8 Skull Rating out of 10
The Allen House
705 North Main Street
Monticello, AR 71655

County: Drew County
GPS: 33.6340241, -91.7904183
WebSite: www.allenhousetours.com

Living in a Haunted House: The Allen House
Mark Spencer
July 16, 2008

"The Allen House in Monticello, Arkansas, is a classic example of what can happen when the spirits of the original owners are intruded upon" (Haunted Places in the American South, University Press of Mississippi, 2002).

Before I purchased the Allen House, I heard from several people the story of Ladell Allen's suicide and her subsequent haunting of the hundred-year-old residence.   My wife, Rebecca, and I even visited some of the websites that contained write-ups about the history of paranormal activity in the house. 

I met a man at a professional conference who swore that the ghost stories were true. This man, who held a doctorate degree and was highly respected in his field, told me that he and his wife had lived in the house when it served as apartments for college students in the 1960s and that they, as well as other tenants during the same period, had had a number of paranormal experiences. For instance, he took a photograph of his wife in a downstairs parlour, and when the film was developed, a second woman--a hazy figure--hovered beside his wife. He said that, during the same period, another tenant was so terrified by what appeared to be a supernatural rearrangement of furniture in his apartment that this other tenant immediately moved out.

Every time I mentioned to someone in Monticello my interest in purchasing the Allen House, inevitably the response was, "It's haunted, you know." Seldom did anyone say, "People say it's haunted" or "It's supposed to be haunted." People usually stated flatly, "It's haunted, you know." Even the seller told me it was haunted but that she had performed some rituals when she moved in and had calmed the spirits. Although the spirits were still present, she said, she had had "only a little trouble" with them.

Rebecca and I really felt no more than mild amusement in response to the ghost stories, and our interest in the house's reputation for paranormal activity was pale in comparison to our appreciation of its architectural beauty--its blending of neoclassical, Queen Anne, and gothic styles: clusters of huge, fluted Corinthian columns supporting the massive front portico; a three-story turret on the north end and a four-story turret on the south, each capped with a spire; a widow's walk surrounded by an ornate wrought-iron railing; large stained-glass windows flanking the front entrance; the pressed-tin faces of winged cherub heads looking down from the dining-room ceiling. Admittedly, it was a faded beauty in need of renovation. The overgrown yard, the long shadows of old trees, the vines climbing up the columns, and the peeling paint reinforced people's belief that it was, indeed, a haunted house. Before I owned it, I drove past with an out-of-town visitor and said, "What do you think that house?"

He smirked and said, "Looks like there oughta be a coffin on the front porch."

Finally, in the early summer of 2007, after two years of negotiations with the seller, we became only the fourth owners of what was not only Joe Lee Allen's gift (completed in 1906) to his beloved wife and three daughters but also an 8000-square-foot monument of Joe Lee Allen's success, prestige, and prominence as a Monticello businessman--president of a bank, owner of a livery stable and car dealership, owner of a hotel, owner of a horse-drawn rental hearse.

After we moved in, our interest in the house's history and in its original residents grew, especially as we discovered various items in the attic: three cast-iron World War I toy soldiers; letters, cards, and school papers from the 1920s and 1930s bearing the name Allen Bonner; part of a horse bridle; a child's shoe and a doll's hand from the early twentieth century; Sunday School certificates dated from 1917 to 1923; a hand-drawn map of Monticello with the Allen House prominently marked by a circle of stars and, mysteriously, the words "Mr. Bruiser."

In a dark and very dirty corner, I found half of an infant's photograph with enough of the inscription on the back to determine that it said "Miss Ladell."

Why would someone rip a photo of a baby in half? I wondered.

In the third-story turret room, when I dusted off a small home-made desk built against the wall, I discovered writing on it: "Ye Olde Village Half Wits," it said. And there were three names: Keats Henry, Jeane Lipscomb, and Allen Bonner. And there was a date: January 20, 1932. When I removed planks laid across the turret's rafters, I found remnants of a toy airplane, a Chicago Tribune newspaper from 1938, and what appeared to be an old-fashioned photographic plate that no longer bore any image (if it ever had). Much about the turret room became clear and all the more intriguing when Rebecca and I read in a book entitled Haunted Places in the American South that the Allen House was believed to be haunted by at least two ghosts, one of whom was E. Allen Bonner, who supposedly haunted the third-story turret room--a special play room and study room for him when he was a child and adolescent. The other ghost, of course, was believed to be his mother, Ladell, who was reputed to be very upset about any commercial use of the residence, terrorizing tenants when the house was apartments and tossing around collectable knick-knacks when the house, for a brief time in the early 1990s, had a gift shop.

As Rebecca and I explored the house and began restorations and renovations, we wanted to learn more about the house's history and its former residents. We paid visits to the county museum and the local public libraries. We found newspaper advertisements for Joe Lee Allen's businesses, newspaper "social notes" about the Allens' trips out of town and visits to them from friends and relatives, and of course newspaper obituaries. We visited the local cemeteries. We sought out elderly residents of Monticello who might have memories of the Allens or to whom stories of the Allens had been passed down. One elderly woman told me that she remembered visiting Caddye Allen, Joe Lee's widow, in her opulent bedroom in the 1940s and that Ladell was present. She recalled the "Allen secret," which was really no secret in those times but which everyone spoke of only in "hushed tones": Ladell was addicted to liquor.

Rebecca and I discovered that every article we had read about the house contained factual errors. For the record, these are the facts: Joe Lee Allen died of a heart attack in 1917 while demonstrating a Buick he was trying to sell; Ladell's son, Allen Bonner, died of pneumonia in New York City in 1944; Ladell took mercury cyanide on December 26, 1948, and died on January 2, 1949--a long and gruesome death. In each instance, the funeral was held in the house, the body laid out in the dining room beneath the pressed-tin winged faces of cherubs.


What is it like to live in a haunted house?

Rebecca and I get this question almost daily. People want to know what we've seen, what we've heard, what we've smelled, what we've felt.

Moving into a house widely believed to be haunted is bound to put a person on edge, I admit. Rebecca and I take some pleasure in explaining away certain events. We have found natural explanations for many sounds and sights immediately after their occurrences: the wind, a draft, squirrels on the roof, birds on the roof, a cat jumping down from a table, the play of light and shadow, the normal moans and groans of a big old house.

But not everything has been easy to explain.

Before we ever saw the inside of the house, we drove by one evening and we all--Rebecca, our two sons, and I--remarked that the owner was apparently sitting at the second-floor south turret window. For all of us, she appeared to be sitting at a desk writing letters or reading, her blonde hair catching the light of a lamp. A couple of days later, we saw the inside of the house for first time. We were surprised to see that the second-floor south turret room was so crowded with furniture and boxes that we couldn't even enter it. When we mentioned to the owner that we had seen her sitting at the window just two nights before, she informed us that the room had been used only for storage for several years and that she had not been in the room in months.

One morning, shortly after we moved into the house, Rebecca came downstairs to breakfast and asked our five-old-year, who was already sitting at the table, how he got downstairs so fast. When I told her that he had been downstairs and sitting at the table with me for the past ten minutes, she said that wasn't possible because she had just seen him upstairs not half a minute before.

One afternoon, upon ringing the doorbell, a visitor expressed surprise when Rebecca opened the door immediately. She asked how Rebecca got downstairs so quickly. Rebecca said she was already downstairs. The visitor insisted that as she approached the house she had seen Rebecca in an upstairs window--or at least somebody in an upstairs window . . . .

Our first Easter in the house, Rebecca walked into the front parlour and found the turntable of our antique Victorola spinning. No one had touched the Victorola in a couple of months. As she stood staring at it, it spun faster and faster. When she put the needle down to play the spinning record, it stopped instantly.

Regardless of these and other incidents, we are entirely--or nearly so--at ease in the house. If the spirits of past residents are still occupying the premises, they seem to be as comfortable with us as we are with them. They, however, seemed not so comfortable when we allowed paranormal investigators into the house recently--but that will have to be another article.

Mark Spencer

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Last updated on : 4/14/2009

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User Comments: 
               Like      Dislike        Comment# 82107     5/11/2013 12:19:00 AM     Edit       Reply    

IM watching "A Haunting: House Of Horrors" as i type this. 

Hey Mark? U def have balls the size of an elephant. If several people told me a house is haunted...i woulda high tailed outta dodge faster than a fart blowin in the wind.

               Like      Dislike        Comment# 82108     5/11/2013 12:32:00 AM     Edit       Reply    

Last Seen: 5/11/2013 12:20:55 AM  
Same person as above. Just signed up for a new acct. Shared this on FB. I wanted to add...i love this page. Thanx for goin public and writing this page. 

               Like      Dislike        Comment# 87571     9/12/2015 11:20:00 PM     Edit       Reply    

I'd be like,... Well.... that's peculiar.




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