Built on a foundation of dreams and unimaginable wealth, the walls of these once-grand mansions hide a chilling history.
Earlier this week, an abandoned manor known as the ‘Welsh Palace of Versailles’ went back on the market for £750,000.
The Grade 1-listed Kinmel Hall, near Abergele, Conwy, was once one of the country’s most prestigious estates, and was even visited by Queen Victoria.
However, the 80,000 sq ft property has tragically fallen into a state of disrepair since its construction in 1850.
While many of its grand marble columns and arches ceilings remain in tact, shocking photographs show crumbling brickwork and plaster falling from the walls of its vast 122 rooms.
And the fading home is far from the only glorious landmark to have fallen upon hard times over the years – with properties around the world going to waste after gruesome hammer murders, playboy scandals and ghostly legends.
‘Wretched’ psychiatric hospital – Glasgow, Scotland
In the rural outskirts of Glasgow lies Lennox Castle, a once infamous psychiatric hospital known for its “wretched and dehumanising” conditions.
Built in the 1830s, the building was converted to a hospital in 1936 and was hailed as one of the leading institutions of its kind across Britain.
Despite a £1million budget that allowed it to house 1,200 people, however, the hospital soon became vastly overcrowded and reports emerged of horrific cruelty towards residents.
Patients were reportedly struck with baseball bats and made to run laps around the castle for minor punishments, while one man even died after being found set alight in a bathroom in the middle of the night.
Finally closing in 2002, the castle has collapsed into ruin – although Celtic Football Club built a new training facility on the grounds five years later.
Home of playboy murder plot – Chattanooga, Tennessee
The garish haunt of strip club owner Billy Hull, the Swinger’s Tiki Palace sits atop the hillside of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Famed for its Playboy swimming pool which had underwater tunnels leading to separate bedrooms, the home was complete in 1972 with nearly 10,000 eager guests attending the open house.
Yet just a year later, Hull’s seedy lifestyle caught up with him. The businessman was charged with hiring a hitman to murder the lover of his wife, Gloria, while he also pleaded guilty to tax evasion.
With its owner jailed for 20 years, the home was left neglected and vandalised, with scrawlings over the two imposing Tikis that adorn its entrance.
The famous pool has long dried up, filled with rotting sofas, while debris and old magazines line the halls which once hosted dazzling parties for the Tennessee elite.
Gruesome hammer murder – Los Feliz, Los Angeles
A hotspot on macabre guided tours of Los Angeles, the Los Feliz ‘murder house’ is one of the city’s most grisly legends.
Designed by architect Harry E Weiner in 1925, the mansion looks like any other exclusive retreat for California’s rich and famous.
Yet on December 6, 1959, it became the site of a gruseome murder-suicide when owner Dr Harold Perelson, a renowned cardiologist, took a hammer and killed his sleeping wife Linda with one blow in their master bedroom.
He then attempted to murder his eldest daughter, 18-year-old Judye, while she slept, but fortunately his strike only woke her up, alerting his two other children.
After Judye fled to a neighbouring home, Harold swallowed a cocktail of pills and died in her bedroom.
Sold to a couple named Julian and Emily Enriquez two years later, the house was used mainly for storage and, creepily, many of the Perselsons’ belongings from the 1950s lay untouched.
Those who ventured inside reported a vintage television set propped against the wall and decades-old cans of food left in the pantry.
Eventually, in 2016 the property was stripped back inside and bought by attorney Lisa Bloom for $2,289,500. In 2019, though, it was put back on the market for $3.5million, later reduced to $2.5million.
Ghostly legends – Minxiong, Taiwan
On first appearances, the Minxiong ‘ghost house’ takes some beating – wrapped by snaking trees that look as though they are swallowing it back into hell itself.
The three-storey home in Taiwan was once occupied by the Lui family, but in the 1950s they mysteriously departed without warning, leaving it to be reclaimed by nature.
In the absence of any conclusive answers, a number of popular legends have sprung up about why the family upped sticks.
One widely-shared tale is that a maid who had an affair with the master of the house, Liu Rong-yu, was so ashamed by the relationship that she flung herself down a well. Her spirit was said to have returned to haunt the family each night, until they fled in desperation.
Another far-fetched ghost story suggests a group of Japanese soliders stationed at the home during World War Two inexplicably turned their guns on each other one night, while another claims Taiwanese soldiers fell ill and died within its walls.
Whatever the true story, the once proud home is slowly becoming engulfed by the surrounding forest, its insides a shell of faltering brickwork pushed out by branches.
Tragic castle dream – Ozarks, Missouri
It was a truly grand design of a Kansas businessman, who wanted to build a European-style castle in the heart of Missouri.
Wealthy Robert Snyder bought 5,000 acres of land, including his own lake, in Ha Ha Tonka State Park in 1905, but would tragically never live to see his dream fully realised.
Just a year later, Snyder was killed in one of the state’s first ever car crashes, but his sons continued to work on the castle until its completion in the 1920s.
His youngest son took up residence, but after the family’s funds ran dry, the property was sold and became a hotel.
Sadly, disaster struck again in 1942 when a blaze ripped through the building, burning it nearly to the ground.
Today, all that is left are its proud walls, designed by stone masons shipped over from Europe – though the state has since bought the castle to preserve it as a monument to Synder’s vision.
Concrete treehouse – Fregene, Italy
Mercifully free of a bloody history, Casa Sperimentale is an incredible ‘concrete treehouse’ on the fringes of Fregene, a seaside town in Italy.
Built in the 1970s by ambitious architects Giuseppe Perugini and his wife Uga de Plaisant, the brutalist masterpiece features a drawbridge staircaise and is held together by three structures which mingle with the surrounding forestry.
A rural retreat for Italy’s bohemian community during the long, hot summers, it is not known why the building was abandoned and left at the mercy of the elements.
Today, many of its rusting metal brackets have left the incredible home at risk of structural failure.
Nonetheless, it has become a tourist attraction and, unhappily, a haven for graffiti artists.
House of horror – Altrincham, Cheshire
A five-bedroom mansion in Cheshire became known as the ‘house of horror’ in 2005 after its owner embarked on a frenzied attack in its master bedroom.
Christopher Lumsden knifed wife Alison around 30 times after she announced she was leaving him for a family friend.
After the savage killing, the house in Altrincham – dubbed Oakleigh – saw its immaculately manicured lawns, tennis courts and coach house stand empty and fall into rack and ruin.
Last year, however, the home was put up for sale for £3.25million after a restoration project spanning 10 years.
First built in the 1880s, it was listed as a “striking 19th century Arts and Crafts villa” complete with underground swimming pool, sauna, cinema room and a triple garage.
Tragic Titanic tale – Montgomery County, Pennsylvania
One of America’s truly historic mansions, Lynnewood Hall was the grand residence of Peter Arrell Browne Widener, now recognised as one of the nation’s 100 richest men.
Constructed following the death of his wife, Hannah, onboard their family yacht, the sprawling estate in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, was completed in 1900, surrounded by 480 acres of land.
After living there for 15 years, Widener passed away and the home had been due to be inherited by his eldest son, George.
However, three years prior, George and his family had invested in the doomed HMS Titanic, proudly taking up a spot for its maiden voyage, where they are said to have dined with the captain.
Both George and his son Harry lost their lives when the ship hit an iceberg in 1912, and the estate was consequently passed down to Widener’s only surviving son, Joseph.
Although Joseph kept the mansion in pristine condition, it was neglected when his children declined to take on responsibility for it following his death in 1943.
In the 1950s, it was purchased for $192,000 by a group of evangelical Christians, but they stripped it of its assets and sold all but 33 acres of its land.
Much of its grandeur still remains to this day, with an historic art gallery still beatifully preserved, though pictures show the lavish swimming pool and bathroom have suffered years of decay.
A campaign remains ongoing to save the estate, which – like its Welsh counterpart – has been described as the ‘American Versailles’.