Sights to Die For
Usually, when a horrible crime is committed inside a house, that building is torn down and the community tries to move on. That’s not the case here. These buildings all served as the locations for infamous crimes and are still standing. Some even offer tours.
1. Villisca Axe Murders House
This case is not very well-known today, but it did make plenty of headlines in the first half of the 20th century as one of the most violent crimes in the country. On June 9, 1912, the entire Moore family plus two house guests (eight people in all) were butchered with an axe in their home in Villisca, Iowa. Multiple people were investigated as possible suspects (including a senator, a reverend and a suspected serial killer) and several of them were even charged, but all were eventually acquitted. The crime was never solved.
The house itself became quite a popular attraction. It underwent renovations in the 90s and was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Since then it has operated like a museum. It offers standard tours and those looking for a more extreme experience can even arrange to spend the night in the house.
2. Mercer Williams House
Originally known as the Mercer House, it was renamed when it was purchased by prominent Savannah, Georgia resident Jim Williams. He used to enjoy throwing lavish parties at his estate which made the Mercer Williams house quite a local sensation. In 1981, though, the house became an even bigger attraction after Williams was accused of killing his assistant, Danny Hansford, inside the house. He claimed self-defense, asserting that his assistant would have killed him instead.
Four different juries were used in the trial over a period of almost 9 years. The first three were dismissed or their decision overturned for various reasons until a fourth one found Williams not guilty in 1989. Even so, Williams himself would die in the house just a few months after the trial. Story goes that he died in the exact same spot where he would have been if Danny killed him, but the truth is that he died in a different room altogether. The story gained a lot more notoriety after it was turned into a New York Times bestseller titled Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. The book was later turned into a movie directed by Clint Eastwood. The house itself is still there today and operates as a museum.
3. Amityville House
Probably the most famous house on this list and, oddly enough, not necessarily for the gruesome murders that took place here. In 1974, Ronald DeFeo killed six members of his family in the house. Shocking, but not really what gave the house on 112 Ocean Avenue its notoriety (at least not directly). That wouldn’t come until the next family moved in (the Lutz family). They left after spending less than a month inside, claiming that the house was haunted. This eventually led to the 1977 publishing of The Amityville Horror: A True Story, a book by Jay Anson that focused on the experience of the Lutz family in the house, not the actual mass murder but, nevertheless, was promoted as a real story.
Since then there have been detractors who criticized this approach and lawsuits were abound regarding the truthfulness of the accounts provided by the Lutz family. All other subsequent owners have stated that nothing weird has ever happened in the decades following the event. The book also spawned a lengthy film franchise which includes 13 movies and another one on the way. Suffice to say that the Amityville horror house is pretty well-known, but don’t expect the locals to be too thrilled about this. They have tried to do everything possible in order to forget the whole ordeal, including renovating the house and changing the address.
4. The Blind Beggar
If you’re looking for an infamous murder spot that also has cold beer, the Blind Beggar pub in London is the place for you. It is located in the Whitechapel district of London, an area typically associated with one man only – Jack the Ripper. However, he’s got nothing to do with this one. The Blind Beggar was also frequented by the Kray Twins, England’s most notorious gangsters who dominated organized crime in London during the 50s and 60s. It is here that Ronnie Kray shot and killed George Cornell while he was sitting at the bar.
5. Ratcliffe Highway
While we’re in London, we might as well visit the Ratcliffe Highway, as well, home of the notorious but unimaginatively named Ratcliffe Highway murders. It’s not actually a highway, it is a 1.4-mile long road in the middle of London with a very sordid past. Back in December 1811, 2 attacks took place on this road just 12 days apart that resulted in 7 deaths. Even though violent robberies were relatively commonplace at this time and place, the case still outraged many people because the first victims (the Marr family) were prominent members of the community.
There was a demand for swift vengeance and a man by the name of John Williams was soon charged with the murders. He committed suicide in prison before the trial which many took as a clear sign of guilt. Others, however, have doubted whether his suicide might have been “assisted” by others who wanted to close the case. His body was put on display and taken through a huge procession through town.
6. Sydney Street
Last one in London. It would be a shame to visit the city and not see the location of one of the most notorious gunfights in the city’s history. If you want to get the full experience, you should probably visit Houndsditch first since that is where the story starts. On December 16, 1910, a jeweler’s shop in Houndsditch was being robbed by a gang of criminals when a group of officers came to investigate, having been alerted by a neighbor. In the ensuing struggle, three officers were killed. Although no members of the gang were captured on the scene, a comprehensive search was undertaken and many of them were caught within the following days.
Roughly 2 weeks after the Houndsditch murders, police got a tip that the remaining criminals, including the boss, a man known as Peter the Painter, were located in a house on 100 Sydney Street. Wanting to make sure that the criminals, established by this point as heavily-armed Latvian anarchists, had no chance of escape, the police cleared out all civilians and 200 armed officers surrounded the building. However, the criminals had plenty of guns and ammo so a 6-hour gunfight ensued. Eventually, the house caught fire and when the fire department eventually stepped in to subdue the flames, the police found the bodies of two gang members inside. Peter the Painter had somehow escaped and was never properly identified or heard from again. Nowadays, people aren’t even sure if he really existed.
The gunfight made headline news, obviously, and was thoroughly documented on camera as showed below. Another noteworthy addition to the story was a young politician on the rise who involved himself in the ordeal. Highlighted in the photo above, then-Home Secretary Winston Churchill.
7. Kreischer Mansion
Located in Staten Island, this old Victorian house has quite a sordid history, both old and new. Built in the early 19th century by Balthazar Kreischer for his sons, this mansion had a counterpart which was destroyed in a fire, also killing the younger Kreisher brother and his family. More recently, though, the Kreischer mansion was the location for a mob hit. Back in 2006, the caretaker, Joseph Young, killed a man called Robert McKelvey on orders from the Bonanno crime family.
8. Gardette-LaPrete House
Also known as the House of the Turk, this home on Dauphine Street in New Orleans was once the location of a very gruesome and mysterious massacre. The owner of the house, Jean Baptiste LaPrete, would often rent out the home when he wasn’t using it. His tenant in the 1870s was a wealthy Turk who was accompanied by a harem of servants and soon became famous for hosting lavish and perverted parties. Stories soon started spreading that the Turk was a brother or some other kind of relative of a sultan who stole treasures and servants and escaped to America.
And, if that story is true, then it’s possible that the ending is true, as well – one day a passer-by noticed blood coming from inside the house. When he went in to investigate, he found that everybody inside had been slaughtered (and, according to the story, the Turk had been buried alive in the garden). An event filled with this much mystery and intrigue is bound to spawn countless legends. Pirates were blamed for the massacre by some. Apparently, a pirate ship docked into port just the day before and the pirates heard of the Turk’s treasures and came to plunder them. Others, however, have always maintained that it was the Sultan who sought revenge.
9. LaLaurie Mansion
Just a few years ago, this 200-year old mansion in the heart of New Orleans (still) wouldn’t have enjoyed the notoriety it has today. However, after being featured prominently in the third season of American Horror Story, the house and its infamous owner Delphine LaLaurie (played by Kathy Bates in the show) have become sensations.
Delphine LaLaurie was a wealthy and prominent Louisiana socialite who also enjoyed torturing and killing her slaves. It’s impossible to say exactly how many people were killed in the house, but when word of her depravity got out, an angry mob sacked the mansion. The house remained in ruins for the next decades, but was never torn down. At one point in time before 1888 (date unknown), the house was completely restored and, since then, was used as a store, a bar, a school, a conservatory and a luxury apartments building. Nowadays, the house is in private hands but tours to see the infamous LaLaurie Mansion are common. Oddly enough, the house was actually owned by Nicolas Cage between 2007 and 2009.
10. Borden House
Lizzie Borden needs no introduction. The murder investigation of her parents and her subsequent trial made headlines all over the country and it is still one of the most notorious crimes in U.S. history today. Although she was eventually acquitted of all murder charges, they still followed Borden all of her life and branded her a killer. Despite this, she refused to leave her home and lived in the same house until her death.
More recently, the Borden house has been opened to the public as a museum and before that it even functioned as a bed & breakfast.