Creepy Tales Of Haunted Museums

History buffs love their museums alright. Even better are those in historic buildings, whether they be city structures or historic houses. Here, preservation of history is at its finest: you get to see some awesome artifacts from the past while learning about the history of the building itself. And if you believe in ghosts, you may just get double the fun. While Backpackerverse admits that museums "often catch visitors unprepared" by being haunted, there is a good reason that they are. Collectors Weekly explains that ghosts tend to attach themselves to objects such as furniture, toys, clothing, and other personal items. So while museum buildings may have ghosts, so do the artifacts within.

How do mere items become haunted? The Sentinel & Enterprise's "Ask the Psychic" says "we are energy, and energy is found in living and non-living things." Ever been at a concert or a heated meeting where you can feel the vibe of those present? That's energy, and feeling it is called "psychometry." But before you get wrapped up thinking you are going to suddenly be chased by the skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex like Ben Stiller was in Night at the Museum, have a look at some of America's most intriguing, and beautiful, institutions with plenty of ghosts and ghost stories.

The Whaley House of San Diego

The historic Whaley House was San Diego County's first courthouse and served over time as a ballroom, billiard hall, general store, school, and theater. It was also the residence of the Thomas Whaley family. Ghost and Gravestones confirms that Whaley didn't seem to mind that the land was the site where outlaw Yankee Jim Robinson was once hanged. In 1885, Whaley commenced building his house, which was soon one of the most important buildings in town. It is no wonder there was turmoil in the home: Whaley scuffled with others over the removal of court documents in 1871, and his daughter Violet committed suicide following an ugly divorce in 1885.

Curator June Reading, noted psychic Hans Holzer, television host Regis Philbin, and more have confirmed over the years that there is something to the ghostly energy around the house. The spirits range from people to animals, and San Diego's Save Our Heritage Organisation says that steps nine though 13 leading to the upstairs floor give forth a chill and tightness around the neck when passed over by visitors. There are so many spooks that it's hard to identify them all, seeing as the house was once a public place. Only one, the ghost of Annabelle or Carrie Washburn whom Weird California claims ran into a clothesline and crushed her trachea, is discredited by the museum.

The haunted Cripple Creek District of Colorado

Ask any local in this, the site of Colorado's last major gold boom, and most will say that ghosts run rampant. Most interesting are the District's four museums, each with their own brand of ghosts. At the Victor Lowell Thomas Museum in the city of Victor, Old School Paranormal  identified a young boy, Jake, who wanders around making noises. The spectacles of the museum's namesake, radio personality and world-traveler Lowell Thomas, tend to move from their usual place on display. And a small girl can be heard talking upstairs. Five miles away is the old Teller County Jail in Cripple Creek, which the Gazette verifies has two ghosts: a man who fell from the upper balcony and whose blood will not wash off the floor, and Olga Knuston, who went insane and died in her cell.

Nearby is the Old Homestead, one of a handful of brothel museums in America. The spirits of the ladies of the house linger still, according to Legends of America, which says visitors and staff often feel like they are being watched. Most intriguing is the Cripple Creek District Museum, with five historic buildings full of artifacts. They include the top portion of James Roberts' skull, who was killed in 1900. Museum docents have long seen and heard ghosts in each building. Mountain Peak Paranormal, which began investigating the museum in 2009, even recorded voices using special equipment. 

Idaho State Penitentiary ghosts

Professional assassin Harry Orchard planted a fatal bomb in the Cripple Creek District but wound up in the Idaho State Penitentiary after assassinating Idaho Governor Frank Stuenenberg. Orchard was sentenced to life and died at the prison in 1954, says Colorado Restless Native. Orchard's spirit and plenty of other notorious ghosts have stayed on at the prison. Idaho Haunted Houses reports that the pen, which operated for over a century, exudes "feelings of unexplainable sadness, high levels of dread and anxiety," and other creepy stuff like "whispers and flickering lights."

One of the most famous ghosts is Ray Snowden, "Idaho's Jack the Ripper" who was convicted of stabbing a woman to death after she refused to submit to rape. Snowden also admitted to murdering two others, according to Definition. Possibly because it took him over 15 minutes to die when he was hanged in 1957, Snowden's death rattles can still be heard near the location of the old gallows today. The Travel Channel verifies that guides and guests alike hear strange sounds and can sense "dark entities" as they walk among the old cell blocks, especially near the solitary confinement cell they call "Siberia."

Ghosts of the Lee-Baker-Hodges House

According to Ghost Research, shortly after Carrollton, Illinois was platted, Samuel Lee purchased a two-room building on the public square and built onto it. After Lee died in 1829, subsequent occupants included his wife and two children, Mrs. Lee's new husband, the family of Charles Drury Hodges, N.D. Vedder, and a host of renters after the house was converted to an office building. Illinois Haunted Houses reports that by the 1970's the old house was in disrepair. An historic preservation saved the building, and was able to turn it into a museum. And that's when the hauntings began.

The ethereal beings at the museum include children and a crying baby, a woman who occasionally appears in an upstairs mirror, mysterious shadows, and more. There are ghostly lights, a spinning wheel that turns by itself, and music can be heard near a Victrola on display. Other sounds include mysterious voices, footsteps, and creepy knocking sounds that occur three times in a row. There are even recordings of the phenomenon, which include the sound of a child's voice in the haunted coal shoot room. If it's something you want to experience in person, Bump in the Night offers occasional evening tours at the house.

The Herzstein Memorial Museum

Clayton, New Mexico has had a busy history. Most notable is the hanging of outlaw Black Jack Ketchum. His executioners had trouble with the noose, causing Ketchum's head to snap off when he dropped, according to the Vintage News. Ketchum's ghost is said to hang around Clayton's courthouse and even his old jail cell, but KCBD reports that several buildings in town are haunted as well. The Ecklund Hotel, for instance, is a former gambling hall and saloon haunted by a hotel maid named Irene. Clayton is indeed considered to be the "most haunted city in the state."

Clayton's museum, the Herzstein Memorial Museum, is housed in the 1919 Methodist Episcopal Church. Visitors can see the original stained glass windows and kitchen, as well as an amazing array of artifacts from the Hersztein family and others. Antique furnishings, Native American artifacts, and early day photographs apparently are still attached to Clayton residents of the past. The museum also has at least one ghost, described by Clayton's city website as "an older 'sassy woman.'" New Mexico's official website offers more information, explaining that in 2018 paranormal investigators heard "strange, unexplained noises" in the museum such as footsteps on the stairs and poltergeists who knocked items over.

The Bird Cage Theatre of Tombstone

Opened in 1881, Tombstone, Arizona's best-known theater was open all day and all night, year-round. At any given time, the place was filled with floozies, gamblers, gun-fighters, and drunks. According to the Travel Channel, fights and murders were the norm as the town's notorious characters battled it out amongst themselves. One of the best-remembered of these was the time a prostitute named Gold Dollar stabbed another woman, Margarita, to death. Gold Dollar was set free when the knife she used could not be found, but several decades later it was discovered behind the theater and is now on display.

The building's last owners, Joe and Minnie Bignon, closed up shop and left town just a few years later. For decades the theater sat boarded up and closed off the world until 1934, when it was purchased and found to have an amazing collection of original furnishings and artifacts inside. Now a fantastic museum, the Bird Cage remains home to the 26 ghosts of people who were killed there, including the former shady ladies and men wearing cowboy hats whose laughter and music can be heard in the night. AZ Weekend, which calls the Bird Cage "one of the country's most haunted places," reports the theatre has been featured regularly on ghost-hunting shows since 2006. You can even take tours and photos, if you want to try and capture a ghost sighting yourself.

Claude Monet haunts the Cleveland Museum of Art

In 1916, philanthropists successfully worked to construct the Cleveland Museum of Art, a rambling neoclassic structure with oodles of galleries for enjoying paintings by some of the greatest masters of our time. It wasn't until 2015, however, that staff were assembling a special exhibit dedicated to Claude Monet that museum director Jeffrey Strean took a photo of the work in progress—and realized he wasn't the only one overseeing the project. Above the group, casually leaning over the balcony, was an older man with a long white beard and wearing a hat, who bore an uncanny resemblance to the famed artist. The picture was published in Today, drawing much interest.

Monet's spirit is not the only one to appear in the museum. Mental Floss reports that former museum director William Mathewson Millikan, who died in 1978, has been spotted wandering around with a folder under his arm, as well as Jean-Gabriel du Theil whose likeness was painted by Jacques André Joseph Aved, and who apparently enjoys gazing at the painting of himself. Electrical issues in the gallery space where the painting hung stopped when the artwork was put into storage. Interim director Leslie Cade put it this way in 2016: "The museum has had so many people come and go that they are still here telling their stories, and every now and then they let us know they are here."

Lizzie Borden's House: forty winks or forty whacks?

"Lizzie Borden took an ax, and gave her mother 40 whacks; when she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41." This sinister rhyme seems to follow the legend of Lizzie, who was tried—and acquitted—of killing her parents, Andrew and Abby, at the family home in 1892. Historians, however, continue to debate whether Lizzie was indeed a cold-blooded murderess, or a poor, "orphaned heiress." The Borden house is now a museum in Fall River, Massachusetts, but there is more to it than that: guests can also stay overnight in the house, complete with its eerie history and grievous ghosts.

Insider verifies that museum staff and guests alike have seen apparitions decked out in Victorian outfits. Sometimes, you can hear conversations going on in empty rooms, doors opening and closing, footsteps, and the distinct sounds of someone weeping. Long Island Paranormal Investigators also reports the scent of flowers, flickering lights, and the indentations of a body in one of the rooms. Some even say they have seen the ghost of Lizzie herself, "frantically searching for a place to dispose [of] the murder weapon" in the basement. While the idea of staying the night in the Borden house sounds rather fun, one has to wonder just how much sleep one will actually get.

The U.S.S. Lexington of Corpus Christi

If staying overnight in a haunted house isn't your thing, how about a haunted ship? The U.S.S. Lexington's history begins in 1943, when the ship was first called the U.S.S. Cabot. The name was changed when another ship of the same name sunk during WWII. During its time in the water, the newly named ship spent a collective 21 months in battle and was reported sunk four times by the Japanese, but it kept going. "Tokyo Rose," a group of Japanese radio broadcasters spreading propaganda, called the U.S.S. Lexington "The Blue Ghost." The Lexington remained resilient, destroying over 800 enemy crafts. Sometime after being decommissioned in 1991, the ship sailed to Corpus Christi, Texas and became a museum.

These days, a "terrifying tour" includes over 80 "compartments," as well as a chance to see Lady Lex's ghostly inhabitants. One of them, according to Visit Corpus Christi, is a guy identified as Charlie, who wears a naval uniform and enjoys leading the tour. And although overnighters have been welcome for over 20 years, the night time stays were made more comfortable in 2018 when the Coastal Bend Community Foundation donated $21,000 for 300 new mattresses on the ship, according to 3 News.

 Still guests should expect "extra" staff members during their stay. The Caller Times identifies them as a sailor who helps lost guests, another who explains how the engine room operates before "vanishing into thin air," and plenty of "ghostly touches and shadowy figures roaming the decks."

Abram's Delight Museum

With such a whimsical name as "Abram's Delight," what could go wrong? Colonel Washington's Frontier Forts explains this grand home in Winchester was built in 1754 by Abraham Hollingsworth after he spied some Shawnee natives camping beside a beautiful spring. Declaring it "a delight to behold," Hollingsworth traded the Natives for the property. With his son Isaac, he began building a solid, expansive stone house large enough to host meetings by the local Quakers. The Hollingsworth family would occupy "the mansion" for five generations. Nearly two hundred years later, the City of Winchester purchased the house and opened it as a museum in 1961.

The Hollingsworth's were a genteel pioneer family, but the spirit of one of them, Mary, tends to knock over vases and furniture, says Virginia Haunted Houses. Sometimes, glass can even be heard breaking but nothing is found to have been damaged. Mary, whom Haunted Places says died in the house in 1917, once was said to have even proposed marriage to another woman. She also sometimes dressed in men's clothing while operating a chuck wagon during the Civil War. These days, Mary's spirit plays with the appliances, turns up the volume on the stereo, and likes the turn on the water in the faucets. Outside, a ghostly male figure in Quaker clothing is sometimes seen on the front steps of the house.

The ghost of Elinore Knott at the Dumas Brothel

In 1890, the imposing Dumas Brothel was built on busy Mercury Street in Butte, Montana. At three stories including the basement, the Dumas was at one time the longest-running free standing brothel in U.S. history. The Dumas finally closed in 1982, leaving a long list of shady ladies who worked there over time. One of them, madam Elinore Knott, never left. According to the Dumas Brothel's website, Elinore became the proprietress of the Dumas in 1950. Five years later, the madam was found dead in her second-floor room. The coroner ruled the cause of her death as "coronary occlusion," but most everyone agreed, including those who knew her, that Elinore committed suicide after her lover failed to show up as expected.

Elinore's spirit remained at the Dumas. In 2006, the Montana Standard interviewed Rudy Giecek, who purchased the building from the last madam, Ruby Garrett, and turned the bordello into a museum. Giecek said he began "seeing furniture rearranged, unexplained photographs and several sightings" of the ladies who once graced the fancy bordello. Giecek also found part of a diary, which he used to write Venus Alley, a book about Elinore and other women who worked at the Dumas. Today, according to Mel Magazine, people still believe Elinore continues to haunt the hallways of the iconic brothel museum.

Zak Bagan's Haunted Museum

Ghosts who haunt their former homes aside, some museums actively seek and display haunted artifacts from other places. At Zak Bagan's Haunted Museum in Las Vegas, you can gamble with your senses as you peruse thousands of haunted artifacts in a haunted, circa 1938 building. Yes, Bagan specializes in collecting artifacts from crime scenes and haunted places. The place is so creepy that Narcity recommends packing sage when you visit and notes that you have to sign a waiver before entering. Some of the artifacts are so "haunted they can follow people even after they depart the museum."

So what is there to see? Twisted hallways lead to creepy rooms which the Travel Channel reports are full of dolls (including a "Forest of Dead Dolls"), a haunted wine box, skulls and jars of teeth, cryptic doodles by Charles Manson, memorabilia including an entire brick wall from the St. Valentine's Day massacre, and yes, Dr. Jack Kevorkian's death van, which Began purchased in 2015.