Or maybe you’ll want to visit. I won’t judge.
The LaLaurie Mansion, New Orleans, LA
In 1831, The LaLaurie Mansion was built in the French Quarter for Marie Delphine Macarty LaLaurie and her third husband Dr. Louis LaLaurie. Marie Delphine’s previous two husbands had *mysteriously* died. The one thing Marie Delphine and Louis “loved” more than each other was flashing their money to anyone within a 10 ft radius. Between the extravagant parties and lavish entertainment, they made Gatsby look like a common man. Guests who frequented their soirees thought Mrs. LaLaurie was a gentle, sweet woman and that her much younger husband was a respectable, fine doctor – that is until a fire exposed the dark truth that hid behind the elegant walls of the LaLaurie Mansion.
On the night of April 10, 1834, a fire broke out in the kitchen during one of their routine posh parties. The fire quickly spread to the slave quarters. The LaLauries were unconcerned and assured guests the building was empty while directing them to remove some of their fine items.
Not only did they encourage guests to ignore the burning slave quarters, they had the band set up in the street so the party could go on undisturbed. Drinks continued to flow and the party moved outside.
A few partygoers grew concerned that people may have been trapped inside. Against the LaLauries wishes, they broke down the door and slaves began pouring out, revealing the deplorable conditions they lived in.
The slaves dragged their mutilated bodies to the sidewalk, still choking from the smoke. Guests were horrified to see their condition. Their skin was littered with marks and scars left from whips and other torture devices, one man had a hole in his head full of maggots. While the LaLaurie’s guests tried to recover from the shock, the two seized the opportunity to sneak off and lock themselves in the mansion.
When the fire department arrived, they found an elderly woman chained to the hearth in the kitchen. She told them she started the fire in hopes to kill herself. She’d rather die than be brought to the attic later to be “punished” by Mrs. LaLaurie.
What they found in the attic was horrifying.
“Several slaves more or less horribly mutilated, were seen suspended from the neck, with their limbs apparently stretched and torn from one extremity to the other.
Language is powerless and inadequate to give a proper recollection of the horror, which a scene like this must have inspired. We shall not attempt it, but leave it rather to the reader’s imagination to picture what it was!
The slaves were the property of the demon in the shape of a woman whom we mentioned in the beginning of this article. They had been confined by her for several months in the situation from which they had thus been rescued and had merely been kept in existence to prolong their sufferings and to make them taste all that the most refined cruelty could inflict. But why dwell upon the particulars! We feel confident that the community share with us our indignation, and that vengeance will fall, heavily full upon the guilty culprit.”Excerpt, The Bee, April 11, 1834
It’s widely believed that the LaLauries were conducting medical experiments on slaves in their attic.
According to a variety of accounts, the victims ranged from men, women and children. They included a caged woman who had her limbs broken and reset unnaturally to resemble a crab, a mutilated sex change operation, a woman whose limbs were removed and odd circular pieces of skin removed to resemble a human caterpillar, some had pieces of their faces removed to make them resemble gargoyles, and seven victims suspended from their necks were badly mutilated.
The LaLauries fled town and boarded a vessel to France before an angry mob of residents were able to find them. Upset they had missed them, the angry mob took their aggression out on the mansion, leaving it in total despair for decades.
The mansion was turned into many things, a saloon, a girl’s school, a music conservatory, an apartment building and a furniture store. Eventually, it was restored to a private residence and today it is owned by a Texas oil tycoon as a weekend home.
With such a dark history, it’s not shocking that the mansion is rumored to be extremely haunted. The story of Marie Delphine was even featured in the popular season of American Horror Story: Coven. Many have reported seeing the ghost of a young slave girl fleeing across the LaLaurie roof and hearing agonized screams coming from the empty house.
Those who stayed there after it became occupied left after only a few days. At the turn of the century, a resident encountered a black man in chains. The entity attacked him on the stairwell then suddenly disappeared. The next morning, most of the other residents abandoned the building.
The bar, “The Haunted Saloon,” opened in the 20th century. The owner kept records of his patrons’ odd experiences. Later, it seemed the LaLaurie Mansion did not care to be a furniture store. The owner’s merchandise was often found covered in a mysterious foul-smelling fluid. After staying up to catch the suspected vandals, the owner found the liquid had somehow re-appeared in plain sight, although no one had entered. The business closed.
Animals were found butchered within the house. Delphine was reportedly seen hovering over an infant child, or chasing children with a whip.
Today, people just passing the building on tour report fainting or becoming nauseous, and of course, disembodied screams or wailing are still occasionally heard. Some tourists are able to photograph orbs around the roof area.
Most importantly, actor Nicolas Cage purchased the building in 2009, he lost it soon after because of bankruptcy. His career tanked not long after that and New Orleanians whispered that it must be the curse of the LaLaurie Mansion. It must be.
The Villisca Axe Murders House, Villisca, IA
On June 10, 1912, long before the rise of serial killers and mass murders, the small mid-western town of Villisca, Iowa was left shaken when two adults and six children were found brutally murdered in their beds.
What became known as “The Villisca Axe Murders” occurred between the evening of June 10, 1912 and the early morning of June 11, 1912. Six members of the Moore family and two of their children’s friends were bludgeoned to death.
The victims included Josiah Moore, 43, Sarah Montgomery Moore, 39, Herman Moore, 11, Katherine Moore, 9, Boyd Moore, 7, Paul Moore, 5, Ina Stillinger, 8, and Lena Stillinger, 12. Ina and Lena slept over after attending a church event with the Moore family. Each of them had their skulls crushed with an axe that belonged to Josiah. It was found in the guest bedroom with the Stillinger sisters.
Their bodies were discovered by Josiah’s brother, Ross Moore, after their neighbor noticed the family had not made an appearance all morning and gave him a call to check on them.
Doctors believe that the murders took place between midnight and 5 a.m.. Two cigarette butts were discovered in the attic, suggesting that the killer(s) waited there until everyone was asleep. The killing spree began in the master bedroom where Josiah and Sarah were sleeping. Josiah received more blows than anyone else, so many that his eyes were missing.
The killer(s) used the blade of the axe on Josiah while using the blunt end on the remaining victims. From the master bedroom, they continued to the children’s rooms and bludgeoned them in the same manner before returning to the master bedroom to inflict more damage on Mr. and Mrs. Moore. Once they were satisfied, they moved downstairs to the guest bedroom where Ina and Lena Stillinger slept.
Investigators believed that all of the victims were asleep when they were murdered except for Lena Stillinger, who had defensive wounds and was lying across her bed. Her nightgown was pushed up to her waist and her undergarments were missing, leading law enforcement to speculate that the killer(s) had sexually assaulted her or attempted to do so.
As brutal as this murder was, there were a few strange things investigators took note of. Along with the axe, a four-pound slab bacon was found on the floor of the guest bedroom where the Stillinger girls were killed. The killer(s) also managed to cook a plate of food that was then left untouched in the kitchen. Every single mirror in the house was covered by blankets or clothing – must be tough to look at yourself after murdering an entire family.
A lengthy investigation resulted in several suspects, one who was even tried twice, but due to the lack of forensic science at the time the case remains unsolved over a hundred years later.
A house with such a dark and mysterious past would give anyone the creeps. Paranormal investigators proclaimed The Villisca Axe Murder House is one of the most haunted places in America. Visitors regularly report emotional, physical, and supernatural disturbances during their overnight visits.
“They play with the children, they hear voices, they get pictures of anomalies,” Martha Linn explained, who bought the house in 1994 and restored it to its 1912 condition, stripping the place of all electricity and plumbing and turning it into a tourist attraction. “I have notebooks from just the last two years full of what overnight experiences people have had. Very few of them go away without experiencing something.”
In 2014, Robert Steven Laursen, a recreational paranormal investigator stabbed himself in the chest after calling to his friends for help over their two-way radio, so I guess it’s safe to say things actually get pretty weird in there.
The home has been featured on Ghost Adventures, Scariest Places on Earth, Kindred Spirits, Most Terrifying Places in America, a 2016 horror movie called The Axe Murders of Villisca, and several popular podcasts like My Favorite Murder, This Is Why We Drink, and Lore.
And for a small fee, you too can stay overnight in the murder house with potentially malicious spirits!
The Sallie House, Atchison, Kansas
The first sentence I read while researching this one was,
“Unfortunately, many tourists and paranormal groups visit the home every year unaware of the demon.”
Apparently, this house belongs to a little girl ghost/ demon named Sallie who had a botched appendectomy at the home somewhere between 1867-1871.
The house belonged to Dr. Charles Finney who used the first floor for his practice and the top floor as a living space for his family. One day, a mother rushed her daughter in with abdominal pain. Dr. Finney knew her appendix was moments away from bursting and began the operation before she was fully sedated. Sallie died on the table.
Sallie has been pissed off ever since – especially at men.
In 1993, the house was rented to the Pickmans. Tony and Debra Pickman were expecting their first son. Paranormal activity began as soon as they moved into their new home.
It began on Oct. 31, 1993 (Halloween, duh), Tony came home from work and went to the kitchen for a drink. He noticed a little girl staring at him in the kitchen, as soon as he saw her he dropped the glass and ran upstairs to tell his wife. Their dog was growling.
From that moment on, it didn’t stop. They often heard noises in the upstairs nursery, random fires broke out in the house, and toys would rearrange themselves. Eventually, Tony started to get physically attacked, suffering scratches and burns all over his body – but Debra and the baby were never harmed.
After two years, Debra and Tony moved out.
But, they returned 10 years later with paranormal investigators because they needed a little more scaring. The first few visits were mostly uneventful, probably Demon Sallie’s way of lulling them into a false sense of security. Things escalated when Tony was suddenly thrown and pinned against a door, unable to move, by an “unseen force.”
Debra Pickman wrote a book about their experience called The Sallie House Haunting: A True Story.
Los Feliz Murder Mansion, Los Angeles, CA
It was 4:30 am on Dec. 6, 1949 and the Los Feliz mansion was quiet. Dr. Harold Perelson stood over his sleeping wife, Lillian, with a hammer in his hand. She didn’t even have the chance to scream because he killed her with one blow to the head. From there, he continued to his eldest daughter Judye’s room. He delivered her a similar blow, but the hammer only grazed her head. She immediately began screaming loud enough that neighbors heard.
Judye ran to her mother for help. In her parents’ bedroom she saw the full horror of what her father had done. She bolted from the house screaming, looking for anyone to help her. Judye’s skull was fractured, but it didn’t stop her. She smeared blood on neighbor’s doors and windows as she banged on them. Until finally, Ross Marshall opened the door. Together they called the police.
Back at the mansion, the two younger children had woken up to the sound of their sister’s screams. “Go back to bed. This is a nightmare,” Harold told 11-year-old Debbie before walking away, dripping blood on the floor.
After calling the police, Marshall went to check on the remaining children. He found Debbie and 13-year-old Joel waiting nervously on the first floor. He climbed the stairs and encountered Dr. Perelson.
“Go on home,” Harold told him, according to the Coroner’s report.
“Don’t bother me.”
Dr. Harold Perelson went into the bathroom and found the drawers he kept his medication in. He tore apart two capsules of Nembutal, a barbiturate, and turned on the tap, mixing the yellow powder with water before drinking it. Nembutal is known as “death in a bottle,” a favorite of suicide-seekers hoping for a quick death; it killed Judy Garland.
To be certain of his fate, the doctor then swallowed 31 small white pills, believed to be codeine.
Police arrived within 15 minutes, but it was too late. At 5:15 am, LAPD found the doctor on the floor, his head on a pillow soaked with his daughters blood, the hammer still clutched in his hand. By the time an ambulance arrived, he would be dead.
On the nightstand next to Dr. Perelson’s bed, a copy of Dante’s “The Divine Comedy” lay open to Canto 1: Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest of dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost.
Judye was treated for her injuries, while Joel and Debbie were unharmed. Lillian’s family took custody of the children, and a year later, the house was sold to Emily and Julian Enriquez.
Even though the house was sold, it remained untouched and uninhabited for the next 50 years. The Enriquez family never moved in. When Emily died in 1994, her son Rudy inherited the property and never moved in, either.
“I don’t know that I want to live there or even stay here,” Rudy told The Los Angeles Times in 2009.
Those who were brave enough to trespass and peak through the windows saw a house that has remained unchanged since the 1950s – since Dr. Harold murdered his family.
The home had essentially become a time capsule.
Some of the most disturbing things are photos of Christmas presents still wrapped with bows, clothes left hanging to dry (they’re probably dry now), and private letters and books laid on tables. Visitors say they can’t shake the heavy ominous feeling that surrounds the house.
As if this story wasn’t already strange enough, it gets weirder. Some of the items visible through the windows couldn’t have belonged to the Perelsons. A Life magazine from May 9, 1960 and a can of Spaghetti-Os (which weren’t marketed until 1965) are both inside – both are Post-Perelsons.
And the Perelsons were jewish, so whose Christmas presents and tree were in the house? Rumors persist that another family rented the home, but were not told about the murder. They found out on the anniversary of the murder-suicide and fled the house so quickly that they left their Christmas presents and tree behind. Maybe something was haunting them?
A neighbor, Sheree Waterson, said one night a friend of hers tried to explore the mansion in what she described as “a Nancy Drew moment.” The woman snuck in through a back door, but didn’t get far before the burglar alarm sounded. Soon, her hand was throbbing painfully.
“She’d been bitten by a black widow. There was a red streak going up her arm. She had to go to the doctor,” said Waterson. “Two nights later the alarm kept going off at my house on my back door, but there was no one there. It was like the ghost was following us.”
Want to find out if it’s haunted? You’re in luck! Since the Enriquez family never sold the home and had no living family to inherit it, it went up for sale in 2016. as a fixer-upper or a development opportunity. It sold later that year to a couple who had plans to remodel and eventually move into the residence.
But the house is up for sale again—with a $3.5 million dollar price tag, cash or hard money offers only. Listing photos show most of the house has been gutted and the floors have been stripped.
It really makes you wonder if the house scared off another owner?
The Sowden House
From any room one could step into a central courtyard full of exotic foliage and beautiful giant cactus plants reaching straight into the sky. Once inside this remarkable house one found oneself in absolute privacy, invisible to the outside world.Steve Hodel
In the 1920s, retired artist John Sowden and his wife Ruth commissioned Lloyd Wright, son of legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, to design a unique showplace for throwing parties. Basically, they just wanted to flex on everybody – and flex they did.
The result was this tropical Mayan Revival-style fortress, complete with a stage, secret room, central courtyard, and ornamented concrete blocks.
The next to own the home in 1945 was Dr. George Hodel (anyone else noticing this Dr. theme?) Apparently, there was nothing average about Hodel. The “suave” doctor’s VD clinic catered to many elite Angelenos and his friends included Surrealist artist Man Ray and director John Huston.
Hodel moved into the “home” on Franklin Avenue and his ex-wife Dorothy and their children soon joined him. Hodel’s son Steven remembered the magic of growing up in the labyrinth-like home:
Once through the gate, you turned immediately to your right and continued up a dark passageway, then made another right turn to the front door. It was like entering a cave with secret stone tunnels, within which only the initiated could feel comfortable. All others proceeded with great caution, not knowing which way to turn. Growing up in that house, my brothers and I saw it as a place of magic that we were convinced could easily have greeted the uninvited with pits of fire, poison darts, deadly snakes, or even a giant sword-bearing turbaned bodyguard at the door. Right out of Arabian nights.
As fairytale-esque as it all seemed, the house hid much darker secrets. George abused his children in the basement and threw drug infused hedonistic orgies in his golden bedroom.
In 1949, Hodel’s teenage daughter, Tamar, ran away from home. When she was questioned by police she said she had left because “her home life was too depressing,” because of “all the sex parties at the Franklin House.” Tamar accused her father and other adults of raping her during a party at the house.
When questioned by police, Hodel explained he had recently been “delving into the mystery of love and the universe,” and that the acts of which he was accused were “unclear, like a dream. I can’t figure out whether someone is hypnotizing me or I am hypnotizing someone.”
Police raided the home and found pornography and “other questionable items.”
George was acquitted after launching a smear campaign directed at his daughter. He soon sold the Sowden House and left the country.
For decades, the house was quiet. George Hodel died in 1999. But this was not the end of the story of George Hodel and the Sowden House. Not by a long shot.
After George died, his son Steve, a retired LAPD detective, was going through some of his father’s possessions when he found two pictures of dark-haired girl. He was convinced the photos were of Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia, whose unsolved 1947 murder and mutilation had long been the stuff of Hollywood legend.
Over the next few years, Steve became convinced that not only had his sadistic father murdered Short, he had also been responsible for a number of unsolved, brutal murders that had taken place in Los Angeles in the 1940s. And he believed that some of these murders had taken place in the Sowden House’s basement.
Steve went on to publish a book called Black Dahlia Avenger about his father.
After Avenger was published, reporter Steve Lopez went through long-forgotten police transcripts related to the Dahlia’s murder. Not only did he find proof that Hodel was a suspect in the murder, he also discovered that the Sowden House had been bugged by the DA’s office after the incest trial.
A transcript appeared to record a woman being assaulted in the basement, followed by the sounds of digging. Later that night, the DA’s microphone recorded George on the phone with a German friend.
“Supposin’ I did kill the Black Dahlia,” the good doctor said. “They couldn’t prove it now. They can’t talk to my secretary anymore because she’s dead.” (No concrete proof of the secretary’s existence has ever been found.)
In 2013, Steve Hodel claimed that a cadaver dog had indicated that human remains had been or were present in the basement and behind the house. As of fall 2015, there have been no excavations at the house.
The entire story of the Hodel family is a rabbit hole worth checking out, but just thinking about what happened in that house gives me the chills.
- The Murder House
- The Sordid and Possibly Murderous Secrets of Los Angeles Sowden House
- Photos of the Sowden House
- Steve Hodel’s Blog about his family