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A House Haunted by Mannequins? The Bizarre Story of the John Lawson House

Everybody loves a good mystery. Because of this, the creepy and unsettling story of the John Lawson House is impressive for a lot of reasons.

Why is The John Lawson House Interesting?

For somewhere around ten years, the John Lawson House in New Hamburg, New York, was known for a puzzling reason: A trio of mannequins camped out on the porch. (Not to be confused with Die Mannequin.)

They were life-size mannequins, the kind you typically see in clothing stores. Where it gets interesting, however, is when you learn that their clothing changed on occasion. Their hair changed as well — they wore different wigs and held different props. The mannequins posed with things like an old plastic milk container holding scented leaves, an empty birdcage, tool boxes, and even books.

No one knows what the mannequins were supposed to represent, or even if they represented anything. No one has any idea who lived there at the time.

In other words, all of this is kind of strange. But here’s the kicker:

No one ever saw anyone move the mannequins. Which leaves us to wonder… was the house haunted? Did the mannequins move all on their own?

History of The John Lawson House

John Lawson house
Image: @laku__noc on Instagram

Located near the New Hamburg train station in New York, the John Lawson House is really old. Built in 1845, 9A Main Street is believed to be the oldest house in New Hamburg’s Main Street Historic District.

Furthermore, you can get a feel for how old the house is from its architecture. When the Main St. Historic District  was nominated ot he National Register of Historic Places in 1987, the John Lawson House described by its physical appearance. In a nomination document, they describe the house’s frame, cornice, chimneys, and windows. What they did not articulate in this document, however, was its creepy history.

Above all, John Lawson is the man who built the house. He is not, however, the person who moved the mannequins around. What we do know is that he was a descendant of one of the first white colonist families to forcibly take over the area. So we know he’s not a great person and perhaps that’s part of the reason the mannequin-ghosts decided to hang out on his porch.

“Not cool, racist dude! Now we’re gonna haunt you forever.”

Other Creepy Events at The John Lawson House

John Lawson house
Image: mikepacebooks.com

A house this old has seen some stuff. And while it’s not totally clear when the mannequins first appeared on the porch, urban myth states that they may have something to do with two tragedies that occurred very close to the house.

The first creepy event was on February 6, 1871. In the middle of a two-week cold snap, a southbound, 25-car freight train derailed. It landed on the northbound track, striking a northbound passenger express train.

Sadly, the trains were carrying oil, so there was a huge fire. 22 people were killed in the crash that night. This horrific event happened only about 200 feet from the John Lawson House.

Then, just six years later, on May 3, 1877, a huge fire took out seven buildings directly around the house. The John Lawson House was one of a few surviving structures.

Theories Of Haunted Mannequins

John Lawson house
Image: @andrea.aj on Instagram

Many believe that the mannequins represented and perhaps were even possessed by the spirits of those who died in these two events.

Some people have reported seeing the mannequins facing the direction of the only other surviving historical house on the block. People thought that they were possessed by people who died in the fire. Other mannequins faced the site of the train crash.

Because of this, depending on whether or not the mannequins are actually haunted, people are still trying to figure this out. Answering the “who” part of the mystery seems to be a much easier feat that answering the “why”.

Perhaps one of these days, in other words, the mannequins will start to speak for themselves, and we can all rest a little better at night.




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