Some hauntings seem to be of a more malicious and evil nature than others. One of these comes from the state of California, in the United States, where in 1851, a wealthy civil engineer, mathematician, and real estate mogul by the name of J. P. Manrow built a stately Swiss-style house on the northern edge of San Francisco’s scenic Russian Hill. The house was a beautiful affair, with a stable and expansive garden and commanding a panoramic view of the San Francisco Bay, and it would have been a very nice place to live if it wasn’t for all the malevolent and very intense paranormal phenomena that would turn the dream house into a nightmare, and earn it the nickname “The House of Demons.”
Things seem to have gotten strange not long after they moved in. It all started innocuously enough, with items going missing or turning up in odd places, and it was reported that often tableware and condiments would be switched around when no one was looking, as well as the salt put into the sugar bowl and vice versa. This was followed by persistent rapping sounds that could be heard coming from the floor, ceiling, and seemingly from within the very walls. These sounds were first thought to be rodents, but their insistent nature, force, and the fact that they happened at all hours of the day and night convinced the family that something very weird was going on. The anomalous phenomena rapidly progressed to moving objects or things that would fly from their resting places to hurtle across the room or topple over to crash to the ground. Sometimes these objects seemed to be actually aimed at people, such as one frightening incident when a kitchen hatchet was hurled by unseen hands at Manrow himself, only just narrowly missing him. For the most part it seemed like mostly prankish, mischievous activity, and the family soon got used to it all. Manrow’s wife would later say of it all:
It was rather terrible at first, but we’re used to it now. In fact, I confess I am rather more annoyed and indignant than terrified. These spirits, or whatever they are, seem so childish and petulant that I cannot understand it at all. Today I bought an expensive bonnet downtown. When I got home I laid it upon the piano. The next moment I turned to look at it again, and just while my back was turned for an instant every feather had been plucked from the bonnet!
The family kept it mostly to themselves at first, but after a while Mr. Manrow had had enough, and told about it to a friend named Almarin Brooks Paul, a prominent 32-year-old mining engineer, and a 32-year-old lawyer named William H. Rhodes. Their response to this amazing tale? Why, go to the house and conduct an impromptu séance, of course. On September 19, 1856 they headed over there, and Mr. Manrow, his wife, her sister and niece, and Paul and Rhodes all prepared for their séance, sitting in a circle around the table, lighting candles, the whole nine yards, although none of them really knew what they were doing. It might have all seemed like a little bit of spooky fun, but if any of them thought that this was sort of a silly game, those thoughts were soon erased, as practically as soon as they started the whole place would erupt into a frenzy of rather violent paranormal activity that seemed to show that whatever presence was there did not like this whole séance thing one bit.
Just about as soon as they sat down “the whole apartment was thrown into commotion,” as knocking and banging echoed all around, the table levitated clear off the floor, and objects were hurled forcefully in all directions. Books flew off their shelves and then began opening and closing like chomping mouths, the doorbell rang incessantly, invisible hands poked, prodded, and pinched them, and it seemed that all hell was breaking loose. Undeterred, they continued with the misguided séance, asking the spirit who it was, which generated a very bizarre series of phenomena. First the spirit claimed to be James King of William, then changed its mind to say that it was a dead, elderly Hawaiian woman named Capitana. Mr. Manrow called the spirit a liar, and asked it to show itself, which doesn’t seem to have been a good idea at all.
As soon as Mr. Manrow said this, something outside began to bang away at the window, and a shadowy form could be seen looming there beyond the glass in the garden. Their curiosity overriding their fear, the people in the room crept to the window to see what it was, but the figure was gone. Mr. Manrow further antagonized the spirit by daring it to go wake a servant in another room, which promptly elicited a scream from the poor man, who had been sleeping just a few doors down. The servant then came running in screaming about a monster in his room, and as he did that immense shape once again appeared outside the window, and this time they could see it in all of its hideous glory. The terrified Rhodes would call it a “goblin,” and rather floridly describe it:
This terrible apparition was the most frightful figure that ever the human eye beheld. Language is utterly inadequate to describe it. There it reclined in the clear moonlight, silent, still, and sublime in its horrible deformity. If all the fi ends in hell had combined their features into one masterpiece of ugliness and revolting hideousness of countenance, they could not have produce a face so full of horrors. It was blacker than the blackest midnight that ever frowned in starless gloom over the storm-swept ocean. Over its head and body it had spread a mantle of the most stainless white. It looked like a robe of new fallen snow covering the blackened remains of a conflagration. It seemed as though personified sin had snatched the garment of a seraph as he floated by, and spread it over its thunder-scarred and hell-scorched form. Its face was turned toward us in profile, and I saw upon its features an expression of cruelty and revenge, darkened by the frown of everlasting despair. Hope never sat there. Its countenance was so terrible, so repulsive, and so threatening, black and cruel, that the whole party fled in horror.
As they all scrambled to get out of there, the room purportedly went absolutely bonkers. Furniture jumped, danced, and catapulted all around, objects floated through the air or launched directly at them, and several of the horrified people were pelted with various items. This intense eruption of furious paranormal activity followed them all the way to the front door of the house, leaving behind a wake of objects strewn about behind them, and they would be shocked to find that the door was barricaded shut by one of the gate doors that had been completely torn off of its hinges with immense force. They backed away and headed to the library, where they tried to continue the séance in order to appease the furious demon and conjure up more benevolent spirits. This apparently seems to have worked, as the commotion died down to make way for something decidedly friendlier. Rhodes would say of this:
Immediately everyone was softly touched and caressed by many hands; their hair was smoothed and their cheeks patted by hands that became gradually visible, till sometimes a dozen were seen about a single person.
This more benign phenomena lasted for some time and then the house was quiet and still. One would think that this would be enough to put anyone off of ever trying a séance again, but they were so fascinated by it all that they held another the following evening. This time they conjured up the apparition of a young girl, as well as that of a tall, thin figure with obscured facial features that “resembled a shadow more than substance.” They convened yet again the next evening, this time experiencing more malevolent phenomena. In particular, Paul was accosted by unseen hands that poked and prodded him, pulled his hair, and once pushed him completely off his chair. The invisible assailant then picked him up clear into the air and slammed him down onto the séance table, much to the horror of those present. A third séance the following evening would become more violent still, throwing objects with such force that they cracked the walls and broke the window. At one point a glowing orb appeared, which floated outside and took the form of a grave upon the ground before vanishing. This seems to have been enough for them, as they stopped the whole séance thing after that, although poltergeist activity in the home continued.
News of the haunting managed to get out into the wild, and soon the media was calling the Manrow mansion the “House of Demons,” with numerous sensational articles detailing the frightening phenomena. The haunting seems to have lasted several months after that final séance, and then one day just suddenly stopped for no discernible reason. In later years Manrow would pass away, and the family sold it to a man by the name of John G. Klumpke, who did not experience any unusual phenomena at all during his time there. In 1917, the Manrow house was demolished to make way for a 19-story high-rise apartment complex which still stands today. If there was anything supernatural dwelling in this place it seems to have been long gone by that point, as no one in the apartment building has ever reported anything paranormal in nature.
This is actually one of the odd things about this particular case. The paranormal activity only started after the house was built, while the Manrow family was there, and dissipated to never be seen again. There doesn’t seem to have ever been any great tragedy on the land where the mansion sat, it wasn’t ever an Indian burial ground or the site of a mental asylum or catastrophe, so why should it suddenly be so haunted? Why should this be? One idea is that it was some sort of psychic energy being released by Mr. Manrow or someone in his family. Another curious possibility is that it was what is called a spirit attachment, wherein paranormal forces sort of hitch a ride with someone or something. In this case, it has been pointed out that it all seems to have started when Mrs. Manrow returned from a trip to Hawaii with some old antiques in tow. This would certainly explain the “demon” appearing as an old Hawaiian woman, so did they somehow manage to bring something back with them? Whatever the case may be, it seems to have been certainly a very aggressive and violent haunting, springing from some force with decidedly insidious intent. Considering that it has not reared its head again we might not know where it came from or where it went, but we can sure be glad that it is gone.