Zillow: Top 10 Haunted Houses in the United States

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Director

The next time you take a walk down a street in your neighborhood, take a close look at the houses and imagine the stories that have taken place within their walls. For most, it would probably be easy to envision relatively happy tales: newlyweds moving in to their first home, holidays around the table, etc.



For other homes, especially dilapidated buildings in a state of disrepair and decay, the stories envisioned may be darker by nature. In fact, some may be downright scary.

Today, in honor of Halloween, we will examine the top 10 haunted houses in the United States, as presented by Zillow — “a home and real estate marketplace dedicated to helping homeowners, home buyers, sellers, renters, real estate agents, mortgage professionals, landlords and property managers find and share vital information about homes, real estate, mortgages, and home improvement.” The site boasts a database of more than 110 million U.S. homes.

Last year, they developed a list of the 10 most haunted homes in the U.S.

On a related note, do you own a haunted house? A recent Wall Street Journal article says it may be a tough sell. Let us know your creepy house stories — and have a Happy Halloween!


houstory halloween

It’s not often a story about a piece of furniture waters the eyes

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory

A few weeks ago, True Value Hardware released a video story on YouTube, simply entitled, “Table.” I didn’t really know what to expect when I watched it — aside from knowing it was at least loosely related to family heirlooms. Upon hearing the narrator’s first sentence about his grandfather going hungry around “this table” during the depression, I knew I was in for something special. I urge you to take 1:30 seconds to watch this beautiful, moving video.

Okay, I didn’t cry. But, under the right circumstances…

Then I encourage you to think about the “tables” in your own life — the things that matter to your family history — and to save them properly (stories and all). By the way, if you have another couple of minutes, take a look at a video The Heirloom Registry produced about a table. Notice any similarities?



What are the things that matter in your life? Do you have an old table or another piece of furniture with a story? 

How far would you go to get your stolen family heirloom back?

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Director

Ok, perhaps it wasn’t the best idea in retrospect, but we have to say we were impressed when we came across the story of a Utah woman who would stop at nothing to get her stolen heirloom back.

And we mean nothing.


Utah, family heirloom, family history

Debbie Harms’ parents. Photo courtesy of KUTV.


The following is an excerpt from a KUTV article in Roy, Utah, describing Debbie Harms’ actions after she tracked down the alleged thieves of her mother’s wedding ring through an online ad that posted the ring for sale.


Against advice officers would later give her, (Debbie) Harms made the bold decision to call the man who posted the ad and invite him into her home. She offered $900 for what he said was a family heirloom he was ready to sell. When he arrived, Harms realized the ring was hers. She slipped it onto her finger and her emotions took over.

“I told him that this was not his family heirloom. It was my family heirloom,” Harms said. “I told him his two choices were to take the $10 for gas money and run as fast as he could, or he could wait for the police to come while I gladly beat him to a pulp.”

The man, along with his friend who had come inside and a woman waiting in the car, took off.


That’s some serious passion and sentimentality. Also: I can’t believe she gave them $10.

According to Harms (I love that this is her last name), her father “went a full year without any lunch and saved all his lunch money to buy that wedding ring.”

That’s a lot of sacrifice, love and a serious lack of calories. I’m trying to think if I own anything that I would spend “hours” scouring classified ads for? Or if I possess anything I would risk personal injury for?

As The Kinks said, I’m a lover not a fighter. However, while I don’t condone violence, I can understand the passion. Unlike “stuff,” family heirlooms connect us to the past, and are often the only physical associations we have with loved ones after they are gone.

This heirloom was obviously worth a lot monetarily, but something tells me that if Ms. Harms was tracking down her father’s pocket watch, or a painting her mother created in kindergarten, she would have been just as up for a scuffle.

Legacy, memories and connections are powerful things – and not to be taken lightly. While we can’t say we recommend the Debbie Harms solution to heirloom retrieval, we certainly understand and respect it.

Obviously, some people are more inclined to go the extra mile. How about you? Do you own anything that you feel that passionate about? How far would you go to retrieve your family heirloom? Let us know!

Road trip to Oregon’s Elvis shrine, historic bridge house

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory

So, a few weeks ago my wife and I hopped in the car and took a drive from our home in Eugene, Ore. to the sandy — and much chillier — Oregon coast. Our destination was a sleepy town called Florence, a seaside community as well as a tourist destination for many in  the area. Situated at the mouth of the  Siuslaw River, Florence was the site of a barbecue competition my brother-in-law Eric was competing in.


DESTINATION: FLORENCE, OREGON. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

Along the way, my wife Tasi and I were met with several welcome distractions — including a stop at Shake, Rattle & Roll Record Shop in Mapleton, Ore., and a photo op of a bridge house just outside of Florence at a place called Cushman Bridge.

First, Shake, Rattle & Roll: Not that I’ve been actively seeking an extensive collection of Elvis collectibles and memorabilia, but if I were this seems like a pretty good place to start. Darrel Dixon, the shop’s proprietor, was a super nice guy for starters. He said he got most of the collection “7 or 8 years ago” from an Oregon woman. She obviously really dug on The King, because the place is a shrine. Two rooms full of stuff. Personally, I have two  obvious connections to Elvis. First, my I share his birthday (Jan. 8). Second — and this is what drew me to the store — is my niece (and goddaugher) Jessica’s affinity for the man, which started when she was probably three or four years old. In my opinion, Jessica is an “old soul” in a lot of ways, which I completely love. Now at the age of 20, she still maintains a mini Elvis altar herself, so whenever I see a chance for her to add to the collection, I let her know about opportunities.

elvis, memorabilia, collectibles, antiques

Elvis Heaven


The second stop along the trip was a picture I snapped of an old swing bridge — unofficially known as Cushman Bridge — crossing the slow-moving Siuslaw River. According to information I could find (but not officially substantiate), it was built in 1914 near the unincorporated community of Cushman. On top of it is a house-like structure, which I thought made for an interesting house history shot — even though it was likely never used as a permanent residence.

house history, oregon, siuslaw, swing bridge

The historic bridge house.


The final leg on the trip was the barbecue competition. My brother-in-law is a genius when it comes to all things smoked, and his ever-expanding barbecue competition trophy case is a testament to that. This time, he placed first in the rib competition.  And yes, they were tasty. To visit his barbecue world, check out his Facebook page. But don’t blame me if you get slobber on your keyboard.


Yes, I got free barbecue. It pays to be a relative.

barbecue, Florence, Oregon

Eric (right) with my father-in-law Jim, showing off his first-place trophy.

Pay for permanence? Applying Dick Eastman’s logic to The Heirloom Registry

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Director

A couple of months  ago, influential genealogical product reviewer Dick Eastman (whom I’ve had the pleasure of  meeting on a couple of occasions) wrote about a company selling “long-lasting display plates containing QR codes.” These plates are affixed to gravestones, which users can then scan to reveal information about the deceased with data provided by the family that purchased the code. From there, they are taken to a dedicated Web page on the company’s server, where information is displayed.

Dick Eastman, Dan Hiestand, Houstory

Dan with Mr. Eastman at FGS 2012 in Birmingham, Ala.

Sound familiar? If you understand the goal of Houstory’s Heirloom Registry, it should.

I’m not going to get into much of his product review, but I would like to highlight a key point Dick made that I believe may resonate with the Houstory audience and customer base.

 “At first, this sounds like a good idea; but, then I wondered, ‘What happens if the company goes out of business and their web site goes offline?’ I assume the answer is that the customer has wasted the money he or she spent,” wrote Dick. “While I hope this company remains in business for a long, long time, I still don’t like the idea of depending upon any one corporation’s future success.”

This sentiment — or a variation of it — is something Houstory founder Mike Hiestand and I have heard on many occasions about our Heirloom Registry service.

And guess what? We completely agree, especially when a company is selling permanence, which is what we are doing. If the future cannot access the information you’ve taken time, energy and — most importantly — money to compile, what’s the point of the effort? There is good news, though: Mike and I have worked hard to solve this problem, and we believe we have.

No. 1: You are in charge of the information you save on The Heirloom Registry. While your family heirloom records are uploaded, edited and saved on our site, ultimately you can save them to your own hard drive, upload them to a Web site or print them out as a hard copy registry certificate PDF. This ability to save the record on your own is an important distinction. How you decide to make that record accessible is really up to you. Our job is to put that data in a format that is easily readable, logical and probably more attractive than anything you’ll take the time to make.

Registration Certificate from The Heirloom Registry

Hard copy of the Registration Certificate from The Heirloom Registry


No.2: Additionally, to ensure longevity, a portion of each registration number fee is deposited in a dedicated fund that will be used to pay for future operation of The Heirloom Registry. Of course, given our ever-changing technology, it’s difficult to predict exactly what form The Heirloom Registry will take in 10 years, let alone 50 or 100, but we are fully committed to our mission and promise to do our level best to ensure that whether “surfing the Internet” or “transbeaming the MetaCosmos,” the purpose and essential function of the Registry as a lasting and accessible source of historical information remains intact.

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No. 3: Here are some hard facts: 1) We can’t guarantee The Heirloom Registry will exist in 100 years. That’s not a promise any company can honestly make.  2) No one else is doing what The Heirloom Registry is doing. 3) Our Certificate of Registration is a way for you to instantly create a physical, lasting record of your heirloom, impervious to changing technology. 4) We have taken concrete steps to protect the integrity of the Registry and the company’s longevity. To be honest, now that all our rather extensive research, site development and upfront costs have been paid, operating the site form day to day is pretty inexpensive. We are proud to say the company is paid for and is wholly family-owned and operated.  5) Your chances of passing on the stories behind your grandma’s handmade quilt, your uncle’s trumpet or your dad’s Brooklyn Dodger’s Louisville Slugger bat are significantly lower if the items are not marked or tagged with identifying information.



Are you worried about online services and businesses ceasing operation? Do you have any stories of this happening? Let us know what you think!