Madness and Heartbreak: The Haunted Secrets of These Spooky Airbnbs

From a paranoid schoolmaster to an heiress buried alive, some destinations come with gruesome secrets and ghostly legends. Below are five examples of homes and places with paranormal allure – and what you may encounter as a visitor.

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The Girl in the Yellow Dress
New Orleans, Louisiana

A rambling Southern mansion holds an odd mystery: A dark-haired apparition who refuses to leave.

Nestled in the Garden District, the Parks-Bowman Mansion has hosted countless guests. But it’s also home to a breezy presence described as a young, raven-haired girl wearing a long yellow dress. With an affinity for pacing the grounds – her footsteps are marred by a slight limp – the girl softly hums lullabies, and occasionally hides pairs of glasses.

After moving into the home in 2005, host Adrienne Parks first learned of the hauntings through neighborhood chatter. She learned that the mystery girl was a benign, even helpful roommate: “I had a friend stay once, and he stayed in the haunted bedroom,” she recalls. “One time he had a terrible nightmare, and he experienced someone giving him mouth-to-mouth. She revived him.”

Delving into the mansion’s 130-year history, Adrienne learned that its first inhabitants were a large, prosperous family. The patriarch of the family had seven daughters and two sons, who by all accounts lived happily in the home for many years. One by one, the daughters married and moved away, and eventually the house changed hands, turning into a boarding house and (rumor has it) a house of ill repute. It fell into disrepair, then was revived again. Yet throughout the decades, sightings of the young, dark-haired ghost persisted.

Who is she? The answer may lie in the ghost’s faint limp, Adrienne says. The youngest daughter was “definitely the favorite, the baby of the family,” Adrienne recounts. Misfortune struck when she suffered a carriage accident that left her with a walking impairment. Later, the girl died young – in childbirth – and was buried beside her father at the property.

Though she’s a friendly ghost, no one has yet solved the mystery of why she still roams the property – or what exactly she is searching for. But one thing is certain in New Orleans: “It’s a place where the membranes between the seen and unseen worlds seem to be very thin,” Adrienne notes. “Certain synchronicities, and wonderful coincidences happen here – it all coexists very fruitfully.”

This is our go-to place in New Orleans. The location is ideal, and the mansion is perfect – filled to the brim with the whimsical, hysterical, and sometimes perception-shifting.

Guest Michael from Florida
 

The Soldiers’ Asylum
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

At a hospice-turned-farmhouse, the spirits of Civil War soldiers still make their presence known at this revered historical site.

Nowadays, the Historic Civil War Farm House looks like the perfect place to fish, pick wildflowers and laze away a summer day. But just over 150 years ago, the stately stone house was a scene of unimaginable anguish. According to locals and visitors, echoes of that suffering are still heard today.

It was a coincidence of the home’s location in Gettysburg, a main battleground of the bloodiest war in U.S. history. After the Civil War ended, tens of thousands of dead or gravely wounded Confederate soldiers were carried through the town’s main artery: “The column of cannons, horses, bodies, and all the injured soldiers was drug down that road. It was a horrible mess,” says host Stephani Maitland.

In the town of 2,000, every home along the route was converted by necessity into a makeshift hospice, to palliate the wounded and bury the dead – many on the grounds of Stephani’s home. There, for seven to eight weeks, field doctors and nurses patrolled rows of soldiers, soothing the moans and screams of the dying.

Though faint, those unlucky young men still make themselves heard. Visitors report sightings, footsteps and unexplained sensations. Stephani says her family didn’t learn about the home’s tortured past until years after moving in – at which point certain strange events came more clearly into focus.

“When my kids were young, one of my sons would wake up on the floor wrapped in a blanket, saying that people had been standing over him,” she remembers. Others saw men dressed in blue boots, pants and jackets: the uniforms of Confederate soldiers. They don’t know the identities of the fallen soldiers, among the many thousands of lives lost. But Stephani believes they come to console, not torment, making the home a popular spot for vacationers and ghost hunters alike.

Very clean, and beautifully laid out, the space was a pleasure to be in as well. For the record – my sleep was stirred by something that sounded like heavy shoe-ed footsteps that night, which was quite thrilling.

Guest Sophie from Sydney, Australia
 

The Lady in Waiting
Piedmont, Italy

Locked away by a cruel father, a heartbroken girl cries out for her long-lost lover more than five centuries later.

At the Castle “Dal Pozzo” estate, there’s a certain high tower where sighs still pierce the night, and a murky shadow watches over the grounds. The presence has a name: Barbara. More than 500 years old now, she’s still mending a broken heart.

Her lover was a captain named Matteo, dispatched to the castle in 1467 to help the Duke of Milan defend the region as a battle roiled nearby. A young woman known for beauty, virtue and generosity, Barbara’s father had promised her hand to a neighbor to cement an important political alliance.

But in Matteo, true love beckoned. Upon laying eyes on Barbara, the captain too fell under her spell. The bond was mutual, and the couple stole opportunities to kindle their love within the castle’s vast corridors. Eventually, they also stole away to the castle’s chapel, where they swore their love for eternity and sealed it with a kiss.

Sadly, “the promises of love exchanged turned out to be meaningless,” says Aimone dal Pozzo, the host of the family castle.

As Matteo’s inevitable departure drew near, Barbara plotted to flee with him. But suspecting that trouble was afoot, Barbara’s father confronted her. He commanded her to forget him, locking her in the Castle Tower. Subsequently, Matteo was ordered to depart and exiled to France, where he married another woman.

Barbara was never informed, and waited in vain for the promised return of her love. As the days turned into weeks and then months, she refused to emerge from the tower, to eat, or even to see her mother, and slowly wasted away from sheer despair.

Aimone says she is still there, waiting.

Some say that they have seen a shadow looking out from the window, as though someone was watching the lake: popular belief maintains that it is the ghost of the beautiful Barbara, which stills wanders restlessly around the Castle Tower searching for her lost love.

Host Aimone dal Pazzo
 

The Heiress Who Died Twice
Buenos Aires, Argentina

A glamorous socialite met an unspeakable death – two deaths, to be precise. Now she wanders a cemetery endlessly, checking up on others.

At the center of one of Buenos Aires’ fashionable neighborhoods, La Recoleta Cemetery is a foreboding presence amidst chic restaurants and shops. It’s the burial site of Eva Peron and many of Argentina’s historical elite. But it’s also haunted by ghastly legends.

Among the most famous involves a woman, Rufina, who had just turned 19 when her mother discovered her lifeless body. Or so she thought.

Born into a wealthy family, Rufina was set to inherit a large cattle fortune. A vivacious socialite of the early 20th century, she was headed to a show when she collapsed without warning. Some say it was due to shock at learning a horrifying secret; others allege that her mother had slipped her tranquilizers. Soon, doctors pronounced her dead of a heart attack at the scene. A funeral was held, and Rufina’s body was laid to rest at one of the cemetery’s ornate mausoleums.

Days later, the true nightmare began when a worker noticed that the coffin had shifted, with the lid cracked and distressed. Inside, he made a grisly discovery: Rufina had tried to scratch and claw her way out – with her heart very much still beating. She was buried alive. She had died, again, of exhaustion and shock.

At Recoleta, a tribute to Rufina still remains, showing her posing with her hand on the handle of the coffin. But some say her spirit remains too, wandering the cemetery during the night, slightly opening the lids of others’ coffins to make sure no one ever suffers the same terrible fate.

 

The Madness Chamber
York, United Kingdom

This chamber is just one of the many sites that make up one of Europe’s most haunted and bloody cities.

The apartment is over 600 years old and is cryptically dubbed “The Chamber”. Turns out there’s more to the name. Visitors note the spookiness of the atmospheric and wooded unit, complete with unexplained bumps in the night.

It’s a cornerstone of what is considered one of the most haunted cities in the world, an old fortress town that dates back to the Roman empire, and comes with countless tales of cruelty and bloodshed: Viking invasions, murder and execution. Among the best-known is the tale of a wicked schoolmaster whose guilty conscience eventually drove him mad. In a slum-ridden area of the city, a man named George was tasked with rounding up orphans and urchins, placing them in an institute known as the Ragged School. Conditions were wretched, but George lost money for every child that perished on his watch. So he began hiding orphans’ bodies on the grounds.

Eventually he became wracked with paranoia, drinking heavily to silence the sounds of screaming orphans he heard clawing their way out of shallow graves. He couldn’t contain his guilt and madness any longer, and confessed the voices to townspeople. He was rendered insane, placed in a nearby asylum, and hung himself soon after – still complaining of the wailing orphans. The Ragged School is just one of many tales of madness and misfortune that spook the ancient city of York.

The flat is very, very old and oozes ye olde character, the ghosts are friendly too and the spooky paraphernalia great fun. You would be mad not to stay here.

Guest Jason from Brighton UK

*All homes featured in this post are intended purely to inspire and illustrate your spooky holiday plans. Airbnb does not recommend or endorse these listings or any other homes on the platform.