Category Archives: Haunted Places & Tours

Hartford Castle’s Once-Majestic Remains

“Hartford Castle” is the colloquial name for a mansion that formerly stood on a tract of land just outside Hartford, Illinois, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. Its original owner, a French immigrant named Benjamin Biszant, called it Lakeview. He built the imposing home for his bride, an Englishwoman whose name has apparently been lost to history.

Sparing no expense (which was certainly an impressive dollar amount in 1897), Biszant surrounded Lakeview with sprawling gardens, statuary, romantic gazebos, and, finally, a moat to keep out trespassers. According to Louie Haines, a neighbor who recalled helping to dig the moat with his father, the Frenchman stocked it with goldfish that interbred with local crappie, producing what he described as “unusual looking fish.”

Eventually, Biszant’s wife died and, perhaps, the pain was too much for him to remain at Lakeview. He sold the mansion and moved west. Several owners and tenants occupied the mansion until 1923 when a husband and wife from nearby Wood River purchased the property. They lived there until 1964, when the wife became a widow and decided to move to less lonely surroundings.

During that time, according to Bill Matheus of the Lewis & Clark Journal, local residents treated the property as if it were their own. Visitors frequently roamed the grounds and even invited themselves inside the mansion for tours! The mansion deteriorated during the late 1960s, and in 1971 and 1972 vandals ran wild.

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Ethereal Remains of Peoria State Hospital

Not much remains of central Illinois’ Peoria State Hospital, especially after the largest structure, called the Bowen Building, was controversially demolished in 2017. Its ruins are located west of Peoria in the small town of Bartonville, which lies directly across the Illinois River. Troy Taylor popularized this location via several books including Haunted Illinois (1999, 2004) and Haunted Decatur Revisited (2000), although it had long been an object of local curiosity.

Since then, an attempt was made to rehabilitate the Bowen Building and open it for tours. It appeared on the SyFy Channel’s Ghost Hunters in 2013 and Destination America’s Ghost Asylum in 2016. This publicity was not enough to save the building from the wrecking ball.

According to Taylor, Peoria State Hospital (originally known as Bartonville State Hospital) began its life in 1885 as an empty shell and faux medieval castle. No patients were ever housed or treated in the building and it was torn down in 1897.

The institution was rebuilt and reopened in 1902 with a new name and a new superintendent. Now called Peoria State Hospital, a progressive physician named Dr. George A. Zeller took over the facility and instituted new, more humane treatments for mental illness. Small cottages were built to house the patients and a dorm housed the full- time staff. Essentially a self-contained community, the grounds also contained a store, a bakery, and a kitchen.

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A Visit to Haunted Milton Schoolhouse in Alton, Illinois

The Milton Schoolhouse in Alton, Illinois was constructed in 1904 and expanded in several stages until a gym and stage were finally added in 1937. The elementary school closed in the 1980s and became a glass factory. That too was abandoned and rumors of ghosts began to circulate about the old school, especially when it hosted a haunted attraction. Syfy Channel’s Ghost Hunters visited in 2010. Today, it is a business incubator home to a popular coffee shop. This winter, I toured the building with psychic-medium Chanda Crosby and interviewed her about her experience.

Hidden Secrets of Kingston’s Skeleton Park

A long-lost cemetery, forgotten burial ground disturbed by a construction project, and mass graves are often the setting for horror stories. After all, most of us expect our mortal remains to lie peacefully in the ground, visited by relatives and loved ones. When those remains are disturbed, we imagine spirits of the departed to rise up and voice their displeasure. The macabre history of McBurney Park in Kingston, Ontario, is like a perfect storm of cemetery-themed horror. Locally known as “Skeleton Park,” this 4-acre plot of land was once a burial ground for mostly Scottish and Irish immigrants. Approximately 10,000 were buried here between 1813 and 1865.

The park is located between Balaclava, Alma, and Ordnance streets, just a few blocks northeast of downtown Kingston. Burials began informally in 1816, but it officially became known as the Common or Upper Burial Grounds in 1825. The cemetery quickly filled due to several epidemics, including a devastating a typhus outbreak in the 1840s. Corpses were buried quickly, sometimes just a few feet below the surface. Many of these hasty burials fell victim to a criminal ring called the Resurrectionists, who sold bodies to medical students at Queens University. They sometimes filled the empty coffins with rocks to prevent sagging in the soil and the discovery of their crimes.

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Cleveland’s Macabre Franklin Castle

If you ask about a haunted house in Cleveland, you are likely to get one response: “Franklin Castle.” That is because this High Victorian style stone house is one of the most infamous haunted houses in the Rock and Roll Capital of the World, if not the state of Ohio.

Built between 1881-1883 by German immigrant Hannes Tiedemann, Franklin Castle (or the Tiedemann House as it is more properly known) is located at 4308 Franklin Boulevard in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood. Today, this neighborhood is economically depressed, but it was at one time an upscale residential avenue. It is rumored to be home to more than a few tortured souls left over from a series of gruesome murders – but are any of those stories true?

On January 15, 1891, before construction began on the home, Tiedemann’s 15-year-old daughter Emma died of diabetes, a fact which becomes important later. Hannes Tiedemann and his family lived in this house from 1883 until 1896. He sold it shortly after his wife Louise died of liver disease. From 1921 to 1968, it was the home of the German-American League for Culture and known as Eintracht Hall.

Prior to US entry in World War 2, the German-American League for Culture advocated the overthrow of Adolf Hitler’s regime. From 1968 to the present day, Franklin Castle went through a series of owners. The first, James Romano and his family, are largely responsible for the house’s reputation for being haunted. Their encounters with the unseen were widely circulated in the press, and the Northeast Ohio Psychical Research Society even conducted an investigation of the home.

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The Copper Queen’s Lady Julia, and Other Unearthly Guests

Rising above the colorful tapestry of tightly clustered homes and businesses blanketing the Mule Mountains in southeastern Arizona, the Copper Queen Hotel stands as a gilded monument. For over 100 years, it has served as a social anchor for the former mining town of old Bisbee. I first stayed at the Copper Queen Hotel in 2009 while visiting friends from Phoenix. I had heard rumors that the hotel was haunted, but it wasn’t until I returned a few years later that I discover just how much. In the interim, the hotel had published its logbook of ghostly encounters from 2000 to 2008, and the book contains many interesting gems.

Phelps Dodge, owner of the Copper Queen Mining Company, built the grand hotel in a bid to lure investors to the area. It took four years to complete the hotel, and it opened on February 22, 1902. When the copper mines closed in 1975, Bisbee had to find a new focus. It became a cultural destination for artists and tourists. All the while, the copper queen hotel continued to provide a luxury accommodations. Sitting on the balcony, guests can still enjoy a sip of wine while looking out over the town of Old Bisbee nestled in the picturesque mountains. The chill on the back of your neck may be the mountain breeze, or it might be something else…

According to various eyewitness accounts, there are three ghosts stalking the halls. One, only known as “Billy,” is an adolescent boy who was said to have drowned in the San Pedro River. He is drawn to the hotel because his mother was a former employee. “Billy” has rarely been seen, but he is accused of stealing and moving guests’ personal items. Others have heard him laugh or cry.

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Do Tortured Dead Stalk the Beauregard-Keyes House?

An architect from Baltimore named Francois Correjolles designed this historic Greek-Revival style New Orleans home at 1113 Chartres Street in 1826. Over the decades, it has had many residents, including Confederate General Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard, hero of the First Battle of Bull Run. Since 1970, the Keyes Foundation has opened the house for tours and events. Today, visitors come to view its beautiful gardens and author Frances Parkinson Keyes’ rare doll and porcelain teapot collection. Some have gotten more than they bargained for, as rumor has it a number of tormented and restless spirits stalk the house.

The antebellum history of the Beauregard-Keyes House was mostly uneventful, aside from being the birthplace of 19th Century chess champion Paul Morphy. PGT Beauregard lived there after the war, from 1865 to 1868. His sons and he rented the home from its owner, Dominique Lanata. In 1904, a Lanata descendant sold it to Corrado Giacona, who operated a wholesale liquor business there called Giacona & Co.

In the summer of 1908, the Sicilian Mafia tried to extort $3,000 from Giacona, with disastrous results. On June 18, 1908, Corrado and his father Pietro gunned down three mob soldiers on the back gallery. Another was wounded. After a lengthy investigation, New Orleans authorities dropped the charges.

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Video from Plymouth Twilight Lantern Ghost Tour

This paranormal-themed walking tour in Plymouth, Massachusetts is a fun, “spirited” way to learn a little about Plymouth history. The Twilight Lantern Ghost Tour takes you to lesser-known locations, and tells the story of some of the town’s less fortunate residents. For an additional fee, the tour continues inside two historic buildings near the oldest street in America. Check out some video below and then read my review!