Thursday, December 18, 2014

First Person Account: Highfield Hall

In the 1950s my uncle, Dewitt TerHeun owned a 500-acre estate in Upper Cape Cod, Massachusetts where he spent his summers.

The Beebe family--four siblings, heirs to a mercantile fortune-- had this three-story mansion named Highfield Hall built as a summer home in 1878.

It was one of the first summer retreats on the Cape.

This mansion’s architecture is Stick-style Queen Anne--the only one of its kind in the northeast.

The Hall was originally surrounded by over 700 acres of woodland.

My uncle bought the property in 1949 when the house was almost seventy years old. He had a plantation style front added to the Hall.

During my college years, I had two frightening experiences in this home. I did not believe in ghosts, but after these experiences, I changed my mind.

I rarely talk about this because I am a rational person, and I do not want people to think otherwise.

One weekend I invited a lady friend to the mansion while my uncle was away.

My friend and I were making out in the front room just off the formal parlor, with the door closed, when we heard footsteps descending down the main staircase.

We listened frozen in place as a lady’s heels clicked down these steps.

These footsteps stopped as they reached the front room door. We saw the entities shadow hover under the door for several minutes before we heard these footsteps turn and head back up the stairs.

When we finally got up the nerve to open the door, we searched the entire house, but we could find no one.

This experience had a chilling effect on both of us.

Several years later, I had an even scarier ghostly encounter at Highfield Hall.

A major hurricane had hit Cape Cod and my uncle asked me to drive down and inspect the property damage.

The whole cape was without electricity, and I arrived after dark. The wind was still howling, and the night sky was just beginning to clear.

I unlocked the front door, walked in and was astonished to see a woman’s apparition hovering above the staircase landing.

This ghostly figure started to move toward me. Scared, I fled the mansion and didn’t return until the next day.

I was so shaken that when I returned, I brought someone with me.

Others believe that Highfield is haunted as well. People have reported seeing a female apparition in one second-floor window at night.

Witnesses have heard eerie noises in the mansion while they were alone.

These local witnesses state that this apparition is probably Emily one of the four Beebe siblings.

When TerHeun died in 1962, developers planned to clear the land and built 500 homes.

However, in 1972, Josiah K. Lilly lll purchased the estate and generously donated it to be used and preserved as “green space.” The building was given to a local arts organization.

After 1977, the mansion experienced twenty years of neglect. Windows were boarded up, and the home’s original beauty was marred by water damage and vandalism.

In 2002, a multimillion project was in place to renovate this mansion and grounds. By 2012, the restoration of the building and gardens was complete.

Today Highfield is a historical landmark with miles of walking trails and gardens. Since it opened the estate has welcomed over 125,000 visitors.

Renovated Highfield Hall and gardens.
Click to enlarge

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing this tale of the ghost of Emily Beebe. I recently visited the grounds of Highfield Hall and it is indeed an impressive summer estate. I would love to return and walk the conservation woods around the Hall and to take the tour inside where the ghost may still be.
Thank you for posting this.
Tom Dresser
Oak Bluffs, MA