The stories behind 12 abandoned mansions
While we all love a good scary story, few of us are brave enough to live in a scary story. Sometimes home is where the heart is, but for some of the people on this list, home was exactly where the troubled started.
The unbelievable stories of these mansions are chock full of strange histories, mysteries and even scandal. The owners of the once-lavish and magnificent mansions below knew that the price of the house was just one small part of the story. Of course, mansions are usually thought of as large, extravagant homes that convey wealth and status to all who behold them. Usually, mansions are sold or passed down in families for years, each loving and updating the sprawling property in a new way. So what happens to make someone run away from their dream home? These abandoned mansions have some incredible and almost unbelievable stories to tell.
Mínxíong Ghost House — Mínxíong, Taiwan
Ranked as the spookiest haunted house in 2019, the Minxiong Ghost House naturally lives up to its reputation. The stories surrounding this mansion run the gauntlet from affairs to suicide to simple relocation, but whatever you believe, this mansion definitely fits the creepy bill. Built in 1929 by Liu Rongyu, this baroque rival style mansion (sometimes called the Old Liu House) is hidden between overgrown greenery. One of the most popular tales states that a housemaid had an affair with the homeowner, leading to the wrath of the wife and eventual death of the maid by jumping down a nearby well. If the maid story was not enough, another story claims a soldier committed suicide in the home after hearing strange voices. Regardless of the truth long lost to time, the large mansion has some wild history within its beautiful, yet decaying walls.
Halcyon Hall at the Bennett School for Girls — New York, USA
This creepy, gothic mansion was once the site of higher education for New York women. Founded in 1890 in Irvington, the school later changed its name to Bennett College. Originally, before becoming solely a junior college, the school was a six-year, woman-only institution. The school closed and declared bankruptcy in the wave of co-ed education, a few weeks after welcoming an entire class of freshman to campus. Halcyon Hall, a 200-room structure that functioned as a hotel before becoming an academic building in 1907, remains standing to this day. The abandoned property fell to decay and changed hands many times, somehow surviving multiple threats of tear-down. Imposing and overrun with greenery, the halls seem content to continue into disrepair without crumbling completely.
Villa de Vecchi — Cortenova, Italy
This beautiful mansion sits among the trees in the mountains of Cortenova, beside Lake Como. Known by many nicknames, including the “Red House, Ghost Mansion, and Casa Delle Streghe (The House of Witches),” this mansion touts a tragic history. In the late 19th century, Count Felix De Vecchi commissioned architect Alessandro Sidoli to build this Baroque-style behemoth. Unfortunately for the Count, Sidoli died a year before the top-of-the-line villa was completed.
The Vecchi family spent very little time in the villa before tragedy struck—the Count’s wife was murdered and daughter kidnapped. After a number of search attempts, the Count himself succumbed to suicide. After passing hands around the Vecchi family for a few decades, the house fell to disrepair, nature intrusion, and vandalism. Still, the mansion lives on in lore to this day. Alongside the rumors of occult activities and sacrifices, locals still say the long-ago smashed piano still floats music outside of the house and down the countryside.
Lennox Castle — East Dunbartonshire, Scotland
Just north of Glasgow, this mansion and castle were built somewhere around the early 1840s. Initially, the castle was built for John Lennox Kincaid of the familial line of the Earl of Lennox. In 1927, the castle was purchased by the Glasgow Corporation and converted into a “hospital for the mentally ill.” Buildings cropped up around the main castle structure to eventually hold over 1,200 patients. Toward the middle of the century, however, fights, unrest, and riots began to break out among the patients. One such fight in 1956 resulted in some of the male patients attacking the nursing staff and being locked inside a small hut. In 2002, the Lennox Castle Hospital was officially retired and all other buildings on the property knocked down. In their stead, the Celtic Football Club attempted to make training facilities. Today, the castle has fallen to fire and nature and remains a beautiful, eerie ruin.
Chaonei No. 81 — Beijing, China
Built in the early 20th century, this mansion has a much darker past. Constructed in the baroque style by the Qing imperial family, this three-story mansion has been abandoned since 1949. The story goes that after the Nationalists’ defeat by the Communists, the Kuomintang official who owned the property abandoned his wife in the mansion. According to legend, she was so wrought with anguish and heartache that she hanged herself in the home. Some say that her spirit still haunts the house, as explorers and local children alike dare to take a peek inside the once elegant and now-decaying home.
Los Feliz Mansion — Los Angeles, California, USA
The story goes that this hilltop mansion was the home of Dr Harold Perelson, his wife and his three children. As a respected doctor in the late 1950s, Perelson shocked the city and, to an extent, the world when he suddenly brutally murdered his wife with a ball-peen hammer in her sleep. After attempting the same cruel act with his young daughter, he ended his own life by drinking acid and taking tranquiliser pills. Many have speculated about his causes and the “hauntings” of the mansion thereafter, though it was purchased and sold multiple times over the next 60 years. What’s more spooky? Up until 2016, the owners let the house remain largely the same as it was in 1959 – same dust-coated decor and same eerie emptiness.
Lynnewood Hall — Pennsylvania, USA
Built in the late 19th century, Lynnewood Hall is a Neo-classical, Gilded Age mansion with a regretful past. The unfathomably rich art collector and tycoon Peter A.B. Widener commissioned the 110 room mansion with 55 bedrooms from famous architect Horace Trumbauer. This lavish, limestone mansion was build shortly after the death of Widener’s wife and filled with famous pieces and paintings (some by El Greco, Rembrandt, and Donatello). Tragically, the eldest son meant to inherit the property was on the Titanic’s maiden voyage. George Widener and his son lost their lives while his wife, Eleanor, survived on a lifeboat. Ironically, the Wideners were a large investor in the RMS Titanic. The younger son, Joseph, managed the property until his death in 1943 left the house unclaimed, abandoned, and stripped of its valuable decor.
Odd Fellows Home — Liberty, Missouri
This mansion was built for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, founded in 1819, as a central hub for the organization in Missouri. The fraternal organization resembled the Masons with the goals of promoting brotherhood, loyalty, and community outreach. The IOOF was also known for “secret rituals,” many of which were performed in the Odd Fellow Home throughout the 19th century. That is, of course, when they weren’t taking care of the at-risk members of their community at their 200+ acre complex with a school, nursing home, hospital, and orphanage, according to Atlas Obscura. While the complex fell to disrepair (aside from one building that now holds a functioning winery), the Odd Fellows left a skeleton of one of their members behind, “George,” which was said to be used in the strange initiation rituals.
Bannerman Castle — New York, USA
This castle doesn’t have a morbid history so much as a historically interesting one. According to Jane Bannerman, granddaughter-in-law of the builder Frank Bannerman VI, the mansion was built on Pollepel Island in the Hudson River as a place to store arms for sale. A bit of folklore from the Native American tribes of the island survives, including the legend of naming the island after the story of a girl named Pell who was rescued and swept to safety on the island by her heroic sweetheart. The American Revolution saw the island and its surrounding waters outfitted with booby traps called “chevaux de frise” to block British ships.
In 1900, once the Bannermans owned the island, they built the Scottish-style mansion (or armory!) and even allowed various charity groups to visit the beautiful island in the summer. Frank Bannerman’s wife maintained beautiful grounds on the island, some of which still exist even after the famous 1969 fire. Today, The Bannerman Castle Trust works to restore the building, promote tourism, and preserve the history of the island and structure.
Dundas Castle — New York, USA
Sometimes called the Craig-E-Claire Castle, this eventual mansion was first a small lodge structure built by Bradford Lee Gilbert around 1880. In 1915, new owner Ralph Wurts-Dundas decided to construct a more castle-like structure, though he passed away only a year shy of its competition. His wife, Josephine Wurst-Dundas, was shortly thereafter committed to a mental institution against her will, also never living in the completed castle. Their daughter Muriel became the owner, but her due inheritance was said to be stripped and stolen from her by greedy castle care-takers. Sometime after, the daughter was married and left the property to be sold a few times before landing in the hands of a local Masonic chapter. Now, while still under Masonic-ownership, the castle is abandoned and falling apart. The lore implies that the ghost of Josephine still haunts the structure.
Wyckoff Villa (Carleton Villa) — New York, USA
Predictably, of course, the Wyckoff Villa (located on Carleton Island in the St. Lawrence River in upstate New York) is yet another example of a tragic story. In what many call one of the first Gilded Age mansions along the Thousand Islands, the villa was commissioned of architect William H. Miller for William Wyckoff. Wyckoff, a Remington typewriter magnate, lived in the home for only one day after its 1895 completion. Why? Well, unfortunately, Mr Wyckoff suffered a heart attack that night on July 11th, only a month after his wife, Ives Wyckoff, passed away. After 30 years within the family, the villa was sold to General Electric. Though originally planning to tear down the villa to construct a golf course and retreat in its place, GE eventually stripped the house of all useful (and necessary) parts and left it in disrepair.
The Craig House Hospital — New York, USA
This odd, gothic “mansion” was originally built as a part of the Tioronda Estate by Frederick Clarke Withers in 1859 for Joseph Howland. After Howland’s death, Dr. Clarence Slocum converted the mansion into one of the first licensed private psychiatric hospitals in 1915. The hospital treated big names in private, extreme luxury for a pretty penny, including Rosemary Kennedy, Zelda Fitzgerald and Jackie Gleason. However, toward the turn of the century, the reputation of the once highly-regarded Craig House Hospital became clouded by untimely deaths and suicides, a series of fires, and general disrepair to close completely in 1999. Once abandoned, the Craig House Estate (and the surrounding property) is now planning to be made into a luxury hotel and spa.
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