Haunted Houses: The Allen House

The following article is presented for entertainment purposes. It is not intended as scholarly research or a final authority on the subject. 

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.


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 the 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.htmlNote: The Allen House Tours website is no longer active. I don’t know the reason. 

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.


Dread Central–Cold Spots: The Allen House

Allen House Tours Website Note: The Allen House Tours website is no longer active. I don’t know the reason. 

Engaging Spirits Arkansas–Allen House, Monticello

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