Calling all ghost hunters!
Ghost hunter wanted to rid a haunted house of spooks! Apply Mrs. Neely, The Antique House. In The Happy Hollisters and the Haunted House Mystery, the Hollisters’ curiosity is piqued over this unusual advertisement in the Shoreham Eagle. Pete, Pam, and the other members of the Shoreham Detective Club eagerly take on the case. Mrs. Neely has said that her antique spinning wheel hums a creepy tune, and her grandfather clock strikes 13—but only after dark! Spooky, for sure, but just the right amount of spookiness to intrigue—not terrify—young readers!
The idea for a haunted house in a Happy Hollisters’ book was inspired by real life. The children of author Andrew Svenson (aka “Jerry West”) tell tales of their own haunted house, an old, sprawling three-story home in Bloomfield, New Jersey. Strange footsteps on the attic stairs and doorknobs that spun of their own accord made for some sleepless nights when the Svenson kids were young. Sadly, the home was demolished years ago, so there’s no way to revisit and learn whether a Victorian ancestor of neighborhood ne’er-do-well Joey Brill was haunting the hallways!
Outside of Bloomfield and Shoreham, however, there are plenty of haunted houses that might make even brave, adventurous kids like Pete, Pam, Holly, Ricky, and Sue run away in terror. This Halloween season learn more about four of these very eerie haunted houses . . . if you dare!
Amityville Horror House
Fans of classic horror films might be familiar with this house, which is located on Long Island, 30 miles outside of New York City. This house provided the inspiration for a slew of horror movies, including The Conjuring films, but many people aren’t familiar with the tragic story behind the house. Before its fame was established as the go-to setting for several horror movies, the house was the site of a 1974 mass murder when a man killed his parents and four siblings. When a new family moved into the house, they reported strange occurrences, including cold spots around the house, green slime oozing from the walls, and a pig-like creature wandering around the home. The Amityville Horror House went up for sale this year, but with a background like that, it’s hard to believe that anyone is looking forward to moving in.
Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast
“Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother 50 whacks” probably isn’t the kind of rhyme the Hollister kids recited in class at Lincoln School, but it is part of the story behind a real-life haunted house in Fall River, Massachusetts. In 1882, the house was the site of a gruesome axe murder when a young woman named Lizzie Borden killed her father and stepmother. Borden’s motives for the murder were never revealed, but her story has become a fixture of American pop culture, including the popular rope-skipping rhyme. The rhyme, however, isn’t accurate—Borden’s stepmother was likely killed with just 18 whacks instead of 50—it makes for a slightly scarier story and a more intense workout! Today, the Lizzie Borden House is a bed and breakfast, where brave guests can spend a night in the historic—and potentially haunted—home. Sleep well!
Joshua Ward House
In Salem, Massachusetts, the site of the notorious Salem Witch Trials in the 1690s, there are plenty of haunted buildings to explore. Among these is the Joshua Ward House, which was the home of Salem’s sheriff during the Witch Trials. The sheriff, George Corwin, was said to be cursed by one of the victims, an elderly man named Giles Corey. Corey died during a harsh form of torture called peine forte et dure, which involves piling heavy objects on a person’s chest until they confess—or perish. Corey allegedly cursed Corwin with his dying breath, and the house is said to be haunted to this day. It is considered to be the most haunted house in Salem, a big accomplishment for a town known for its witches!
While the Amityville Horror House, the Lizzie Borden House, and the Joshua Ward House are all in the northeastern U.S., not too far from the Hollisters’ home in Shoreham, the hauntings are not limited to that area! Another one of America’s most notorious haunted houses, the LaLaurie Mansion, is located in New Orleans, Louisiana. The house is named for Madame Delphine LaLaurie, who owned the house in the French Quarter in the 1830s. LaLaurie was said to be a cruel, sadistic woman who horrifically tortured and starved dozens of her slaves. Her mistreatment of the slaves was revealed when the home caught on fire in 1834, and it’s said that the house is still a hotbed of paranormal activity caused by the slaves who perished there. Since the fire, it has served as an apartment building, in which one tenant died a very suspicious death, and believe it or not, as an all-girls school! Who thought that was a good idea?
Whether the stories behind these haunted houses are true or not, they make for great Halloween tales around a blazing bonfire. If these stories of real-life haunted houses have you too freaked out, you can always escape into a less-spooky story like The Happy Hollisters and the Haunted House Mystery—and still be able to get a good night’s sleep!
by Libby Svenson Kennedy
Research notes, Andrew Svenson Archives of The Hollister Family Properties Trust