The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson tells the story of the Crain family, who grew up in one of the most haunted houses in the country. Now, as adults, they are still tormented by their terrifying past they can’t shake off. The novel has recently been reworked as a hit series on Netflix; reports of viewers passing out with fear from watching the show have circulated.
The horror the Crain family witnessed is a work of fiction. However, the following families all experienced something that felt very much real to them. These families were driven from their own homes, leaving behind a legacy of pure fear.
When Janet and Jack Smurl first moved into their family home on Chase Street in West Pittson, Pennsylvania, they knew it was a fixer-upper. The property needed repainting and refixing, but what they didn’t know was that the renovations would be the least of their problems.
Over a period of 13 years, they were tormented by the ghosts that haunted the place. Janet also believed she was molested in her sleep by a demon, and Jack said he was sexually attacked by an unknown force as he watched a baseball game on TV. They also witnessed the family dog being thrown violently against the wall.
Demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren identified four ghosts at the property—a harmless old lady, a violent young girl, a man who had died in the home, and a demon who controlled the other three spirits. In 1987, the Smurl family had had enough of the attacks, and they fled their home with no intention to return.
The real-life haunting of the Perron family was so terrifying it inspired the 2013 horror film The Conjuring. In 1970, Carolyn and Roger Perron, along with their five young children, moved into a farmhouse in Rhode Island known as the Old Arnold Estate, built in 1736. The previous occupant issued them a cold warning: “For the sake of your family, leave the lights on at night!”
The disturbances began almost immediately. Carolyn was awoken in the middle of the night by the ghost of an old, gray lady named Bathsheba, whose head hung loosely. The apparition warned the family to leave. The children also bonded with the spirit of a little boy they affectionately named “Manny,” who watched them through the windows as they played outside. Then there were the malevolent spirits that tossed them out of bed, pulled at their legs, and filled the house with the smell of rotting flesh many mornings at 5:15 AM.
To this day, the Perron family struggle to talk about what happened. Andrea Perron, now a grown woman, said, “Let’s just say there was a very bad male spirit in the home—with five little girls.”
Between 1977 and 1979, there was one ghost story that gripped the world—the Enfield Poltergeist. At 284 Green Street in Enfield, England, sat a suburban family home on a quiet street. Within this home, single mother Peggy Hodgson and her two young daughters were tormented by a violent poltergeist.
Sisters 13-year-old Margaret and 11-year-old Janet complained of menacing voices, loud banging, and chairs being overturned in the house. Janet would also become possessed and speak in a deep, demon-like voice belonging to 72-year-old Bill Wilkins, who had previously died at the house.
Press photographer Graham Morris, who was asked to report on the disturbances, recalled, “I thought it was an ordinary job until I walked into the house.” Morris managed to capture a famous photograph of young Janet purportedly levitating out of her bed as her face twists in horror.
Built in 1868, the Lemp Mansion in Benton Park, St. Louis, Missouri, boasted a cave where the Lamp family brewed their own beer. In 1901, William J. Lemp was left devastated when his fourth son Frederick Lemp died of ill health. In 1904, William committed suicide by gunshot, and William J. “Billy” Lemp, Jr. took over the family business.
In 1920, Elsa Lemp Wright, the youngest Lemp child, shot herself following her divorce. As a result of Prohibition, the family brewery was sold at auction after hitting hard times, and Billy Jr. also shot himself in 1922. Years later, in 1949, Charles Lemp, the third son, shot himself in the head after killing the dog. The only surviving son, Edwin Lemp, died of natural causes, and his dying wish was for every family heirloom to be destroyed.
Not surprisingly, the Lemp Mansion, now a restaurant and inn, is said to be haunted. One legend is that there was another Lemp son who was born deformed and hidden away in the attic—his spirit is believed to haunt and torment the house.
The Snedeker House inspired the book and horror film The Haunting in Connecticut due to its chilling legacy. In 1986, the Snedeker family—Allen and Carmen, their three sons and daughter, and two nieces—moved into the house on Meriden Avenue, Southington, Connecticut. While exploring their new home, Carmen found mortician’s tools in the basement, and she soon discovered that the property was once a funeral home.
It wasn’t long before their eldest son experienced visions of evil spirits, and both parents claimed to have been sexually attacked by demons. Demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren agreed that the Snedeker house was infested with demons. Since the family moved from the home, there have been no further reports of any paranormal activity; it is believed that the evil within was drawn to the family rather than the house itself.
Alton in Madison County, Illinois, is considered one of the most haunted places in the United States, as many ghost stories plague this town. However, one building stands out among the rest—the McPike Mansion. Businessman Henry McPike built the 16-bedroom mansion on Alby Street for his family in 1869.
In the 1900s, the mansion was sold to Paul Laichinger, who rented the rooms to boarders. However, those who did stay here soon began to hear strange noises, including children talking and laughing together, although children weren’t on the grounds.
Following the death of Laichinger in 1945, the mansion sat vacant until 1994, when Sharyn and George Luedke purchased the property as a restoration project. Sharyn soon noticed that a ghost-like man would stare at her from the window as she was gardening. Other disturbances included orbs being caught on camera and heavy metal doors opening on their own. Ghost hunters have confirmed that the most paranormally active room in the house is the wine cellar.
In the mid-1800s, Lucy Chase Sprague lost her fortune and died penniless at the Sprague Mansion on Cranston Street in Cranston, Rhode Island. The property has stood with a dark cloud over it ever since. In 1967, Robert and Viola Lynch moved into the 28-bedrooom mansion that featured its very own creepy Doll Room.
In the late 1960s, night watchman Bob Lynch Jr. and a few of his friends had the blankets thrown off their beds. Using a makeshift Ouija board, they contacted a ghost that spelled out: “Tell my story!” Another entity that haunts the place is a ghost by the name of Amasa Sprague, whose body was discovered bludgeoned to death close to the house in 1843.
Since the Lynch family moved away, paranormal experts who have visited the mansion captured the dolls’ eyes in the Doll Room moving on camera. The wine cellar is also a place of much paranormal activity, including orbs and unexplained lights.
In January 1987, teenagers Annie and Jessica Andrews heard loud knocking sounds coming from their bedroom walls. They also found blood-red writing on the walls: “I’m back. Find me if you can.” The girls had recently lost their mother and believed there was a spirit trying to make contact. When the girl’s father found a young boy standing in the house wearing a dress belonging to his deceased wife and holding a hatchet, he chased him from the house. Police later found a crawl space in the house and that the “ghost” was 17-year-old Daniel LaPlante.
Following a short sentence in a juvenile detention center, La Plante was released, and he turned his attention to a different family. On December 1, 1987, he assaulted and shot 33-year-old Priscilla Gustafson and then drowned her children, seven-year-old Abigail and five-year-old William, in their family home in Townsend, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. He was sentenced to life behind bars for his horrendous, deplorable actions.
On November 13, 1974, at 112 Ocean Drive, Amityville, Long Island, Ronald “Butch” DeFeo Jr. murdered his parents, two brothers, and two sisters with a .35-caliber rifle while they slept peacefully in their beds. Butch claimed he was tormented by voices that ordered him to kill his family.
A year later, George and Kathleen Lutz moved into the Amityville house with their three children after purchasing the five-bedroom property for a low price. George reportedly then began to awaken at 3:15 AM every day—around the time Butch was known to have massacred his family. They also saw a pig-like creature with red eyes staring from the windows of the house, and the young children would levitate from their beds.
Both George and Kathleen passed lie detector tests about what they experienced in the home, and eventually, they fled from the property. 112 Ocean Drive is still known as one of the most haunted houses in America.
Located at 525 South Winchester Boulevard in San Jose, California, is the Winchester House, which was first built in 1884. Following the death of her husband, William Wirt Winchester, and with a $1,000-a-day inheritance at hand (the average daily wage at the time was $1.50), Sarah Winchester sought the help of a spiritualist to deal with her grief. Sarah had also lost her only daughter when she was just six weeks old.
The spiritualist warned Sarah that she was cursed and advised her to “build a home for [herself] and for the spirits.” The spirits in question were said to be those killed by Winchester rifles. Sarah sold her home in New Haven, Connecticut, and began work on the Winchester House. “If you continue building, you will live. Stop and you will die,” advised the spiritualist.
Every day for 38 years, Sarah continued building. The property ended up with 160 rooms, 47 fireplaces, trap doors, secret passages, and staircases that lead to nowhere. The labyrinth-like mansion attracts paranormal experts from all around the world.
Cheish Merryweather is a true crime fan and an oddities fanatic. Can either be found at house parties telling everyone Charles Manson was only 5’2″ or at home reading true crime magazines.