Is Roff House Haunted?

Roff House

Once the site of America’s first possession, this historic home may still carry lingering spirits

Paranormal Activity
at Roff House

  • Intense calm feelings are experienced in one of the bedrooms
  • Shadow figures have been seen around the home at times
  • Potential EVPs have been recorded by past investigators
  • Lights will flicker in the house without explanation
  • Psychics/mediums have reported intense experiences in the house
  • EMF anomalies have been reported by investigators

Entrancing History of Roff House

The small, quiet town of Watseka, Illinois might seem like the last place where anything profoundly spooky happens, but looks can be deceiving. One historic house in the town, now a popular local B&B, has a truly haunted history.

Known for decades as the ‘Watseka Wonder,’ the paranormal events around the Roff House have mystified many since the mid-1800s.

The Roff House is said to be the home of America’s first recorded ghostly possession, and, to this day, strange things happen here.

Could the specters that once put the wonders of Watseka on the map still be haunting the Roff House?

Timeline of Roff House's History

Swipe or use timeline points to see Roff House through the years


In the mid-1800s, Asa and Dorothy Roff were a relatively well-off family in northern Illinois. But, a cloud of uncertain health hung over their daughter, Mary. Born in 1846, Mary Roff spent much of her life in ill health. She would often fall into strange spells and trances from a young age, eventually suffering seizures that had her sent to an asylum.

But, at the same time, she also developed supposed psychic abilities, being able to read while blindfolded and communicate with the dead.


Mary died suddenly in 1865 at age 19. Her odd abilities and illnesses seemed like they would remain a mystery. When she died, the Roffs had started building a grand house in Watseka. Stricken with grief over Mary’s death, Asa and Dorothy took three years to complete the home. They finally finished it in 1868.

But, it always seemed like a soul was missing from their home. Their daughter’s death weighed on them for years, until the 1870s, when Asa heard an all too familiar story. A girl in town was suffering from seizures and acting strangely.


In 1877, a 13 year old local girl, Lurancy Vennum, suffered from symptoms identical to Mary’s. Asa went to her, hoping to help her avoid his daughter’s fate. To his shock, this girl claimed to be Mary Roff. At first skeptical, Asa was soon convinced by “Mary’s” specific knowledge of her life with the family.

Asa and Dorothy soon believed their daughter had returned, using Lurancy as a vessel. E.W. Stevens, a spiritualist doctor, examined the girl and agreed that Mary’s spirit was possessing her.


In 1878, Lurancy moved in with the Roffs, continually channeling Mary’s spirit. It seemed like Mary might remain in Lurancy’s body forever. But, a few months into her stay, she told the Roffs that she was weakening, and Mary’s spirit would soon depart. Lurancy soon woke up in the house as herself, seemingly with no memory of how she had got there or what had happened, and she moved back with her own family soon after.

Occasionally, Lurancy would return, and the Roffs would hold a seance so Mary could speak, if only briefly.


After the mystical ‘Watseka Wonder’ concluded, the Roffs and their home returned to semi-normalcy. After the Roffs died, the home went to local lawyer C.W. Raymond, who lived there until his death in 1939. It was then owned by his stepdaughter, Katherine Clifton, throughout the mid-1900s.

After the Cliftons, the Roff House went through a long list of owners, and by 2000 was well-aged and poorly kept up. At the dawn of the 21st century, it seemed likely that the site of America’s first documented spiritual possession would fall into disrepair.


In 2005, new ownership came to the Roff House, with a focus on restoration. The new owners set out on a long-term restoration project of the historic home. A decade and a half of work went into restoring the Roff House to its old world brilliance. In recent years, it has been reopened as a B&B-style inn, and it even won a preservation award in 2020 for its progress.

Though this new life has come whispers of historic ghosts still lingering within. Could remnants of the Watseka Wonder still haunt the Roff House?

Is Roff House Haunted?

With a tale as unique and well-known as the possession of Lurancy Vennum by Mary Roff, it seems only normal that the Roff House would always have something spooky about it. But, for many years, the purported paranormal activity never got much press beyond the Watseka Wonder itself.

In recent years, with the home’s public reopening, ghost hunters and paranormal enthusiasts have had a chance to experience the home for themselves.

As a result, stories have come out that the Roff House is still just as mysterious as it was back in 1878.

Strange Lights &
Soothing Sensations

Workers at the Roff House have occasionally experienced odd and unexplained things like lights flickering without a known cause. While this has been reported in a few areas, it is most notable around the home’s kitchen area.

Additionally, strange feelings have been felt in certain rooms by workers and visitors alike. While many reports of odd feelings in haunted places are described as eerie or off-putting, the Roff House is quite different.

The strange sensations reported in the home are often described as intensely calming and reassuring. These feelings of calmness are often experienced around Dorothy Roff’s room upstairs.

The House’s Ghostly Voices

Since opening up to the public, ghost hunters have been some common visitors and overnight stays at the Roff House. Many groups have claimed to capture paranormal evidence, or at least things they cannot explain, in the home.

Recordings of purported EVPs are quite common around the house today, with hotspots said to be Mary/Lurancy’s sleeping area, the old seance room, and spaces in the basement.

Odd & Wondrous Shadows

Additionally, visiting ghost hunters have reported odd and unexplainable EMF anomalies throughout the house. Others have reported seeing unexplained shifting shadows at night, while others still have spotted full shadow figures.

Some ghost hunters have even tried to capture these uncertain figures on photos and video devices, with mixed success. These figures have sometimes corresponded to other ghost hunting equipment set around the house being triggered.

Psychic Experiences at Roff House

Perhaps understandably, supposed psychics and mediums often report intense experiences when visiting the Roff House. Strange feelings and sensations are frequently noted by these individuals through the house.

Maybe Mary’s spirit still remains in the house after all these years, just waiting for another vessel like Lurancy Vennum to latch onto. Despite many visiting psychics and many unexplained feelings and visions, it doesn’t seem Mary’s specter has found her ideal vessel…yet.

Roff House & The Watseka Wonder

The legacy of the Watseka Wonder has hung over the Roff House since the beginning. The house and the tales of Mary and Lurancy have been featured in countless articles and books written about possessions and American hauntings.

More recently, the Roff House has been the subject of films and TV programs. The 2009 film The Possessed tells the story of the Watseka Wonder and was filmed on location in the area. The home’s haunts have also been featured on the Travel Channel program Ghost Brothers.

With the legend of Lurancy Vennum’s possession by Mary Roff and continued visits by ghost hunters, it seems the Roff House and mystery will remain closely linked. But, alongside being a purported paranormal hotspot, Roff House has also become a popular historic B&B by itself.

So if you’re looking for a relaxing getaway, or a delve into the world of late 1800s spiritualism, you can find what you’re looking for at the Roff House. Whether it’s the beautiful restorations done in recent years or the palpable mystery of Mary’s possession, there will likely always be something wondrous about the site of the Watseka Wonder.