From The Silence of the Lambs to The Amityville Horror: 10 real-life haunted homes for sale – would grisly axe murders or ghost sightings put you off buying?
Would you buy a haunted house? According to a 2017 survey by California-based real estate website Realtor.com, 33 per cent of a thousand people surveyed would.
The Silence of the Lambs house
The 1991 Oscar-winning film that guaranteed a lifetime of nightmares about being skinned and trimmed to make a woman’s suit for Buffalo Bill, The Silence of the Lambs featured many tongue-swallowing scenes that were shot inside this Victorian home.
Situated on almost one hectare (two acres) and measuring 2,300 sq ft with four bedrooms and one bathroom, the home features beautiful craftsmanship throughout. An in-ground pool and a vintage caboose used as a pool house are just a few of the reasons why the home is worth its US$298,500 asking price.
Lizzie Borden’s house
It’s not the same house where Lizzie Borden may have used an axe to whack her father and stepmother to death in 1892, but it is the Fall River, Massachusetts home where she moved after her parents’ deaths. She continued to live there until her death in 1927.
The accused axe murderer definitely had wealth behind her, as evidenced by the size and craftsmanship of this charming Queen Anne home, where she lived in style and mingled with local high society after being acquitted.
Measuring 3,900 sq ft, it has seven bedrooms and four bathrooms. The Lizzie Borden home is being sold fully furnished in period furniture appropriate to the time of her ownership, priced at US$890,000.
The Black Dahlia murder house
Tales of terror and tragedy rarely last as long as one of the most notorious Hollywood mysteries of the last century: the Black Dahlia murder. Rumours still abound about the home’s previous owner, Los Angeles doctor George Hodel, and his involvement in the brutal killing, mutilation and dismemberment of Elizabeth Short – nicknamed Black Dahlia after her death. Short was sliced in half at her waist with all the blood drained from her body. It looked like the work of a skilled surgeon.
The house, an unusual piece of architecture crafted by Lloyd Wright, looks like it is cut straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. While a US$2 million renovation has brought the house back to its original splendour, one still feels that they should be running for their life through the house while being chased by Hodel.
The house was on the market for US$4.7 million and has been the backdrop for multiple Hollywood movies, TV shows such as Ghost Hunters and Paranormal America, and even an American Express commercial.
The Gardette-LePretre House
The Gardette-LePretre House, locally known as the Sultan’s House, has been photographed and heralded in articles from the time it was built in the 1830s. But although it has hosted the elites of New Orleans society from the beginning of its rich history, the home comes with a scary story. The house was apparently rented to a sultan – hence the house’s nickname – who moved in with a bounty of riches and a harem of women. One morning, as neighbours were walking by the Sultan House, they saw blood trickling from under the front door. The police were notified and, upon entering the house, found that all the inhabitants had been murdered with swords or axes. The sultan was found buried alive in the backyard. It has been suspected that the murders were executed by the sultan’s brother, but it’s unclear how much of the story is true and how much is just local lore.
Only a few blocks from the historic Bourbon Street, the French Quarter home was most recently on the market for US$2.65 million.
Uptop, Colorado ghost town
Tourists once flocked to Uptop, Colorado in the 40s and 50s to ride on the railway through Old La Veta Pass to Uptop, which was a depot at the top of the pass and what was then the highest railroad and depot in the US. A dance hall-saloon with a distinctive curved bar was a favourite among motorists passing through. The town was also home to a chapel and a number of log homes.
Unfortunately for Uptop, by the 60s a new highway system had bypassed the town, turning it into ghost town. Recently restored by two sisters from Boston, the entire town went on the market in 2014 for US$2 million, including the train depot, dance hall-saloon and chapel.
The Boulder House
During the construction of their new home next to a mysterious pile of rocks in Arizona, a young couple discovered that they weren’t the first people to live among the boulders. Pottery shards and rock carvings were discovered and dated by experts back as far as one thousand years. Then they found something even more astonishing: a Stonehenge-like phenomenon that occurs on both the spring and fall equinoxes. A six-inch wide beam of light that starts in the glass between two boulders slowly works its way across the floor and up the wall to a spiral petroglyph. When the sun hits its mark, the stone projections light up like diamonds.
What does it mean? Some think it is a signal to aliens – a light that will guide their spaceships to the Arizona desert.
A dream home for archaeologists, historians, artists or mystery lovers, the Boulder House sits on around three hectares (nine acres) at 4,380 sq ft with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a living room with a massive fireplace. It was recently for sale forUS$4.2 million.
The Magnolia Mansion
The ghosts at Magnolia Mansion house in New Orleans are more Caspar the Friendly Ghost than The Shining; they are reportedly friendly with a sense of humour. Children might tease you by moving things around at the night, while a maid might tuck you in at night and a bearded man spends his time downstairs.
The Greek Revival mansion, at over 13,300 sq ft with 13 bedrooms, could be changed back into a single-family estate. Although it was most recently for sale for US$3.2 million, it’s currently a bed and breakfast complete with restaurant.
Carleton Villa was built in the 1890s for the president of an arms manufacturer. The structure sits on an island of around three hectares (seven acres), and is surrounded by a sprawling waterfront.
While it might have once been grand, today it is an abandoned shell not fit for humans or ghosts. For a mere US$495,000, a buyer willing to make a piece of history into a restoration project could turn this house from a nightmare into a dream home. Then the spirits could enjoy more cushy digs and have fun throwing the good china around after midnight.
The Amityville Horror house
The novel that inspired a series of films was in turn inspired by a real-life mass murder case. In 1974 in New York, Ronald DeFeo Jr got up in the middle of the night and brutally murdered his parents and four siblings with a rifle. And as if that’s not creepy enough, a year after the killings, the home was occupied by the Lutz family until they were forced to leave because of supposed rampant paranormal activity.
Today, the 3,000 sq ft Dutch Colonial house on the Ocean Avenue waterfront is an extensively remodelled home. It is no longer on the market, but it was for sale in 2016 for US$850,000 – reduced from US$1.15 million. It most recently sold in 2017 for US$605,000.
Wealth does not always bring happiness – and the tragedies experienced by the Widener family prove it.
They built the 110-room Lynnewood Hall in Pennsylvania, said to be the largest remaining example of neoclassical revival architecture from the Gilded Age in the Philadelphia area. Its decline began after the sinking of the Titanic. When industrialist Peter A. B. Widener invested in the White Star Line, little did he know that his son and grandson would die on the maiden voyage of its flagship. Consumed with grief and suffering from poor health, Widener died in his mansion three years later. It is said that the three Widener ghosts are still the house’s caretakers, cementing its legacy as the world’s biggest abandoned ghost house.
Lynnewood Hall was listed at US$20 million in 2014 and dropped to US$16.5 million in 2017. It still has not sold.
The Black Dahlia murder and Lizzie Borden are two of the most chilling names in America’s history of real-life horrors, but who knew the houses associated with them had such charming architecture?