Haunted Houses: The Allen House

Welcome to Freaky Friday!  Today we have a paranormal topic.

My favorite ghost stories are haunted house stories.  I especially love it when the haunted house looks like…well, a haunted house.  Today, we’re going to talk about a haunted house that really looks the part—the Allen House in Monticello, Arkansas.

The History

Joe Lee Allen wanted to build the most impressive house in Monticello, Arkansas for his wife, Caddye, and their children. In 1905, he moved the house at 713 North Main Street—which was the residence he shared with his wife and children—across the road to make room for the house of his dreams.

The Allen House was designed by architect Sylvester Hotchkiss.  Hotchkiss also designed the Hotchkiss House and the Lambert House of Monticello, Arkansas.  Joe Lee Allen hired Josiah Barkley White to build the house.  The house itself is a combination of architectural styles.  Neoclassical, Gothic, and Queen Anne styles are all represented.

By 1910, Joe Lee Allen owned his dream house free and clear.  Only twenty years earlier in 1890, Joe Lee had owned a livery stable in Monticello, Arkansas.  As his wealth grew, he would be involved in a variety of businesses and would own a hotel, a private school, and be President of the Commercial Loan and Trust Company.

Joe Lee Allen was involved in many different businesses, including selling both automobiles and horse-drawn buggys.  In 1917, only seven years after paying off his home, Joe Lee Allen died while demonstrating and automobile to a potential buyer.  The cause of death was thought to be a heart attack.

Ladell

At this point in the story, let’s turn our focus to Joe Lee and Caddye’s second daughter, Ladell Allen.  We’re focusing on Ladell because hers is the story that seems to explain the paranormal activity in the Allen House.

Ladell was born in 1894, the second daughter of Joe Lee and Caddye.  Ladell married Boyd Randolf Bonner in 1914.  They had a son together and later divorced.   Ladell and Boyd’s son, Allen “Duke” Bonner became a humor writer.

In 1944, Allen “Duke” Bonner died of pneumonia in New York City.  At the time of his death, Ladell and Boyd’s son was employed as an editor of the radio division of Associated Press.  Four years later, in June of 1948, Boyd Bonner died in Los Angeles, California.

On December 26, 1948, Ladell Allen Bonner consumed mercury cyanide in the master suite of the Allen House.  She died on January 2, 1949.  That holiday depression is a real killer.

After Ladell’s death, the master suite was sealed at her mother’s request.  The suite remained untouched for thirty-seven years.  Caddye Allen—wife of Joe Lee, mother of Ladell—died in 1956.

The remaining Allen heir chose to convert the house to apartments and rent them out.  The master suite remained closed, but residents of the apartments reported strange goings-on.

In 1985, the Allen heir who owned the Allen House died.  His widow sold the house.  Its new owners opened the master suite where Ladell consumed mercury cyanide for the first time since 1949.  Legend has it that a bottle of cyanide still sat on a shelf in the closet.

The house changed hands a few times over the years and fell into disrepair.  In 2007, Mark and Rebecca Spencer purchased the house after falling in love with it on first sight.

In 2009, eighty-two letters were discovered underneath a floorboard.  The letters, exchanged between Ladell and a man named Prentiss Hemingway Savage, chronicle a romance that went on during the final months of Ladell’s life.

The Haunting

I said this was the story of a haunted house, and it is.  There have been reports of paranormal activity since the 1950s when the house was divided into apartments.  The Allen House made enough of an impression on Carolyn Wilson that she wrote a novel about a haunted house that resembled the Allen House.

The Allen House has been investigated by several paranormal groups.  Paranormal groups interested investigating the house for themselves can can schedule an investigation here.

There have been reports of:

  •  Images of a woman believed to be Ladell have been seen in mirrors and in photographs
  • A couple claimed to have had an experience in which a closet door would not open.  The believed someone (or something) was holding the door closed by the knob.  The couple claimed to have heard someone giggling.
  • Apparitions of little girls playing in the downstairs area. (Though I didn’t talk about it, there were three Allen sisters.)
  • A guest was trapped in a bathroom, unable to open the door.
  • The usual unexplained sounds of crying, moaning and footsteps have been heard.
  • The current owners, Mark and Rebecca Spencer, have reported seeing doppelgängers of their own family members in the house.
  • The Spencers have also reported an old crank Victrola running on its own with the turntable getting faster and faster instead of slower.

The Allen House in Books and TV

In 1966, Carolyn Wilson wrote a novel called The Scent of Lilacs.  The book, a romantic thriller, was set in a haunted house very like the Allen House.  The Wilsons had lived in the house in 1959.

Mark Spencer has written a book about his family’s experiences in the Allen House.  It is called A Haunted Love Story: The Ghosts of Allen House.

I haven’t read this book, so I can’t personally recommend it.  However, I did download the sample and found the writing style very engaging and interesting.

In 2011, The Allen House appeared on BIO channel’s My Ghost Story.  The specific episode on which it appeared is Season 3: Episode 7.  The segment was titled “The Cyanide Sister.”

The Allen House has also been featured on regional news programs and often appears in newspapers and magazines.

Visiting the Allen House

Though it is a private residence, the Allen House is open by appointment for tours.  Click here to see about booking a tour: http://www.allenhousetours.com/TOURS.html.

If you’re not going anywhere near Arkansas in the foreseeable future, visit The Allen House on Facebook.

Regardless of your level of belief on ghost stories, the Allen House is a gorgeous residence with a fascinating, tragic history.  Sometimes that alone is worth the price of admission.

Thank you for your interest in this article. I often receive requests for further information on these articles. Please understand my knowledge of this topic is limited to what you’ve read in this article. I have no plans to update or expand these articles. I am currently focusing on my fiction writing career and am no longer writing or researching for non-fiction articles. If you’re interested in seeing what I write, please check out the My Fiction page on this website or visit my Amazon Author Page on amazon.com. 

Sources:

Dread Central–Cold Spots: The Allen House

Allen House Tours Website

Engaging Spirits Arkansas–Allen House, Monticello

39 thoughts on “Haunted Houses: The Allen House

  1. I’ve always subscribed to the Eddie Murphy method of dealing with haunted houses:

    WIFE: Look, honey, at the hardwood floors!

    HUSBAND: Uh huh. Nice.

    W: Look at the chandelier!

    H: It’s beauti—

    SPECTRAL VOICE: ****GET OUT****

    H: Too bad we can’t stay!

    • I remember that! I still think about a lot of the stuff from those old Eddie Murphy comedy acts. Remember the skit about Aunt Bunny?

  2. on ,
    Emma said:

    The house looks beautiful, but very creepy. I wouldn’t fancy spending a night there.

    • A couple of years ago, I’d have gushed about wanting to spend a night there. However, in 2010, I stayed at a Bed and Breakfast in a home that was built in the 1860s. It was beautifully decorated and really neat, but I didn’t enjoy staying there. I think my feelings were a combination of me being a person who really likes her privacy and the place just being old and drafty. I was uncomfortable. So, anyway, I wouldn’t want to spend the night at the Allen House, either. :D

  3. I love haunted houses and this one really looks the part. I bet I would get goosebumps just entering the place!
    Great story Catie!

    • I would love to take one of their tours and just see what the ambiance of the place was like. The current owners claim the Allen House was love at first sight for them. So I really wonder if it feels creepy in there.

  4. interesting story Catie. beautiful home. If this house could talk – oh what a story it would tell

    • That’s why I love old houses and antiques. It’s sort of like Virginia Madsen’s monologue on wine from Sideways: youtu.be/cvFCtaWj6HA

      When I enter an old house or sit amidst my antique furniture (especially family pieces) I think about other people who have touched the same things. I wonder what their lives were like and if they were happy. So, yeah, I get where you’re coming from.

  5. I would love to spend the night here (and throw a few people I know in that bathroom that locks you in:) How fascinating that the master suite was locked for decades. Would have loved to be the one who unlocks that door for the first time!

    • Oh, don’t you know! Part of me would love to own a house where a room had been sealed off. I’d love to find what was in that room and learn the story behind it being sealed off. :D

  6. That house is gorgeous! I’d love to spend a night there and do some serious ghost hunting. And yep, if walls could talk. Great post! Loved the inclusion of the history of the house:)

    • Glad you enjoyed this post. I first learned about this house on My Ghost Story and couldn’t quit thinking about it. If we ever get back to Arkansas, I know I want to try to tour the house.

  7. Spooky! I think I could stay there, though, as long as I didn’t get trapped in a closet. The creepy sounds wouldn’t bother me, and I have an identical twin, so the doppelgangers could hang out, too. I’d help the ghosts come up with fun ways to mess with guests :)

    Great post Catie! I love haunted houses!

    • I love haunted houses, too. I am always a sucker for a good haunted house story. That is why I sat through American Horror Story last year. ;)

  8. LOVE this story! We must put the Allen house on our ghost road trip. Do the Spencers let people stay with them? How creepy to see images of ghosts in the mirrors. It’s all so Skeleton Key I love it. I may need to add some of these book titles to my goodreads list. They sound intriguing.

    And what a gorgeous house!

    • The Spencers don’t let people stay there, but they do allow tours. They say you need six people for the tour, but I wonder if they’d let you do it anyway if you just paid for six admissions.

      Oooh, the Skeleton Key. I loved that show. That old house really caught my interest. ;)

  9. Could I live in this house? It depends. What music is playing on that Victrola? Because I can’t handle bad music that can’t be turned off. ;)

    The house is gorgeous. I certainly wouldn’t mind taking a tour. Interesting stuff.

    • Oh, the music on the Victrola would probably be something horrible. And it would keep getting faster and faster, so, even if it was something you liked, it would be very annoying. :D

      I’d love to tour this house. If I ever make it back to Arkansas, I plan to make this part of my bucket list.

  10. It would be a very long trip to head to Arkansas to see this place, but for the first time, I want to make that trip. YUMMY! Gorgeous architecture, a cool history… and vibes… Mmmn, vibes!

    • The house does have vibes, doesn’t it? I am in Texas, so I’m not that far from Arkansas. There are a lot of neat things in Arkansas. I really need to make a point to visit again.

  11. I would definitely love to tour this house, but what I’d really love to do is read those love letters! Did she commit suicide because of this man that she loved? I wouldn’t imagine it was because of the loss of her son since it was four years later? Very intriguing people & house.

    • I think The Spencers (the current owners of the house) have scanned some of the letters and put them online. I saw a small thumbnail of a couple of the letters on their website. They might have the letters transcribed somewhere. You ought to get in contact with them and see if they do.

  12. Wish this post had a LOVE button instead of just a LIKE. :) Great post. I’d want to visit the house, but not live there, thanks. Off to check out their FB page now.

    • I am so happy you loved this post. This is my favorite kind of story in the world. It’s got all the right elements. Secret romance, sealed room, gothic mansion–it’s all here.

    • I’d like to read the love letters and visit the house. It’s a fascinating and cool story. Reading the love letters would sort make you feel “in” on the secret. :D

  13. I lived in a haunted building for three years, and my experience was that there was an atmosphere of dread and sadness that permeated the place, and got worse over time, affecting me-by the time I left in 1991, I was severely depressed, exhausted from lack of sleep, and close to an emotional breakdown.

    • Oh wow. That sounds like something out of a horror novel. If you have the story of it on your website, post the link, please.

      • on ,
        alandhopewell said:

        Actually, Catie, I’ve never documented that part of the 1444 Broadway haunting; some of it I have linked to your blog in the past.

        Someday, I may write about what the experience did to me-at present, it’s still uncomfortable to think about.

  14. You know what’s weird? My family has relatives in Arkansas and their last name was/is Lambert. So when I saw the line about the Lambert House it gave me the willies! The house is gorgeous and I’d love to have a tour. Cool.
    That coat Joe Allen is wearing in that picture? My goodness….
    Patti

    • The coat is supposedly a bear skin coat. There’s a story that Joe Lee Allen had this bear for a pet but finally shot it and had a coat made of it. Given how much I love my little dog, the idea of having a coat made of a pet horrified me. But it was a different time.

  15. The thing that creeps me out the most about this whole story is the dopplegangers. How eerie! I know this is going to sound crazy, but when I was a kid (about 8) I used to dream about a house that looked like this. It was a recurring dream that I had nearly every night. I could describe the whole downstairs entryway. One summer on our way to visit our relatives in…yes, Arkansas, my dad got turned around (which was nothing new) and we ended up driving by a house that I swore was the one in my dreams. I had a fit. I wanted to get out and go in. My parents of course thought I was nuts. But I felt like I was suppose to go in. It was so bizarre. After that, I didn’t have the dream again. It was so vivid though and I dreamed it so many times, I can still envision it. I nearly hyperventilated when I saw the pic you posted! LOL I don’t think it’s the same house of course (how freaky would that be???) but it’s close enough that it got my attention right away.

    • Dude! I thought you were going to say that THIS was the house in your dream. I believe you on the recurring dreams. I had them as a kid. As an adult, I have a dream world and most of my dreams occur there. If I ever saw it IRL, it would scare the fire out of me. :D

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  17. on ,
    Donna Coe-Velleman said:

    I don’t know about it being haunted but I love the house. I think it’s beautiful and don’t blame some of the past residents for not leaving. : )

    • It would be a house you wouldn’t want to leave. From what I’ve read, the current owners knew they wanted to buy this house and live in it from the moment they saw it.

    • Don’t forget, the burbs is home to Poltergeist and the Black Hope Horror.

      Glad you enjoyed the post, and your comment made me smile. :D