5 Underground Railroad Hauntings From a Tragic Past

Updated July 1, 2021
Underground tunnels led from rivers to safehouses

The scary hauntings associated with underground railroads are tales of desperation, betrayal, and terror. Runaway slaves moving along a network of secret stations sometimes died during their hopeful journey to freedom. The ghosts of these tormented souls often haunt the places where their escape came to a tragic end.

Prospect Place, Trinway, OH

Also known as Trinway Mansion, Prospect Place is a house haunted by those who lived on the farm and the slaves who were trying to escape to freedom. The lineup of ghosts is very impressive. The basement of the mansion was a stopover for runaway slaves on their way to Canada.

The spectral cast includes:

  • A bounty hunter haunts the barn where farmhands hanged him.
  • A sick little girl fell to her death from an upstairs bedroom window. It was winter, and the ground was frozen solid, so her body was kept in the basement until a spring burial was possible. It's said the child wanders through the house and those who venture into the basement often hear her crying.
  • The child's mother sat in the basement by her body until she developed pneumonia and died. Her spirit can often be found in the little girl's bedroom or the basement.
  • Anna Adams-Cox, an abandoned wife, searches the property for her missing husband.
  • The missing husband, George, is seen roaming the house.
  • A slave, who died in the house, often stands watch over the little girl's body in the basement.

Hannah House, Indianapolis, IN

Indiana state legislator Arthur Hannah built a 24 room mansion in the mid-1800s. The Hannah House haunting soon began after runaway slaves hiding in the basement overturned a lantern. Several became trapped by the fire and burned to death. It's been reported the upstairs rooms reek of the smell of dead bodies coming from the attic. The presence of the stench earned the house a less than pleasant nickname, the house that reeks of death.

It's speculated that the burned slaves were hidden in the attic until they could be buried. However, one story claims the slaves were quickly buried in the dirt floor of the basement. The slaves never reached their freedom and many believe are still lingering in the basements and other rooms of the house. Moans and wails echo through the house while doors open and close by themselves.

Governor's Mansion, Dover, DE

The Woodburn Governor's Mansion was at one time a station for runaway slaves. A tunnel led from the basement to the St. Jones River, affording a secret passage to the Safehouse. People have reported seeing ghosts ever since the mansion was built in 1790.

Delaware Governor's residence, Woodburn

Some of those reports include:

  • An elderly man dressed in colonial period style clothing, complete with a powdered wig
  • Female child with candle
  • A screaming slave who died when he hid inside a hollow tree and his head became stuck
  • Various apparitions and sounds, such as visitors experiencing a tugging on their clothes, shadows running, and the sound of chains rattling in the basement

Hanson Home, Alton, IL

The town of Alton is considered one of the most haunted places in America. The Hanson Home, which later became the Enos Sanitarium, is known for a variety of paranormal activities. When it was built in 1857, Nathaniel Hanson had underground tunnels and rooms carved out of the bed of limestone. This resulted in numerous rooms throughout the tunnel system.

Many slaves died trying to make it across the Mississippi River. Others succumbed to disease, starvation and injuries once they arrived at the Hanson Home. It's believed their restless spirits haunt the building and tunnels. The building was restored and turned into an apartment building. Many of the residents report hearing phantom footfalls and disembodied screams. Toilets often flush on their own and strange odors permeate the apartments with no obvious source.

Hickory Hill, Harrisburg, IL

Claimed to be the state's most haunted place, Hickory Hill was once an underground railroad station and dubbed Old Slave House. This station wasn't like the others. The owner, John Hart Crenshaw, operated a reverse underground station. Instead of aiding slaves to freedom, he tricked them into his home and sold them back into slavery.

Slave catchers brought slaves to him and Crenshaw sold the unsuspecting runaways to the salt mine owners. Slaves were often lured away from plantations and farms on the promise of freedom only to find themselves victims of Crenshaw's greed. He built an underground tunnel leading from the basement of his house to the river so the slaves could be transported in and out undetected. The back of his house featured a larger entranceway into the basement, where entire wagons could roll inside to be loaded and unloaded without anyone seeing.

Cells with bars were discovered in the third floor attic. Some of the ghostly sounds and experiences include:

  • Moans and wailing
  • The rattling of chains
  • Cold drafts
  • Cold hands touching a visitor's face or arm
  • Entities brushing against visitors

McPike Mansion, Alton IL

Another mansion in Alton, Illinois, the McPike Mansion is said to be the most haunted house in Alton. The McPike Mansion is believed to have been a stopover along the underground railroad. Built in 1869, the mansion has been featured in numerous paranormal investigative TV shows. The house has many ghostly residents, that include Native American spirits. A cook makes herself known in the kitchen and the ghost of a dead woman has been seen in a bathtub. There are apparitions of servants and many visitors claim to have seen the spirits of Eleanor and Henry McPike.

Hands down, the cellar has the most paranormal activity of the mansion. Runaway slaves traveling the underground railroad were often hidden in basements and cellars. Some of the ghostly residents have shown up in photos, such as balls of light, figures peering out windows, and various sizes of orbs.

Find a Haunted Underground Railroad Location Near You

Operating under the threat of death in order to free slaves meant the locations of many underground railroad stations were lost to secrecy. Some were uncovered during renovations, while others were recalled by local families. Many hiding places were the scene of tragic deaths, terror, and raw emotions. It isn't surprising that these underground railroad locations have active spirits and residual hauntings.

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5 Underground Railroad Hauntings From a Tragic Past