When given the option of a trick or treat, most of us will choose a treat – except when the proffered trick is a haunted house.
And it might surprise you to know that the man who created a gregarious cartoon mouse is also the person responsible for turning haunted houses into a mainstream form of entertainment.
Walt Disney is often credited with the macabre brainstorm when he engineered the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland in 1969. His architectural inspirations were the real-life Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California (see below) and the Evergreen House, a not-scary dwelling that’s now part of the Johns Hopkins University Museums in Baltimore, Maryland. Disney’s use of innovative technology to whip up realistic spirits, especially those enjoying a raucous banquet in the Grand Hall, is what separated his haunted house from the myriad of predecessors who draped a white sheet over a mannequin and called it a day. Thanks, Walt (we think).
If you’re looking for a real-life haunted house this Halloween season, some tricks might be closer to home than you think – and worth the drive. Check out these 5 spooky spaces, each one near a KB Home community:
1. The Winchester Mystery House – San Jose, CA
One look at this 160-room mansion and you know you’re in for a real treat. Sarah Winchester was heir to the Winchester firearms company and widow of its founder. According to legend, she was compelled by the ghosts of people felled by Winchester guns to continuously build bizarre additions to her ever-expanding mansion. Visitors can now tour 110 of those rooms, and see first-hand such oddities as a window built into the floor, stairs that climb toward the ceiling, and doors that open into walls.
2. The Molly Brown House – Denver, CO
If the name sounds familiar, Molly Brown was a famous survivor of the Titanic sinking and later dubbed “the unsinkable Molly Brown.” Her 1880s Victorian mansion now houses a museum, and also presumably, the ghosts of Molly, her husband (J.J. Brown), their daughter (Catherine), Molly’s mother, and a servant. That’s a whole lot of people who wanted to make that house their forever home.
3. The Mordecai House – Raleigh, NC
Built around 1785, this house is rumored to be haunted by the ghost of former resident Mary Willis Mordecai Turk (1858 – 1937). She wears a 19th Century dress and randomly plays the piano in the downstairs drawing room. And someone, Mary or otherwise, has been known to whip framed photographs off the walls. You can glimpse this site in a past episode of the Syfy Channel TV show, “Ghost Hunters.” However, a stomach ailment (or food poisoning) felled members of the crew and the investigation was abandoned.
4. The Texas Governor’s Mansion – Austin, TX
This 1850s mansion is supposedly haunted by two former governors; Sam Houston, who likes to linger in his former bedroom, and Pendleton Murrah who roams inside and out on occasion. Also haunting the mansion is the spirit of a young suitor who was a guest at the home when he proposed marriage to Murrah’s niece. She said no and he didn’t take the rejection well; he killed himself in his guest room and something or someone in that room has been moaning and gasping for air ever since.
5. The Stevens House – Tucson, AZ
Whether or not this house is truly haunted, the site is the location of a murder, an attempted murder, and a suicide, so the creepy factor is high regardless. The house dates back to 1865 and its original owners were Hiram Stevens and his wife Petra Santa Cruz. An adjacent house was home to Milton B. Duffield, a man of dubious character who was murdered on his property in 1870 over a mining claim dispute. Stevens bought the Duffield property a few years later. Then in 1893, Stevens attempted to kill his wife by shooting her in the head but she was saved by the Spanish comb she was wearing in her hair. Stevens then shot and killed himself. Today, the Stevens/Duffield houses are part of the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block, and are said to be haunted by the ghost of Hiram Stevens.
Disclaimer: KB Home does not endorse trespassing. Please respect all hours of operation when visiting the locations of these real-life haunted houses.
A.J. Bowker is a contributing writer to From House to Home. She has lived on the East Coast, in the Midwest, and is now settled in Southern California. One thing she has learned from living in various parts of the country: home is a state of mind.