Everyone has seen the horror movies and heard the campfire tales, but not everyone has a true ghost story. We tracked down a pair of true and unpublished haunted house stories for your scaring pleasure. (The ghost stories are from actual friends of mine. These are true, first-person accounts, not hearsay.) We also offer a travel guide to the four most haunted homes in the United States.
Not alone in the studio apartment
When Heather Douglass was 21, she rented a studio apartment in Fox River Grove, Illinois. She thought she was living alone, but was soon convinced otherwise. Douglass and her friends and neighbors all heard strange noises and saw and felt strange things in a small room off the kitchen.
The studio was in a block of apartments above a row of shops. The building, which is still standing today, is at least 120 years old and is built on the site of an old farm where a farmer allegedly killed his family.
Douglass is unsure if that farmer’s family still haunts the place, but she said the small room, which she used for storage, was always cold, even in punishing Illinois summer heat.
Items she stored in the room would disappear, and her dog refused to enter the chilly, haunted space. Douglass said she always felt someone watching her, and heard banging and other strange noises from the room. Neighbors would even tell her to quiet down and stop the banging even when she wasn’t making any noise.
Douglass only saw a ghost once — she and a friend both saw a ghostly white man dressed in all black sitting at the kitchen table. He clearly said, “get out.” Shortly thereafter, she did get out. She gave her notice and left within two weeks, after slightly less than a year in the apartment.
The landlord asked why she was breaking her lease, and Douglass hesitated. According to Douglass, the landlord said, “I think I know why,” despite not having mentioned anything spooky about the place when she first rented it.
A haunted farmhouse
Brandon Geer has never seen a ghost, but his family has had plenty of strange experiences at his family’s farm in Belle Plain, Kansas.
The farmhouse was built in the late 1920s, and Geer knows of at least one death in the home — his grandmother’s little sister died in the farmhouse as a young child.
Geer said his mother, aunt and other relatives were always scared to spend the night at the farmhouse, and regularly heard the sound of chains dragging across the attic floor. Brandon and his sisters were scared to sleep alone in the house, so they would all spread out sleeping bags at the foot of their grandparents’ bed.
Geer said his dog, Reuben, was spooked by the place. He took Reuben out to the farm to get “some country time,” and because he didn’t want to be in the farmhouse alone. While filling Reuben’s bowl, the dog suddenly whipped his head around and looked upward with large, scared eyes.
More recently, Geer’s aunt went to check on the empty house and water the plants. When she was getting back in her car to leave, she felt someone watching her, and turned around to see an upstairs curtain fall back into place after being lifted by a seemingly invisible hand in a house she had just left empty.
In another incident, Geer’s cousin clearly heard somebody opening the nightstand drawer where he was stashing a handgun he took to the house for protection.
Belle Plain must be a welcoming place for ghosts, as Geer also heard a story of another man who lived on a farm about a mile south of Geer’s family farmhouse. This man saw two ghosts at the same time — both dressed in 1890s clothes. He saw one man standing on the lawn and watching him through an upstairs window. When he turned around, he then saw a woman inside the room.
Four more haunted houses
To see some haunts for yourself, check out The Field Guide to North American Hauntings by W. Haden Blackman. The book lists the 15 most haunted sites in North America, including four houses, which are all open to the public.
• The LaLaurie House is a French Quarter landmark in New Orleans, La. It is reportedly haunted by the ghosts of up to 25 slaves and servants, along with the deranged and murderous ghost of Madame Delphine Macarty LaLaurie, who built the home in 1832. Passersby say they hear shrieks and screams from the house. Several French Quarter ghost tours include a peek inside the home and a chance to see LaLaurie’s ghost. However, Blackman warns “only experienced ghost hunters should attempt to establish any form of communication with this spirit, whose evil nature cannot be ignored.”
• The Spy House in Port Monmouth, N.J., is haunted by at least 24 specters, including the pirate Captain Morgan, Lord Charles Cornwallis and several playful children. The building has more than 350 years of history as a home to pirates and colonists alike, and has been a tavern, inn, bordello and more. It is now a museum, and Blackman quotes ghost hunter Arthur Myers calling the Spy House “one of the most haunted places I have ever visited or heard about.”
• The Whaley House in San Diego is haunted by the reportedly pleasant but restless Whaley family and some neighbors, including children and a family dog. A thief who was hanged at the site also haunts the home. The home is currently a museum.
• The White House (yes, that White House) in Washington, D.C., is widely believed to be haunted by former presidents and relatives who don’t want to leave the world’s most famous address. The L.A. Times reported that Michelle Obama experienced supernatural happenings at the White House. Former resident Hillary Rodham Clinton said, "There is something about the house at night that you just feel like you are summoning up the spirits of all the people who have lived there and worked there and walked through the halls there."
Many, most notably Lady Bird Johnson, Eleanor Roosevelt and Winston Churchill have seen or felt the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. Abigail Adams is known to haunt the East Room, and William Henry Harrison is often heard in the attic. Portions of the White House are open for tours, but many of the haunted areas are off-limits.
The other “most haunted” sites include ships, cemeteries, prisons and theaters, as well as Highway 666 in the southwestern United States, and Salem, Mass.