When it comes time to explain why some homes are priced below $50,000, OHU50K often sees comments like, “Look at those orbs in the photos,” or “It must be haunted.” Whether one believes in ghosts or not, most everyone loves a good haunted house story.
In celebration of National Twilight Zone Day today, I ask you to recall Rod Serling’s, “It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge.” Perhaps this refers as much to haunted houses as it does to the Twilight Zone. So-called haunted houses, where beings linger in a middle zone, supposedly exist in every state in the country. Here are a few of their stories.
Villisca Axe Murder House, Villisca, Iowa
On a dark spring night in June of 1912, eight people, the entire family of Josiah Moore, including his wife, four children ages 5-11, and two of the oldest daughter’s overnight guests, were murdered in this Villisca, Iowa, house by an unknown assailant. Reminiscent of Lizzie Borden, in a gruesome attack, the assailant bludgeoned to death the whole household with an axe.
The evening before the murders seemed like any other for the well-to-do family. They all had attended the Children’s Day program at the Presbyterian Church and had arrived home around 10 p.m. When a neighbor noticed none of the family had arisen for their morning chores the next day, she became concerned and called Josiah’s brother. He was able to unlock the door, where he discovered all eight bodies in their respective bedrooms.
Two cigarette butts were found in the attic, which led investigators to believe the assailant or assailants were waiting until the family had gone to sleep. They used the blade of the axe on Josiah such that his eyes were missing, while the blunt end inflicted the fatal blows to the rest of the family.
The case made national headlines, and while many suspects were questioned and even tried – twice – the mass murder remains unsolved to this day. Today, the house may be booked for overnight tours. Personal accounts indicate cold spots, disembodied footsteps and voices as the common occurrences. Audio and visual of the children are also widely reported, with guests most often reporting laughing and crying. Some have even heard the voices of children telling others to hide, and in one instance when asked, an apparition turned a flashlight on and off several times.
Cedar Grove Mansion, Vicksburg, Mississippi
Cedar Grove Mansion is another tale of tragedy. Originally built by John and Elizabeth Klein, it now operates as an inn, but when the Klein family owned it, several unfortunate deaths occurred. Their 17-year-old son was accidentally killed on the back porch stairs from a gunshot wound, and due to disease, a daughter and two infants died here as well.
John Klein often enjoyed smoking his pipe in the library, where guests have reported the smell. Elizabeth, too, has been seen throughout the house carrying out her daily chores. The apparition of a young girl descending the main staircase, and footsteps on the back porch stairs have also been reported as paranormal activity.
Additionally, several guests have experienced hearing a buzzing sound and seeing soldiers roaming the house and grounds, most likely ghosts from when the home was utilized as a Union Hospital during the Civil War.
Sauer Castle, Kansas City, Kansas
Anton Sauer came to the United States from Austria with his wife Francesca and five children in the 1860s. They first moved to New York City, but after Francesca died in 1868 and Anton’s tuberculosis worsened, he moved to Kansas City. There he remarried, had more children and built his c.1871 mansion, the Sauer Castle, which originally stood on 63 manicured acres with room for Anton’s vineyard. The house sat smack in the middle of what was once the Shawnee Indian trail that became part of the old Santa Fe Trail through which many wagons passed on their way west.
Sadly, partly due to traumatic events in the house, and partly due to being constructed on ground where the Shawnee and settlers experienced hardships and trials, some say it is a hotbed of paranormal activity. The Sauer family, however, kept residence in this once-gorgeous Italianate for five generations. During that time the house appeared to bring bad luck to its inhabitants. Anton’s infant great-granddaughter tragically drowned in the pool, and two people committed suicide in the house in addition to several deaths of natural causes.
With so many deaths occurring in one house, area residents believed it was haunted. The next owner often resorted to fighting trespassers off with his dog. Disembodied voices have been reported, including shouting, laughing and crying, while doors have been known to open and slam shut on their own. People have also indicated a creepy feeling of being watched and have reported objects shaking violently.
An absentee owner had hopes of converting the mansion into a bed and breakfast, but it now lies abandoned and derelict. Apparently, the ghost stories have kept trespassers continuing to vandalize the house and the insurance company will not cover the expenses. I know a few of us would be interested in buying it for under $50,000, but the owner refuses to sell at any price.