marion County is interested in purchasing it and is currently looking for funds to cover the $250,000 asking price.

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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