Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Myths and Hauntings at the Molly Brown House

Because of the Broadway musical and film made about Margaret Brown’s life many myths have become mixed in with her real life. 

Her real name was Margaret or Maggie she never went by the name “Molly”, the press dubbed her this long after she had passed away. 

She did not marry her husband James or as she called him “J.J.” for his money--he was as poor as she was when they first met and married.

Another myth that has been circulated is that the Browns were so wealthy they burned money. The real story is that when J.J. first was paid good money as a mining engineer in Leadville--he brought the pay packet of cash home and hid it in the stove so he could surprise Margaret--she lit the stove not knowing about the money inside. 

It is said that Maggie “just fell into high society “after J.J. struck it rich in the Colorado silver mines. Actually, Margaret gained her standing as a Denver socialite because she was persistent. She learned to speak three languages and she was the first woman in the county to run for the U.S. Senate in 1909.

Margaret was a hero as the Titanic sank. When the officer in charge of the lifeboat she was in lost control, she rallied the other women and they rowed the boat. 

One myth is that Maggie used the fame she gained from her heroism while the Titanic sank for personal gain. This is not true. Few women were allowed to testify at the Titanic Inquiry held after the disaster--Margaret again persistent was allowed to speak. After this, she used her newfound fame to speak out on issues, such as: labor rights, women’s suffrage and children’s literacy.

19th century Denver
Brown House on right

The Browns first moved to Denver from Leadville in 1894, they bought the home in Denver that later was to become the Molly Brown Museum. They lived in the home for 15 years. By 1909 they were separated and Margaret took sole ownership of the house--they never officially divorced. 

After this she rarely lived there. Molly rented the home out and became a world traveler. In 1892 the home was used as the Governor’s Mansion. In the years after Margaret's death in 1932 the home was sold to one owner after another--each time falling more and more into disrepair.

By the 1950s the neighborhood and home were in major decline. In the 1970s a group called Historic Denver restored the mansion to its original 1910 splendor. The home has been a museum that gives tours every since. 

Both visitors and museum volunteers started to notice the home is haunted. I visited the “Molly Brown House” in the early 1990s, the tour was informative--but our guide was unwilling to talk about “ghosts”.

Two ghosts that remain are Margaret and her husband James. J.J. is not seen but the scent of his pipe is often noticed in the home’s basement and attic. This is ironic because while J.J. lived in the home Maggie never let him smoke inside. 

Besides doors opening and shutting on their own many witnesses have seen the blinds open and close on their own in the bedroom that was once Helens--Margaret’s daughter. Margaret’s mother has also been spotted standing at the window of her old bedroom.

An unidentified apparition that is seen in the house is that of a woman who wears a long Victorian dress. She is seen sitting at the dining room table and she is known to rearrange the chairs in this area. This ghost has been captured on film.

Another ghost is seen walking around the second floor of the house--it is speculated that this is Maggie or possibly her mother. 

In the mid 2000s a tour guide, Demetrius O’Connor who was closing the house for the day was walking on the back stairs when he felt a very cold breeze--when he turned the corner he spotted a second floor window open in one of the bedrooms. He shut the window and as he was replacing the rope that cordons off the room from visitors entering it, he noticed a shadow of a woman on the ground next to his. When he turned to see who it was no one was there.

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