We’re starting out strong with this doozy. Lennox Castle in Scotland was built in 1812 for John Lennox Kincaid Lennox. He was supposedly a distant relative of the Clan Kincaid, who were descendants of some of the notable ancient Earls of Lennox. Long story a little shorter, the castle was home to an important Scottish family—until it was converted into an asylum for the mentally ill in the 1930s and a hospital during WWII, when the existing mentally ill patients were transferred to other buildings on the property.
Apparently, fights among the patients were common, and in one particularly bad fight, much of the staff (along with uninvolved patients) ran from the hospital. But the rioters were locked inside and, in the end, they significantly damaged the ward. The hospital was vacated by the 1980s and officially closed in 2002. There’s now talk of converting the building into flats.
Oooh, how the mighty have fallen. To say Lynnewood Hall is massive would be a massive understatement. Indeed, it’s the twelfth largest historic house in the U.S. It features a whopping 110 rooms (like a ballroom that can accommodate 1,000 guests) outfitted in neoclassical architecture, and it once held the most important private art collection of European masterpieces in the country.
Unsurprisingly, it’s from the Gilded Age. It was built in 1900 for Peter Arrell Brown Widener, a businessman who became wealthy from investing in public transit and meat packing, among other things. He had three sons (one of whom died on the Titanic) and lived in the house until he passed in 1915. His son Joseph inherited the mansion and lived there until he died in 1943 and no surviving members of his family, even his children, wanted to take on the responsibility of the place. By 1945, Widener’s estate was valued at $98,368,058!
A developer later tried to sell Lynnewood, but the only taker was a fundamentalist preacher, Carl McIntire, who bought the home in 1952 for $192,000. It went into foreclosure in 2006 when the McIntire organization couldn’t pay the mortgage.
Bannerman’s Castle is perched on an island in New York’s Hudson River. Francis Bannerman VI, whose family launched a military surplus business post Civil War, purchased the island in 1900 to use as a warehouse (they bought 90 percent of the weapons the U.S. military captured from the Spanish during the Spanish-American War, for example). He also built a smaller residential structure nearby, but construction ended with his death in 1918. A few later explosions hurt the business further.
When legislation changed in the 20th century, sales rapidly declined, and then a storm devastated the island, destroying the ferry people used to access it. It was pretty much vacant up until the late ’60s, when the state bought it. It was open to the public for tours for about a year, until another fire ravaged it, but the Bannerman Castle Trust recently started holding tours again.
Built in 1929 in Baroque style, the Minxiong Ghost House (aka the Lui family mansion) is a freaky place with a heartbreaking history. Located in the Taiwanese countryside, it’s been abandoned since the 1950s when the family fled abruptly. Like all mysterious places, there’s plenty of lore around the family and why they left the once-beautiful place.
Rumor has it that the family’s maid was having an affair with her employer, Liu Rong-yu, and when the secret became public, she died after jumping down a well (but since she did not live to speak tell the tale, it’s hard to know exactly what happened). A few years later, the property was occupied by members of the Kuomintang of China (KMT), many of whom were also thought to have died of suicide, which exacerbated its reputation as haunted.
Of course, there are also other, far less morbid narratives out there—like the idea that new business required the family to move closer to downtown.
Far more beautiful both in backstory and design than some of the other featured homes here, Casa Sperimentale is an abandoned brutalist treehouse in Fergene, Italy, a coastal town outside of Rome. It’s a fascinating cluster of geometric shapes elevated in the treetops. It was built in the late 1960s by Giuseppe Perugini, his wife Uga De Plaisant, and their son Raynaldo Perugini as a holiday home as well as an experiment to see if it was a livable structure. It’s accessible by a drawbridge staircase to make it feel totally isolated from the rest of the world.
Little information is known about its abandonment, but it probably just fell into disrepair when the architect passed away.
Deep in Missouri’s Ozarks is the Ha Ha Tonka Mansion. Some claim the state park’s name means “laughing waters,” which could either be adorably cheerful or downright creepy, depending on how you see it. This shell of a mansion was the dream of wealthy businessman Robert Snyder. He got to work building a European-style castle on his private lake in 1906, but he soon died in one of Missouri’s first automobile accidents.
His sons continued construction until the mansion was completed in 1920. One of them lived there until he ran out of money due to a string of land-rights lawsuits. Eventually, Snyder’s son was driven off the property and it functioned as a hotel and resort in the mid 20th-century. Eventually the hotel was ruined by a fire and they finally closed down shop. The remains are now a popular site, which you, too, can visit if you get tired of waterskiing and hiking.
Located in Fairfield County, Ohio until recently, the Mudhouse Mansion has a bad reputation. Nobody can seem to agree on when it was built, but it dates back sometime between the 1840s and 1900. Unlike the other abandoned mansions on this list, you sadly can no longer visit it, as the home was demolished in 2015 after not being occupied since the 1930s. The last resident (at least legally speaking) was Lulu Hartman-Mast, and the current owner of the property is her relative Jeanne Mast.
Because there’s so little information about who lived here and when, and because abandoned places tend to ignite the dark side of the imagination, there are tons of legends around alleged atrocities occurring (and consequent hauntings). The sources don’t seem to be very credible, though.
Villa de Vecchi is foreboding, alright. Just consider that looming fog blanket! Located near Lake Como, Italy, the “House of Witches” dates back to 1854-1857, when it was built as a summer house for Count Felix De Vecchi. The family was only able to spend a few years there, as their lives were mired in tragedy right after it was built.
First, the architect died a year after construction. Then in 1862, Count De Vecchi came home to discover his wife murdered and his daughter missing. When he could not find her after a year of searching, he died by suicide. His brother then moved into the home and his family continued to live there until WWII. It’s been vacant since the 1960s, and an avalanche in 2002 wiped out all the houses in the area… except this one. Spooky.
Hegeler Carus Mansion in La Salle, Illinois is one of the few abandoned residences that was actually restored and turned into a landmark. It was built for Henry. C. Hegeler, a zinc manufacturer and publisher, by the same architect who completed the state capitol building and the famous Chicago Water Tower.
The Hegelers had ten children, but two of their daughters died in the same year, with another passing away at age 23. His descendants lived in the seven-floor home until the last one died in 2001. It was only empty for a little while before it was renovated and turned into a museum. Though it has the appearance of “haunted house,” it’s just old and actually has a nice, cheerful energy, some say.
And now for the one I personally find most fascinating: the Los Feliz Murder Mansion. Los Feliz is one of L.A.’s coolest, most livable neighborhoods, but it also has a very dark past with some of history’s most gruesome (and Hollywood-adjacent) murders. There’s the Sowden House, a Lloyd Wright-designed Mayan Revival home rumored to be the murder scene of the Black Dahlia; the home of the Manson murders; and then there’s this place.
It was the seemingly happy home of Dr. Harold Perelson and his family, until the horrific night of December, 6, 1959 when he murdered his wife in her sleep with a ball-peen hammer and attempted to murder his three children before drinking acid to kill himself. Fortunately, his eldest daughter let out a scream when he struck her in the head, waking up the younger children, who then walked into the hallway to find out what was going on. During the commotion, they were all able to flee.
Before the murder-suicide, he was a successful doctor who invented a new type of syringe after investing most of money into its research and production, but he got screwed out of the rights (leading investigators to blame financial problems). Other creepy details include a passage of Dante’s Divine Comedy left open on his bedside table. Two years later, it was sold to the Enriquez family, who used it as a “storage unit,” and their son continued to to do so until he sold it to a couple in 2016 who had plans to fix it up. But it seems to have scared them off because within a few years, it’s on the market again.
If you’ve heard enough about tragic family murders, maybe stop about here.
In November of 1971, John List killed his entire immediate family in their New Jersey home, including his wife, his mother, and two children. He then proceeded to go watch his 15-year-old son play a soccer game, only to shoot and kill him when they got home. Then, he lined up all the bodies (except his mother’s) in the ballroom, which had a signed Tiffany’s stained glass skylight worth at least $100,000 at the time, tuned the radio to a religious station, turned on all the lights, cut out his face from a family photo, and fled.
The bodies and crime scene weren’t discovered until a month later when schoolmates, neighbors, and teachers started wondering where the family was. Meanwhile, List had settled in Denver under a false name, working as a controller at a factory and running a carpool service at his Lutheran church. He met a woman there in 1985 and married her, and wasn’t caught and arrested until 1989. He never took full accountability. A new house was erected on the property a few short years later in 1974 after a suspected arson destroyed the original (but it honestly looks pretty similar to the original and is just an eight-minute drive to the infamous house threatened by “The Watcher“).