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Sure, thrillers and horror movies are reliably fun for a good, old-fashioned jump scare, but there's really nothing quite as bone-chilling as real haunted house stories. If you're not convinced, we've got plenty of proof in the collection of true stories about real-life haunted houses ahead. From unsuspecting farmhouses in the midwest to sprawling Gilded Age east coast mansions to classic storybook cottages in Hollywood and even bungalows in tropical Honolulu, we scoured the country for the most compelling tales of domestic paranormal activity. But take heed: Reading about these scary haunted house stories in the dark or by yourself is likely to keep you up all night (as was the case for me), but the fascinating backstories are well worth the thrill.
Up for the challenge? Without further ado, we invite you to read about the following 27 scariest real-life haunted house stories from the creepiest places around the country. In case you're really fearless and ready to get freaky, you can book a stay at most of these places and greet the ghosts yourself. And good news! Come spooky season, we'll be updating this list regularly with new real-life haunted house additions, so be sure to check back for more. Happy hauntings!
Amityville Horror House in Amityville, New York
This Dutch colonial sitting pretty on Ocean Avenue in Long Island, New York is perhaps the country's (and world's) most famous real haunted house. Haunted or not, the Amityville home has certainly witnessed plenty of horrors. On November 13, 1974, Louise and Ronald DeFeo Senior and four of their children were killed inside the home. Their eldest daughter went unharmed, as did their eldest son, Ronald DeFeo Junior, and he was ultimately charged with the murders, though he never confessed to the horrific crime.
A year after the brutal murders, the Lutz family moved into the house, which still housed much of the original furniture and decor from its previous tenants. Then, just 28 days after moving in with their three young children, the Lutzes fled the house in a panic. Not long after, they worked with author Jay Anson on the best-selling book-turned-hit movie, The Amityville Horror, which tells the dramatic (and controversial) tale of the demonic and "unseen forces" that drove them out. The Lutz's story is widely regarded as a hoax, but plenty of people still vehemently believe it's haunted, and that it was haunted even before the DeFeo family lived and died in it.
Ammons House in Gary, Indiana
In 2011, Latoya Ammons moved into a small single-story home in Gary, Indiana, with her mother and her three young children. Only a few short months later, after reportedly experiencing the worst residential "demon infestation" since The Amityville Horror, Ammons brought her family to the emergency room in an attempt to help free them of demonic possession. After extensive evaluations by police, members of the local church, hospital staff, and the Department of Child Protective Services, the witnesses were torn: half of them believed the house was infested by spirits and demons, and that the family was genuinely possessed by something paranormal, while the other half blamed psychological issues.
Just like the best-selling book about the Amityville house turned into a national sensation, this modern instance of demonic possession went viral. The good news is that the Ammons family was able to find peace when they moved to Indianapolis, but the story, and the house itself, were still getting tons of attention. Unsurprisingly, Ghost Adventure host and self-proclaimed paranormal investigator Zak Bagans bought the property from Ammons's landlord in 2014 to shoot sensationalized "documentary" footage inside. Even though Bagans proceeded to tear it down, the Ammons House is about to get even more press. Oscar-nominee Lee Daniels is directing a film based on the story, The Deliverance. It's set to stream on Netflix in 2024 and will feature Stranger Things star, Caleb McLaughlin.
Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California
In 1886 an eccentric widow left her home in Connecticut for California's rural Santa Clara Valley to start a new life after the tragic loss of several family members. She wasn't the average widow; she was Sarah Winchester, the millionaire heiress whose fortune was derived from "The Gun That Won the West," an increasingly controversial truth. Once in the Bay Area—during the height of Spiritualism and well before the 19th amendment— Winchester managed her own finances and acted on a passion for architecture and design by overseeing the never-ending construction project of a rambling mansion in San Jose. She named the rambling property Llanada Villa (which she interpreted as "House on Flat Land,") but today, it's better known as The Winchester Mystery House.
Her reclusive lifestyle along with the restrictive gender norms of the era and the blood money she was associated with, caused neighbors and the local press to speculate, and legends quickly began to swirl about the mysterious woman and her bewildering house. Though it was a modern marvel at the time—with indoor plumbing, multiple elevators, a hot shower, and central heating—the mansion was appraised as having no value due to doors that opened to nothing but thin air, staircases that lead straight into the ceiling, and its maze of labyrinthine hallways.
Legends began swirling speculating that Winchester’s bizarre architectural choices were an attempt to rid the home of unwelcome spirits of the dead killed by the Winchester Rifle, but defenders swear she didn't have a superstitious bone in her body. Regardless, it's possible that Winchester herself still haunts the halls of the house-turned-museum today.
The Lemp Mansion in St. Louis, Missouri
Starting strong with a very scary house: The Lemp Mansion in St. Louis, which is known to be one of the most haunted places in America due to its tragic history and links to a wealthy beer baron.
Adam Johann Lemp, a German immigrant, was the first person to produce and sell lager-style beer in the U.S. He stored the barrels in an underground cave system beneath the city to keep them cool pre-modern refrigeration. It was successful, but his son, William Lemp, is the one who really brought it to the next level.
In the 1860s, William Lemp wanted to live closer to the industrial plant and start a family with his wife Julia, so they built the foreboding home in the historic Benton Park neighborhood right over the cave system (we smell a haunting!). Everything seemed to take a turn for the worse in the new millennium, and William Lemp died by suicide in 1904 after his favorite of five sons, Frederick, died tragically due to complications of tuberculosis.
A few years later, his wife also died of cancer in the house. In 1920, the youngest daughter, Elsa Lemp, mysteriously died in her home (not the Lemp Mansion) Then, in 1922, after running the company for years and seeing it flounder during the Prohibition era, William Lemp Jr., shot himself in the same room William Sr. died in.
One of William Jr.'s brothers, Charles Lemp, lived in the home from the 1930s until 1949 when he shot his own dog in the basement of the home before dying by suicide in his room. That same year, the youngest surviving Lemp child, Edwin, sold the house and transformed it into a boarding house, where reports of hauntings began. According to Destination America, witnesses have experienced burning sensations, slamming doors, disembodied moaning and crying, amongst other things.
Today, the Lemp Mansion is a restaurant and inn that also holds events, including weddings, Murder Mystery Dinners, and even ghost-hunting experiences.
Kasha House of Kaimuki in Honolulu, Hawaii
The Kasha House of Kaimuki in Honolulu, Hawaii has been shrouded in mystery for decades: its first bad press mention hit the Honolulu Star just months after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. According to the article, police responded to a call from a woman shouting "she's trying to kill my children! She's trying to kill my children!" When they arrived, they found a young Hawaiian boy, his three sisters, and his mother all shrieking and being tossed around by... nothing. About thirty years later, other occupants (of the same home, or one a block away from the original spooky house) reported similar attacks by an “unseen” force, which the responding officers corroborated.
The two most common theories surrounding the source of these reported attacks are a demonic shape-shifting creature of Japanese folkloric origins known as the Kasha, and the angry spirit of a corpse buried in the backyard. Though it has since been torn down and replaced by condos, the dark energy still lingers, according to locals and residents.
1000 Lombard Street in San Francisco, California
Socialite, journalist, and famed party host Patricia Montandon moved into an apartment on San Francisco’s famous "crooked block," Lombard Street, in 1960. She lived happily in her Russian Hill abode for eight years, until things began to go awry following an astrology-themed party she hosted in the apartment. In her memoir The Intruders, Montandon attributes a series of hauntings that culminated in a corporal tragedy to the bizarre behavior of a disgruntled tarot card reader who may have cursed the apartment the night of that fateful party.
From eerier laughter and faint music seemingly coming from within the apartment on repeat to constant rushes of cold winds despite locked doors and windows, and strange disembodied footsteps, the paranormal events were stacking up quickly. But Montandon was also the victim of physical crimes following the party, including a robbery, harassment, possibly arson, and more. After a tragic fire at the apartment and the premature passing of three of her close friends (all of whom had separately lived in the apartment between 1968 and 1969), Montandon set off on her own investigation to uncover the root of the apparent curse on 1000 Lombard Street.
Ackley House in Nyack, New York
Nicknamed “Ackley House” after its one-time occupants, the Ackley Family, this classic Queen Anne sits on the Hudson River across from Sleepy Hollow, New York. The many ghosts who roamed the halls of 1 La Veta Place were nothing but friendly, though they were active enough to inspire the matriarch, Helen Ackley, to write a national article about them in Reader's Digest. The article gained enough momentum that the house became a stop on local ghost tours, which ended up having some not-so-great ramifications when it came time to sell the home in the late 1980s.
The Ackleys found themselves entangled in a legal battle over whether or not they should have disclosed the haunted "nature" of the house to the Stambosvky family. In a landmark legal decision now referred to as “The Ghostbusters Ruling,” Ackley House was deemed haunted by the New York Supreme Court, and the buyers were able to pull out of the sale while also getting half of their down payment back. 1 La Veta Place has since been home to several celebrities, including musician Ingrid Michaelson.
Chop-Chop House in Boise, Idaho
The house at 805 W Linden Street in Boise, Idaho, is hard to miss. Covered in a layer of soot, with windows broken and boarded up and trash strewn about the yard, the 2-story, 2,728 square-foot Craftsman-style home looks like an abandoned horror movie set. The true story, however, is much scarier. Locals refer to it as the Boise Murder House or even more eyebrow-raising, the Chop-Chop House, which is a glib reference to the gruesome homicide that took place there more than three decades ago.
According to many who've lived in the neighborhood or even rented out a room in the house itself, the basement, in particular, exudes some haunted energy. There have been reports of shadowy figures appearing and disappearing out of nowhere, strange liquid oozing down the walls, and more.
Grey Gardens in East Hampton, New York
The grand East Hampton estate known as Grey Gardens has a fascinating history with many ups and downs. The four acres of land the home now sits on is in the Georgica Beach section of East Hampton, one of the most expensive regions in the world, and it was purchased by a wealthy couple in 1895 before the home was built in the early 1900s.
By 1913, it was sold to the president of a coal company whose wife, Anna Gilman Hill, imported ornate concrete walls from Spain to enclose the garden. The house was called Grey Gardens because of the color of the dunes, the cement garden walls, and the sea mist. Later, in 1923, the home was sold to Edith Bouvier Beale—the parental aunt of Jackie Onasis Kennedy and Lee Radziwill—and her family.
After a series of misfortunes and financial losses, the home fell into disrepair and was overrun by cats and raccoons (and perhaps something else not of this realm?), partially because Big Edie Beale and her daughter, Little Edie Beale couldn't afford to maintain the mansion on their own. The women's story (and star power!) was made famous in a 1975 documentary by Albert and David Maysles.
Big Edie held onto the property until her death in 1977, and her spirit is said to remain at Grey Gardens, watching over the house. Among the believers is author and journalist Sally Quinn, best known for her column in the Washington Post, who purchased the home from Little Edie in 1979 and she swears that it’s haunted.
Mercer-Williams House in Savannah, Georgia
Located across from one of Savannah, Georgia's, most famous and pristine squares (Monterey Square in the city's historic district), the Mercer-Williams house dates back to 1860. In the 1970s, famed preservationist and antiques dealer Jim Williams restored the home to its former glory after years of neglect.
This Italianate revival played host to three untimely deaths, including that of 11-year-old Tommy Downs when he fell off the roof in 1969, the 1981 fatal shooting of Danny Hansford by Williams, and Williams himself, when he died in the same room as Hansford less than a year after being acquitted of Hansford's death in a fourth trial. If the story sounds familiar, it's probably because you recognize it from the bestselling book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Much like the rest of the city, the home was supposedly built right on top of unmarked graves. Rumors about the crime and ensuing ghost stories continue to swirl to this day.
The Villisca Axe Murder House in Villisca, Iowa
On June 10, 1912, Josiah and Sarah Moore were bludgeoned to death inside of their home in Villisca, Iowa. Their four children—and two friends who were spending the night—were also killed, and to this day, the crime remains unsolved. Their home is considered one of the most haunted houses in the country, and guests are drawn to it. People even pay $400+ to stay for one night.
"Tours have been cut short by children's voices, falling lamps, moving ladders, and flying objects," says the Villisca Axe Murder House website. And, in 2014, a paranormal investigator stabbed himself after spending the night. "Skeptics have left believers," adds the website.
Jean Harlow House in Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles is one of the best destinations for haunted-house hunting, and this Bavarian-style home in Beverly Hills has a particularly gruesome history. In 1932, it was home to the iconic actress Jean Harlow and her abusive husband, Paul Bern, who shot himself in the head while standing in front of the mirror. Their butler discovered him and called MGM instead of the police, so there were tons of rumors that it wasn't actually suicide. Many suspected Bern's ex-girlfriend, a suspicion exacerbated by her jumping off a boat to her death a couple of days later. Jean moved out after his death but died only a few years later at the age of 26.
But wait—it gets creepier. In 1963, celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring bought the home and lived there with his girlfriend, Sharon Tate, until she left him for Roman Polanski. They were still friends and remained so until both of them were murdered by the Charles Manson cult. Tate was the same age as Harlow when she passed.
But back to when the couple lived in the Harlow House. Tate told several friends of creepy occurrences in the home and even mentioned it in interviews. For example, once, when she was sleeping in the master bedroom alone, she saw a "creepy little man." Her friends say she believed it to be Paul Bern's ghost. She was so freaked out when she saw the alleged ghost that she ran out of the room and then saw a hanging shadowy corpse with its throat slit in the hallway. There are also stories about two other people dying in the swimming pool over the years.
SK Pierce Mansion in Gardner, Massachusetts
Massachusetts has no shortage of haunted mansions, it seems, and the SK Pierce Victorian is one of the state's eeriest. The original occupant, Sylvestor Pierce, had just started making his fortune in the furniture business when he built this home for himself, his son, and his wife, Susan. As a man about town, he hosted many notable people in his 7,000-square-foot home throughout the years, including President Calvin Coolidge, Bette Davis, and Norman Rockwell.
Only a week after moving into the home, Susan fell ill and passed away from a mysterious bacterial disease. A year later, he remarried Ellen, a woman thirty years his junior, and had two more children. Years later, when both Sylvester and Ellen had passed away, his sons embarked on a fiery feud about the property as well as the furniture company, but the Great Depression swept in and made their choice easier since the company basically went bankrupt.
The youngest son, Edward, was given control of the home when he turned it into a boarding house. It became a hotspot for illicit activities (including the murders and sudden, tragic deaths of several occupants) according to local lore. As a result of these violent ends, guests have reported every kind of haunting imaginable, from visions of apparitions to flying objects, disembodied sounds, pressure, temperature drops, and more.
Mudhouse Mansion in Fairfield, Ohio
Located in Fairfield County, Ohio (until recently), the Mudhouse Mansion has a bad reputation. Nobody can seem to agree on when it was built, but it dates back sometime between the 1840s and 1900. Unlike the other abandoned mansions on this list, you sadly can no longer visit it, as the home was demolished in 2015 after not being occupied since the 1930s. The last resident (at least legally speaking) was Lulu Hartman-Mast, and the current owner of the property is her relative Jeanne Mast.
Because there's so little information about who lived here and when, and because abandoned places tend to ignite the dark side of the imagination, there are tons of legends around alleged atrocities occurring (and consequent hauntings). The sources don't seem to be very credible, though.
455A Sackett Street in Brooklyn, New York
You never hear as much about haunted apartments as haunted houses, which is strange—considering that apartments have much more turnover, and therefore a higher likelihood of something (or someone) evil having lived there before you move in.
That was definitely the case with 455A Sacket Street in Brooklyn. One woman who grew up there writes about her firsthand experiences, including unexplained fires, seriously bad energy, family tragedies, personal suffering, and, here's the kicker: the body of a child discovered in the wall after several suspicious sightings of a similar-looking shadow child in the mirror.
You can read her full account here, as well as commenters who also lived there and corroborate these claims. I'll definitely not be requesting an in-person viewing for this place—private balcony or not—if this address ever pops back up in my StreetEasy feed.
Hotel Monte Vista in Flagstaff, Arizona
The Hotel Monte Vista has numerous paranormal guests they can’t get rid of. The hotel, which opened as the Community Hotel in 1927—named after the townspeople who helped raised the funds for its construction—has a history of underground opium dens, speakeasies, and gambling. Today, the hotel is known for the paranormal activity that haunts some of the rooms and halls.
Guests who’ve stayed in room 220 have experienced the TV changing channels on its own accord, and some have said they felt cold hands touching them in their sleep. There’s also reportedly a phantom bellboy who knocks on doors and announces “room service,” but when guests get to the door, no one's there. One of the more popular—and possibly most disturbing encounters—is the sound of an infant crying in the basement. The hotel website reads, “Staff have found themselves running upstairs to escape the sound of the cries. Though the sounds are very real to those who hear them, there has been no information that has explained the phenomenon.”
Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana
Rumored to be on top of a burial ground is the Myrtles Plantation in Louisiana, which is the home to at least 12 different ghosts. Built in 1796, ghost stories center around the tale of an enslaved woman named Chloe, who had her ear chopped off after she was reportedly caught eavesdropping. Seeking revenge, Chloe killed two of the master’s daughters by poisoning a birthday cake. She was then hanged by her fellow enslaved people, and today is reportedly seen wandering the plantation with a turban on to conceal her ear.
If you want to investigate things for yourself, you can stay at the plantation for $175/night.
Hotel Cecil in Los Angeles, California
More cursed than haunted, downtown L.A.'s Hotel Cecil got such a bad rap that it actually changed its name to Stay on Main. If you're a true crime and paranormal super fan, you've likely already heard of it. Where to begin? So many bad things have happened here—there's literally an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to its violent history. The first recorded death by suicide is in 1931, followed by a long string of similar deaths in 1932, 1934, 1937, 1938, 1939, and 1940.
At some point in the '30s, one man was pinned to the exterior wall by a truck. A woman murdered her newborn in the building in 1944, and the pattern of suicides continued into the '60s. In 1962, a woman jumped from the ninth floor window and landed on a pedestrian, killing them both. It's worth noting that two of the women who died by suicide apparently jumped while their husbands were asleep in the room.
In 1964, tenant Goldie Osgood was brutally murdered, a crime which has remained unsolved. Next, in the '80s, the infamous serial kill Richard Ramirez (the "Night Stalker") stayed at the hotel and in the 1990s, Austrian serial killer Jack Unterwege lived there. Other weird things kept happening but the weirdest is definitely the disappearance and death of 21-year-old traveler Elisa Lam.
A few weeks after Lam went missing, her body was discovered in the rooftop water tank after visitors and tenants complained about a funky taste. They later found odd footage of her in the elevator from the night of her disappearance. It's difficult to make out what she's doing; it looks like she's either playing hide-and-seek with someone outside the elevator, or she's frightened and attempting to hide from someone but the doors won't seem to shut. Authorities ruled the death accidental drowning—but because you need a key to access the roof, many suspect foul play.
Lui Family Mansion in Taiwan
Built in 1929 in Baroque style, the Minxiong Ghost House (aka the Lui family mansion) is a place with a heartbreaking history. Located in the Taiwanese countryside, it's been abandoned since the 1950s when the family fled abruptly. Like all mysterious places, there's plenty of lore around the family and why they left the once-beautiful place.
Local legend says the maid was having an affair with her employer, Liu Rong-yu, and when the secret came out, she jumped down the well to her death (but since she did not live to tell the tale, who's to say another family member didn't push her?). Then she came back to haunt the family until they finally left. A few years later, it was occupied by members of the Kuomintang of China (KMT), many of whom were also thought to have died of suicide, which exacerbated its reputation as haunted. People who visit report plenty of ghostly sightings.
Los Feliz Murder Mansion in Los Angeles, California
During the mid 20th century, this large Los Feliz home was the (seemingly) happy home of Dr. Harold Perelson and his family, until the horrific night of December, 6, 1959 when he murdered his wife in her sleep with a ball-peen hammer and attempted to murder his three children before drinking acid to kill himself.
Fortunately, his eldest daughter let out a scream when he struck her in the head, waking up the younger children who then walked into the hallway to find out what was going on. During the commotion, they were all able to flee. Before the murder-suicide, he was a successful doctor who invented a new type of syringe after investing most of money into its research and production, but he got screwed out of the rights, leading investigators to blame financial problems. Other creepy details include a passage of Dante's Divine Comedy left open on his bedside table.
Two years later, it was sold to the Enriquez family, who used it as "storage unit," and their son continued to to do so until he sold it to a couple in 2016 who had plans to fix it up. But it seems to have scared them off because within a few years it's on the market again. Photographers also report a feeling of needing to "run away" from the house when they get close up to it.
Villa de Vecchi in Italy
Villa de Vecchi is foreboding, alright. Just consider that looming fog blanket! Located near Lake Como, Italy, the "House of Witches" dates back to 1854-1857, when it was built as a summer house for Count Felix De Vecchi. The family was only able to spend a few years there, as their lives were mired in tragedy right after it was built.
First, the architect died a year after construction. Then in 1862, Count De Vecchi came home to discover his wife murdered and his daughter missing. When he could not find her after a year of searching, he died by suicide. His brother then moved into the home and his family continued to live there until WWII. It's been vacant since the 1960s, and an avalanche in 2002 wiped out all the houses in the area... except this one. Spooky.
The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas
In 1937, millionaire inventor Norman G. Baker posed as a doctor and turned the hotel into a hospital that he said could cure cancer. Have the chills yet? Baker, who had a fetish for purple, painted many sections of the hospital in the color, and today, the chimneys remain that same color. In addition to wearing purple shirts and ties, he drove a purple car as well. People came from all over with hopes of curing their cancer, and many who were "treated" died.
Eventually, Baker was exposed and run out of town, and today the property is an active hotel. It's said to be haunted by several ghosts, including a bearded man wearing Victorian clothing and a five-year-old girl.
Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah, Nevada
In 1907, Mizpah Hotel opened as one of the first luxury hotels in Nevada. With a rich history and elaborate decor, the hotel is best known for its legend of the “Lady in Red.” While the date remains unclear, the story goes like this: A woman was murdered in her room on the fifth floor. Some say it was a jealous ex-boyfriend, while others say the Lady in Red had been caught cheating by her husband and he killed her in a jealous rage.
Those who’ve stayed at the hotel say the Lady in Red whispers in men’s ears and leaves pearls from her broken necklace on guests' pillows. Guests can stay in the Lady in Red suite to experience it themselves, and if that’s too much for you, the Red Lady Bloody Mary at the hotel restaurant should suffice.
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was designed to house 250 patients when it opened in 1864. Fast forward to the 1950s, when the facility reached its peak and had more than 2,400 patients living in overcrowded and inhumane conditions—with some even kept in cages. In 1994, the asylum closed, and today, there are reports of paranormal activity, with souls of patients lingering and roaming the halls.
You can take an overnight ghost hunt tour from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. at the Asylum, a two-hour paranormal tour from 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., or a 90-minute day tour.
Merchant House Museum in New York, New York
Seeing as it's the only preserved and intact family home from the 19th century in all of New York City, it makes sense that this house has also been the source and subject of many ghost stories. The Tredwell family lived here for over 100 years, and the last family occupant was Gertrude, the youngest daughter, who died in the home in 1933. Staff, visitors, and even passerby say they experience weird, disembodied things here.
Don't buy it? Take a candlelit ghost tour of the museum to decide for yourself. And even if you don't catch an apparition out the corner of your eye or hear children playing and floorboards in empty rooms, you'll at least get the sense that you're intruding on someone else's space, in a completely different time, since it's virtually the same as was when Gertrude died.
The Queen Anne Hotel in San Francisco, California
In 1890, the Queen Anne hotel in San Francisco was an etiquette school for girls. Today, it has 48 rooms for guests, though some believe the ghost of Miss Mary Lake, the school's headmistress, still lingers. Folks who stay in room 410, Miss Mary Lake’s former office, have woken up to find their blankets closely tucked around them in bed or their clothes unpacked.
Lizzie Borden House in Fall River, Massachusetts
In 1892, Lizzie Borden was the main suspect for the axe murders of her father and stepmother. Borden was tried and acquitted of the murders, and guests who visit Lizzie's house in Fall River, Massachusetts say she can be heard cackling about it. Others say that you can sometimes hear a maid screaming for help, and that Lizzie's slaughtered parents stalk the grounds. You can experience the paranormal activity yourself by visiting the Lizzie Borden House, which is now a museum and bed and breakfast.
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