A family’s American dream home turned horror story.

When looking for a vacation house, it’s not uncommon to seek out amenities you may not have at home. Special touches like a claw-foot tub or sauna make holiday lodging memorable. Rental reviews such as, “you might hear a lot of unexpected noises like creaks in the floor, TVs and other appliances randomly turning on and off,” usually scare off travelers in these situations — unless one is a seeker of the paranormal. If that’s the case, the Hobo Hill House, near downtown Jefferson City near the intersection of E. Miller Street and Jackson Street, may be your ultimate dream vacation.

Their Dream Home in Hobo Hill Historic District

When homeowners Aaron and Erin Clark purchased the Hobo Hill House in 2017, they were searching for a fresh start for their young family. The couple had recently experienced hardships and was ready to move themselves and their daughter closer to Erin’s family.

Nestled high on a corner in the middle of the Hobo Hill Historic District, the two-story, red brick, American foursquare house had recently been gutted and was begging for a personal touch. According to the Jefferson City News Tribune, Adolph and Beulah Brandenberger, local pharmacy owners, constructed the residence in 1910 and lived there until 1922. Since then, multiple residents have owned the home.

“We weren’t looking at it as a property that we were going to flip. We were looking at it as our dream home,” Erin says. “We really tried to incorporate history but modernize it a bit.”

From patching up the porch to selecting furniture, Erin’s family was integral to the home’s renovation process. Erin’s grandfather, who was 80 years old at the time, drove from California, Missouri, to Jefferson City four days a week for almost a year to contribute to the house. For all of their hard work, the Clarks even received the Historic City of Jefferson’s September 2018 Golden Hammer Award for their renovations.

“It progressed from sounds to lights and all these things turning ON and OFF — TVs, space heaters, faucets.” 

Erin Clark

Paranormal Activity Just in Time for Halloween

After months of construction, the family moved into the home in September. But by late October, the dream home had become a horror house.

“It progressed from sounds to lights and all these things turning on and off — TVs, space heaters, faucets,” Erin describes. “We obviously wanted to investigate what was going on, if nothing else but to check our sanity.”

For five months, the family endured chilling experiences. Items would move around the house, and figures would appear in the corners of their eyes. The couple says they would see a man in a top hat standing in the corner of the room. Erin and her daughter would experience physical ailments, including night terrors. There were also occasions when the couple was concerned that their daughter was possessed.

Over time, the family realized there was not a safe space in the house. The most active areas were the bedrooms, attic space, basement, and staircase, which the family’s pit bull preferred to avoid. In these areas, the owners describe feeling dark energy everywhere.

“It was the scariest thing I ever experienced because it was the fear of the unknown,” Erin says. “I’m a 35-year-old woman, and I was shaking in my bed in the middle of the night.”

Later, contractors would share what they experienced during the home’s renovation, including times when they felt like they were being punched in the torso or touched — only to turn around and see no one.

The couple eventually contacted a medium to assess the house. The verdict was frightful — entities had made the place their home. Despite every attempt to cleanse the home, the family experienced their breaking point, calling it “the loudest night.” Everything that could make noise in their home had turned on, and their daughter was terrified and yelling the entire night. It was as if the house was telling them to leave.

“I was to the point that I was ready to walk away,” Aaron says. “I felt like my house was being stripped from me.”

Over coffee the following day, the couple recognized it was time to escape. Unable to sell the house to another family in good faith, the homeowners made lemonade out of the sourest lemons. Today, up to nine guests can stay in the Hobo Hill House through short-term vacation rental companies like Airbnb and Vrbo.

“It was the scariest thing I ever experienced because it was the fear of the UNKNOWN. ”

– Erin Clark

Escaping the Hobo Hill House

Until their own experience, Erin and Aaron did not have much interest in the paranormal. Even after converting their home into a rental, the Clarks found it odd that people would not only want to live their experience, but pay money to do so. (See some of Jefferson City’s other haunted destinations.) They recall that the first group to stay in the house did not make it through the night.

“Every experience in the house has been different,” Aaron says. “There is a slim chance that you won’t be disturbed by spirits in the house. About 95% of guests have had something happen.”

During another stay, a local radio personality stayed in their daughter’s room, where she heard what she described as little children’s feet running around the bed all night.

“One lady left a note that said she enjoyed her stay, and she enjoyed the conversation she had with the lady floating above her bed,” Erin recalls.

In addition to the experience with their guests, the house has also been featured on the Travel Channel’s The Dead Files and mentioned in The New York Times as well as publications based in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. While haunted, the house has become a part of tradition for some families, having been host to bridal showers and Thanksgiving dinners.

“I think something that draws people to the house is that it’s a real family that had experiences, and it’s a really beautiful place,” Erin says.