How to sell a home that’s — allegedly — full of ghosts

by Emily Mack

The Whispers Estate exterior and interior, photo credit: Stephen Beall

Four bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, original wood flooring … and the agonized final breaths of a woman who died in 1934, still audible in the primary bedroom. Still coughing.

These are the features agent Heather Bland had to manage when she agreed to oversee the sale of Whispers Estate, purported to be one of the most haunted homes in the Midwest.

Bland, of Talk to Tucker REALTORS® in Bloomington, Indiana, regularly covered the nearby Lawrence County when her office received a rather unusual call in 2020. The owner of Whispers Estate was looking to sell — and he needed an agent.

By that point, Whispers Estate was something of a tourist attraction in the small Lawrence County town of Mitchell. Open for tours, ghost hunters flocked to the property, and locals knew all about its scary origin story.

In 1899, Dr. John Gibbons, a local physician, and his wife, Jessie, built the house, which would serve as not only the couple’s home but John’s medical office. While living there, the Gibbons also adopted multiple children — one of whom died shortly after moving in. Little Rachel was just 10 years old when she succumbed to burns from a fire she started in the parlor.

The Whispers Estate interior, photo credit: Stephen Beall

Later, the Gibbons’ baby Elizabeth died of unknown causes and, in 1934, Jessie died of pneumonia in the very same room. Throughout the rest of his own life, Dr. John became increasingly unwell, falling from the town’s good graces and eventually forfeiting his medical license.

In the following decades, the property switched hands multiple times, functioning as a single-family residence, then apartments, before sitting vacant from 2000 to 2004. That’s when the previous owner purchased Whispers Estate and began renovations.

It’s also when the house truly came alive.

Witnesses reported mysterious whispers floating around the house, unexplained rapping on wood and eerie laughter drifting from Dr. John’s old exam room. Some visitors saw little Rachel running around the hallway. Others said they could hear Jessie’s labored breaths in the bedroom.

Those are the chilling stories that Bland was faced with marketing — the aptly titled — Whispers Estate. Rather than shy away from the haunted history, though, Bland placed the house’s reputation front-and-center: “Known as the Whispers Estate, this home built around 1894 has had a long and varied existence. Used as a residence, B&B, boarding house, doctor’s office and, currently, as the home to alleged paranormal activity, it definitely is interesting,” read the first sentence of her listing.

“Of course I put that in the listing,” Bland told Chicago Agent, referring to both the name of the home and the ghostly phenomena. “There is a known history … YouTube videos, and they do tours.” There was no hiding Whispers Estate’s spooky reputation — it even ranked No. 4 on the Travel Channel’s list of the most haunted places in America.

Aside from that, though, Bland treated the listing as she would any other. Pricing the home at $130,000, she said, “I did not base the listing price on the history of the paranormal history of the home.” Rather, she reflected on the property itself as well as its rich location.

“It’s in a very small town, and their housing prices aren’t as high as bigger cities,” Bland reasoned. However, she said, “It was a large home … [there are] many large, stately beautiful homes in the area, and many have beautiful woodwork inside. There is a lot of limestone in Lawrence County, and many of their historical homes are just beautiful.”

Then again, Bland said, “I also knew it probably wouldn’t draw in people looking for a home to be a normal residence.”

A staircase in Whispers Estate, photo credit: Stephen Beall

She was right. In the end, the home sold at asking to an Indiana schoolteacher who, she believes, taught a high school class about the paranormal. He’d been bringing students to Whispers Estates for years. Now, the home is his own — and is open for overnight haunted stays.

“It was fun to have something with such interesting history,” Bland says now. Although, for her part, she never saw a ghost in Whispers Estate. When the real estate team walked through the house, though, her boss said he had a “feeling” upstairs. “He looked at me and said, ‘Did you feel that?’” Bland remembers. She said she and her photographer were both a little on edge as they continued snapping pics.

But that “feeling” isn’t what’s stuck with Bland. The real takeaway? “Just treat all properties with equal marketing … and work hard for your client.”

Venturing into Whispers Estate

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