The world learned about a German Jewish girl named Anne Frank through her own candid words preserved in a personal diary that miraculously survived the Holocaust.
Sadly, Anne did not survive.
But her words have lived on for generations, as has the very house where she and her Jewish family hid for 2 years before being found by the Nazis.
The house is located on the Prinsengracht canal in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The front part of the building is now a memorial museum for Anne and the victims; and the back secret annex - where they hid - has been preserved as it was during World War II.
Opened as a public museum on May 3, 1960, the building and annex have been restored with period artifacts. Millions of people have now toured the site to pay tribute to Anne, her family and four other Jewish people who eventually perished in Nazi concentration camps after their hiding spot was betrayed.
The house and the twin house next door, were built by Dirk van Delft in the year 1635. The building was originally a private residence, then a warehouse, then a manufacturing company for household appliances, and in the 1930′s it was used as a production place for piano rolls. In December of 1940, Anne’s father Otto Frank moved the offices of the spice company he worked for into the building known as Prinsengracht 263.
On a cold mid-November night in 1959, this unassuming farmhouse in rural Kansas was the location of the brutal murders of 4 members of the Clutter family.
The case – and the house – became infamous after flamboyant American writer Truman Capote took an interest in the homicides and decided to visit the small town where the crime took place in Holcomb, Kansas.
Capote was so taken with the murders that he embarked on a 6 year-long journey of chronicling the story and the capture, prosecution, & execution of the perpetrators Richard “Dick” Hickock and Perry Edward Smith.
Capote’s odyssey resulted in his opus magnum: In Cold Blood, which later became a major motion picture in 1967.
The house at the center of it all sits at the end of Oak Street on 7 acres of pastoral farmland.
The original farmstead was called “River Valley Farm” and locals still refer to the property as such. The current 2-story farmhouse was built in 1948 for $40,000 by Herb Clutter in order to house his family of six.
If you haven’t read the book or seen the original movie about the Clutter murders (or the more recent 2005 Hollywood film Capote), let me fill you in on the crime.
The Wikipedia description of Madame LaLaurie begins like this:
Marie Delphine LaLaurie (née Macarty or Maccarthy, c. 1775 – c. 1842), more commonly known as Madame LaLaurie, was a Louisiana-born socialite and serial killer known for her involvement in the torture and murder of black slaves.
And this is the New Orleans house where it all took place…
If you are a fan of the hit show American Horror Story, you might be familiar with this woman. Madame LaLaurie is played this season by none other than the superbly wicked Kathy Bates – whom we all love and remember as the deranged Annie Wilkes from the movie Misery. The writers of AHS: Coven (season 3) have mined the real life history of the sadistic socialite killer to depict on the small screen.
Here’s what you need to know:
Born in New Orleans in or around 1775, Delphine LaLaurie married three times over the course of her life and was a prominent socialite in the upper echelons of New Orleans society.
Madame Marie Delphine LaLaurie
She was long rumored to be abusive to her household slaves – above and beyond what was even acceptable back then in the age of slavery – but the community largely turned a blind eye due to Madame’s wealth and social standing.
All that changed on the night of April 10, 1834 when fire fighters responded to a blaze at the LaLaurie mansion on Royal Street.
LaLaurie House in a 1906 postcard
The rescuers discovered an elderly slave woman chained to the kitchen stove. She admitted starting the fire in an attempted suicide to avoid the fate of the slaves in the room on the upper floor. Sure enough, the rescuers found bound slaves in the third floor slave quarters who exhibited evidence of malicious long-term torture.
This Merion Pennsylvania English-style coaching inn dates back to 1704. Famous guests include none other than George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Edgar Allen Poe, and General “Mad Anthony” Wayne, for whom the place was named.
The General Wayne Inn was originally known as the William Penn Inn, then it became the Wayside Inn, then Tunis Ordinary, then Streepers Tavern before settling on its current name in 1793.
Murders at this location date back to the Revolutionary war when Patriot soldiers killed and burned a Hessian soldier and buried his remains in the cellar. There have been literally hundreds of recorded accounts of paranormal sightings in the following centuries.
Due to its propensity for hosting famous guests and infamous spirits, The General Wayne Inn was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
Fast forward to the 1990′s and all hell broke loose at the General Wayne. In the early 1990′s, there were frequent sightings of a beheaded soldier – whose disembodied head often appeared to employees on a pantry shelf. Ew.
Have you ever seen the movie – or read the book - Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil? Did you know that the story was based on true events?
And true events mean there is a real live house behind the fiction.
This is that house.
The home’s official name is the Mercer Williams House.
It is located at 429 Bull Street and stands at the southwest end of Monterey Square, in the mystical southern city of Savannah, Georgia.
It is now run as a museum house, so anyone from the public can visit this showpiece.
Here’s the back story:
Construction began on this stately brick home in 1860 but was interrupted by the American Civil War. It was designed by architect John S. Norris for Confederate General Hugh Weedon Mercer, but changed ownership in 1868 and was completed that same year for new owner John Wilder.
It changed hands again in the twentieth century and was used for a period of time as the Savannah Shriners Alee Temple. The grand house was vacant for a decade in the 1960′s until it was rescued by a fellow named Jim Williams - one of Savannah’s earliest and most ardent champions of historic restoration & preservation.
Williams was an antiques dealer and art collector. He restored the Mercer house to be his home and professional office, furnishing it with exquisite museum quality pieces.
Here’s where it gets juicy…. Williams had a young assistant named Danny Hansford. Danny was widely known to be, um, Savannah’s most popular male escort. Anyway, in 1981 he was found shot dead in the study of the Mercer House.
Mr. Williams claimed self defense.