Skip to main content
home check map image

Search such categories as , , ,

searchPage

, ,

searchPage

, , , ,

searchPage
Featured Articles

Afraid of home inspection?

How much maintenance and repairs will cost depends on several factors.

Article Thumbnail Small

Establishing a maintenance routine How much maintenance and repairs will cost depends on several factors. The age of your home, how well it was maintained by previous owners, weather conditions in your area, and your profit expectations, will all impact how much you spend. In general, homeowners should budget approximately one percent of their home’s value for maintenance and repairs. If you make a habit of putting aside a small amount of money each month to be earmarked specifically for home maintenance, then it will be less painful when unexpected repairs are needed or when appliances must be replaced. Many prospective home buyers will not consider a home that is clearly in need of TLC, even in a hot market. Finishing your “punch list” before contacting a realtor will ensure that you are able to ask the highest price possible for your property. Home insurance Lien holders require that you purchase homeowner’s insurance to cover damages to your property from the elements, fire, accident or theft. Additional coverage may be required for floods, tornados, hurricanes or earthquakes, none of which are covered by the typical policy. If you live in an area threatened by one or more of these, it is recommended that you expand your policy to cover them. Likewise, if you have a large number of valuables in your home, your insurance should reflect that. Weigh the return on investment when making improvements Painting is an obvious way to improve your home’s appearance without spending much money, but what about big-ticket items such as swimming pools, or designer kitchens? It is easy to get carried away when you are decorating your home, but many projects do not add lasting value to your home or guarantee that you’ll recoup your investment. Research what features are hot in your market and consider your expenditures wisely. Keep good records When you buy a car you want to see the maintenance records to make sure the oil was changed on a regular schedule. Why not do the same for your home? Scheduling maintenance on your home and performing regular check-ups of your chimney, mechanical systems, and roofing etc... will ensure problems are fixed before they get out of hand. Check List Items you should routinely inspect are: Grading and drainage. Slope and landscaping need to angle away from your foundation. Sidewalks, driveways, decks and patios. These should also slope aways for your home. Regrading may be required and railings and balusters should be as required by code. Exterior wood. Paint untreated wood, porches, deck columns and fence posts to prevent rot. Doors and windows. Maintain caulking around frames or the money you spend heating and cooling your home will go, quite literally, out the window. Inspect you doors and windows for correct fit, missing caulk, paint, broken glass or cracks. Exterior walls. Check brick and stone for missing mortar which can lead to deterioration from freezing and thawing. Blistering or peeling paint could indicate roof leaks, bad gutters, interior leaks from baths or laundry rooms, etc. Make sure there are no exposed nails or warped boards. Roofing and surface water. Inspect your roof and chimney regularly with binoculars or from a ladder, when safe. Remove debris from gutters, and trim overhanging branches. Make sure to inspect after severe storms and high winds. Garage. Check the door opener to make sure the safety reverse is working. Prime the inside and outside edges and check the rollers, tracks, and weather-stripping several times a year. Walls and ceilings. Don't igonre minor leaks. They are sure to become major ones. Mildew and mold can be indicators of a serious problem. Maintain painted surfaces, inspect grout and caulking around sinks, tubs and showers. Replace missing grout to prevent damage to subsurfaces. Attic. If your attic is accessible, inspect roof sheathing, insulation and moisture barriers. Mechanical systems. Trip circuit breaker every 6 months and ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) every month. Check lamp cords, extension cords and plugs.Test outlets near water for proper polarity and grounding. Most hardware stores carry testers that are inexpensive and easy to use. If fuses blow or breakers trip, have an electrician inspect your wiring. Ask him to make certain GFCIs are installed at any outlet within 6 feet of water. Never work with or near electricity when your hands or feet are wet. Never remove service panel covers. Avoid using extension cords when possible. Never replace blown fuses with larger fuses. Plumbing systems. Know where the turnoff is for your system. Do periodic inspections of toilet tanks to ensure they are not wasting water. Make sure your water heater is performing as outlined in your owner’s manual. Remove sediment that has accumulated at the bottom of the tank. The pressure relief valve at the top of the water heater shoud be opened periodically to see that it is in operating condition. Check all valves in your home from time to time. If corroded, clean them and check for leaks. Water treatment systems. Install a water softner if you have hard water to extend the life of your water heater and pipes. Sump pumps. Periodically check for proper operation. Heating and air conditioning. Service annually. Oil furnaces have parts that must be replaced periodically. Check for leaks, odor and soot. Keep bleaches, paint and other materials sealed and away from the heater. Service air conditioners every spring according to the operating instructions.

Pest Control

Reclaim Your Home From Pests!

Article Thumbnail Small

Bugs are a part of life and rodents often come wandering through. These animals are part of the environment and serve their purpose in the great chain of things. However, they can become a nuisance and may even be dangerous if they take over our homes. They are then more aptly called 'pests' and need to be dealt with. This quick article will give you some preventive tips about how to battle common pests. You may adjust many of these tips to various bug and critter problems.

ANTS

Seeing ants around a home is usually taken for granted; however, an ant colony in your home can become a serious issue and should not be ignored. Identifying the species will be important to identifying the type of problem you have. A black ant may be something you can live with when moderated but a carpenter ant is just as dangerous to your home as termites. So what attracts these pests? Food scraps, crumbs, sugar spills or pet food are just a few examples of the type of foodstuffs that will attract many ants. Also, leaky pipes and other sources of water will also help keep the ants happy. Some ants, like carpenter ants, will go for rotting wood. How do you know if you have ants? Well, in most cases you will see them. Soldier ants will make not secret of their presence as they march through your kitchen looking for goodies. In a large indoor infestation you may also see the swarming of winged ants as they search for a new place to colonize in spring/summer. In cold winter months, if you see ants indoors, they are probably in your home rather than coming from outdoors. Finally, how do you get rid of them? First step is to follow their trail to their home. This may lead you to breaks in the baseboard, window, etc. showing you how they are approaching from an outside nest. In this instance, simply seal up entry points. If you find their nest is in your home or you cannot locate it for certain, then baiting is the best option. Ant colonies can sometimes be hard to locate and spraying may just encourage them to pack up and move to another corner of your home. Instead, baiting lets them take poison back to the colony themselves. Baiting is also considered less toxic than spraying. However, make sure it is out of the way or ignored by curious children and pets.

BEES/HORNETS/WASPS

Bees are essential to the eco system, helping plants spread pollen. Wasps, although they look similar to bees (have a thinner waistline), actually survive both on eating nectar and other insects which make them just as beneficial to the ecosystem. Although bees and wasps look the same on the outside they have many behavioral differences. However, one thing that does remain certain is that they all should be handled with caution. When both move too close to our home they can become a problem. So what attracts these pests? Both are attracted to areas that do not receive abundant traffic. This is why you may discover them on your property in areas used less often such as near sheds or side storage awnings. Bees and wasps may build their colonies in the ground, old tree trunks, cracks/openings in buildings and generally other quiet, out of the way places. Paper wasps make the nests in limbs, under eaves of houses and other high places. A good source of food and water and bit of piece and quite offer ideal conditions. How do you know if you have a bee problem? With bees you may not know until your at the area with a hive in the ground. Nests of paper wasps and hornets you can usually spot up in a high corner or nook. Again, bees, hornets and wasps can be beneficial to the ecosystem around your home and if they are not causing a danger may be left alone to work their magic for the summer. However, if they are in structures of your home or too close to where the family may stumble on their territory you should seriously consider getting rid of them. Finally, how do you get rid of them? Be very, very careful when going after any of these groups. Especially in the case of underground hives you may not know how large the hive could be. The biggest threat will be swarming. To protect yourself, make sure to cover you body as much as possible; use gloves, hat, scarf, etc. Also, try to get the nest at dusk or later when most wasps/hornets are back at the nest. There are many specialized chemical sprays on the market that can help eradicate these nests. Again, just make certain to proceed with caution or contact a professional if in doubt.

COCKROACHES

Cockroaches are notorious household pests. These bugs colonize rapidly and can contaminate everything they touch with diseases and allergens. They can spread sickness and irritate those with allergies. Not to mention they can overtake an area with a colony and cause physical damage to your home. So what attracts these pests? Cockroaches are attracted to damp and unsanitary places; sewers, drains, kitchens, bathrooms and storage areas to name a few. How do you know if you have a cockroach problem? If you don't see the cockroach directly, you can usually find signs of their damage and fecal matter. If you suspect cockroaches, setting up traps where you think they are active will help get an idea if they are in your home. Finally, how do you get rid of them? Sanitation is going to be the first key step. Getting messy, mildew ridden places clean will help minimize their romping grounds. Another step is to set up traps so you may better pinpoint their home(s). You will then need to set up a monitored program that may include baits, dusts, sprays and more traps. Keep track of your progress, if the problem persists you should enlist professional help. Also, the extermination program may vary depending on the species of cockroach in you home. A professional will know how to identify the species, find the colony (or colonies) and set a program to fully eliminate the intruders.

FLEAS

Fleas are usually a pest pet owners are the most aware of. These insects live off mammals, biting them and laying their eggs on them. The eggs eventually drop off onto sleeping areas and other areas frequented by the pet and continue their development there. Some animals and people are allergic to their bites, most however, just find them annoying. So what attracts these pests? You do, and your animals too. These pests survive off eating blood from mammals. Pets that are inside and outside will be the likely carriers of this pest into your home. They will bring them in and usually the fleas will concentrate in their dog/cat beds and other areas they sleep. How do you know if you have a flea problem? Usually targeting pets the most, you'll notice if they are itching and scratching a lot. You'll also may come to notice bites of your own. If allergic you will see red welts develop. Finally, how do you get rid of them? To get rid of fleas many times you will have to exterminate them in the yard as well as your home. Fleas spend most of their time on your pet or other animals. They lay eggs there as well, but these usually fall off into the surrounding area, such as your carpet! This is why when you eradicate your home of these pests you need to first clean these areas. Concentrate on where you pet sleeps and spends the most time indoors. Also vacuum, clean any pet bedding, rugs, blankets and anything else the pet has been near. From here you may then use over the counter insecticide to treat these areas to kill off as much as possible. You will need to apply these more than once as any flea pupae are immune to these sprays when in their protected cocoon. At the same time, any pets should also be treated. You can use flea baths in conjunction with various flea medications or collars. Be certain to read directions carefully as many of these are species specific (i.e. for cat or dog only) or also weight specific; ask your vet for recommendations. Finally, for your yard, there are pesticides you may spray on, again, concentrating on pet kennels, dog houses, runs and other areas they use the most. As with all these pests, you may also hire a professional if in doubt or if a severe infestation arises.

MICE & RATS

Mice are much smaller than rats. However, they are similar in that they have poor eyesight and find their way into your home through cracks and openings, following their nose. These openings may be in the foundation, roof, floor (if unfinished) or anywhere else that has an opening 1/4-1/2" in size. So what attracts these pests? Food and shelter are big draws. Many times it is stored food that you may not directly associate as a problem. An example would be stored seeds or camping supplies. Don't consider your items stored in the attic are any safer, roof rats got their name for a reason! How do you know if you have a mouse or rat problem? If you don't see these pests directly you will hear them and often see their damage. There may be gnawing on holes or entry points in walls or cabinets and gnawing on food boxes and similar items as well. You may also find droppings in the home. Most likely if you see these pests you will see them at night or when it is more quiet in the home. Finally, how do you get rid of them? First eliminate how they are entering your home. Any holes should be closed off with tough metal mesh or sheets. The harder the material the better as these pests can work their way through anything soft, like wood! Remove the temptations like stored food or piled garbage or clutter. For stored foods consider moving items into plastic or glass containers instead of cardboard (depending on how accessible these items are). Next you may use traps or poison or a combination of the two. Most poisons are taken by the mouse or rat back to their burrow, so you may end up a with a dead mouse/rat in the wall of your home - this will not smell good! Also, mouse/rat poison will make pets and humans very sick if ingested, make sure to keep it away from pets and children. Check with a professional if you have a large infestation or are uncomfortable using traps and poisons on your own.

MOSQUITOES

Mosquitoes are annoying! They buzz in your ear and inflict bites that itch and seem to appear out of nowhere. It has always been known that some mosquitoes can transmit diseases. They have received more attention in the news lately due to their carrying the West Nile Virus. It is important that you keep repellent on you when camping and enjoying the outdoors. Here is some additional information about what do you do when they become a pest in your yard and home. So what attracts these pests? These pests lay their eggs in standing water. This can be a pond, a rain barrel, old tire or a tin can (to name a few). As long as there is a bit of water or moisture many species of mosquito can survive. Some will even lay eggs in low vegetation/ground cover that is damp and secluded. What attracts them to you and your pets is your blood supply. However, this is only the females as the male mosquito eats nectar from plants instead. How do you know if you have a mosquito problem? You will know if they are pestering you! Also, if you have standing water or a pond you can sometimes see their activity in the water. Finally, how do you get rid of them? You can start by eliminating standing water on your property. However, this may not rid you of the pest entirely as they can travel distances and may be breeding somewhere away from your home. Next you can get various repellents for your yard and home. However, keep in mind that it will be an ongoing treatment since this pest may be coming from outside your property. Oftentimes, personal protection such as sprays for the skin are your best defense against these pests.

SCORPIONS

These pests are more of an issue in southern states but do inhabit some northern states. They have two large pinchers and a stinger bulb at the end of their tail. Usually they will leave you alone unless provoked. However, if they are hiding in your home you may run into more problems than if they were only living outside. So what attracts these pests? They usually can come into the home like many other pests, through cracks and other openings. The are usually looking for bugs, moisture and dark places to hide. Directly outside the home they may be in wood piles or under rocks. How do you know if you have a scorpion problem? You will most likely see these pests at night when they are out hunting. It is also possible, if they are in your home, that you will find them in closets, bathrooms and other dark and/or damp areas where they are comfy. Seeing one does not mean you have an infestation, however, it does mean that they are getting into the house somehow and you should do an inspection of your perimeter to make sure you can keep others out. Finally, how do you get rid of them? Remove firewood, rocks and debris too close to the home which may offer them their first hideaway. If you have areas of your home prone to moisture problems, then get these areas fixed and dry them out. Regular bug control will help as well as you will be removing their food source. There are chemicals on the market, but you will want to rid your home of hiding places before using these. Seek professional help if you are uncertain. Also, make sure to wear protective clothing when searching them out such as gloves and boots. Most scorpions are not lethal to humans, but their sting will hurt like a wasp or large honey bee.

SPIDERS

Spiders are a part of home life. They can be good friends in combating unwanted insects and aid in pest control. For example, big colorful garden spiders may look intimidating, but they can prove a valuable ally in getting bugs out of your yard. However, all spiders can become pests themselves when they become too abundant or invade your home. So what attracts these pests? Most spiders are attracted to an area with many bugs to feed on. They usually want a high or low corner where they can remain undisturbed. Spiders that build webs, will do so where it can remain undisturbed but will also trap bugs as they wander about. Some spiders, such as wolf spiders, do not build webs but instead go out on potrol hunting for bugs. These spiders will hide out during the day and come out when it is quieter. How do you know if you have a spider problem? You may notice too many webs and in some cases, molted shells within the webs. You may also find egg sacs that are full of tousands of eggs that you will want to dispose of carefully. To squeeze one of these too hard is not a pleasant experience! Also, you may notice spider bites. These small bites will let you know that they are too abundant. Finally, how do you get rid of them? Like many of our other pests mentioned, getting rid of debris around and inside the house will help. Also, getting rid of their food supply - if you keep you other bugs out they won't have food to find in your home. Make sure you identify a spider before acting. If it is a poisonous spider, such as a hobo or brown recluse, you may want to get professional extermination. If it is a garden spider you may want to just trap them and put them outside in your garden where they will become a very good ally.

TERMITES

The most common pests that like to devour your home are termites. These pests alone are estimated to cause $5 billion a year in damages!* These pests will literally eat you out of house and home if left unchecked. Like many pest issues, the damage they can do to your home is devastating and unfortunately not covered by homeowners insurance. Therefore it is important when buying a home to get a inspection for bug problems. So what attracts these pests? Moisture is a big draw and they like to keep the humidity levels up. Keep the foundation of your home dry by ensuring all your drainage is working properly; make a point to check for moist spots so you may correct the drainage ahead of time. It is a good idea to keep a gap between any wood and dense plants and the soil around your home. Along these same lines, you should make sure gutters are kept clean of debris. If they become clogged these too will attract termites to your home. Keep firewood stored elevated off the ground and away from your home. You should not let unused firewood just sit and rot as this will become a termite haven. If building a new deck, fence, etc. make sure to use treated wood and seal it from water. Also, using sand around posts, under decks and other areas will make it more difficult for most termites to tunnel their way in. How do you know if you have termites? If you begin to see flying termites in your home and wings discarded in window sills, doorways, spider webs, etc. this may be a good indication that there is a colony in your home. One of the tell tale signs is pencil sized "mud-tubes" that are part of the network termites build. These tunnels in wood are soft and can easily be crumbled with a knife. Finally, how do you get rid of termites? There are three types of treatments a professional inspector can offer: soil treatment which uses a diluted poison placed in the soil to protect the perimeter and serves for long term protection from termites (this is usually used in cooperation with one of the next two treatments); wood treatment which treats the wood directly effected and surrounding area with poison, and finally bait treatment which draws the termites out which gather the poison and take it back to the colony. Whichever of these you choose, it is highly recommended that you consult a professional to get this type of job done correctly. One item you may want to ask a professional you hire concerns the chemicals they will use. Many of these are toxic well after applied. Make sure they are aware of children and pets in your home and might be able to offer alternatives if necessary.

Winter Safety Tips

Whether celebrating a holiday or snuggling next to the fire.

Article Thumbnail Small

Winter brings many different holidays and celebrations. During these various festivities we host dinners or gatherings and may have many house guests. And so up go the decorations! Decorating your home can be fun. However, many times we are putting up items we may not be familiar with and have lost their various 'How to' booklets years ago. We are cramming our space with such fun, festive items that we may not think much about how to display these items safely. If you have children, pets, house guests, or crazy, exuberant relatives around the house this winter holiday season, you may want to consider some general safety tips. Even if you aren't hosting an event but will be using winter items, such as a fireplace, this article will have a few helpful tips for you. We know you are busy, and the last thing anyone wants to do when planning a party is to think about all the details! Thus, here is simple, quick safety checklist for your winter fun!

Below is our checklist of things to watch for during winter activities and holidays. The winter season is a time that safety should be considered. Just look at these facts and figures from the National Fire Protection Association: In 2002, there were 240 Christmas tree fires in U.S. homes, resulting in $11.4 million in direct property damage. During 2001, an estimated 18,000 home fires started by candles were reported to public fire departments. Fourteen percent of the candle fires occurred in December. This is almost twice the 8% monthly average. During 1999-2001, candles caused an estimated annual average of 16,300 home structure fires. These fires resulted in 140 civilian injuries and $289 million in direct property damage. In 11% of the December candle fires, the fires began when a decoration caught fire. This was true in only 3% of the fires during the rest of the year (Source: NFPA's One-Stop Data Shop). Please take a moment to review some safety tips. Then enjoy a safe holiday and winter!

SNOW!

  • If you must be outside, wear plenty of layers of clothing. Don't over-exert yourself. Make sure you wear a hat, because the largest amount of body heat is lost through the top of the head.
  • Sunscreen: the sun's rays can still cause sunburn in the winter, especially when they reflect off snow!
  • If weather warnings suggest a severe wind chill or extremely low temperatures, consider avoiding outdoor activities until the weather improves.
  • Ensure that each member of your household has a warm coat, gloves or mittens, hat, and water-resistant boots.
  • The rule of thumb for older babies and young children is to dress them in one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear in the same conditions.
  • Be aware of symptoms and treatment for hypothermia, snow blindness and frostbite.
    Hypothermia: Complaints about being cold and irritability. Uncontrollable shivering. Impaired or slurred speech or vision. Clumsy movements. Blurred vision. Severe symptoms can include stiff muscles, dark and puffy skin, irregular heart and breathing rates and unconsciousness.
    Snow Blindness: Eyes become sensitive to light. Pain in eyes or forehead. Gritty feeling in the eyes. Frostbite: Superficial frostbite that looks like gray or yellowish patches on the skin, especially, fingers, toes, face, ears but can occur on any exposed skin. The first symptoms are usually numbness or itching and prickly pain. The skin remains soft but becomes red and flaky after it thaws. Deep or Severe Frostbite looks like waxy and pale skin and feels cold, hard and solid to the touch. The areas turn blue or purple when thawing and large blisters may appear when the area warms up.
  • Shoveling Snow: If you have a history of heart trouble, check with your doctor before grabbing that snow shovel and clearing the driveway or sidewalk. Don't shovel snow just after you eat. Don't smoke while shoveling. Pace yourself. Snow shoveling is a strenuous exercise that raises both your pulse and blood pressure. Treat shoveling like an athletic event: warm up before you start, and stretch during and after shoveling. Concentrate on using your legs instead of your back. Bend your legs and keep your back straight. Take breaks. And don't work until you are exhausted. If your chest feels tight, stop immediately.
  • Teach children never to touch metal during cold temperatures.
  • Children should never play on snow piles near parking lots or on the road side. Make sure children never go near snow plows or areas being plowed.
  • Sledding: Keep sledders away from motor vehicles. Children should be supervised. Keep young children separated from older children. Sledding feet first or sitting up, instead of lying down head-first, may prevent head injuries. Use steerable sleds, not snow disks or inner tubes. Sleds should be structurally sound and free of sharp edges and splinters, and the steering mechanism should be well lubricated. Sled slopes should be free of obstructions like fire hydrants or fences, be covered in snow not ice, not be too steep (slope of less than 30º), and end with a flat runoff. Avoid sledding in overcrowded areas.
  • Skiing/Snowboarding: Never ski or snowboard alone. Young children should always be supervised by an adult. Older children's need for adult supervision depends on their maturity and skill. If they are not with an adult, than they should at least be accompanied with a friend. Consider wearing a helmet. Equipment should fit. Skiers should wear safety bindings that are adjusted at least every year. Snowboarders should wear gloves with built-in wrist guards. Slopes should fit the ability and experience of the skier or snowboarder. Avoid overcrowded slopes.
  • A winter storm WATCH means a winter storm is possible in your area. A winter storm WARNING means a winter storm is headed for your area. A blizzard WARNING means strong winds, blinding wind-driven snow, and dangerous wind chill are expected. Seek shelter immediately!

Travel

  • When leaving for a long time: Make certain to get your mail held by the post office. Also get your paper stopped. Have a neighbor or family stop by and check your house once a day. Set timers on lights, indoor and outdoors. Make sure your outdoor sensor lights are in working order.
  • If you have a security system make sure it is fully armed. Let anyone checking on your house know how to unarm and reset it if they will be entering your home. Check all windows to make certain they are locked. If traveling out of state, make certain to review weather reports and construction reports before starting your trip.
  • Keep windows up and doors locked at all times.
  • Keep a half a tank of fuel; this will prepare you in case you run into long holiday traffic or weather delays.
  • Put together a winter-driving kit, including a pair of gloves, a warm hat, and a blanket.
  • If a blizzard traps you in your car: Pull off the road, set hazard lights to flashing, and hang a distress flag from the radio aerial or window. Remain in your vehicle; rescuers are most likely to find you there. Conserve fuel, but run the engine and heater about ten minutes each hour to keep warm, cracking a downwind window slightly to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Exercise to maintain body heat but don't overexert. Huddle with other passengers and use your coat for a blanket. In extreme cold use road maps, seat covers, floor mats, newspapers or extra clothing for covering--anything to provide additional insulation and warmth. Turn on the inside dome light so rescue teams can see you at night, but be careful not to run the battery down. In remote areas, spread a large cloth over the snow to attract the attention of rescue planes. Do not set out on foot unless you see a building close by where you know you can take shelter. Once the blizzard is over, you may need to leave the car and proceed on foot. Follow the road if possible. If you need to walk across open country, use distant points as landmarks to help maintain your sense of direction. (Tips provided by FEMA)

Guests

  • If visiting another home, keep in mind they may not have children and therefore may not have everything out of reach that should be. Always keep a close eye on children when visiting someone else's home. Even if it is a familiar home, their holiday decorations may have changed the landscape enough that it will be a whole new environment with potential hazards for children.
  • If leaving children with a babysitter make sure they are prepared with all the needed numbers and contacts. Make sure sitters are aware of any holiday/special rules for the house; i.e. no running around the Christmas Tree.
  • If guests will be smoking, provide them with large, deep ashtrays and check them frequently. Keep out of reach for children and pets.
  • When attending a party, always designate a non-drinking driver.
  • If you are the host of a holiday gathering, be sure there are non-alcoholic beverages available for guests who are driving. Stop serving alcohol well before the party is over. Bring out coffee, more alcohol-free drinks and more food.

Gifts

  • Choose toys appropriate for age, ability and skill for children. Children under the age of 10 should only get electrical toys that use batteries rather than ones that plug into the wall.
  • Read instructions for children's toys carefully before letting them run off and play.
  • Government guidelines specify that toys for children under three years of age cannot have parts less than 1 1/4 inches in diameter and 2 1/4 inches long.
  • Remove strings and ribbons from toys before given to young children.
  • fter gifts are opened make sure wrapping paper is cleaned up as some bags may prove to be suffocating/chocking hazards.
  • Make sure wrapping paper doesn't get too close to the fireplace.

Food Safety

  • Thoroughly cook all meat products.
  • Thaw meat in the refrigerator - not on the counter.
  • Thoroughly wash all raw vegetables and fruits.
  • Keep raw and cooked foods separate. Make sure to use different utensils when preparing them.
  • Wash your hands frequently. If working with "little chefs" making holiday treats, make sure they wash their hands often as well.
  • Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S. When cooking for holiday visitors, remember to keep an eye on kitchen projects.
    If you are faced with a grease fire, remember, put a lid on it, and turn the heat source off!
  • Foods that require refrigeration should never be left out more than two hours.
  • Do not add new food to a serving dish that h0as been sitting at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Dry foods such as nuts, crackers, baked goods, breads, hard cheeses and candy don't support bacterial growth. Fruits, pickles, jams and jellies are too acidic for most bacteria.
  • Clean up early after a party. Plates left out and around may have bad food that can make children sick or can become a chocking hazard.
  • If you choose to make eggnog with whole eggs, heat the egg-milk mixture to at least 160°F. Refrigerate at once, dividing large amounts into shallow containers so that it cools quickly.
  • Use ciders labeled as pasteurized, or bring unpasteurized cider to a boil before serving. This is especially important when serving cider to people with weakened immune systems.
  • Use leftover turkey meat, bones, stuffing, gravy and other cooked dishes within two to three days.

Fireplace Safety

  • Fireplaces should be cleaned annually, preferably by a professional chimney sweep.
  • Keep fireplace screens/doors closed when fire is lit.
  • Make sure to open the flue before lighting a fire :)
  • Make sure no decorations are near the fireplace before lilting.
  • Use only wood that is properly seasoned to reduce creosote build-up.
  • Wrapping paper burns fast and intense. Do NOT use wrapping paper in the fireplace.
  • Keep any fire starts out of the reach of children. These are often very dangerous if ingested.
  • When burning artificial logs, burn only one at a time. They produce too much concentrated heat for some types of fireplaces.
  • Don't use water to extinguish a fire. It can crack the bricks in your hearth. Let the fire burn itself out.
  • If using portable/space heaters, keep them at least three feet from anything that can burn.

Decorations

• Decorations 

  • Avoid sharp decorations where small children and pets may reach them.
  • Do not get decorations that look like food or candy when small children are present.
  • Get down on your hands and knees and examine your decorations before your pets do.
  • If there is just too much mischief for them to get into make certain you can make the room off-limits. If using spun glass (angel hair) make sure to follow directions fully. Make certain it is out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Keep holiday plants such as mistletoe, holly berries, and Christmas cactus away from children and pets. Poinsettias can make pets very sick.
  • These materials should never be used for holiday decorations because they are inherently combustible: bamboo, cedar trees/branches, corn stalks/shucks, cotton or confetti (loose, in large quantities), dry moss/leaves, flammable powders/liquids, hay/straw (loose or baled), paper streamers (serpentine), plastic sheeting/pellets, sawdust, tumbleweeds, and wood bark/shavings.

• Candles

  • Do not use candles on Christmas trees or evergreen trimmings.
  • Use non-flamable holders and make sure they are placed where they cannot be knocked over easily.
  • Do not keep candles lit in rooms that is not occupied/supervised.
  • Check your candles as they burn. Some will burn unevenly and may finish sooner than you expected or break open drip streams of hot wax.
  • Do not leave children unattended around candles and matches/lighters.

• Lights

  • Turn off all lights before going to bed or leaving the home. It is an even better idea to turn lights off when they are in a room that is unattended.
  • Whether new or old, always check your lights before hanging them anywhere. Check that bulbs are all working well and not cracked. Also looked for any damage to wires or socket connections.
  • urn off lights before replacing bulbs or fuses.
  • Do not put indoor lights under carpets or behind curtains. Make sure they are away from foot traffic and are not stepped on.
  • Keep cords and lights away from small children and pets.
  • Make sure to only use lights certified for outdoor use outside! If using lights from last year, make a habit of storing outdoor items together so if the labels are lost you still know which is which.
  • String lights through hooks or insulated staples. Do not use nails and tacks.
  • Outdoor lights should be plugged into circuits with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFI) to avoid shocks.
  • Where lights are connected together outdoors, keep the connections dry by wrapping them with friction tape or plastic.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets. Look for manufacturer's recommendation. General rule is no more than 3 strings of lights for each extension cord.
  • Do NOT use electric lights on a metallic tree.
  • When removing lights, never tug! Remove them as gently as they were strung up!

• Trees & Evergreen Trimmings

  • If purchasing a live Christmas Tree, check to see that the tree is fresh. The tree should be green, the needles should not break off easily, you should have to pull the needles to remove them. When you tap the tree against the ground it shouldn't be shedding needles. Also, there will be resin visible on a fresh tree bottom.
  • When you bring your tree home cut the bottom so that fresh wood is exposed. This will allow for better water absorption and keep the tree from drying too quickly. Also make certain to keep the tree stand basin filled with water; something that can be easy to forgot since it is not part of your normal routine!
  • Choose a sturdy tree stand designed not to tip over.
  • If purchasing an artificial tree look for one labeled "Fire Resistant." Note the resistant, artificial does not mean fire proof! Place your tree away from heat sources such as fireplace or space heaters.
  • Don't place your tree in high traffic space. You don't want someone to trip and topple over the tree!
  • Trim your tree with non-flamable decorations, such as tinsel or plastic ornaments. However, watch tinsel as cats like it, but it is not at all good for them! Be very careful if your pets have access to the tree that decorations are not tempting to them.
  • Keep green trimmings away from heat sources. They are great for railings or doorways, but not good for table center pieces if there are candles there as well!
  • Tree and trimmings should be removed as soon as able once the holiday season is over. You don't want a pile of dry evergreen sitting in a corner waiting to ignite!

Famous Haunted Houses

It is time to dust off one of our more popular seasonal articles - Famous Haunted Houses!

Article Thumbnail Small

It is time to dust off one of our more popular seasonal articles - Famous Haunted Houses! This year we have expanded our list of spooky places to visit! Have fun and enjoy!

Perhaps it wasn't the wind that slammed the door shut? Doesn't that really sound like footsteps down the hall? Or maybe it is a great marketing ploy for bed and breakfast inns and historical societies? Maybe people just enjoy the idea of hauntings? Okay, so not all of us believe in ghosts, but the stories and histories behind many haunted houses can be just as unique as their "spiritual" residents. For a little fun and change of pace, we have compiled a list of famous haunted houses and buildings in America. Dim the lights, sit back and enjoy a little Halloween-flavored fun and learn a little history too!

AlabamaSelma - Sturdivant Hall

The History: This mansion was built in 1853 for Colonel Edward T. Watts and his family as a town residence. It was later purchased by John Parkman who became President of the First National Bank of Selma in 1866. After cotton speculation ruined the bank, Parkman was arrested and was then killed in an attempted escape. His wife and two daughters sold the house to a local merchant, Emile Gillman whose family kept the home until it was purchased by the city in 1957. The house was turned into a city museum with funds from Daniel Sturdivant's estate (and why it is known as Sturdivant Hall today).

The Haunting: The young bank President, John Parkman, proclaimed his innocence and said he would fight to clear his name. Fellow citizens believed he was honest and helped him break out of jail. However, either shot or drowned, Parkman died after the attempted escape. Many believe it is his spirit that haunts the home he was forced to leave. Parkman likes to move objects around and has even been seen as a full apparition in 19th century dress. He is a benign ghost and in general just checks in on the place to see who is about.

The Viewing: Sturdivant Hall is now a museum which offers tours highlighting the architecture and furnished setting of a late 19th century home. The museum also houses a collection of paintings by Clara Weaver Parish, famously known for her stained glass at the turn of the 20th century. The museum itself is open Tues-Sat or by appointment.  C, click here for more information. To join the Selma haunted tour which includes Sturdivant Hall among other ghostly sites, take a look at the Haunted History Tour in October. More on this spooky site...http://sturdivanthall.comYouTube Video - www.youtube.com/watch?v=05SVV2fwZmc

AlaskaSeward - Jesse Lee Home

The History: This site opened as an orphanage in 1925 for rural children who lost their parents to influenza and tuberculosis. It closed after suffering damage in the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake. Today mostly the outer wall shells still stand for two buildings of the complex. Benny Benson, who designed the Alaskan state flag grew up here.

The Haunting: There are reports of children's laughter around the site and the rhythm of a jump rope. There have also been a few apparitions spotted including a small boy and a priest. However, the stories that might shed light on the reason for their attachment to this house are only speculative as they are not identified with individuals known to have died in the home.

The Viewing: The site is not open to visitors at this time. An effort is underway to reconstruct the buildings, for more information click here. More on this spooky site...www.jesseleehome.netYouTube Video - www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHCGKZ4Rujw&feature=related

ArizonaJerome - Jerome Grand Hotel

The History: Built in 1926, this building was originally the United Verde Hospital. The hospital was built to be fireproof and withstand blasts from the dynamite mining nearby. One of the best hospitals in the west, it was phased out when the mining in the area began to slow down and closed by 1950. The building stood empty until 1994; it had been a time capsule and was unchanged for 44 years. It is now being restored as a hotel with many of the rooms already completed and open for guests.The Haunting: Being a hospital, there were many patients that perished in its walls. However, there were deaths of two orderlies that many believed was murder. There is also one recorded suicide. When the building lay dormant for 44 years, locals claimed they would still see lights burning in the vacant building. Since being reopened, more paranormal activities have been noticed. The most common is for guests to feel temperature drops and hear coughing or labored breathing in empty rooms or corners of their own guestroom. One ghost is said to be a woman who died in childbirth. She is upset that her child was buried in an unmarked grave and prowls the grounds looking for the babe.The Viewing: You may stay in the hotel today. Room rates begin at $110 and go up from there. Being the highest point in the Verde Valley, it offers some great views. And if you're lucky, maybe a glance at a ghost or two! To spend the night, click here. More on this spooky site...www.jeromegrandhotel.netwww.hauntedhouses.comwww.prairieghosts.com/jerome.htmlwww.sgha.net/az/jerome/jeromegrand2.htmlBack to Top Ghost ImageArkansasFort Smith - Clayton House The History: Although built in the 1850s, the namesake attached to this home, William Henry Harrison Clayton purchased the home in 1876. By this time Clayton was a US District attorney who had a reputation for efficiently prosecuting murderers and lawless scoundrels that were giving Fort Smith a poor reputation. The Haunting: Clayton may have had a reputation for getting rid of trouble makers in town while alive, but it seems he is staying around for a little mischief. Upstairs doors slam and someone in boots stomps around. There is also a woman who appears downstairs who may be Clayton's daughter Ann.The Viewing: Today this museum offers a glimpse at elegant living in the 1880s with period furniture, landscaping and decor. For a historic tour and more information please click here. If you want more ghost stories, then try the Spirit of the Past Tour run on Friday evenings, for more information click here. More on this spooky site...www.claytonhousefortsmith.comhttp://claytonhouse.art.officelive.com/default.aspxBack to TopCaliforniaSan Diego - Whaley House The History: This house was a home, granary, court house, theater, ballroom, billiard hall, school and polling center. It was also the site where criminals were hanged before the house was built. Once built, it also had the tragic history of one of the Whaley girls committing suicide inside.The Haunting: There are many ghosts in the Whaley House. There is "Yankee Jim" who was one of the criminals hanged at the site. He now stomps around the house with a heavy step and even the first family, the Whaley's, reported hearing him in the house. Thomas Whaley, the first owner of the house has been seen lingering around the upper landing. Thomas' wife, Anna, also wanders the downstairs and the garden. There are a few other apparitions and even a little fox terrier ghost dog that is seen on occasion!The Viewing: This house is now a museum and is open for tours on most days. Their website has more details about times and price; click here for details. More on this spooky site...www.whaleyhouse.orgwww.viewzone.com/whaleyhouse.htmlwww.hauntedhouses.comBack to TopSan Francisco Bay - Alcatraz Island The History: Not a house per se, but people "lived" there right? Anyway, Alcatraz started as a military fort in 1850. It was used as a military prison and then a federal prison after 1934. In 1963 the prison was closed due to the cost of operations. As a prison, Alcatraz had a reputation of being a hard place to live in which prisoners were there to be shut away rather than rehabilitated. Punishments could be harsh such as restricted diet, solitary confinement, and hard labor. There were the now infamous solitary cells like the "strip cell" and the "hole" that even made the most hardened prisoners think twice about breaking any rules. The Haunting: This place was creating ghost stories before being shut down. Guards retell odd tales of ghosts attacking inmates or making noises. Today, there are still many haunting "hot spots" on the island. There is the utility corridor where three escapees were gunned down; this doorway is now welded shut but many say there is the sound of clanging against the door; perhaps something wants out... There are also reports of running in the corridors, voices in the cells and medical ward and screams from the dungeons and isolation units.The Viewing: Tours are available of the island and complex. Depending on the time of year, you may have to use different ferry systems to access the island. For more information click here. More on this spooky site...www.nps.gov/alcatraz/ www.cr.nps.gov/museum/exhibits/alca/www.alcatrazhistory.com/mainpg.htm www.prairieghosts.com/gpalcatraz.html www.legendsofamerica.com/CA-Alcatraz.htmlBack to TopSan Jose - Winchester Mystery House The History: Sarah Winchester, daughter-in-law of Oliver Winchester, manufacturer of the Winchester rifle, began the construction of this house in 1884 and kept the project going until her death 38 years later. The legend says she constructed the house continuously to confuse the bad spirits of those killed by the Winchester rifle. In the end it had 160 rooms, 47 fireplaces and various oddities such as doors leading to a sudden outside drop or staircases leading to the ceiling. The Haunting: Some of the ghosts are said to have been invited by Sarah Winchester as she is said to have held a séance with them every night to determine the construction for the next day. Reports of footsteps, doors closing and opening, cold spots, and other paranormal behavior have been reported. However, some skeptics in the ghost hunting world believe the mansion is more of an oddity than a true haunting ground. Guess you'll just have to go to find out for yourself!The Viewing: The mansion is open to tours today. You can select a standard tour and see 110 rooms and their various oddities and details or you can also do a behind the scenes tour to see how the house functioned. For more information click here. More on this spooky site...www.winchestermysteryhouse.comwww.prairieghosts.com/winchester.html http://mysteryhouseguide.com

ColoradoSt Elmo - St Elmo The History: St Elmo is a Colorado ghost town that was built in 1878. Originally called Forest City, this mining town reached 2000 souls at its peak. Silver, gold, copper and iron ore were all mined in the area. Starting out moral, it soon degraded to a 'Saturday Night Hangout' for the over abundance of men in the mining community. In 1890 a fire destroyed the business section of town and by 1910 the mines began to close. By 1922 most everyone had left but the affluent Stark family. They remained and tried to cash in on tourism still running the hotel and general store. Finally the post office closed (and therefore the town) in 1952. The last brother and sister of the Stark family fell into despair and she was the last of their family to die in 1960. The Haunting: After the death of the Stark family, a friend who had remained kind to them inherited their holdings in St Elmo. When their grandchildren were playing in the hotel, the doors slammed shut and the temperature radically dropped, they refused to play there anymore. Another grandchild tried to take the hotel on as a project. She started to lock away her cleaning and repair tools because they kept moving. Regardless of her efforts, the tools still appeared mysteriously in the middle of the room every morning. Annabelle Stark, the last of the Stark family to die, is said to keep a lookout for the the town from the Hotel. A skier said she saw a woman in the window who was looking off in the distance. When she followed her gaze she saw snowmobilers in the area. The skier told them that it was illegal to snowmobile in St Elmo. After they left the woman in the hotel nodded to the skier and vanished.The Viewing: St Elmo lies just west of Bueno Vista. It is considered the best preserved ghost town in Colorado and worth a stop if you are in the area. More on this spooky site...www.ghosttowns.com/states/co/saintelmo.htmlwww.ghosttowngallery.com/htme/stelmo.htmwww.legendsofamerica.com/CP-StElmo1.htmlwww.prairieghosts.com/stelmo.htmlBack to TopConnecticutNew London - Lighthouse Inn The History: Originally known as Meadow Court, this home was a summer retreat for Charles Guthrie. Built in 1902, it was turned into an Inn in 1927. Among such famous guests as Bette Davis and Joan Crawford was Harry Rodvogin, a resident artist who lived at the Inn after his old friends Bill and Al Ronnick spotted him painting portraits on the street. Rodvogin is now recognized for the paintings he created and you can see his work in the local museums.The Haunting: One guest who hasn't left is the spirit of a bride who died falling down the main stairway on her wedding day. But she is rather harmless, she hangs out in guestrooms reading a book or walks around the halls looking a bit forlorn. Strange noises are also heard around the Inn on occasion but shouldn't disrupt a good nights sleep.The Viewing: This Inn is now a resort offering such amenities as its own private beach and in-room spa services. To make your reservations, click here. More on this spooky site...www.lighthouseinn-ct.comwww.associatedcontent.com/article/682437/

DelawareBethany Beach - The Addy Sea The History: Built in 1902 by John Addy, this Inn was originally a family residence. After a wicked storm in 1927, the house was actually moved further back from the seashore. The original foundations were used as a BBQ pit and hang out until they were covered by sand over the years. John Addy was a plumbing supplier and made the Addy house and his neighbors homes some of the most efficient and convenient in the area. This made it popular when it first became a boarding house in 1935. The boarding house was run by the Addy family until it was sold in 1975.The Haunting: Room 1 had a haunted copper tub - well, until it went missing. The original Victorian tub was originally used by the Addy family. During renovations in the 1980s the tub was stored in a garage but went missing. The thief may have gotten more then they expected as the bathtub is supposedly haunted and rocks and shakes violently at times. But no fear, even with the haunted bathtub gone, there are still specters wandering the halls, random sounds and footsteps, strange whiffs of perfume and even haunting music all keeping the place "spiritually" active.The Viewing: Enjoy the Victorian trappings, walk the beach or sit on the veranda on a rocking chair - who knows, maybe the empty one next to you will rock too? To find out more about staying, click here. More on this spooky site...www.addysea.com/addyseainfo.htmlwww.addysea.com/history.htmlBack to Top Ghost ImageFloridaFort Pierce - Boston House The History: William Turpin Jones worked for the railroad and after an accident on the job was able to pay for his home, Cresthaven, in 1909. Jones used the house as collateral during the depression in an agreement with Irving Whitney. However, Whitney died and his sister Rose forced the Jones family to move out in 1932 and renamed the home Boston House. When she died in 1954 the home was rezoned by the city for commercial use after if failed to sell as a residence.The Haunting: There was a tragic shooting accident when Clifford Jones, then 10 years old, accidently shot his friend, 9 year old William Fee. However, the ghost sightings revolve around sightings of women in the window, perfume in the morning and laughter of the unpleasant kind. There have also been reports of items moving and cold spots. None of the sightings are clearly related to one event. Instead see the article by the Grim Society who reviewed the historical archives and found many of the tales of ghosts do not match the actual history of the building.The Viewing: A law firm currently occupies this old residence, sorry, no tours. More on this spooky site...http://thegrimsociety.com/2007/10/14/the-historic-boston-house/www.examiner.com/paranormal-travel-in-west-palm-beach/

GeorgiaSavannah - 17-Hundred-90 Restaurant & Inn The History: This inn was actually built in 1820, not 1790. First a boarding house and later an inn, this home has had many owners and guests. One of these guests was Anne Powell. The legend says she was unhappily married at sixteen to an Englishman. She fell in love with a German sailor who left her "in the family way." She watched his boat sail away and then committed suicide by jumping from the window, landing on the brick pavement below.The Haunting: Anne Powell is the most famous ghost, believed to haunt guest room 204 from where it is said she jumped to her death. She doesn't seem to be a menacing spirit: she sits beside the fire, lays out guests' clothes on the bed or plays pranks on guests waking them up in wee hours of the morning by setting off the radio alarm. Another ghost in the basement kitchen and restaurant doesn't like women very much and likes to shove them around. But this ghost is countered by the ghost of a merchant marine who will help the staff turn the lights off at closing.The Viewing: Savannah ghost tours stop here for a drink but you can go to the restaurant yourself and have a bite to eat. Or if you really dare, spend the night instead - ask for room 204! More on this spooky site...www.17hundred90.comwww.hauntedhouses.com/states/ga/17hundred90.cfmBack to TopSavannah - Kehoe House The History: This home was built in 1892 for William Kehoe and his family. The large family (they had 10 children!) kept the home until 1930. After that the home became a boarding house, funeral parlor, and a private residence. In 1992 the home opened as a B&B, it changed ownership in 2003, but remains an inn with a B&B atmosphere.The Haunting: The main tragedy of the house (that we know of) was the death of the Kehoe twins who died when playing around the chimney. Children can be heard running the halls and some guests have even had children check in on them in their rooms. But if you don't see the children, their mother Annie is reputed to still wander the rooms, making sure to tuck in all the guests at night!The Viewing: Why not spend the night? Ask for rooms 201 or 203. For more information, click here. More on this spooky site...www.kehoehouse.comwww.hauntedhouses.comwww.associatedcontent.comBack to Top Ghost ImageHawaiiKailua-Kona, Big Island - Hulihe'e Palace The History: This summer home for Hawaiian royalty was built by governor John Adams Kuakini in 1838 and was used until 1914.The Haunting: Different members of the royal family are said to haunt this place, both the grand staircase and the grounds. The ghosts don't mind visitors and generally keep to themselves. There is also a young boy who has been spotted, but his relation to the family, if any, is unknown.The Viewing: The palace became a museum in 1927 and is still open for limited tours which highlight the Victorian furniture and decor from the reign of King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani. The gift shop is also open. More on this spooky site...http://huliheepalace.com/index.htmlwww.gohawaii.com/big-island/regions-neighborhoods/kona/hulihee-palacehttp://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/01/konas-fscinating-history-hulihee-palace/

Ghost ImageIdahoBoise - Old Idaho Penitentiary The History: Although not a house, this prison was the home to many inmates beginning in 1872, two years after construction began. Many of the buildings on the site were added and built by the inmates as part of their daily labor. The prison functioned for 101 years and housed both dangerous men and women.The Haunting: A fully functioning prison with isolation cells and a gallows, there are more than a few places to attract negative post mortem energies. Both the isolation cells and the rose garden (where the first gallows were located) have cold spots and apparitions. A death row inmate who committed suicide is also known to haunt the maximum security prison in a eerie green hue.The Viewing: The penitentiary buildings now house a museum run by the Idaho State Historic Society. In addition to a history of the prison and the inmates, there are also exhibits on weapons and transportation. For added fun, the penitentiary now hosts Halloween events, ghost tours and night tours. For more information, click here. More on this spooky site...http://history.idaho.gov/oldpen.htmlwww.hauntedhouses.com/states/id/idaho_state_penitentiary.cfmYouTube Video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITi8SB39J8EBack to TopIllinoisBull Valley - George Stickney House This History: George and Sylvia Stickney built this home in 1849. As spiritualists, they specifically requested the design of the home not to have square corners. It was believed the square corners could trap spirits. The family was reputed to have preformed séances regularly in their upstairs ballroom. Having 12 children, but only 3 that survived, perhaps the need to connect with the lost loved ones encouraged their continual searches into the beyond. The Haunting: The police stationed in the home today have shared stories of paranormal activity. They have heard footsteps and human voices when alone. Some have seen apparitions and had objects move on them after they left the room. Other more dramatic events such as doors opening on their own have also been seen.The Viewing: The house is registered on the National Registry of Historic Places. Efforts are underway to restore the home and eventually offer tours. However, as of today there is not much for the public to see. To prevent vandalism to the vacated structure, the Bull Valley Police Department has their headquarters on the lower floor. Take a look at the video from the Northwest Herald to see more. More on this spooky site...www.prairieghosts.com/stickney.htmlhttp://ssm.nwherald.com/northwest-herald/video/20071030StickneyMansion/stickney-mansion/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Stickney_HouseBack to TopEquality - Hickory Hill House The History: This house was built in 1842 by John Crenshaw. Although it was illegal to own slaves in the state of Illinois, it was legal to lease slaves from slave states to work in salt mines. John Crenshaw leased slaves from nearby states to work in his salt mines. It is also said that he would kidnap free blacks and force them to work in his mines and eventually sell them into slavery. All the slaves where kept in the upstairs attic in horse stall-like cells that opened to one large corridor. John Crenshaw had a particularly nasty reputation for cruelty and abuse.The Haunting: The house opened as a tourist attraction in 1930 and many claimed to hear the rattling of chains and muffled cries from the attic. The home had the reputation that no one could spend the night. In 1978, a reporter named David Rogers was the first to spend a whole night in the house.The Viewing: Currently the house is protected by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and closed to the public. A grant was received in late spring 2006, hopefully it will be able to reopen soon! More on this spooky site...www.prairieghosts.com/slave.html www.illinoishistory.com/oshpage.html www.hauntedhouses.comhttp://illinoishistory.blogspot.com/2006/10/old-slave-house-closed-10-years-ago.htmlBack to Top Ghost ImageIndianaIndianapolis - Hannah House The History: This home was built by Alexander Hannah in 1858. Hannah used his basement to house runaway slaves before the Civil War. After the war he expanded the house for his new wife, Elizabeth. Four years after his death in 1895 the home was sold to Roman Oehler and the house remains owned by the Oehler family today.The Haunting: The legend is that some of the slaves seeking sanctuary in the cellar perished one night from smoke inhalation and burns after a lamp fell over. Their bodies were buried in the same cellar so the underground railroad location would not be discovered. Today cold spots, shattering glass and moaning can be heard in the cellar. A few apparitions have also been spotted. Upstairs, items move, footsteps are heard, doors open on their own and odd odors permeate the room. Even Hannah and possibly his wife have been spotted, still watching over the home and its secrets.The Viewing: The Hannah House is rented for special events and conferences today. However, overnight ghost packages are available for both inexperienced enthusiasts and professional ghost hunting teams alike. For more information, click here. More on this spooky site...www.thehannahmansion.orgwww.hauntedhouses.com/states/in/hannah_house.cfmBack to TopIowaBentonsport - Mason House Inn The History: This hotel was built in 1846 for steamboat travelers along the Des Moines River. Later, the Mason House was used as a 'holding hospital' during the Civil War for soldiers being transferred to Keokuk. It also served as a 'station' along the underground railroad. Mason House gets its name from the Mason family who owned the property for 99 years.The Haunting: Three of the owners have died in the building and there was also one murder in a guest room. In 1860 poor Mr. Knapp had been drinking and accidentally went to the wrong room. The occupant thought he was being robbed and stabbed Mr. Knapp in self-defense. The home had also been a 'holding hospital' in the Civil War and some patients may have died in the home. Also a Doctor renting a room in the 1940s died in the building. All in all, a great hangout for ghosts. The ghosts come in many forms. There are wisps of fog and cold spots to actual figures who appear and disappear from sight. There is a boy that plays tricks; he likes to rustle sheets and tug at guests as they sleep. There are footsteps, thuds and a woman in white. An abundance of ghosts and paranormal events for all!The Viewing: Today you may stay at this B&B for about $80/night ($125 if you are staying in the restored caboose!). Request to stay in the main house on the 2nd floor (rooms 5 & 7) for the best chance of paranormal dreams! Ghost Hunting 101 and 102 classes are also available about twice a year and a Halloween Ghost Walk around Oct 31st. To spend the night, click here. More on this spooky site...www.masonhouseinn.comhotels.about.comBack to TopVillisca - Villisca Ax Murder House The History: On June 10, 1912, the Moore family and two overnight guests were brutally murdered. The ax murder of two adults and six children horrified the community and its story still horrifies people today. Regardless of the unprecedented effort of police, detectives and neighboring departments at the time, the case remains unsolved to this day. The Haunting: The most common account seems to be of children's voices in the house. Things will also move unexpectedly and lamps won't stay lit regardless that there is no breeze in the home. The Viewing: Tours of the home are available through the Olson Linn Museum. They also offer night tours, but these must be arranged in advance. For current hours click here. More on this spooky site...www.villiscaiowa.comwww.prairieghosts.com/villisca.html www.villiscamovie.com/emporium.htm YouTube Video - www.youtube.com/watch?v=T54lLMJ17kkBack to Top Ghost ImageKansasKansas City - Strawberry Hill Mansion The History: Architect John G. Braecklein designed this Queen Ann style home in 1887. Margaret Cruise Scroggs and John B. Scroggs were the first to occupy the house. Margaret had surviving children in her previous marriage and her daughter Emma McFadden and her husband inherited the home in 1915. But in 1919 the home was purchased by Sister Bonaventure and turned into an orphanage for children who had lost their parents to the influenza epidemic. The orphanage remained open until 1988 and cared for over 3000 orphans. The building was then turned into a museum by the Strawberry Hill Ethnic Cultural Society who still run the property today.The Haunting: There is an unknown male ghost who haunts the third floor and will chase visitors from the ballroom. A Lady in Red haunts the house but is not associated with the families or the nuns, instead she is believed to be the spirit of a homeless woman who died under the nuns' care. Apparently she likes to join in the tours and ask questions, she usually inquires after the location of the priest's house. There are other female and child entities around the house. Sometimes music and footsteps can be heard or the scent of baby powder will fill the air.The Viewing: Strawberry Hill is now a museum celebrating Slavic immigrant history in Kansas City. It offers museum tours and the Tea Room is open on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and provide a little taste of the past. For more information and visiting hours, click here. More on this spooky site...www.strawberryhillmuseum.orgwww.hauntedhouses.com/states/ks/strawberry_hill.cfmwww.associatedcontent.com/article/379111/

KentuckyLouisville - Waverly Hills Sanitarium The History: Okay, this is not a house, but since it has such a grand reputation of being haunted, we thought to include it. Waverly Hills opened as a hospital for tuberculosis patients in 1926. Tuberculosis was a dreaded killer of the time and most of the patients who entered would die there. It is estimated that at the height of the epidemic a patient died every hour. This large complex had a long tunnel nicknamed the "body chute" where the bodies were transferred to a train at the bottom of the hill. It was covered so patients would not be disheartened by seeing the number of dead being removed from the hospital. Because Tuberculosis was not well understood, there were many experiments that occurred, some were beneficial and some were more brutal leading to tales of mistreatment and abuse. In 1982, the hospital was shut down under allegations of abuse. The Haunting: The tales of a haunting started after the hospital was shut down and allowed into disrepair. Transients, vandals and kids would break in. Stories began to spread of small children playing in the halls, lights going on when there was not power, doors being slammed, voices crying out, and various other ghoulish activities. One specific spot, room 502, is on the floor where the mentally ill tuberculosis patients were housed. This room was the nurses station where two nurses committed suicide on separate occasions for reasons unknown.The Viewing: There are tours run by the Waverly Hills Historical Society. Tours must be arranged as this is a private site and trespassers will be prosecuted. Overnight tours can also be arranged in advance. To find out more click here. More on this spooky site...www.therealwaverlyhills.comwww.prairieghosts.com/waverly_tb.html http://whsmemorial.tripod.com/YouTube Video - www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Tcl3eRoNUkBack to TopLouisianaNew Orleans - Magnolia Mansion The History: This home was built in 1857 by Alexander Harris. After Alexander died of yellow fever his widow remarried and sold the home to the Maginnis family. John Maginnis owned a cotton mill and it was whispered he was struck by lightning because of the cruel way he treated his employees. In 1939, John's daughter inherited the home and willed it to the Red Cross. The Red Cross used the home to train nurses for WWII and the Korean War. In 1954 the home was again sold into private ownership. Magnolia Mansion was renovated in 2001 and opened as a B&B in 2002.The Haunting: When renovating the home, the crew had to stop as an oily substance appeared over the walls. The owner then verbalized her plans for the place out loud so the ghosts would know exactly what she was up to. She told them she was improving the home and the ghosts would not be able to scare the guests away. This appeased them for awhile. However, ghosts are still reputed to slam doors and snuggle into bed with guests on occasion. Many guests have photos of orbs and a few extra faces from their visits as well.The Viewing: This adult catering B&B offers a great escape to any non-smoker over 21 years of age. Specializing in romance with Elopement and Wedding packages, the B&B also has fun with their ghosts offering a Romantic Ghostly Getaway Package which includes a room, treats and ghost walking tours. For more information, click here. More on this spooky site...www.magnoliamansion.comVideo - http://video.msn.com

St. Francisville - Myrtles Plantation The History: This home was built by David Bradford in 1794 but stories of haunting did not start until the 1950's. The house had a long history with many different owners. There is only one recorded murder of William Winter in 1871. However, there are many tales that are told about the home to justify the haunting. Most of these seem to be fabricated tales, but many say that is just because the house is so haunted, people needed to make up some kind of explanation.The Haunting: Among the haunting activity is the ghost of a woman in a green turban who some believe to be the ghost of a slave killed for poisoning the head mistress and her two daughters. Others claim this ghost is not a young slave but an older, unknown woman. There is also a little girl who has appeared as well as a frustrated piano player who continuously practices the same cord over and over on the old piano.The Viewing: You can dine in the restaurant, take a tour or spend the night. The choice is up to you. Click here for more information. More on this spooky site...www.myrtlesplantation.comwww.prairieghosts.com/myrtles.htmlwww.hauntedhouses.comYouTube Video - www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIMAXKBOMp8Back to TopMaineSearsport - Watchtide The History: Built in the early 1790s, ownership transferred to Brigadier General Henry Knox in 1794. He was a trusted ally to George Washington and was the first Secretary of War for the U.S. After General Knox sold the property, it went through many owners, many of them sea captains who were involved in the shipping industry of the area. The house was an inn starting in 1917 to the 1940s when it then became a private home again. In 1994, the inn reopened and is still family operated today.The Haunting: Guests and a previous owner have reported seeing phantoms in period appropriate dress floating around the home. There are reports of music heard without a "source." Footsteps have also been heard. However, the new B&B owner says there does not seem to be as much activity of late. Perhaps it was the recent remodel that chased away or appeased the spirits.The Viewing: Recently renovated, this B&B offers a great quiet getaway as well as easy access to many of the great sites around Maine. To make your reservation, click here. More on this spooky site...www.watchtide.comwww.fabuloustravel.comBack to Top Ghost ImageMarylandFrederick - Schifferstadt The History: This German colonial house was built in 1758 by Joseph Bruner. Built during the French and Indian War, the house was made to double as a refuge for colonials in the country. Originally tenant farmers and recent immigrants from Germany, the Bruner families and others like them fought to be able to purchase their land from crooked landlords. They eventually prevailed. The home would remain a family residence until it was sold to the Frederick County Landmark Foundation in 1974. The Haunting: Although apparitions are not reported, the sound of footsteps and activity can be heard. Interestingly, voices have been heard in English and, of course, German!The Viewing: Today the museum highlights early German colonial life and the experiences during the French and Indian War. The museum is open on Saturdays or by appointment. Although the museum hosts special events, most of them are historical and cultural - why not enjoy Oktoberfest while peaking for ghosts? More on this spooky site...www.frederickcountylandmarksfoundation.org/fclf_schiffgen.htmlwww.hauntedhouses.com/states/md/schifferstadt.cfmBack to TopMassachusettsFall River - Lizzy Borden House The History: As with so many haunted homes, this story begins with a murder. On the morning of August 4, 1892, Andrew and Abby Borden were murdered by ax in their home. Their eldest daughter, Lizzy, was tried and latter acquitted of the murders. However, she was ostracized from the community for the rest of her life. Some consider that she had a split personality, even those close to her recall erratic and violent behavior. And of course there was the creation of the rhyme:Lizzie Borden took an axGave her mother forty whacks;When she saw what she had doneGave her father forty-one!The Haunting: There is a strange woman who tucks guests into bed and perhaps the same woman can be heard weeping in the night. Objects move on their own and electrical equipment such as lights and cameras have some interference. Many claim the most active room is Lizzy's old bedroom - which you can stay in if you want...The Viewing: The home is now a bed and breakfast. You may spend the night, take a tour or even spend a weekend at Ghost Hunter University! To find out more, click here. More on this spooky site...www.lizzie-borden.comwww.hauntedhamilton.com/gotw_lizzieborden.html www.prairieghosts.com/lizzie.htmlBack to Top Ghost ImageMichiganMarshall - National House Inn The History: Originally as stage stop between Detroit and Chicago, this inn was built in 1835 by Colonel Andrew Mann. The inn continued to serve passengers as a railroad hotel until business slowed and it was sold and turned into a windmill and wagon factory. In 1902 the inn was converted into apartments and during prohibition offered a secret room to buy and consume alcohol. By 1976 the building was in need of repair and was remodeled into a bed and breakfast.The Haunting: This inn is still the home to a lady in red. Her connection with the place is unknown but she likes to make her presence known by popping up on the living now and again.The Viewing: The oldest inn in Michigan still operates today as a bed and breakfast. Although not promoting their ghosts, they offer weekend getaway packages as well as a historical home tour. For more information on spending the night click here. More on this spooky site...www.nationalhouseinn.comwww.hauntedhouses.com/states/mi/national_house_inn.cfmBack to TopMinnesotaSt. Paul - Forepaugh's Victorian Mansion The History: Joseph Forepaugh had the home built in 1870 for his family. It is rumored he had an affair with one of the servants, Molly, who hung herself after they broke it off. Joseph later also committed suicide, rumors stating that it was his loss of Molly driving him into depression.The Haunting: Molly is still seen floating about the mansion. She seems to reside on the 3rd floor but enjoys coming down and checking out wedding events on occasion. Although Joseph shot himself in a nearby park, he is said to wander the mansion as well.The Viewing: Today the home has been renovated and turned into a nice French restaurant. Weddings are also popular at the mansion. To find out more, click here. More on this spooky site...www.forepaughs.comwww.hauntedhouses.comwww.prairieghosts.com/forep.htmlBack to TopMississippiNatchez - Monmouth Plantation The History: Originally built in 1818, the mansion was purchased by General Quitman, a Mexican War hero, in 1826. The home was almost burned to the ground during the Civil War when the Union won this area of Mississippi. However, Quitman's daughters pleaded loyalty to the Union to save their home (their father was a staunch secessionist). The house stayed in the family until 1914. The home then went into disrepair until it was recently restored after 1978.The Haunting: The General himself stomps around the halls and makes many feel his presence as guests and staff cannot shake the thought that someone is staring at them. He also shows up as a specter to let all know he has an eye on things. Since the new owners have restored the home to its antebellum decor, there seems to be less stomping by the imposing General.The Viewing: Regardless of the haunts, this hotel offers luxury accommodation and a great escape. To find out more, click here. More on this spooky site...www.monmouthplantation.comwww.hauntedhouses.com/states/ms/monmouth.cfmBack to TopMissouriSt. Louis - Lemp Mansion The History: This house was purchased by William Lemp around 1864 to use as a residence and office for the family brewery. William's father had used a family recipe/method to create a lager beer. This beer quickly became popular and William's father abandoned his grocery store to become a full time brewer. The beer continued to be made by the family until 1922 when family mishap and prohibition forced them to shut down and sell for good. The mansion itself has a sorrowful history with one brother dying under mysterious circumstances and three other men of the family committing suicide inside. The Haunting: With three suicides one can easily guess where the idea of ghosts haunting the mansion started. However, the families odd history also adds fuel to the imagination. There is the rumor that William Lemp had an illegitimate son with Down syndrome who was kept hidden in the mansion attic his whole life. He is now said to be seen haunting the mansion and has the nickname "Monkey Face Boy." Tales of haunting first started after 1949 when the mansion was sold and turned into a boarding house. Strange knocking and footsteps throughout the mansion scared the tenants away so the house started to run into disrepair. In 1975, the mansion was saved and renovated and turned into a restaurant and inn. All types of sights and sounds have continued and are still reported today. The Viewing: Spend the night! Or take a tour if you're too scared... The mansion is a bed and breakfast that offers tours and a restaurant to those who don't want to spend the night. They also host a Halloween Party and Murder Mystery Dinner Theater. To find out more click here. More on this spooky site...www.lempmansion.comwww.legendsofamerica.com/MO-LempMansion.htmlBack to TopMontanaPray - Chico Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa The History: In 1894 Percie and Bill Knowles inherited a home near the hot springs and opened their doors as a boarding house as there were not any accommodations in the area yet. They built a hotel in 1900. In 1912, Percie teamed with Dr. Townsend and turned the hotel into a hospital. It would remain a hospital until the 1940s when it would begin to change hands. In 1974, it was renovated and again opened as a B&B.The Haunting: There is a woman in white who likes to wander the halls and spook the security guards. She also likes room 349 where she makes sure the rocking chair is always facing the window. Many think it is Percie making certain everyone is minding their manners and running her hotel/hospital efficiently. The Viewing: Relax your spooked nerves in the day spa or natural hot springs. Or get some more adventure on a trail ride or a dog sled trek in the winter. To find out more, click here. More on this spooky site...www.chicohotsprings.comwww.chicohotsprings.com/publications/big_sky_ghosts.htmlwww.spiritsociety.org/report.php?HauntID=65Back to Top Ghost ImageNebraskaOmaha - White House Apartments The History: Part of the Little Italy neighborhood, this home was built at the turn of the 20th century. Before being converted to the apartments it still is today, this Victorian home was also altered into a hospital for a while.The Haunting: A woman in white supposedly still lives here and keeps the new residents company.The Viewing: These apartments are still listed as low income housing, a.k.a. private property so enjoy from a distance. More on this spooky site...www.hauntedhouses.com/states/ne/white_house_apartments.cfmBack to Top Ghost ImageNevadaCarson City - Abraham Curry House The History: Abraham Curry was the founder of Carson City and was involved with everything from the mint to acting as prison warden. It is convenient then that the sandstone for his home built around 1869 was quarried by the prisoners. Curry died shortly after the building was complete.The Haunting: Curry was not ready to leave the house so recently built before his death so he has stayed on. He has been seen as a full apparition and appears to be looking for someone before he disappears again.The Viewing: Sorry, not going to happen; this home is now a law office. More on this spooky site...www.nps.gov/nr/travel/nevada/abr.htmwww.hauntedhouses.com/states/nv/abraham_curry_house.cfmBack to TopNew HampshireDurham - Three Chimneys Inn The History: The Three Chimneys Inn was built in 1649 as a residence for Valentine Hill. The home was used during the Revolutionary War to house munitions stolen from the British. The house stayed relatively privately owned and within about four different families. Extensive renovations were done recently in the 1990s.The Haunting: It is possible one of the ghosts is that of Hill's daughter, Hannah, who drowned nearby. Hannah seems to like to hang out in the dining areas and there is an unidentified gentleman spirit that hangs out there as well. The spirits here like to play with electrical equipment - many things just don't work in certain rooms. Furniture will be heard moving about in guestrooms where no one is staying. Also, there will be music heard from the dining rooms. The gentleman has been heard stomping around pacing and one of the spirits even shattered a water glass in the dining hall while dinner was being served.The Viewing: Although built in the 17th century, you won't have to rough it here. An elegant stay along the coast and you might get to meet Hannah as well. Click here for more information. More on this spooky site...www.threechimneysinn.comwww.associatedcontent.com/article/433780/

Ghost ImageNew JerseyCape May - The Southern Mansion Inn The History: This home was built for George Allen in 1863 and would stay in his family for 83 years. A fire in 1979 destroyed many of the southern style mansions in the area; The Southern Mansion would survive as one of the few reminders of this connection with the south. In the 1940s the home was sold and turned into a boarding house. It slowly fell into disrepair until 1994 when Bray and Wildes bought it and began restoration.The Haunting: The last of the Allen family, Ester Mercur, is believed to haunt the halls. She is a happy ghost who looks after the action in the kitchen but is also seen dancing and laughing in other areas of the home. She also wears heavy perfume. There seem to be other entities there as well but all generally polite with the living.The Viewing: Spend the night! This Bed and Breakfast offers luxurious accommodations and close access to the beach. The ghosts here are friendly bunch and might provide a little extra amusement for your dollar. For more information about staying click here. More on this spooky site...www.southernmansion.comwww.hauntedhouses.com/states/nj/southern_mansion.cfmBack to Top Ghost ImageNew MexicoSanta Fe - La Posada Hotel The History: Abraham Staab built this home along the Santa Fe Trail in 1882. His wife, Julia, became a recluse in the home after she lost her seventh child. The Nason family bought the property in the 1930s and first turned it into a hotel which it has been ever since. The hotel has enjoyed popularity with the artistic community and is credited to providing a meeting ground for the leaders of the Santa Fe Arts Movement.The Haunting: Julia is still wandering the halls of the home. She can be a bit bipolar as a ghost; one minute she is running away from visitors down the hall, the next she is throwing the glasses from the bar shelves.The Viewing: La Posada is now a luxury resort offering everything from weekend getaways to romantic weddings. For information about spending the night click here. More on this spooky site...http://laposada.rockresorts.com/www.legendsofamerica.com/nm-laposadahotel.htmlwww.hauntedhouses.com/states/nm/la_posada.cfmBack to TopNew YorkAmityville - Amityville The History: On November 14, 1974 at 3 AM Ronald DeFeo took a rifle and systematically shot his parents, two brothers and two sisters. This is the ghastly beginning of the hauntings in this Amityville home. The fame of this home spread after the ownership of Lutz family who purchased the home in 1975. They stayed only 28 days before the supernatural pushed them back out.The Haunting: At first the Lutz family noticed cold spots and muffled spots where sound did not carry well. This they could ignore as unusual but not necessarily unnatural. However, soon other events began to happen. Mr. Lutz would hear loud noises or footsteps downstairs but when he went downstairs, it was quiet and the dog would be sleeping as if nothing had happened. Mrs. Lutz began to feel the presence of an older woman and began to show increased aging as if she was becoming the old woman herself. They then discovered a small store room painted red that did not appear on the original house plans. The room had a strong odor that did not have an identifiable source and the dog was scared of the room. The mysterious events and depressing feelings of the house kept adding up until the family decided to break free. The story of the haunting has been made into movies, but Mr. Lutz considered these to be exaggerated. The Viewing: This home is privately owned. The curious are asked to respect the owner's privacy and not visit the home. It is NOT open for tours. More on this spooky site...www.amityvillehorror.comwww.ghostvillage.comwww.amityvillehorrortruth.comBack to Top Ghost ImageNorth CarolinaRaleigh - Andrew Johnson's House The History: Andrew Johnson was born in this small house in 1808. His parents kept the home as employees of the Casso's Inn; his mother was a weaver and his father a hostler and janitor. The Haunting: Instead of a person a candle is seen in the window and moves from the first to second floor with uncanny speed before being snuffed out for the night.The Viewing: Andrew Johnson's house is now part of a larger park, the Mordecai Historic Park. There are tours Tuesday thru Sunday or by arrangement for groups. For times and entrance fees, click here. More on this spooky site...http://raleighnc.gov/mordecaihttp://ncpedia.org/biography/johnson-andrewwww.hauntedhouses.com/states/nc/andrew_johnson_home.cfmbooks.google.comBack to TopNorth DakotaAnamoose - Sage Hill Bed & Breakfast The History: First opened in 1928 and known as "White School," this bed and breakfast started history as a primary school. This model school set an example for the area. It used wind power and offered students hot meals and warm showers. The teachers and bus drivers stayed on site. There were two horse barns onsite to house the horses that pulled the school bus/wagons. At its peak, there were 100 students enrolled. The school closed in 1968 because of lack of enrollment.The Haunting: Legend has it that a superintendent and student died in a fire caused by a coal burning stove. The superintendent smoked cigars and the smell of cigar smoke still hangs in the air at times. Objects like to move by themselves around here and lights and even toilets work on their own.The Viewing: Sage Hill was recently converted to a bed and breakfast by the current owners in 1996. Even remodeled, it has the feel of the old schoolhouse. Want to spend the night? To find out more, click here. More on this spooky site...http://sagehillnd.com/index.htmlhttp://hauntsofamerica.blogspot.com/2008/01/haunting-of-sage-hill-bed-and-breakfast.htmlBack to TopOhioCleveland - Franklin Castle The History: Hannes Tiedemann built this house in 1865. Unfortunately, they lost four children in a short amount of time leading to some speculation of unnatural deaths. The house architecture aids in the mystery of the house as there are secret passageways and hidden rooms throughout. There are also rumors of Tiedemann having affairs that lead to jealousy and, ultimately, to murder. One of the most tragic tales is that of Tiedemann hanging his niece to put her out of misery from her insanity or to punish her for her promiscuity.The Haunting: Past residents have heard a small child crying and heard footsteps out in the corridor. There is also claim that the tower room is haunted by the "woman in black" who can be heard choking. Lights also swing around and some objects have been moved or thrown.The Viewing: Today the mansion houses a private club restricted to members and their guests. It was rumored at one time they would eventually start tours to the building, however, nothing is posted on their website about this yet. More on this spooky site...www.franklincastleclub.comwww.prairieghosts.com/oh-frank.htmlBack to TopOklahomaGuthrie - The Stone Lion Inn The History: F.E. Houghton built this mansion in 1907. It served most of its years as a residence and later was turned into a funeral home. The only person to die in the home seems to be a young girl who died of whooping cough after receiving the wrong medicine.The Haunting: After turning this mansion into an inn, the new owners woke up at night to the sounds of footsteps and doors opening and closing. They called the police but no intruder was found. Soon after they realized they had their first "guest" who may be a small girl as she likes to take out the toys at night to play.The Viewing: Ready for some fun? From a murder mystery night or perhaps a chance to see a real ghost, click here for more information about how to stay. More on this spooky site...www.stonelioninn.comBack to TopOregonYachats - Heceta House The History: This house accompanies a lighthouse on the Oregon coast built in 1894. Many families occupied the house complex over time which included a post office, school and the light house. But it is only the keeper's house that has tales of hauntings. Many believe this is the mother of child who fell off the cliffs back at the turn of the century. The Haunting: The ghost named Rue is said to be an extra caretaker of the house. She makes it known if she is displeased with any activity in the house. One of the more humorous accounts was of her screaming in the middle of a card game, she didn't want them playing cards in her house! The Viewing: This house is now a bed and breakfast. It also has guided tours from its interpretive center. Although the current owners don't play up and advertise the ghost they have said guests have told them of strange encounters. To spend the night click here. More on this spooky site...www.hauntedhouses.comwww.hecetalighthouse.comBack to TopPennsylvaniaGettysburg - Farnsworth House Inn The History: A house was built here in 1810 and later changed to brick in 1833. During the Civil War, the Sweeney family lived in the home and the Confederates used the home as a shelter for their sharpshooters. The current owners purchased the home in 1972 and have worked on renovating the home keeping the early 19th century feel and history.The Haunting: Many ghosts haunt this home. Including Confederate soldiers who like to move furniture and stomp around the attic. Another soldier has been spotted carrying his wounded comrade to the cellar. He is heard singing to his dying friend as well. Mary, a midwife, likes to tend to anyone who is sick or distressed and may sit down on the bed next to anyone who seems to need the company. There is a small boy who died in a carriage accident out front and his grieving father who also haunt the halls.The Viewing: Whether a Civil War enthusiast who needs a place to stay or interested in meeting some of the wandering spirits, this inn will fit the bill. This inn has fun with history providing ghost stories in their tours and theater shows. To find out more, click here. More on this spooky site...www.farnsworthhouseinn.comwww.scaryplace.com/FarnsworthFacts.htmlwww.hauntedhouses.com/states/pa/farnsworth_house.cfmBack to TopRhode IslandNewport - Belcourt Castle The History: This 60 room castle was completed in 1894 as a summer cottage for Oliver Belmont. This "bachelor pad" had only one bedroom, no guestrooms and the entire first floor was dedicated to Oliver's carriage horses and their carriages. Eventually it was renovated for Oliver's new wife, Alva (formerly Mrs. Vanderbilt) who enjoyed staying at this home. Belcourt was purchased by the Tinney family in 1956 who began giving tours in 1957. The Haunting: Unlike other homes where the house holds the spirits, it is believed the ghosts at Belcourt Castle come from the numerous antiques in its' collection. The most famous is "the monk" who seems to be connected to a 17th century German woodcarving. This shadowy figure appears next to the carving and then disappears. The Gothic ballroom contains some of the most haunted artifacts including possessed chairs!The Viewing: Belcourt Castle offers a 90 minutes ghost tour for $18/person. There are also other general tours, candlelight tours and teas. For more information, click here. More on this spooky site...www.belcourtcastle.orgwww.quahog.org/attractions/index.php?id=1031www.associatedcontent.comBack to TopNewport - Castle Hill Inn & Resort The History: The location for Castle Hill originally had a watch house as early as 1740 when it was used to watch the sea for ships during the war between Britain and Spain. The Americans used the same location during the Revolutionary War to bombard British ships as they passed. In 1874, Alexander Agassiz, an explorer and scientist settled here to better study the marine life. It was not only his home but a lab that housed research students as well.The Haunting: There is a girl spirit here who may have some connection to the original owner, Agassiz. She throws a bit of a tantrum now and then and has trashed some of the china on occasion.The Viewing: This inn offers a luxury escape on the coast. For more information, click here. More on this spooky site...www.castlehillinn.comBack to TopSouth CarolinaCharleston - The Battery Carriage House Inn The History: This house was built in 1843 for Samuel Stevens, a prominent lender in the area who helped local cotton farms finance their farms. In 1870, after the Civil War had ended the local wealthy in Charleston, Col. Lathers (of the Union Army), bought the home and had it remodeled to the current New York fashion, Second Empire. However, Col. Lathers was told he wasn't welcome in Charleston and sold the home in 1874 to Andrew Simonds, the great-great grandfather of the current owner.The Haunting: There is a gentleman ghost who may be the son of a former owner who jumped off the roof to commit suicide. But he is a gentle ghost and just seems to enjoy the company. There is also a headless torso who makes many feel threatened by his creepy appearance and moaning. He might be the ghost a pirate as some were executed close to the hotel. However it is just as likely he is a soldier from the Civil War. Some guests report seeing energy orbs or have electronics turn on when they are really off. Overall it seems rooms 8 and 10 have the most activity.The Viewing: The owners of the hotel have not seen any of the ghosts themselves, but they don't mind if you want to try and catch a glimpse for yourself. Click here to find out more. More on this spooky site...www.batterycarriagehouse.comwww.batterycarriagehouse.com/ghosts.htmwww.hauntedhouses.com/states/sc/battery_carriage_house.cfmBack to Top Ghost ImageSouth DakotaDeadwood - Adams House The History: This home, built in 1892, came after Deadwood's colorful mining camp days. Harris and Anna Franklin had the home built and their family stayed in it until 1920 when it sold to W.E. and Alice Adams. This is the same W.E. Adams who started the first museum in Deadwood in 1930. His second wife, Mary, closed the door on Adams House after his death in 1934 and left everything intact; the house was a time capsule of everything from books on the shelves to cookies in the cookie jar. In 1987 the home was remodeled as became a bed and breakfast until it was sold to Deadwood’s Historic Preservation Commission in 1992.The Haunting: Of course this home didn't change much when closed up so W.E. Adams has continued to feel right at home in the afterlife. Rumors state that his widow heard his ghost walking around before she decided to leave. Cigar smoke can be smelled on the second floor and from time to time a tour will see objects move on their own.The Viewing: Now a museum, you can learn about Deadwood's history at the same time you peak for spooky apparitions. For more information on times and cost, click here. More on this spooky site...www.adamsmuseumandhouse.orgwww.hauntedhouses.com/states/sd/adams_house.cfmBack to TopTennesseeNashville - The Hermitage The History: Andrew Jackson purchased this farm and acreage in 1804 from his friend Nathaniel Hays. Using slave labor, he turned the 1000 acres into a grand plantation producing cotton, crops for local use and race horses. From 1829-1837, Andrew Jackson served as the 7th President of the United States. After serving office he returned to the Hermitage where he later died and was buried in 1845. President Jackson's son tried to keep the Hermitage together but in the end had to start selling portions of the now 1050 acre plantation. It was considered by the U.S. Congress whether to turn the Hermitage into an extension of West Point as a military academy. However, this was not adopted. By 1889 the Hermitage was in disrepair. The Tennessee Ladies Hermitage Association (LHA) formed and spearheaded the effort to save the landmark. They were able to get 25 acres which included the main mansion and other historic buildings. The other remaining 475 acres were given to the Tennessee Confederate Soldiers' Home and made into a hospital. When the hospital shut down in 1933, all 500 acres were returned to the LHA. The LHA continued to regain the land of the Hermitage and bring it under their care and restoration. Today, 1120 acres are run under the Hermitage as both a Historic landmark and Wildlife area.The Haunting: It is said that as the plantation fell into disrepair, the spirits became angry and restless. Caretakers refused to spend the night there. The ladies of the LHA would soon find out why when they decided to rotate staying there until a watchman could be hired. Loud noises kept them awake at night. One being of Andrew Jackson himself riding his horse on the stairway. The kitchen was also a ruckus with pots and pans pounding. In the morning they could see that nothing was disturbed. Other apparitions that have been seen are of slaves who are still bound in chains to the property.The Viewing: Today you can visit this museum which includes access to the Andrew Jackson Visitor Center, Hermitage Mansion, and Hermitage Grounds and Gardens. To find out more, click here. More on this spooky site...www.thehermitage.comwww.hauntedhouses.com/states/tn/hermitage.cfmwww.prairieghosts.com/hermitage.htmlBack to TopTexasAustin - Driskill Hotel The History: Jesse Lincoln Driskill opened this hotel in 1886. The hotel was grand and luxurious, funded by his success as a cattle baron. In 1888, the family lost its fortune due to drought and a cold winter that killed most of the cattle. The hotel then changed from owner to owner with the most recent change of hands in 1995. The Haunting: Driskill is claimed to still wander the hotel, puffing cigar smoke while he turns lights on and off. There is the ghost of a small girl, the daughter of a senator, who was left unattended and fell to her death while playing with her ball - she can still be heard bouncing the ball today. The Viewing: The hotel today offers all kinds of pampering. To find out more about staying, click here. More on this spooky site...www.driskillhotel.comwww.austinghosttours.comwww.hauntedtexas.comBack to TopUtahSalt Lake City - McCune Mansion The History: This mansion was built in 1900 by a railroad tycoon named Alfred W. McCune. After leaving for California in 1920, the McCune's donated the mansion to the Latter-Day Saint Church. It was then turned into the McCune School of Music. It later became a Brigham Young University Salk Lake City Center and Virginia Tanner Modern Dance School. In 1999 it was purchased by Phil McCarthy who worked to restore the mansion and open it as a hotel.The Haunting: Music is said to still haunt the McCune halls. A small room under the stairs was used by the McCune's as a stage for hired musicians. The whole house would be filled with music but their guests did not know from where it came. It is said this music still fills the air from here. Other happenings include doors locking that are not fit with locks, doors opening on their own and lights going on and off on their own.The Viewing: You can schedule a tour of the mansion through the Utah Heritage Foundation. To find out more about spending the night, click here. More on this spooky site...www.mccunemansion.comwww.hauntedhouses.com/states/ut/mccune_mansion.cfmwww.prairieghosts.com/mccune.htmlBack to TopVermontStowe - The Green Mountain Inn The History: This home was built in 1833 by Peter Lovejoy. The home changed hands and became a hotel in the later 19th century. Mark Lovejoy purchased the hotel in 1893 and renamed it The Green Mountain Inn. The inn stayed in service while having many different owners. In the 1980s massive renovations were done including the addition of clubhouses and townhouses with luxury suites.The Haunting: A tap dancer named Boots Berry haunts the third floor of this inn. Born in 1840, Boots was actually born in the servants quarters - now hotel room 302. He gained local notoriety after he stopped spooked horses from running away with the stagecoach. Boots was treated to one too many drinks and became a bit of an alcoholic and lost his job at the inn. Boots left the area and, as legend has it, was arrested in New Orleans where he learned to tap dance from his cellmate. After a life of a traveling vagrant he returned penniless. During a winter snow storm a girl was stranded on the roof of the inn. Since Boots was familiar with the area (right above the same servants quarters) he found a way to her and helped her to safety. He however slipped and fell to his death. Now it is said during winter storms you can hear Boots tap dancing on the third floor.The Viewing: There is lot to do in the area and at the inn itself. Ice cream, chocolate and wine tasting - yes please! Click here to find out more. More on this spooky site...www.greenmountaininn.comwww.greenmountaininn.com/bootsberry.htmlwww.associatedcontent.com/article/408542

Ghost ImageVirginiaYorktown - Moore House The History: The land was first inhabited by colonists in the 1630s but the home was likely built in the 1730s when it, along with 500 acres, was called Temple Farm. Augustine Moor purchased the property in 1760. During the siege of Yorktown in 1781 he and his family fled the area. In their absence, their home was used to negotiate the surrender of British troops with General George Washington. After the Revolutionary War the house changed hands frequently. During the Civil War it was damaged. In 1881 the house was refurbished to celebrate the centennial of the British surrender at Yorktown. In 1931 another round of restoration by the National Park Service (one of the first of its kind), restored the house to its former condition.The Haunting: It seems that Augustine Moore Jr. still sleeps in the beds and can be also felt following group tours around the house. There may also be other entities as other areas of the house also show ruffled sheets or depressed cushions from unseen loungers. Perhaps these ghosts are just a bit tired.The Viewing: The Moore House is now part of the Yorktown Battlefield National Park. You can tour the park for a nominal fee, for more information click here. More on this spooky site...www.nps.gov/york/historyculture/moore-house.htmwww.hauntedhouses.com/states/va/moore_house.cfmBack to TopWashingtonLakewood - Thornwood Castle The History: Thornewood Castle was built for Chester Thorne, a successful founder of the Port of Tacoma. This Tudor/Gothic estate was completed in 1911. Inspired by the estates in Britain, the stained glass windows were even imported from a castle in Europe. The castle has many different imports that add to the structure and contents of the building. One of the more interesting aspects is the "wishbone sticks" left by the Native American workers who helped in the construction. These sticks help to ward off evil and are found at the foundation in the basement.The Haunting: There are multiple photographs taken of orbs throughout the castle and reports of objects moving on their own. Tape recorders have picked up voices, one of an unknown child. One child did drown in the lake and is said to haunt its shore, perhaps they visit the house as well? Overall, the spirits at Thornwood seem to be a good natured sort. There is not a violent history attached to this home. Although the wife of Mr. Thorne is said to haunt the halls, this is more because she likes the place rather than she is out to get anyone. In fact, some believe Thornwood Castle acts as a vortex and can attract ghosts from the other side. Some guests have reported making contact with loved ones from their lives who have no connection with the castle.The Viewing: You may stay in the castle as it is now a B&B. There are Candle Light Tours: for $100 and the cost of a room you can spend the night exploring the haunted halls with a small group of ghost hunters. To spend the night, click here. More on this spooky site...www.thornewoodcastle.comwww.legendsofamerica.com/WA-ThornewoodCastle.htmlwww.prairieghosts.com/rosered.htmlBack to TopWashington, D.C.The White House The History: The White House became the home to our presidents in 1800 with President John Adams being the first resident. There have been many presidents and first ladies in the home and some have decided not to leave... The Haunting: President Abraham Lincoln is the most popular ghost with the most sightings. The first to see him was First Lady, Grace Coolidge. He has also been spotted by guards and guests. Other presidents that like to make an appearance are President Benjamin Harrison, President Andrew Johnson, President John Tyler and President Andrew Jackson. First Ladies that have made appearances include Abigail Adams and Dorothea Madison. There is also the apparition of a black cat which has been said to be seen before national tragedies such as the stock market crash of 1929 and before the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. The Viewing: Of course you can still visit the White House today. For information about tours or for a virtual tour, click here. More on this spooky site...www.whitehouse.govhttp://paranormal.about.com/library/weekly/aa022100a.htm http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/ghosts/

Ghost ImageWest VirginiaHarpers Ferry The History: Known mostly for its connection with John Brown and his failed slave rebellion, this town offers a unique look at 19th century history. In 1799 a US Arsenal and Armory factory was built here and industry grew in the area. In 1859 John Brown tried to seize the arsenal to arm slaves and begin a revolution for their freedom. His raid failed and he was found guilty of treason. During the Civil War (between 1861-1865) the town suffered from its strategic location and changed hand between the North and South eight times. In 1867 Storer College was started here with the mission to educate freed slaves but was also open to any student of both genders. However, segregation later etched away at the school's initial universal intent. The Haunting: Despite the fact that many park volunteers dress in period garb, park employees, volunteers and guests have also seen 19th century dressed apparitions around the town. Considering his violent end, John Brown has been seen around town and in the Kennedy Farmhouse (his old headquarters) and appears rather friendly and smiles at visitors on the street. However, there are some sad spirits in this war scarred town. A unknown man in the National Park Service Guest House glares at visitors and even pushed one. A young drummer boy who was tossed out of a window still can be heard crying for his mother and the crash of a chimney that killed a small baby during bombardment can still be felt to shake another house.The Viewing: Run by the National Park Service today, Harpers Ferry is a unique combination of Civil War time capsule, living history museum and general tourist destination. For information on visiting, click here. More on this spooky site...www.nps.gov/hafe/www.harpersferryghost.20m.comwww.hauntedhouses.com/states/wv/harpers_ferry.cfmwww.prairieghosts.com/ferry.htmlBack to TopWisconsinMilwaukee - Brumder Mansion The History: George Brumder had the home built in 1910 for his son, George Jr. After they sold the home, the house was everything from a boarding house to an activity center for a Lutheran church. They used the home for office space, a theater, and later opened a coffee house with a live music venue. The current owners purchased the home in 1997 and opened the renovated space as a B&B in 1998. The Haunting: The Gold Room was once the room of one of the Brumder daughters who never married after suffering a broken heart early in life. She is said to still stay in the room, in fact she was quite appalled and upset when the current owner spent the night in this room with her dogs - no dogs allowed! Your dreams will be haunted if any dogs sleep on the bed!The Viewing: It's a Bed & Breakfast, so take the plunge and spend the night - request the Gold Suite! You can even join a ghost hunting seminar or enjoy a haunted history dinner! For more information, click here. More on this spooky site...http://milwaukeebedbreakfast.com/www.milwaukeeghosts.comwww.hauntedhouses.comBack to Top Ghost ImageWyomingLaramie - Wyoming Territorial Prison The History: Built in 1872, this prison was one of the few in this broad territory but it did not house the most notorious killers as these were sent to Cheyenne. The most famous resident was Butch Cassidy. It only housed about 1000 prisoners as after 1890 a new prison was founded in Rawlins and the University of Wyoming took over the Territorial Prison for stock yard training and experiments. No prisoners were executed here or even died here as they were sent home to die to save the state the trouble of burying them. One inmate did die of a heart attack, Julius Greenwich and it is said his ghost now haunts the place.The Haunting: Julius was convicted of 2nd degree murder because he murdered his wife in a rage after he found her working in a brothel he frequented. He was a cigar salesman and even set up a cigar factory in the prison so yes, you guessed it, cigar smoke often fills the air mysteriously. He has also been spotted standing in the doorway that used to be his cell.The Viewing: This site was restored in 1989 and includes exhibits about Laramie and frontier living as well as the history of the prison. For more information about visiting, click here. More on this spooky site...http://wyoparks.state.wy.us/Site/SiteInfo.asp?siteID=25www.wyomingterritorialprison.comwww.wyomingheritage.org/territorialPrison.htmlwww.hauntedhouses.com/states/wy/wyoming-territorial-prison.cfmBack to Top Still can't get enough? No problem! Here are some websites that list even more haunted hotels, inns, castles, historical sites, cemeteries, tours, and other ghostly fun. Just a quick note: many haunted houses seem to get their start from murder or untimely death. Although we have not gone into graphic details here, please note that some of these sites do go into much more (sometimes gruesome) detail!American Hauntingshttp://www.prairieghosts.com/This site is a bit busy, but if you look through it there are some great excerpts from their books and fun ghost tours they run.Haunted Accommodations.comhttp://www.hauntedaccommodations.com/A ghostly list of haunted hotels, tours, and city sites in the U.S. and abroad.Haunted Houses.comhttp://hauntedhouses.com/A great selection about haunted homes, places, movies, ghost towns and more! The site is very well done with good pictures and fun stories.Haunted World.comhttp://www.hauntworld.com/ This site lists and reviews haunted houses but also has other tales and ghost hangouts listed by state. A little bit of everything, it is a fun site.Real Hauntshttp://www.realhaunts.com/Another fun collection of haunted and spooky places to stay or see on your vacation. Attractions listed by state.The Shadowlands: Ghosts & Hauntingshttp://theshadowlands.net/ghost/This site lists all the stories that exist about spooky places in your neighborhood. Entries are short and to the point.Still want more? How about a Haunted Vacation? Check out our list of Haunted Hotels, Inns and Castles!Looking for a little adventure, but it's too wet outside to play? Why not snuggle indoors and thrill your imagination with a haunted vacation? Many hotels, inns, and even castles offer spooky weekend getaways. Perhaps a friendly ghost will fold your clothes and lay them out on the bed; a mischievous one might turn on the lights and radio at 2:00AM; or perhaps one with a chip on his shoulder might give you a little "bump in the night" to remind you he is there. You might find it a good laugh or a little fun to shake up the fall and winter humdrums. Click on the banner below to read our previous article that lists scary places to stay for a haunted vacation. We tried to collect from across the U.S. and added in a few international destinations just in case you prefer a ghost with an accent! Enjoy and have some fun!

Gardening

Tools & Resources Online

Article Thumbnail Small

Garden (noun): a) plot of ground where herbs, fruits, flowers, or vegetables are cultivated b) a rich well-cultivated region c) a container (as a window box) planted with usually a variety of small plants [Merriam-Webster Online]. As seen in the preceding definition, gardens can be functional providing herbs & veggies or they can be landscaped areas of beauty with flowers and other cultivated plants. Whether for an apartment with window boxes and porch containers or a house with acres to play, everyone can create a garden if they want one. There are many wonderful resources online that can help those who want to add plants around their home environment. First we collected some good, free, online landscaping planners that help you plot out your yard and garden before you plant a single seed. Most come with some plant information but we have also collected a list of plant reference sites that detail plant climate preferences, light requirements and much more. Finally, we have listed sites that offer ideas for unique and complex garden solutions or not so common alternatives to liven up your bit of green. Part I: Planning Your Garden Masterpiece Part of the fun of gardening or landscaping a home are the random finds at the local nursery. Ooh! That hasta is beautiful and would look great next to my window! Never mind the poor sage that now gets no light and begins to wither away! Granted this doesn't always happen and not everyone has the time (or the budget) to pre-plan and selectively purchase everything for their yard at one time. However, free online landscaping tools are easy to use and are a fun way to get a little more structure to your garden before you start tossing dirt around. Most of these planners are ideal for large scale sketches. Once the big picture is sketched out, you can more easily concentrate on the smaller parts of the project. It is easy to become overwhelmed by all the plant choices and concepts you may like to try around your home. Having a plan eases the work of the anxious gardner working towards a larger masterpiece. Better Homes & Gardens Plan-a-Garden www.bhg.com Website: Plan-a-Garden lets you design anything from a patio-side container garden to your whole yard. Use your mouse to "drag-and-drop" more than 150 trees, shrubs, and flowers. Add dozens of structures like buildings, sheds, fences, decks -- even a pond. Homecheck Review: You must sign up for online membership to access, but it is free. Opening quick tips offers the only tutorial. Plants are more ‘cartoonish’ which makes it easier to draw out spaces but doesn't help the plant-challenged who may not know what the heck a real Heuchera looks like! There is a option for more plant info that offers info about temperatures and growth height; but very basic at best. I do really like the drag-and-drop with the mouse to place objects. Also easy rotation, zooming and hiding controls. Don’t forget to save your garden; one perk to having an online account is that you may save work on projects and come back to them later. gardenplanner www.smallblueprinter.com/garden/ Website: Arrange plants, trees, buildings and objects using an easy to use 'drag and drop' interface. Use tools to quickly create paving, paths and fences. Then produce a high quality color print out of your design. Homecheck Review: This is a paid program but there is a free trial version you may download to your computer or try online.This program is very basic with both objects and their shapes. This is a better concept planner where you can draw out what you want the yard to look like and then fill in plant details later. Program itself is easy to use, just click drag and click you objects wherever you want. Homestore.com The Garden Designer www.homestore.com/homegarden/gardening/tools/landscapeplanner/ Website: Homestore.com's Garden Designer is the easiest way to visualize the perfect outdoor design! Homecheck Review: There is a simple introduction to the program that gives information by answering common questions. There is no membership requirement to use this program. Like the others it includes a drag and drop interface. Objects are easy to size. Although plants are again clip art, they do offer more variation in look so it is easier to distinguish which plants you place on your grid. However, no information about plant lighting, size and other details are provided. Quick and easy to use, just have a good idea of your plants ahead of time. Lowe's Landscape & Garden Planner www.lowes.com Website: If your outdoor inspiration needs a little help, here is the tool you need. Use Lowe's Landscape and Garden Planner to help build the yard of your dreams. With our design tool, garden and landscape planning are as easy as clicking and dragging. Homecheck Review: This site does request user registration to use freebies. It offers free online newsletters at the time of registration and you can opt out if you choose. Once in the Planner there is a great opening tutorial - turn on your speakers as it is narrated! This program is easy to use with a point-and-click and drag-and-drop tools. When you begin your layout you will be prompted for width and depth of the lot and your region on the US climate map. Hardscapes or objects like your home, driveway and fence are basic images. Plants are listed by sun requirement and type. Plant pictures are basic drawings rather than real images which is not as fun to plan with for those of us with less plant knowledge. Nice features include the sectioning off of areas on the plan so you may work on smaller plots one at a time and printable shopping lists of of your design. NOTE: I used this site the first time a couple of months ago (1/05) and LOVED it, great detail and real images of plants! Recently when I reviewed it again (6/05) it was too simplistic and buggy - many of the radio buttons brought up 0 options to choose from when I logged in the first two times; at the third log-in things started working. And now cookie-cutter-clipart plants rather than images of the real thing? What were they thinking? Blah! Not sure what happened to this once awesome program? Still good and easy to use but not as stellar as before. Part II: Plant Reference Sites Solanum Tuberosum? I just wanted a potato... Sometimes the most frustrating or overwhelming aspect of planning your yard can be finding the right plants. Knowing your climate zone is only the first part of the battle. A plant's happiness in your yard will depend on sun exposure, watering, soil make up and all other types of fussy tid bits.Then there is the not so obvious questions of what will the plant look like in 5-10 years. Having a good book to flip through is a good start. The power of the internet is that you have the ability to refine searches and find new hardier plants that may not have been originally strong enough for your region. Below are some online plant guides that can help demystify the abundant world of flora. BBC Gardening Plant Finder www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/plants/plant_finder/ Website: Look up detailed information about thousands of plants using our searchable database. You will find descriptions of the plants and tips about growing them. Homecheck Review: Okay, we know it is not local and there are certain quirks - using centimeters instead of inches!? But seriously, this is an easy to use database. The pictures are great and there are good short plant bios. Burpee www.burpee.com Website: The Burpee company was founded in Philadelphia in 1876 by an 18 year-old with a passion for plants and animals and a mother willing to lend him $1000 dollars of "seed money" to get started in business. Within 25 years he had developed the largest, most progressive seed company in America. By 1915 we were mailing a million catalogues a year to America's gardeners. Homecheck Review: Granted this is a site interested in selling products. But the garden wizard is easy to use and full of good information and pictures. A nice feature is the ability to describe what type plant you need: sun, sow, height and difficulty. The search results come with pictures that may be selected for more detail. This was an easy tool for getting information about vegetable garden plants. Again, due to the fact that they are limited to products they sell not every plant out there will be available for search. Dave's Garden http://davesgarden.com/pf/ Website: Welcome to PlantFiles, the largest plant database in the world with 101,549 entries, 76,918 images and 45,373 comments. Currently entries are from 350 families, 3,587 genera, 22,207 species, and 68,483 cultivars. PF continues to grow through the collaborative efforts of 11,388 gardeners from around the world, most notably the Uber Gardeners. Any registered user may add new plants, images, details, comments, and ZIP codes. Homecheck Review: Finally a database worth checking out! Easy to search, great pictures, and great information about how to sow, grow and maintain the individual plants. An extra plus is that visitors may post comments about their experiences growing the plants listed. HortiPlex Database from Garden Web www.gardenweb.com Website: The HortiPlex database contains plant images and data as well as links to information sources, images and vendors at other sites. Searches may be limited to: just those records with images or links to images; records with vendor links; or, records of botanical taxa. Homecheck Review: Some of the plants listed have information in the actual database which is provided users who leave remarks and pictures. For the most part this database lists other listings out there that reference a particular plant. It is bare bones and somewhat difficult as it is not at first obvious where to click for more information. Disappointing in that most plants only have links to other databases. Would be much better if more users participated and left remarks about the plants they have used or know about. GreenPlace.com (Part of Home & Garden Showplace) www.gardenplace.com Website: Need gardening information and inspiration? Help is just a click away. Homecheck Review: Number of plants are limited to the more common variety. Probably based on what the store carries as well. Easy to use search - really like the show everything option. Nice pictures of the plants. Information for the individual plants is basic, similar to what you would find on the the plant tag at the store. Home Depot Plant Guide www.plant-guide.com/HomeDepotForm.asp Website: Get the information you need to design your garden like a pro. Find out which plants are right for your landscaping project or learn about a particular plant you purchased at Home Depot. Homecheck Review: This site is easy to use. I find doing a broad search by climate and plant category to give the most results. When doing a search like this the results can be substantial (in the hundreds!). Results include list of scientific and common names. Clicking on selection takes you to a more detailed description that includes pictures, scale, uses and much more. For an online freebie, I really liked the usability of this tool. Martha Stewart Living www.marthastewart.com Website: Finding plants for your garden is as easy as picking the features that are most important to you. For instance, for plants that attract butterflies, check that box and your Zone, and click on Search. Homecheck Review: The plant search is very detailed. You may also want to browse by plant type if you are still in the broader planning stage. Pictures are good, usually of the plant feature, flower or fruit). The detail about the plants is wonderful. Definitely a great resource about most plants out there. Another fun addition to this planner is the ability to search plants by 'theme gardens'. Great lists and good way to plan various sections of your yard. Plants Database http://plants.usda.gov/index.html Website: The PLANTS Database provides standardized information about the vascular plants, mosses, liverworts, hornworts, and lichens of the U.S. and its territories. It includes names, plant symbols, checklists, distributional data, species abstracts, characteristics, images, plant links, references, crop information, and automated tools. PLANTS reduces costs by minimizing duplication and making information exchange possible across agencies and disciplines. Homecheck Review: It is not the easiest to browse this database. However, if you know what particular plant you are looking for it is probably in here. Plant information is more scientific. Some plants have pics and some do not. Best for general information about your plants but not necessary a gardening tool. Rock Garden Database www.kadel.cz/flora/kvSearch.html Website: Welcome to the Rock Garden Plants Database. It contains 11253 species with 560 photos and is still growing. For each plant you will find here known synonyms of its name, short description, territory and altitude of its natural location, size, color, bloom, if it is calciphile (Ca+) or calciphobe (Ca-), its type (rosette etc.), cultivation and propagation. Homecheck Review: This site is specialized but has some fun information. Not easy to search but fun to browse. A work in progress shows but still information about plants that aren't as common. MORE SEARCHING... Check out local nursery websites as well. Many of these sites list their plants with pictures and all kinds of good information. Plants will be limited to their selection, but it is another fun way to browse the possibilities. Part III: Unique & Complex Garden Solutions Rooftop need a bit of green? Want to soften and add a natural retreat to your patio? Apartment living have your options limited? No problem! These sites give great ideas for complex and limited spaces. They also offer ideas for container gardens or unique features that any home may enjoy. Finally, these sites also offer advice for various garden problems. We have collected a few examples below. Not every subject for each site is listed below; so take a look at the main link and see what other helpful treasures you may find. About.com-Gardening http://gardening.about.com/ Garden Pests: The following photos illustrate some insect pests and diseases you may encounter in your garden. Mole Control: Mole holes are unsightly on lawns and can be disruptive to the root systems of garden plants. Xeriscape Gardening: Xeriscaping was a term coined back in 1970s in Denver, CO, to mean water wise or water efficient landscaping. Better Homes & Gardens http://netscape.bhg.com/ Container Garden: Create a movable feast of color to match your needs -- whether you live in a country cottage or a New York sky rise. Water Garden: Use water to add sound, sparkle, and movement to your landscape. Wildlife Garden: Make your garden into a delightful refuge for wildlife creatures. Do It Yourself Network www.diynetwork.com/diy/gardening Condo Garden: Even those who live in apartments or condominiums, where space is truly at a premium, can convert a tiny area into an idyllic garden that satisfies the senses and soothes the soul. Container Gardens: Artist and gardener Keeyla Meadows enjoys using containers to experiment with plant textures and colors. Paul James, host of HGTV's Gardening by the Yard, explains how to use container plants creatively. Small Space Garden: Small-space gardening can be a challenge. This segment describes a small Chicago garden that had too much sun on one side and too much shade on the other. Urban Garden: How to transform small spaces into fresh, stylish areas of tranquility, using hip hardscapes and cold hardy perennials. Water Garden: Pond builder Richard Koogle of Lilypons Water Gardens offers advice on maintaining a water garden. Wildlife Garden: [Many subjects from attracting humming birds and butterflies to deterring deer from your yard with plant choices.] Environmental Design & Construction www.edcmag.com Rooftop Garden: The garden roof assembly or “green roof system” has been available in the United States for more than 70 years. Construction consists of two equally important phased applications: the waterproofing application and the garden assembly. The ultimate success of a rooftop garden depends largely on the proper design and installation. Garden Guides www.gardenguides.com Container Garden: Even the smallest patio or porch can boast a crop of vegetables or a garden of flowers in containers. Planter boxes, wooden barrels, hanging baskets and large flowerpots are just some of the containers that can be used. See other Tips & Techniques Organic Gardening www.organicgardening.com Organic Garden: We've gathered the basics of organic gardening for you here. You'll be able to find where to get your soil tested, learn how to manage pests without using chemicals, and read growing guides for vegetables and flowers. Conclusion The above collection of resources is only the beginning. Many more articles, blogs, photographs, and other tid bits about gardening are available on the web. Hopefully this article served to illustrate what a great resource the Internet can be when planning and improving your garden. We have covered landscaping planners, plant reference guides and various garden solutions from problems with pests to space. If you find some of the bits in this article resourceful, be sure to bookmark this page to review it in the future. Happy gardening!

Don't break the bank!

Recession survival tips for the household budget

Article Thumbnail Small

Now is the time of New Year's resolutions and an artificial restart for many of us.  This is a time taken to reflect on what goals we may want to achieve in the year ahead.  In many cases, financial security will be a primary objective for individual households as the recession continues through 2010.  Many people are grateful for the beginning of a gradual stabilization and cautiously hopeful for the recovery of the economy.  Although the majority of us do not have direct influence on the big companies and banks, we do control how we run our individual households, and many of us will be tightening our spending budgets and looking for ways to save.  Below we have provided some online resources for everything from keeping a balanced budget to finding ways to shop a bit smarter.

Know your budget: Before you can adjust your household budget to save, pay off debt or get ahead in your payments, you have to have a realistic look at what you owe and what you earn.

  • Bankrate: This site offers numerous online calculators from home budgets to which saving options will give the best returns. You can also begin to look at whether a home equity line of credit would be a good way to get rid of your debts or if now would be a good time to refinance under a lower mortgage rate. http://www.bankrate.com/brm/rate/calc_home.asp
  • BBB Develop a Working Budget: A printable worksheet that comes with other details to consider when calculating and understanding your budget. http://www.bbb.org/alerts/article.asp?id=709
  • Kiplinger.com Budget: An online budget form that will help you get started figuring out where you stand for the current month. http://www.kiplinger.com/tools/budget/
  • Microsoft Budget Templates: If you already use Microsoft Office, consider downloading one of their free budget templates. One of these Excel worksheets can help you keep track of your monthly expenses and be altered to fit your specific needs. http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/CT101172321033.aspx

Revisit your grocery list: Reconsider how you buy groceries and what you buy.

  • Always shop with a list - Some suggest a list for any shopping trip you take. Always have a clear idea of what you need. This will help you find the best deals and not get distracted by impulse buys.
  • Buy generic brands - When you compare ingredient labels you may be surprised how similar or exact the name brands are with the generic. Try a couple taste tests, not everything generic will be ideal for your pallet, but some may surprise you, and savings could sweeten their flavor all the more!
  • Buy in bulk - Many stores now offer you the option to save by buying in bulk. Never use enough of it in time? Consider teaming up with family or neighbors and splitting your purchases. Maybe you don't need 10lbs of chicken, but 5lbs at $2 less per pound is savings to the bank.
  • Pack more snacks - When shopping, look for items you can easily put in the car, at the office or anywhere you might get the munchies. This way you can curb you hunger before you decide to hit the fast food on the way home.
  • Home Ec 101: Bake and Cook - Take on the personal challenge to become a better chef. Don't have the time? The internet is full of quick and easy casseroles, muffins, and other recipes that can help you get through your day. You will save money in the 15 minutes it takes to make these meals and you may find them more satisfying than microwave dinners.
  • Home brewed coffee - If you are addicted to your caffeine, then it is time to invest in a coffee pot with a clock and timer. You can still grab the coffee on the way out the door without being slowed down. Need it at work? Consider a French press where you can brew coffee conveniently at your desk without any machines, filters or mess.
  • Find your green thumb - If you have the property consider making a garden with your favorite greens. Fresh tasting rewards combined with natural stress relief. Don't have the property? Consider a container garden (or even an indoor container like the Aero Garden) for some of your basics. Maybe get to know you neighbors and join in a community plot.

Coupons, discounts and closeouts: Many sites online now offer ways to compare the best deals by product or store. Whether looking for new electronics or ready to head to the grocery store, check out these sites before you buy. Also take time to review the forums with customer input and reviews. A bit rough around the edges, the customer reviews on these sites are often short and to the point.

  • The Bargainist: This site lists both sales and coupons. Easy to use search - just type in the product you are looking for and it will check for any deals currently available. http://www.bargainist.com/
  • Cool Savings.com: A membership is required. If you don't mind printing your own coupons, this site is ideal for the busy shopper who knows what they want but does not want to sift through mailers, the newspaper and magazines to find a good deal. http://www.coolsavings.com/
  • Coupon Mom: A list of coupons, free offers and much more. A great way to search out grocery coupons. There is a membership but as with similar sites, this is free. http://www.couponmom.com/
  • Deal Catcher: Coupons, sales and rebates galore. Review sales by stores as well as by item rather than brand. http://www.dealcatcher.com/
  • Fat Wallet: The savings here can be found in the online forums. Savvy consumers share information and special deals. There is also the plethora of coupons and discounts listed by store or category. http://www.fatwallet.com/
  • RetailMeNot: A twist to the coupon frenzy, this site offers the coupons for online retailers. Many online retailers or stores with online shopping offer discounts or special deals with certain coupon codes or key words. RetailMeNot searches for these codes for you so you can use them on your next purchase. http://www.retailmenot.com/
  • SlickDeals.net: Mostly user driven, this site helps to create a community where bargain hunters can congregate and share what they have found. The latest deals page can be fun to review but you can also search for products by name. http://slickdeals.net/  

Be an educated consumer: Be more particular about the products you buy. Taking time to read reviews and learn the pros and cons others have experienced before you buy will help you choose better products that will last longer.

  • Buzzillions.com: After compiling reviews from customers that are sent to major retailers in response to the products they sell, Buzzillions then puts all those reviews together into an easy to read snapshot with an overall rating. You can then read the individual reviews from other consumers like you. http://www.buzzillions.com/
  • Epinions: This site is user driven with opinions on everything from products to entertainment. Perhaps you want to know more about a book, video game, movie or iPod? Most likely someone has given their two cents about it here. http://www0.epinions.com/
  • PriceGrabber.com: This site helps the consumer compare prices between online retailers. Many popular products also come with reviews and ratings. The price comparison also includes some of the used markets such as Amazon Marketplace. http://www.pricegrabber.com/

Rack up rewards: There are many programs out there to reward shoppers. Take the time research them and find one that works for your shopping style. If you shop online there are shopping portals that offer rewards. If you shop a little bit everywhere, consider a credit card with flexible reward points. If you shop at one store the most, get a rewards card with them. *A thing to remember with reward credit cards is that they usually come with a higher APR. It is better if you can charge and then pay immediately and not rollover this debt. That way you can get the rewards without the extra interest.

  • CreditCards.com: If you use credit wisely, then you might consider a credit card rewards program. This site offers an easy glance through some of the programs available. Also consider looking at individual card company sites. http://www.creditcards.com/reward.php
  • Ebates: An online shopping portal that received favorable reviews from some bigwigs like Good Housekeeping and CNN. Not only do you get a discount when shopping, but you can get bonuses as well. http://www.ebates.com/

Buy and barter used: Flea markets and garage sales can be great if you have the time and the weather to get one going. Maybe you don't have either? Then how about trying the same bartering and selling online? Besides the already popular eBay, you may be surprised at how many sites there are that will allow you to exchange, sell and buy cheap!

  • BarterBee.com: A site specifically geared towards recycling CDs, DVDs and computer or consol games between households. Once you sign up for a membership you list your used items for sale. Sell items to get points. You can then use those points to buy other CDs, DVDs or games that you want to try out. Of course you wouldn't use this site to make cash - points are used for like items. http://www.barterbee.com/
  • Craigslist: An online mismatch of services, used goods and announcements by city location. Here you may be able to find used items cheap. It can be the ordinary like used furniture to the not so common. For example, I once found someone who had new pavers left over from a patio project that they are willing to sell at a discount just to get them off their lawn. You may also be able to find cheap services such as yard work. However, users beware, there are no regulations on this site and you should take precautions when working with anyone on this list. This site definitely has a mixed history of great successes and terrible wrongs. Be careful. http://www.craigslist.org/about/sites
  • eBAY: One of the most popular and well known online auction stops, eBay has been around since 1995. Users have the ability to rank other users for the ease of trade transactions. Probably the biggest garage sale on the internet. http://www.ebay.com/
  • SwapThing: This site allows for consumers to trade and barter items or services. There is also the option to do flat out sales. Unlike an auction site, you can barter privately and do not have to list items for auction. You enter what you want and it will match you with others who have it available. http://www.swapthing.com/home/index.jsp

Get it FREE: There are some sites that will help you sift through the spam to get free items. Be warned that some of the free items still come with many "free" emails.

  • Coupon Mom: Already mentioned above, this site also lists ways to get free samples of many products. http://www.couponmom.com/
  • Free Shipping.org: This site lists all the free shipping deals and codes. If a site offers a free shipping offer, they have it listed. If you need a code to get free shipping, they have most of those too. http://www.freeshipping.org/
  • Hey, It's Free: This blog website run by Goob works to find out the real freebies on the internet. Goob goes out there and finds out if a site is just spamming or if there really is something for free at the end of all the forms. That wisdom is then passed on to the readers of this sarcastic but informative blog. http://www.heyitsfree.net/

Compare Insurance Carriers: It is true, if you have been accident/incident free for a while you may be able to save by switching to another insurance carrier. Every company may offer something different in incentives, but take a look and see if a switch can't save you some money this year.

  • InsWeb: Recognized by sites like Kiplinger and Forbes, this online insurance comparison site will help you by getting quotes from agents after you supply your information. http://www.insweb.com/
  • NetQuote: An insurance comparison website. You fill in the information and the agents work out your rate with their company. http://www.netquote.com/

Be your own travel agent: Consider your vacation plans carefully in advance. When shopping for tickets, shop around to more than one vendor. It is not unusual for some airlines to give better deals then the online travel agencies. If you are a spur of the moment type of traveler, you might consider researching a couple major cities before tempted by last minute weekend travel deals. Like consumer reports, travel blogs are a great way to get more information before you go. Did you know you could see an opera in Vienna for $5? Well, now you do…

  • Budget Travel: In print and online magazine from Frommer's Travel, the site also offers free articles on featured destinations, trip ideas and advice from other travelers. http://www.budgettravel.com/
  • Kayak.com: This travel search engine is different in that it does not sell you the deals, it just works to find them for you. This is one of the easiest ways to search online travel agencies (i.e. Expedia) and the travel companies (i.e. airlines). http://www.kayak.com/
  • Lonely Planet: Supplementary to the printed books, this website offers information about popular travel destinations as well as tips from other like-minded travelers. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/
  • USA.gov: Want to stay close to home but still get away? Check out the official state travel sites for the 50 United States and U.S. territories. http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Travel_Tourism/State_Tourism.shtml