The Historic Van Horn Mansion


The Van Horn Mansion, located in Niagara County, New York, is a stunning example of 19th century architecture. With its grand size and impressive facade, the mansion has long been a source of fascination for those interested in the history of the region. But for some, the question of whether the Van Horn Mansion is haunted adds an extra layer of intrigue.

The history of the Van Horn Family, who built and lived in the mansion, is a classic American story of hard work, success, and hardship. But is there more to the story? Are the ghosts of the Van Horns still lingering within the walls of their former home? Let’s delve into the history of the Van Horn Mansion to see if we can find any answers.

History of the Van Horn Family

James Augustus Van Horn, the man who would go on to build the Van Horn Mansion, was born in New Jersey in 1770. A blacksmith by trade, he settled with his wife, Elizabeth Hall, and their three surviving children in Seneca County, New York around the turn of the 19th century. In 1801, James purchased 637 acres of land south of Lake Ontario from the Holland Land Company. However, it was not until 1807, when Elizabeth passed away, that James moved to Niagara County with his second wife, Abigail Carpenter, and their six surviving children.

Upon arriving in Niagara County, James and Abigail set about building a successful business. In 1810, James and his business partner, Levi Ellis, began construction on a water-powered grist mill along Eighteen Mile Creek, with the goal of selling flour. However, all the workers became very ill with swamp fever, and the project was abandoned before winter. Undeterred, James returned to the site the following year and completed construction of the mill, as well as building a small log cabin home and a sawmill.

Despite the successes of his businesses, James and his family remained in Seneca County for the time being, as James wanted to ensure the stability of the businesses before bringing his family to Niagara County. Tragically, in 1813, during the War of 1812, the British burned down the Van Horn mills, which were considered “military targets” as they were supplying flour to Fort Niagara. Despite this setback, James persevered and rebuilt the grist mill, adding a brickyard, small general store, and sawmill in the following years.

Construction of the Van Horn Mansion

In 1819, James Van Horn began preparing to build a large home for his family, who was visiting Newfane more frequently. The Van Horn Mansion was completed in 1825, and became a central hub for the family’s various businesses and social gatherings. The mansion was a grand and impressive structure, with a large central section and two wings on either side. It was built in the Federal style, with a symmetrical facade, arched windows, and a grand entrance flanked by pillars.

The Van Horn family lived in the mansion for several decades, weathering the ups and downs of life on the frontier. James Van Horn passed away in 1850, and the mansion was passed down through the generations of the Van Horn family. However, by the early 20th century, the mansion had fallen into disrepair and was in danger of being demolished. Fortunately, a group of concerned citizens came together to save the mansion, and it was eventually restored to its former glory. Today, the Van Horn Mansion is open to the public, and visitors can take guided tours and learn more about the fascinating history of the Van Horn Family.

Reports of Paranormal Activity

As for the question of whether the Van Horn Mansion is haunted, there are no reported instances of paranormal activity associated with the property. While the history of the Van Horn Family and their home is certainly intriguing and filled with drama, it appears that any ghosts have remained at rest. That being said, the mansion does have a certain atmosphere about it, and some visitors have reported feeling a sense of presence or unexplained occurrences while touring the property.

I am a descendant of the Van Horns and our family tree indicates that in 1836, James married the young and beautiful Malinda Niles. In less than a year she would die at home, under strange and unknown circumstances. The family hid the scandal carefully, burying her in their estate graveyard on January 13, 1837, only ten days after her 21st birthday. Malinda has become a legendary figure within the mansion walls, and remains arguably one of the most well-known of the Van Horns.

Joanne, descendant of the Van Horn Family.

Many people believe that ghosts are the spirits of the deceased that continue to linger in the places they loved or where significant events took place in their lives. With its rich history and connections to the Van Horn Family, it is not surprising that some people might feel a sense of spiritual energy at the Van Horn Mansion. However, there is no scientific evidence to support the existence of ghosts, and it is ultimately up to individual belief and interpretation whether one believes in their existence or not.

There is a rumor that a cadaver dog was brought into the landmark in recent years to search for the body of Malina Van Horn. According to the story, Malina was a young woman who lived in the mansion in the late 19th century, and she mysteriously disappeared one night. Despite extensive searches and investigations, her body was never found, and it was assumed that she had been killed and her body disposed of. The rumor goes that the cadaver dog was brought in to see if it could detect any trace of Malina’s remains within the walls of the mansion. However, there is no confirmation or evidence to support this story, and it remains just a rumor.

I’ve been told that, mostly as a stunt, the Niagara County Sherriff’s Dept brought in a cadaver dog to look for Malinda’s buried body. They found a skeleton of that era , and figured it was Malinda. Supposedly, she now has a gravestone, and no one has seen her since.

Karen Baker, local resident.

Despite the lack of concrete evidence of ghosts, the Van Horn Mansion remains a popular destination for those interested in the paranormal and the history of Niagara County. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, a visit to the Van Horn Mansion is sure to be an interesting and educational experience.


In conclusion, the Van Horn Mansion in Niagara County, New York is a beautiful and fascinating piece of history. Built by James Augustus Van Horn, a pioneer and successful businessman, the mansion was home to several generations of the Van Horn Family.

Some visitors have reported feeling a sense of presence or unexplained occurrences while touring the property. Whether or not one believes in ghosts, a visit to the Van Horn Mansion is sure to be an interesting and educational experience. To best determine whether this landmark is haunted or not, investigate with the Brooklyn Paranormal Society.

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