6 Museums That Are Home To Creepy And Mysterious Artifacts

Some of your favorite Halloween ghost stories have real evidence on exhibit in otherwise normal museums.

At the Fort East Martello Museum in Key West, FL, a cracked funerary plaque that once adorned a woman's grave tells of one man's grotesque attempt to bring his love back from the dead, as seen on Travel Channel's Mysteries at the Museum Halloween Special.

At the Fort East Martello Museum in Key West, FL, a cracked funerary plaque that once adorned a woman's grave tells of one man's grotesque attempt to bring his love back from the dead, as seen on Travel Channel's Mysteries at the Museum Halloween Special.

Photo by: Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc.

Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc.

Seemingly ordinary museums are housing relics of a macabre and unsettled past. Here are six creepy artifacts tucked away in unlikely places.

Fort East Martello Museum

The museum in Key West, Fla., was once the southernmost Union outpost during the Civil War, but now it’s a museum dedicated to preserving the art, history and culture of the Florida Keys. The exhibits there include shells of sea turtles, art work, Robert the Doll, and a particularly eerie item — the grave marker for Elena Hoyos, a tuberculosis victim from almost 100 years ago. Her diagnosis in 1930 shattered her family’s world as TB was a certain death sentence then, but there was a glimmer of hope when a hospital x-ray technician took an interest in Elena and said he believed his experimental treatment could cure her. The efforts were unsuccessful, and Elena died just a few months later. The x-ray technician couldn’t let go of the young woman. Later, the family discovered that he had stolen her body and took her to his house, where he continued trying a series of experiments to try and bring the young woman back to life so he could marry her.

The Bell School Community Complex

Adams, Tenn., is a former depot town on a rail route that connected Chicago to Miami. Today, the tiny town near the Kentucky border has less than 1,000 residents, but the community complex draws visitors who want to see the cabin where a family was tormented for years. The 1817 cabin on the grounds of the facility was the home of the Bell family who raised tobacco and maintained a farm on the Tennessee frontier. It was an idyllic existence until a haunting began tormenting one of the family’s daughters. The haunting by a spirit known as the Bell Witch went on for years and included poltergeist activity and physical assault before it ended as suddenly as it began.

State Historical Museum of Des Moines

The museum in Iowa’s state capitol preserves artifacts of American history like Daniel Boone’s rifle and Abraham Lincoln’s glasses, but there’s another object that serves as a reminder to a macabre scene that unfolded in 1912 in Valeska, Illinois. A 4-lb ax with a 40-inch handle is the murder weapon in the brutal slaying of 8 people on June 10, 1912. That day, the city marshall is called to a home where he finds the town shopkeeper, his wife, four children, and two houseguests bludgeoned to death with an ax. Investigators found knicks in the ceiling above the victims, leading them to determine the marks were from the violent ax swings. The angle determined that the killer was left-handed, narrowing the suspect pool significantly. While the prosecutors believed a traveling preacher was the killer, a jury acquitted him, meaning the heinous murder is still unsolved.

New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum

A whip housed in a New Orleans museum is a reminder of the mysterious case of a man who was apparently raised from the dead. In 1962, a Haitian farmer checked into a hospital when he began coughing up blood. Doctors weren’t sure what was wrong with him, and his condition continued to worsen until he died three days after being admitted. His grief-stricken family buried him and mourned the sudden death with no obvious answers. 18 years later, in 1980, the man’s sister was walking down the road when she spotted a disheveled man who claimed to be her brother. Clearly, she didn’t believe him; she’d seen her brother die and watched him be buried. Still, the man in front of her looked like her brother and told her things about their childhood, including his childhood nickname. The mystery deepened — how had he been raised from the dead? Her brother said he’d been given a voodoo potion that made him appear dead, and he’d been conscious but paralyzed during the entire time the family prepared for his funeral. After his death, he was dug up and forced into slavery on a sugar plantation, where he worked until the owner died and he could escape.

The Myrtles Plantation

A 1796 antebellum mansion in St. Francisville, La., might be the most haunted house in the country. Today, the plantation is a bed and breakfast and museum where visitors regularly see a woman and two young girls around the property. According to local legend, a man and woman who married in 1817 lived in the home with their family and their female slave. As the children got older, the slave was concerned she would no longer be needed and would be sent to work in the fields. The slave, who wanted to work in the home, apparently made a cake with poisonous oleander leaves to feed to the family. The plan was to make them a bit ill, and she would then nurse them back to health and secure her place in the home as a vital helper. Her plan, however, backfired as she watched the family die from the poison. In accordance with superstition, all the mirrors were covered to keep the mirrors from trapping the family’s souls as they left their bodies. In their haste, they forgot to cover one of the mirrors. That mistake left the woman and two girls unable to cross to the other side. Sometimes, visitors and employees can see children’s handprints on the mirror that can’t be wiped away.

The Kansas Museum of History

A museum in Topeka houses a bright orange frock with black jack-o-lanterns on it — and it tells the story of a woman’s efforts to stop Halloween mischief and mayhem. On Nov. 1, 1912, Elizabeth Krebs, president of the Hiawatha, Kansas, garden club, stepped outside to find that her garden and fence had been destroyed during Halloween night. Her plants weren’t the only victim — there were reports of vandalism all across town. Roving groups of kids and teens had spent the night terrorizing the town, and Krebs finally had enough. The following year, she organized a Halloween party in her home, hoping that by enticing the town’s children with treats, they may not have time for disorderly conduct. It mostly worked, though there were still some vandals who set fires that night. In 1914, Krebs took her Halloween plans to the town square, where she organized a costume party and parade. Finally, it seemed she had put a stop to the Halloween vandals. Her idea spread throughout the country, giving us all the tradition of trick or treating.

See all these artifacts and get more details about their macabre history on Mysteries at the Museum streaming now on discovery+.

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