Published October 24, 2012
If you’ve been through the haunted house at a state fair or amusement park, you’ve probably found it more laughable than frightening. For those looking for a real fright this Halloween, maybe it’s time to check out a real haunted house. Not for the faint of heart, these, these haunted properties are sure to pure a scare in you this Halloween.
Lizzie Borden House
Fall River, Mass.
Perhaps the most infamous criminal case of the 19th century, the Lizzie Borden trial of 1892 captivated a nation with its gory details. Borden was tried and acquitted in the brutal hatchet slayings of her father and stepmother, but because no other suspects were every caught or tried, many felt that Lizzie got off scot-free. Vacationers looking for a macabre retreat are in luck. The murder house is now a bed and breakfast, offering guests the chance to spend the night in Lizzie’s room, and serving up a breakfast similar to the one the family filled up on the morning of the murder. If you don’t have the nerve to spend the night in this gruesome landmark, the proprietors also give tours during the day.
The Stanley Hotel
Estes Park, Colo.
Featuring stunning views of the Rockies, the luxurious Stanley Hotel in Colorado isn’t your typical haunted house. Opening its doors in 1909, the hotel has hosted foreign dignitaries and movie stars, but the guest that really put the hotel on the map was Stephen King. During a stay in Room 217, King came up with the idea for his novel “The Shining.” The Stanley, renamed the Overlook in the novel, played a central role in this tale of terror, driving the hotel’s winter caretaker to a state of murderous madness.
In real life, employees have claimed to hear the sounds of parties emanating from an empty ballroom, and guests have claimed to have seen ghosts, including the spirits of the hotel’s owner and namesake. The hotel embraces its haunted past, and hosts the Shining Ball and Mystery Dinner before Halloween. And if that isn’t enough, you can always catch a viewing of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation of the book, which runs 24/7 on the hotel’s televisions. In the words of Jack Nicholson’s character, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
Winchester Mystery House
San Jose, Calif.
Built by Sarah Winchester, widow of the famous gun maker, the Winchester Mystery House is one of America’s strangest homes. Construction on this sprawling, haphazard mansion began in 1884, and continued until Winchester’s death in 1922. Local legend says that she was tormented by the ghosts of all those killed by Winchester rifles, and that only by continuously building could she appease the spirits. The home is also notable for bizarre design features, such as stairways and entrances that lead to dead ends, an apparent attempt by Winchester to confuse the spirits. By the time construction halted, the labyrinthine house featured 160 rooms, and now serves as a tourist attraction and museum.
The Lemp Mansion
St. Louis, Mo.
Among the most successful brewers in St. Louis in the pre-Prohibition era, the Lemp family would also meet with unremitting tragedy. John Adam Lemp would help make lager king in the Midwest and made a fortune in the process, but his offspring didn’t fare so well. His son, William Lemp, Sr., was the first to kill himself. Distraught over the mysterious death of his own son, Frederick, William Lemp shot himself in 1904. Prohibition would ruin the family financially, and over the years, four Lemp family members in all would die by suicide, three of which occurred at the family’s St. Louis mansion. This tragic family is said still to haunt the halls of the house, which is now a restaurant and inn.