Halloween wouldn’t be Halloween without haunted houses. It is estimated that there are over 1,200 haunted houses or other haunted attractions charging admission constructed across the United States in the weeks preceding Halloween. How the folks who came up with this statistic know this, I have no idea.
Prince Vlad Dracula the III of Transylvania, widely believed to be the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s character Count Dracula, made his home at Poenari Castle in Romania. The castle, which is perched precipitously 3,000 feet at the top of a cliff, was originally constructed before Vlad’s time in the 13th century by another ominous sounding guy known as the “Black King.” Interestingly, despite Dracula lore that vampires don’t like crosses, Vlad was a Christian crusader who fought on behalf of the Catholic Church to keep the Muslim-faithed Ottoman Turks out of his county. It is said that Vlad, recognizing the defensability of Poenari Castle, impaled his enemies and forced those who submitted to rebuild the castle. Vlad was assassinated in 1476, his head delivered to Constantinople, and he became posthumously known as Vlad the Impaler.
Known at one time as the “Most Haunted House in America,” the home of Charles Wright Congelier, his wife Lyda, and a servant Essie, was located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1871, Lyda discovered Charles having an affair with Essie and fatally stabbed Charles and lopped off the head of Essie. The house remained vacant until approximately 1900 when the house was purchased by Dr. Adloph C. Brunrichter. Legend has it that Dr. Brunrichter kept to himself and was rarely seen by neighbors, but then on August 12, 1901, the family next door heard a terrifying scream from the house. According to reports, when they ran outside they saw a red explosion-like flash shooting through house, the earth under them trembled, the sidewalks cracked, and all the windows of the house shattered. When officials entered the house to investigate they found a decomposed female body strapped to a bed and five headless young women in basement graves. Dr. Brunrichter, meanwhile, had disappeared.
You may have heard of the Poltergeist curse. The Poltergeist curse is a rumor of a supposed curse attached to the Poltergeist trilogy, a series of movies released between 1982 and 1988 about a haunted development built on a graveyard, and the real-life untimely demise of four cast members who died in the six years between the releases of the first and third films. The rumor is often fueled by the fact that real skeletons were used as props in various scenes of Poltergeist and Poltergeist II. Whether a curse or not, according to snopes.com, the rumor is true.
While it may not be the “Most Haunted House in America” it is certainly one the most famous. The home of Sarah Winchester, widow of William Winchester of Winchester rifle fame, the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California was built over the course of nearly 40 years from 1884 to Sarah’s death in 1922. It is said that a Boston medium told Sarah following the death of her husband and daughter, that she had to leave her home in New Haven, Connecticut and travel West, where she must continuously build a home for herself and the spirits of those who had fallen victim to the Winchester rifle. Over the course of next 40 years, carpenters were hired and worked on the house day and night until it became a seven story mansion, with roughly 160 rooms including 40 bedrooms, 2 ballrooms, 47 fireplaces, 17 chimneys, three elevators, two basements, and doors and stairs which lead nowhere. A recurring motif throughout the house is Sarah’s favorite design, the spider’s web, and the number 13. Spooky.