Looming out of the prairie, or standing like a sentinel on a quiet street, the old Victorian mansion or derelict farmhouse dominates our nightmares. We at Mysterious Heartland know that every townand city has at least one, but what are the most infamous and haunted houses and mansions in the heartland? After much debate, we are happy to bring you the Top 10 Most Haunted Houses in the Midwest! Note: Many homes in this list are privately owned. Never visit any of these homes uninvited.
10.Janesville Doll House
The porcelain face of an adolescent boy gazes quietly out the attic window of this non-descript home in Janesville, Minnesota. Passersby have reportedly seen the doll since the 1960s. Over the years, many stories have cropped up explaining how it came to be there. Stories range from a memorial to a daughter who hung herself in the attic, to a shape shifting demon that disguises itself as a doll. Others claim that the doll moves, changes clothes, or follows passersby with his black eyes. According to Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk, the home is owned by an elderly man named Ward Wendt, who claims the story behind the doll is buried in a time capsule.
9. Potwin Place
This picturesque Victorian home in Topeka’s historic Potwin Place district has been haunted since 1972, when its owners began renovations. The paranormal events started with a strange slapping or ringing sound on the wooden floors. Both Dorothy Gardner and her sister reported hearing heavy breathing and felt something pushing down on their mattresses at night. Once, while hanging new wallpaper in the west bedroom, Dorothy heard a man’s voice say, “You’re doing a nice job.” Items also went missing and then randomly reappeared without explanation.
8. Bloodstained Farmhouse
Built in 1852, this unassuming farmhouse outside the village of Fowlerville, Michigan hides a sinister secret. When newlyweds purchased the home in 1968, they discovered dark stains like dried blood on the wooden stairs. No matter how hard they tried, they could not get rid of the stains. Stains, however, were the least of their worries. The first time the husband stayed in the house alone, he was chased out by a ghost. The couple also claimed to see doors slam shut on their own, pictures fall from the wall, and even the vacuum cleaner move across the floor. When visitors came to the house, poltergeist activity usually followed. Also, when the couple’s child was old enough to speak, he told his parents that he could talk to the ghost and that its name was “Arnold.” If this strange activity continued after the family moved out, it is unknown.
7. Forepaugh Mansion
St. Paul, Minnesota
Currently a restaurant, this beautiful Victorian mansion was built by Joseph Forepaugh in 1870. There were at least two documented deaths in the home. In 1892, Joseph shot himself in the head, and a housemaid named Molly hung herself on the third floor. According to legend, Joseph was having an affair with Molly and sunk into a deep depression when his wife forbade him from seeing her. Some say Molly was carrying his child when she hung herself, though there is no evidence for this. Both are now said to haunt the home. Employees have seen their spirits, felt cold spots, and experienced strange disturbances.
6. Mathias Ham House
Currently a museum, this unique limestone Italian Villa-style mansion was built in 1856 by a Dubuque pioneer and businessman named Mathias Ham. It sits on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. At least four members of the Ham family died in the home. Mathias’ wife, Margaret, died in 1874, and he joined her in 1889. His daughter May died in the 1890s, leaving his other daughter, Sarah, alone. According to legend, on one dark and lonely night Sarah shot and killed an intruder, whose lamplight is still said to wander through the house after sundown. Most of the strange occurrences revolve around lights turning on and off, and other electrical disturbances. Tour guides and volunteers report feeling the presence of other people—even hearing footsteps and voices—when they are alone.
If you like this list, you’ll love Michael Kleen’s Legends and Lore of Illinois: The Definitive Collection!
Land O’Lakes, Wisconsin
This former mansion overlooking West Bay Lake was once a summer home for Robert P. Lamont, Secretary of Commerce for President Herbert Hoover. He built the home in 1916, and according to legend, he was immediately bothered by ghosts. After his death, the property passed through several owners before being purchased by the Hinshaws in the early 1970s. They reportedly saw shadowy figures and heard strange voices throughout the house. Arnold Hinshaw claimed to discover human remains behind a secret door in the closet, though never officially reported it. The next owner, Raymond Bober, was convinced that the ghost of an 18th Century British explorer named Jonathan Carver wanted to help him locate a deed hidden in the home’s foundation. The house was abandoned in the 1980s, struck by lightning, and burned to the ground. Today, its remains are still hidden in the woods along West Bay Lake.
4. Mudhouse Mansion
Known locally as the Hartman Place, this abandoned brick, Second Empire-style house was built sometime in the mid-19th Century and stands sentinel-like in a field of windswept grass. It is currently owned by Jeannie Mast, who zealously guards her property and presses charges against anyone who tries to trespass. This has only poured fuel on the fire for people who believe the house holds sinister secrets. According to legend, the original owner treated his servants cruelly and locked them in the basement. One night, the servants escaped and murdered their master and his family. In another tale, the owner caught his wife having an affair and killed her before committing suicide. Another story claims the owner’s wife murdered her children. The ghosts of all these victims are said to roam the empty rooms of the house and the other outbuildings on the property. One thing is certain: the property is patrolled by both sheriff’s deputies and private security guards, so visitors are strongly discouraged.
3. Historic Hannah House
This red-brick Italianate mansion was built in 1858 by Alexander Hannah, who later went on to become a state legislator. According to legend, the house was a stop on the Underground Railroad that helped slaves escape north to Canada prior to the American Civil War. During that time, it is said, a group of slaves were sleeping in the basement when one knocked over an oil lantern and started a fire. One by one, the sleeping slaves were consumed by the flames and smoke. When Alexander Hannah discovered what happened, he buried their ashes in the basement so no one would ever find out. To this day, the ghosts of these slaves haunt the home. Moans, shadows, whispers, and cold spots have been experienced in the basement. The ghosts of Alexander Hannah and his wife have also been seen upstairs. Today, the Historic Hannah House is open for tours and events.
2. McPike Mansion
Built in 1869 by Henry Guest McPike and designed in the Italianate-Victorian style, this mansion has long captured the imaginations of Alton residents. Although it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, it has sat abandoned for decades—attracting vandals and the curious alike. Ghost stories were told about the mansion even when it was occupied. In the 1940s, boarders often heard children running up and down the stairs, but could find no one when they investigated the noise. After the mansion became derelict, passersby reported seeing faces in the windows. There are two known entities here. The mansion’s new owners named one of them Sarah. She is thought to have been a hired hand in life, and teases visitors with a spectral touch or hug. The other ghost belongs to a former owner, Paul Laichinger. He has been spotted wandering the grounds.
1. Lemp Mansion
St. Louis, Missouri
This historic mansion in St. Louis’ Benton Park neighborhood was once home to the Lemps, who made their fortune brewing beer prior to Prohibition. The house itself was built in 1868, and in 1876 William J. Lemp and his wife Julia purchased the property. It belonged to that family until 1949, when Charles Lemp (William’s son) committed suicide. Three members of the Lemp family committed suicide in the house, leading to rumors that their tormented spirits still walk its halls. In 1980, Life magazine labeled the Lemp Mansion as one of America’s nine most haunted houses. For years, there have been rumors that William J. Lemp, Jr. fathered a son with one of his mistresses and kept him hidden away in the attic. Believed to have been deformed, he is referred to as the “Monkey Face Boy.” Subsequent tenants of the mansion reported a wide variety of disturbances, including apparitions, voices, floating objects, and the feeling of being watched. Today, the mansion is a restaurant and inn.
If you like this article, you will love Michael Kleen’s book Legends and Lore of Illinois: The Definitive Collection! The Legends and Lore of Illinois is an exciting and informative look at Illinois ghostlore. Join the Fallen as they visit some of the most haunted places in the Prairie State – Will they unlock the secrets of the unknown, or will they unwittingly unleash shadows from the darkest recesses of our imagination? Get ready to explore infamous places such as Bachelor’s Grove, Airtight Bridge, Resurrection Cemetery, Winston Tunnel, the Seven Gates to Hell, Manteno State Hospital, Axman’s Bridge, and many more! What adventures await you inside?