BOO! Haunted Properties in the Records of the National Register of Historic Places

Today’s post is by John LeGloahec, Archivist in the Electronic Records Division at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

This post is part of an ongoing “road trip” featuring records from the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and National Historic Landmarks Program Records, 2013 – 2017 (National Archives ID 20812721), a series within Record Group 79: Records of the National Park Service.

Halloween Decorations on front of House No. 221, Pedro Miguel, Canal Zone. October 28, 1953.
Photograph of Halloween Decorations (National Archives Identifier 202803005).

It’s October, the air is crisp. The leaves are turning. Children everywhere are thinking about their Halloween costumes and planning out the best routes in their neighborhoods and where the best candy awaits them. The records of the National Register of Historic Places holds a number of properties that contain the search term “Halloween.” There are also a number of sites that are purportedly “haunted” on the National Register. You can also tour a number of “Ghost Towns,” including the New Mexico SP Shakespeare Ghost Town (National Archives Identifier 77847316) in Lordsburg, New Mexico.

Image of front porch of house, Rhyolite Ghost Town.
Death Valley Scenic Byway – Rhyolite Ghost Town (National Archives Identifier 7717964).

“At the present time, the standing remains of this flourishing mining town consist of five buildings: The general merchandise store, assay office, mail station, Stratford Hotel, and Grant House Dining Room and Saloon. However, dozens of foundation outlines dot the brush covered hills and level land surrounding these standing buildings, and many have been identified through research . . . The consistency of construction in Shakespeare gives the site added architectural importance, since nearly all the buildings are of the same style and period. While there are traces of the territorial or Greek revival influence in the existing buildings, the far stronger influence is simple Mexican village style, perhaps because of Shakespeare’s geographic location and early history . . . The old Shakespeare cemetery contains the remains of many of the early miners, settlers, and desperados.”

“An indication of the town’s unique niche in the history of mining is the claim that, while ore was indeed taken out of the mines, Shakespeare and its surrounding mining district probably saw more mining companies, per ton of ore actually produced, than any other piece of ground in the world.”

JFK with children in costume in the oval office.
Halloween Visitors to the Oval Office. Caroline Kennedy, President Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, Jr. White House, Oval Office (National Archives Identifier 194260).

If haunted houses are more your thing – even the White House may have Abraham Lincoln wandering the halls – you can find many of them on the National Register, including the New Jersey SP Seven Stars Tavern in Woodstown, New Jersey (National Archives Identifier 135815771). “The tavern has also become the focus of several ghost stories. In his Old Inns and Taverns of West Jersey, Charles S. Boyer states that “probably more ghost stories are woven around the old Seven Stars Tavern than any similar building in the state.” At least three separate tales persist about the tavern. One of the legends attributes the ghost to Peter Louderback who is keeping watch over his buried treasure. Another tells of the tavern being haunted by a river pirate whose head was twisted around by the Devil after a visit to the tavern. The final story, which may have been an actual occurrence, claims that the tavern is haunted by a local Tory alleged to have been hanged from a third floor window in the tavern.”

View of exterior of building and tour group at night.
Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Route – Haunted Tours at McPike Mansion (National Archives Identifier 7720366).

The McPike Mansion, seen above, also known as Illinois SP Mount Lookout (National Archives Identifier 28893527), was “built in 1869 for Henry Guest McPike . . . has sixteen rooms on three floors. The below-grade limestone-walled basement is compartmented into 6 chambers including a vaulted wine cellar. The entire front block of the house has round-head windows, including the three dormers in the concave-slope mansard roof (the center dormer is Palladian in style).”

“John Haley McPike, the last of the McPike family to live in the house, had electricity and steam heat installed; radiators were made of solid brass. Years of vacancy (since the 1950’s) have taken their toll, but the house is still structurally sound, albeit endangered.”  “Henry Guest McPike came to Alton when he was a young man of 22; he soon rose to prominence and his influence was widely felt in the city; during his lifetime no one in Alton was more closely involved in the city’ s business, political, cultural , industrial , horticultural and literary interests. In addition, McPike had state and national political connections. He was mayor of Alton from 1897 to 1891 . . . A horticulturalist of some note, having developed the mammoth McPike grape, he was a charter member of the oldest Horticultural Society (from 1853) in the State of Illinois, and was president of the Society in 1876 . . . McPike became a Republican when that party was founded and was a leader in the Republican Party for the rest of his life . He was a friend and associate of Abraham Lincoln and other leaders of the party and was a prominent figure in state and national conventions. In November 1860, he accompanied Alton’s U. S. Senator Lyman Trumbull to Springfield where he was with Lincoln in the telegraph office when Lincoln received word of his election to the first term of his presidency.”

Exterior view of home with Halloween decorations.
Halloween decorated home in New Ulm, Minnesota (National Archives Identifier 558158).

You can also see some great Halloween decorations in New Ulm, Minnesota, The New Ulm Commercial Historic District (National Archives Identifier 93201413) “encompasses the core of the central business district of New Ulm, a city of 13,500 people in south-central Minnesota. The district is located on a natural terrace about five blocks west of the Minnesota River.”

“Only two properties predate 1862, when much of New Ulm was destroyed during two battles with Dakota Indians – part of the larger conflict that enveloped southwest Minnesota now referred to as the U.S. Govemment-Dakota Conflict. Most buildings were built between the early 1880s, after a cyclone swept through town, and 1948, as the city’s businesspeople responded to better economic times following the Depression and World War II.”

There’s also the old Jackson Post Office in Kentucky (National Archives Identifier 123845965), where “on Halloween night in 1913, a fire on Broadway destroyed thirty-six buildings, including the post office. Its 1916 replacement provided space not only for the postal service, but additional federal agencies.” So perhaps there are some displaced postal workers trying to deliver the mail to residents of Jackson.

Lest you think that only abandoned properties may be haunted, check out President Ronald Reagan making sure those noises he hears on Air Force One are not paranormal. Happy Halloween everyone!

7/10/1986 President Reagan reading "Air Force One is Haunted" aboard Air Force One.
President Ronald Reagan Reading “Air Force One Is Haunted” Aboard Air Force One (National Archives Identifier 75854923).

Click on any of the hyperlinked National Archives ID numbers above to open the fully digitized records in the National Archives Catalog. The NRHP files include additional documents, photographs, drawings, and maps.