In central Indiana there sits a house whose history is so dark it spills into the present. The Hannah House is today considered one of America’s most haunted mansions, a known site of such paranormal activity as ghosts seen, moans and voices heard, and cold spots felt. At the root of the haunting is a story as old as America, some believe. This haunted mansion, affectionately nicknamed, “The House that Reeks of Death,’ is located in Indianapolis, Indiana.
But why does the house reek of death? When first built in 1858 the Hannah House had a mere twenty-four rooms. This seemed plenty for the single Alexander Hannah and his servants. But he married Elizabeth Jackson when he was 51 years old and soon found that twenty-four rooms was too crowded with a woman in the house. So he added a wing. Hannah was a generous man, not only because he built his new wife another wing onto their house, but because he used the Hannah House as a stop for the Underground Railroad with which to transport escaped slaves from the south to Canada. Harboring escaped slaves was very illegal, even in the north, so the house’s identity was kept secret. According to the website Prairieghosts.com, the legend goes that one night a slave accidentally knocked over a lantern in the basement and a fire erupted. Many escaped slaves were killed in the blaze. Because the catastrophe would’ve revealed the true nature of the Hannah House, the story was buried along with the slaves who were killed. The basement was filled in by the house’s new owners and many believe the souls of those slaves remain trapped there.
Are the souls of the slaves who died in the fire haunting the Hannah House still today? An upstairs bedroom smelled so bad for so many years that the house began being called the house that “reeks of death.” Every way they tried to wash out the odor was unsuccessful until the odor itself mysteriously vanished on its own. The odor may be gone but the house’s sightings have continued. According to “More Haunted Houses” by Richard Winer and Nancy Osborn Ishmael, a man has been seen several times on the staircase by several different witnesses, a possible manifestation of Mr. Hannah himself. Even more apparent are the sounds — loud crashing and glass breaking, heard again by several witnesses. Another witness recalls hearing the piano play by itself. Upstairs moaning can be heard coming from the bedroom. Rumor has it that Mrs. Hannah gave birth to a stillborn baby there. According to the previously mentioned book, the family plot in the nearby Crown Hill Cemetery contains a small marker with only one date, possibly the infant in question.
The Hannah House has a rich American history and a past straight from the shadows. Whether its ghosts are slaves or members of an aristocratic family, it seems certain that some of the Hannah’s House’s history is still alive. For those who dare, the house is open for tours and overnight stays. It is located at 3801 Madison Avenue. Please see Thehannahmansion.org for more details.