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By: Hillary Delaney
Tales of star-crossed lovers, untimely death and haunted houses are nothing new. For generations, we have used “ghost stories” as a tool to educate, warn and entertain. The following legend of a “haunted house” in Boone County has faded away with time, forgotten over the years.Here, we revisit this tale.
The “House of Death”, so named in a bold headline in the Cincinnati Enquirer, was built on the banks of the Ohio River, just across from Aurora, IN. The story, which ran in that paper on August 2, 1885, tells the tale of the violent death of a new bride, her groom’s mysterious disappearance, and unexplained sights and sounds which occurred in and around their home.
Many years before the historical article of 1885, a young Boone County man named West, fell in love with a popular Aurora girl named Miss Reed. West had built and furnished an attractive home for his bride-to-be on a rise above the Ohio near Petersburg, safe from flood waters, but within view of the river.
After the wedding at the bride’s home in Aurora, the newlyweds crossed the river to their new Boone County home. Relatives arrived the morning after the wedding to congratulate the young couple, but their knocks went unanswered. Concerned for their welfare, they entered the home and discovered a ghastly and mysterious scene. The bride’s lifeless body, still in her nightgown, was found on the bed, a victim of strangulation and/or smothering. The room was in disarray, as if a terrible struggle had occurred in this “chamber of death”. There was no sign of the groom. The husband’s character is defended by friends and family, and his guilt as perpetrator was quickly dismissed.
The assumption at the time was that he, too, had met with foul play at the hands of unknown perpetrator(s) and his body was disposed of elsewhere, to place suspicion upon him. After this sad and violent act occurred, there were widespread stories of paranormal activity in and around the property. Some of the reports included: a woman’s screams, floating lights, a white apparition at the windows and eerie groans. Curious riverboat captains were known to slow their vessels as they neared the house, hoping to catch a glimpse of ghostly activity.
Contributing to legend was the run-down condition of the property. The frame house, with two rooms above and two below, had fallen into an advanced state of decay by 1885. With its broken windows, missing doors, rotten floors and numerous crawling and flying inhabitants, it was widely avoided by passersby.
The house no longer stands, and though details of story of the “House of Death” may be lost to time, this mystery may still haunt our curiosity. One day there may be more to tell.
The Cincinnati Post Historical Edition on BCPL's Research Tools page