Visit the scariest haunted houses in the US and learn about the true tales behind each one
By Selena Fragassi and Tolly Wright
The haunted house is a staple of the American town, from the most haunted places in New York State to the ghostly homes that make up some of the haunted places in L.A. to get spooked at. The stories behind these homes—of ax murders and massacres, of lost children, angry demons and ghosts—will give you more shivers than even the best Halloween movies. But a select few have tales that burrow a little deeper into the soul: these are the scariest haunted houses in the US.
Scariest haunted houses in the U.S.
Villisca Axe Murder House, Villisca, IA
508 E 2nd Street, Villisca, Iowa
On June 10, 1912, Josiah and Sarah Moore, their four children and two visiting guests were bludgeoned to death inside this quiet Iowa home. The crime remains unsolved and much of the home is still intact from that fateful night, with no running water or electricity, which provides that special ‘ambiance’ for the many who have shelled out $400-plus to stay a night. But visit the Villisca Axe Murder House at own risk: In 2014, a paranormal investigator who booked a room wound up stabbing himself by morning.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jennifer Kirkland
The Sallie House, Atchison, KS
508 N Second Street, Atchison, KS
Legend has it that the cause of all the mayhem at one of the most disturbing haunted houses in America stems from a little girl who was the victim of a botched appendectomy during a house call at the turn of the century. A family who lived in the Sallie House in the ’90s documented their experience on the TV show Sightings, which talked of flying objects, frequent apparitions and scratching, gouging and shoving, mainly directed at the male owner. The home is now vacant but is a popular pick for paranormal researchers who have been asking if additional malevolent spirits have since moved in.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jennifer Kirkland
LaLaurie House, New Orleans, LA
1140 Royal Street, New Orleans, LA
American Horror Story: Coven has reignited interest in this famous French Quarter haunt. In the series, Kathy Bates plays real-life socialite and serial killer Madame Delphine LaLaurie, who orchestrated a torture chamber for slaves at the Royal Street mansion from 1831 until 1834, when responders to a fire uncovered her dark secret. LaLaurie’s victims are said to haunt the property to this day—passersby say they can hear shouts, moans and weeping, and some say they have seen ghostly faces from the upstairs windows. Yet, the house’s ghastly history hasn’t stopped wealthy buyers. Before losing the home to foreclosure in 2009, actor Nicolas Cage owned the house and today a wealthy oil tycoon is said to hold the deed.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Reading Tom
Bell Witch Farm, Adams, TN
430 Keysburg Road, Adams, TN
It’s the age-old tale of neighbors at war: A woman named Kate Batts believed her neighbor John Bell cheated her out of some land, and so, lying on her deathbed in the early 19th century, she swore she would haunt him forever. The Bell family said they experienced physical attacks, heard chains dragged across floors, noises in the walls and saw odd-looking animals on their farm, including a dog with a rabbit’s head. Today you can tour the property’s cave and reconstructed cabin and stop by for the annual Bell Witch Festival.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Nathan Sharkey
House of Death, New York, NY
14 W 10th Street, New York, NY
The city that never sleeps is probably just too afraid of the House of Death to close its eyes—the famous brownstone off of Fifth Avenue that is reportedly terrorized by a whopping total of 22 ghosts. The most famous is writer Mark Twain, who lived here from 1900-1901; the most heartbreaking is the six-year-old girl beaten to death by her father, criminal prosecutor Joel Steinberg, in 1987. In addition to sightings of Twain and the young girl, residents say they have seen visions of a lady in white and a gray cat.
Photograph: Courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Beyond My Ken
Lizzie Borden House, Fall River, MA
230 2nd Street, Fall River, MA
Lizzie Borden is still laughing about getting away with murder—according to some. Late at night she can be heard cackling at the top of the stairs near where she gave her stepmother “forty whacks.” But she’s not the only spirit who haunts the scene of the 1892 crime. Both of her axed parents are said to stalk the grounds, as does a maid screaming for help, according to guests of the now museum and B&B. Lizzie Borden House attracts guests from all over the world, especially for the anniversary re-enactment every August.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Amy Meredith
Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, CA
525 S Winchester Boulevard, San Jose, CA
Her husband developed the “gun that won the west”—which came back to bite Sarah Winchester in the butt. After losing her husband and a young daughter, the widow Winchester consulted a spiritualist who alleged the family was being haunted by American Indians, Civil War soldiers and others killed by the famous rifle. It was recommended that Winchester move west and use her $20 million inheritance to continuously build a home to appease the spirits. What was erected between 1884 and 1922—now known as the Winchester Mystery House—was a sprawling 160-room mansion with haphazard architecture that leads touring guests to nowhere, though there are spirit guides.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Julie Markee