Take for example the so-called Mudhouse Mansion that was recently presented in the Forbes online magazine story about the nine scariest abandoned mansions in America. This place has several really scary stories that are widely repeated on various regional ghost hunter sites.. It looks really creepy and seems to be a spook house delight. Too bad most of the tales are bogus and few people have even bothered to do the slightest check on the house's history.
According to the folklore, the mansion was once the home of some sort of government official (an oddly nameless chap who seems unclear about both his position and exactly what type of government he served - federal, county?). It was right after the Civil War and he had slaves hidden away on his estate (which is a pretty bold move for someone living in an anti-slave state better known for its links to the Underground Railroad). He was a cruel slave driver (no pun intended) whose slaves finally rose up and killed him (presumably on a dark and stormy night). If you are familiar with the real case of the Hickory Hill Slave House in Equality, Illinois, you will sense a strong case of deja vu. This story appears to be a displaced, revised version of that incident.
Then, some years later (maybe in the 1870s or 1880s), a family moved into the Mudhouse Mansion. According to this tale, a husband, wife, and three children happily settled in and were never seen to come back out. For days, neighbors saw the solitary image of a woman in white standing in a window on the second floor of the mansion. After many days, the police were asked to check in on the family. To their shock, they discovered all five family members hanging by their necks from the ceiling on the second floor. The wife, wearing a white dress, was hanging in front of the window where the neighbors thought they saw her standing.
To this day, there are those who swear that they have seen the ghost of this woman, still staring out of this window. Some have even drawn pictures of this haunting sight.
Too bad the place wasn't built until 1900 (according to the Fairfield County Ohio Auditor's site). Likewise, the mansion was never known as the Mudhouse (except by recent ghost hunters). The actual Mudhouse was a more primitive structure across the road (built around the 1840s) that had largely functioned as a stagecoach inn and tavern. It would fit the dates for these tales but there seems to be no association in the stories to this structure.
What is being called the Mudhouse Mansion is actually better known by local historians as the Hartman House. It was built and lived in by a couple named Byler until sometime around 1910 when they sold it to the Hartman family. Years later, the Hartman's daughter inherited the mansion. Though the folklore insists that the place has been abandoned since 1931, the daughter simply became a somewhat reclusive old woman who lived there until her death in the late 1960s. Then the house was inherited by her nephew who has not taken much interest in the property and has pretty much left it alone. At the Grave Addiction web site, a comment has been left by a local that presents a pretty accurate account of the house:
"I have some information that you might find interesting. I became interested in the house a few months back due to a friend who drives by it everyday. So I started doing my research, and the best book that I found was my father. My father's name is Emmett Pinkstock, and he grew up in the Lancaster region his whole life. He actually lived in the white house next to the "Mudhouse" house, while he was a young boy (it burnt down in a fire a few years back.). His father and the last owner, Helena Hartman, were good friends. He gave me some really great info on the house and the stories. The house was still in order until the late 1960's when Helena passed away. She had inherited the house through her parents, who were farmers at the time they passed. Dad told me of the beauty that was in the house. There were 22 rooms with 10 bedrooms all upstairs...he told me that all the windows upstairs were all stained glass. The outhouses outside held different things. One building behind the back, he explained, was a generator room where they made their own electricity. Another building was divided into two sections for their carriages and a blacksmith shop. Helena was never married, and was a farmer who raised cows on the property. Dad remembers going up as a young boy and helping with the animals and farm. She was famous for her onion gravy that she fixed (Gross, I know!). She was a very simple woman and was a sweetheart by all means. She wore simple dresses and looked like she didn't have a toilet to pee in. He explained to me that when she died, the house was left the way it was. She was never married and had no kids. The house went over to her nephew who already had a fortune of his own. And also with the name of the house, he referred to it as theHartman-Mast House. Mudhousebreakins for the furniture that she kept inside. He explained she had silver everything and clocks throughout the house that were encrusted with rubies. And as far as the current owner, Jeanie Mast, she really isn't that mean old lady that everyone takes her to be. She's in her early 80's who lives right down from the house. I've been able to talk to her about the history, that house is AMAZING! But there is no Bloody Mary's or war general with slaves. Just rumors that came about. The house was one of the first brick ones in Lancaster and was one of the finest. So of course, like she said, you're going to have legends and stories about it."
No slaves, no hangings, no ghosts, no nothin'. Just a basic set of facts and a remarkably straight forward history. And it only took about ten minutes to locate the information online.