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Boos Cruise: 5 of America’s Most Haunted Houses
Originally printed in the September/October 2006 edition of Road King.
by Anne Childress
Are there ghosts lurking in these houses?
The unhappy dead stick around to rattle doorknobs and sweep cold chills over visitors, according to the legends behind these haunted homes.
Do you dare to cross their thresholds?
St. Francisville, La.
Once named the #1 Most Haunted House in America by Haunted America Tours, Myrtles Plantation will send chills down the spine of any non-believer or experienced ghost hunter. The haunting hour at Myrtles is around 3:00 a.m. when the restless ghost of Chloe, a slave mistress to the Plantation’s owner, roams the grounds and occasionally shows up in photographs. Legend has it that the other slaves hung Chloe from a tree after she poisoned her lover’s wife and children. Their ghosts can be heard laughing on the veranda when it rains. Four other tenants have died in the house after Chloe and her victims, and are also known to haunt the grounds, spooking visitors away for their own safety.
According to local legend, iron-works mogul Elias Baker ruled his family with an equally iron fist. The Baker family resided in the mansion throughout the end of the 1800’s and the beginning of the 20th Century. While it is presumed the entire Baker family haunts the mansion, including Elias himself, it is daughter Anna whose hauntings have been singled out over time. Elias forbid his daughter to marry the man she loved, causing Anna to die an “Old Maid” in 1914. A glass-cased wedding dress was placed in Anna Baker’s bedroom by the local Historical Society, which has become the focal point for many strange happenings. Today, the dress is still there and reports of the glass case rocking back and forth are attributed to Anna’s ghost, outraged and taunted by the placement of a wedding dress in her bedroom. Even well-trained police dogs lay down before the house, refusing to enter.
San Jose, Calif.
This 160-room Victorian mansion, designed and haunted by Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester Rifle fortune, is often referred to as an architectural marvel. Inexplicable cold spots, doorknobs that turn by themselves, strange footsteps, floating orbs of light, the echo of voices and slamming doors are just a few of the oddities that began to occur after the death of the wealthy widow and continue to be reported by visitors and employees today. Mansion tours also include the Winchester Firearms Museum. Hard hats must be worn at all times on the premises for visitor protection, and children under the age of 10 are not permitted.
Ft. Lauderdale, Fl.
Built in 1903 by Frank Stranahan, the Stranahan House sits to the east of Ft. Lauderdale’s River Walk in the city’s historic district. Fueled by the loss of his life savings right before the Great Depression, Stranahan took his own life by tying an iron gate around his ankle and leaping into a nearby Inter-coastal Waterway. It is believed that his ghost found its way home to protect what he built. One homeless man reported being chased from the house by an angry spirit until he reached the property lines. Over the years, six other family members have died in the house, and today the ghost of Ivy Cromartie Stranahan is seen and felt most often. She leaves an imprint on her bed each night, despite housekeeping’s efforts to keep it straight during the day.
San Diego, Calif.
Located in San Diego’s Old Town, this Greek Revival mansion dates back to 1857 and is rumored to have been partially built over a cemetery. Over the years there have been reports of windows and shutters mysteriously opening and closing on their own, as well as several accounts of inexplicable eerie footsteps believed to be the ghost of “Yankee Jim” Robinson who was hanged on the property prior to the Whaley’s ownership. The house is believed to be haunted by an assortment of other ghouls including Thomas Whaley himself, his wife Anna (seen by Regis Philbin in the 1960’s), a young playmate of the Whaley children, and various phantom pets.