The Roff House Possession

Hidden amidst the serene landscape of Illinois lies a house shrouded in mystery and folklore—the Roff House. Nestled in Watseka, this quaint Victorian home has garnered attention not just for its architectural charm but also for the chilling stories that whisper through its halls. Among these tales, the saga of Mary Roff and Lurancy Vennum stands as a haunting reminder of the enigmatic forces believed to linger within its walls.

The History

The history of the Roff House dates back to the mid-19th century when it was constructed by George and Sarah Roff, a couple seeking solace in the heart of the Midwest. However, it wasn’t long before tragedy struck the Roff family, casting a shadow over the homestead. Mary Roff, their beloved daughter, suffered from cataleptic fits and met her demise at the tender age of 19 under mysterious circumstances, leaving the family grief-stricken and the community perplexed.

The Possession

Eleven years after Mary Roff’s passing, the tranquil existence of the Roff House was disrupted by a series of inexplicable events.

A young girl by the name of Lurancy Vennum, merely 12 years old, began to suffer strange seizures and spells that caused her to lose consciousness for hours and even days at a time. During these trances, she claimed to communicate with the spirit world. After being examined by a number of doctors, it was suggested that she be sent away to an insane asylum. There was nothing physically wrong with her, they said, so her symptoms could only be caused by insanity.

Before Lurancy could be locked away, her family received a visitor — a man named Asa Roff, whose daughter, Mary Roff, suffered from the same illness more than a decade before. Mary’s life had been a chaotic one. Her spells and trances had started when she was an infant and no doctor could ever find a reason for them. As she grew older, they allowed her to manifest clairvoyant abilities and speak to spirits — or so she believed.

Mr. Roff believed that a Spiritualist physician could alleviate Lurancy’s symptoms and save her from the same fate as Mary’s.

The Vennums agreed and during a visit from Dr. E. Winchester Stevens, Lurancy entered a trance and became possessed by the spirit of a dead young woman who professed to be able to help her. When Lurancy regained consciousness, she seemed different — unlike her former self. When Dr. Stevens asked her to identify herself, she replied, “My name is Mary Roff.”

Soon, it becomes obvious to the Roff and Vennum families — as well as scores of local townspeople, neighbors, friends, relatives, and more — that Lurancy has somehow become a woman who died more than a dozen years earlier. She recognizes people that Mary knew, identified things that belonged to the dead girl, and knows intimate family secrets that there was other way Lurancy could have known. It seemed impossible — but it was happening!

For the next five months, Lurancy lived as Mary Roff in the Roff family home, possessed by her spirit. There was no logical explanation for how this could be happening — and yet it was. Lurancy, who Dr. Stevens would dub the “Watseka Wonder,” became the best documented paranormal event in American history.

One night Lurancy, ‘returned’ and, now speaking to Asa Roff as if a stranger, asked to be taken to her home.  She lived a normal life from then on.  Lurancy continued to live with her parents until her marriage to George Binning in 1882. 


Despite the passage of time, the legend of Mary Roff and Lurancy Vennum continues to cast a long shadow over the Roff House.

Visitors will report strange occurrences and unexplained phenomena within its walls, keeping alive the legacy of a young woman whose life ended too soon and the spectral connection that allegedly lingers to this day.

The Roff House stands as a testament to the enduring power of folklore and the human fascination with the unknown. Today, the home is open for overnight stays or ghost tours by appointment.

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