The American Heartland brings to mind rolling fields of corn and grain, apple pie, and …ghosts? For the past several years, Mysterious Heartland has scoured hundreds of books, articles, and websites to find the most interesting haunted and legendary places in the Midwest. With infamous locations like Griggs Mansion, Bachelor’s Grove, Bullock Hotel, and dozens of other nationally-known paranormal hotspots, it was hard to choose the top 10. Never-the-less, we have come up with this list of what we think are the best. Which one will prove to be the most haunted of them all?
10. 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.
9. Griggs Mansion
St. Paul, Minnesota
Chauncey W. Griggs, a wholesale grocery tycoon, built this mansion in 1883, but did not live there long before heading west. Ghosts have been reported here for nearly a century and the mansion is often referred to as the most haunted house in St. Paul. It is inhabited by as many as seven different spirits. According to legend, in 1915 a young maid hanged herself near the fourth-floor landing after a failed love affair. Since her death, her presence has often been encountered in the form of a white mist or feelings of dread. The ghost of Charles Wade, the former gardener and caretaker of the house, has also been seen in the library of the mansion. Visitors have also seen an old, white-haired man wearing a black suit and top hat. Reportedly, in 1969 a group of journalists fled the mansion in terror after trying to spend the night. The Griggs Mansion has frequently changed ownership in recent years, and was still up for sale as of 2012.
8. Villisca Ax Murder House
On the night of June 9, 1912, Josiah and Sarah Moore, their children Herman, Katherine, Boyd, and Paul, and their children’s friends Lena and Ina Stillinger, were brutally murdered while they slept by an unknown assailant with an ax. The killer was never officially found, although a traveling preacher named George Kelly was tried and acquitted of the crime. Today, no one lives at the home, but the most recent owner opened it up for tours and paranormal investigations. Dozens, if not hundreds, of eyewitnesses have reported strange encounters in the “murder house.” Vanishing blood stains on the walls, feelings of an evil presence, strange green lights, cold chills, the feeling of being pushed or pulled by unseen hands, and even apparitions have all been experienced here. Ghostly voices, presumably of the Moore Children, have been recorded on several occasions.
7. The Pfister Hotel
The Pfister Hotel was built for an extravagant $1 million in 1893 and contains the largest collection of Victorian artwork of any hotel in the world. It is a member of Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Pfister Hotel is also famously haunted by the ghost of its namesake, Charles Pfister. MLB players who have stayed there are open about their encounters with the otherworldly. Michael Young of the Phillies told ESPN Magazine, “Oh, f— that place. Listen, I’m not someone who spreads ghost stories, so if I’m telling you this, it happened. A couple of years ago, I was lying in bed after a night game, and I was out. My room was locked, but I heard these footsteps inside my room, stomping around… so I yelled out, ‘Hey! Make yourself at home. Hang out, have a seat, but do not wake me up, okay?’ After that, I didn’t hear a thing for the rest of the night.” Despite all the hair-raising stories, this world-class hotel continues to attract guests and charges upwards of $250 a night.
6. Central Michigan University
Mount Pleasant, Michigan
Established in 1892, the campus of Central Michigan University is literally crawling with ghosts. Otherworldly activity has been reported at nearly every building on campus. Some of the more notable encounters have occurred at Warriner Hall, Powers Hall, and the former site of Bernard Hall. Built in 1928, the hauntings at Warriner Hall stem from a tragic accident that occurred less than a decade after it opened. A young cafeteria worked named Theresa Schumacher died of a head injury near the elevator, and since then students have heard her footsteps echoing around the central staircase. She has been known to manifest in a blue light and cause the elevator doors to open and close on their own. Phantom piano music is said to echo through Powers Hall. The music is attributed to a ghost named Emily, who died in the 1930s. She is allegedly buried under a piano-shaped hedge in the building’s foyer. Torn down in 1996, Barnard Hall was the setting for CMU’s most well-known ghost story. The cause of her death is uncertain, but the ghost of a freshman named Carolyn was widely believed to wander the hall in her nightgown. After the building was torn down, she has been spotted along Park Library Pond and in the graduate dorm that was built over the ruins of Bernard. Strange things have been experienced at Carlin Alumni House, Mae K. Woldt Hall, and Charles C. Barnes Hall as well.
5. Bullock Hotel
Deadwood, South Dakota
The historic Bullock Hotel, located at 633 Main Street in Deadwood, South Dakota, is one of the most famous haunted hotels in the United States. In 1992, it was featured on the TV program Unsolved Mysteries. It is reportedly haunted by none other than the ghost of its namesake, Seth Bullock, the first sheriff of Deadwood, as well as a host of other spirits. Whether it is the scent of his cigar, the sound of his boots in the hallway, or seeing his image in the mirror, many hotel patrons have reported feeling his presence. The Bullock Hotel was originally built between 1894 and 1896 and contained 60 luxury rooms. Seth’s Cellar Restaurant, located in the basement of the Bullock Hotel, is supposed to be one of the most haunted areas of the hotel. According to authors Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk, restaurant staff have heard the piano playing an old ragtime tune without the aid of human hands. Glasses, dishes, and other items fall or are tossed through the air without any explanation.
4. Archer Avenue
Willow Springs, Illinois
Starting with Resurrection Cemetery and ending at St. James-Sag Church, this section of Archer Avenue forms the northern border of a triangle of forest preserves, lakes, trails, and burial grounds that could easily be described as the most haunted area in Chicagoland. This region has a well-deserved reputation built upon generations of strange encounters, which makes it a favourite for ghost tours, paranormal researchers, and curiosity seekers alike. Resurrection Mary, one of the most famous ghosts in the United States, hitchhikes down Archer Avenue on her way to Resurrection Cemetery, but neighbouring Bethenia Cemetery has tales of its own. Phantom monks lurk in the hills around St. James-Sag Church. Maple Lake’s spook lights, the macabre happenings at Fairmount Hills Cemetery, the “Grey Baby” of Sacred Heart Cemetery, Healing Waters Park, and the phantom riders of 95th and Kean are just some more of Archer Avenue’s fascinating stories and mystery sites.
3. Lemp Mansion
St. Louis, Missouri
This historic mansion in St. Louis’ Benton Park neighbourhood 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 rumours 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 rumours 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.
2. Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery
Bachelor’s Grove is hands down one of the most famous haunted cemeteries in America. Every manner of ghost, spook light, and supernatural occurrence has been reported here. One of the most enduring legends concerns a phantom house. In the 1970s, Richard T. Crowe collected stories from dozens of eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen a white farmhouse at various places in the woods alongside the trail, complete with a glowing light in the window. There are several foundations and old brick wells tucked away in the woods—evidence that there were homes nearby sometime in the past. Another popular ghost is the White Lady, or Madonna, of Bachelor’s Grove, who is said to be searching for her lost infant. This ghost, or one very much like it, was supposedly captured on a now famous photograph taken using infrared film. The pond adjacent to the cemetery has its own share of legends. Stories say it was one of the hundreds of places scattered around Illinois where mobsters dumped their victims during the roaring ‘20s. A policeman reportedly saw the apparition of a horse, followed by a man and a plow, walk out of the pond and cross 143rd Street.
1. Ohio State (Mansfield) Reformatory
Built between 1896 and 1910, the Ohio State Reformatory served as a detention centre for young, petty criminals. The first inmates were admitted in 1896, and they helped construct the building. Several violent episodes occurred there, including the execution-style slaying of a superintendent and his family at the hands of two former inmates. One form of punishment at Mansfield Reformatory was to send prisoners to solitary confinement in “the hole”—a dark and claustrophobic room—for an indeterminate amount of time. The reformatory was closed in the late 1980s. The old superintendent’s office, where disembodied voices are heard, is widely believed to be haunted by the ghosts of Helen and Warden Glattke. In the basement, the ghost of a 14-year-old boy who was allegedly beaten to death has been reported. Visitors often experience strong feelings of dread, anger, and fear throughout the former reformatory.