Thursday, April 16, 2015

New York City: Morris-Jumel Mansion

This large house in Washington Heights is the oldest standing home in Manhattan. Today it is run as a museum.

Morris-Jumel Mansion
Rodger Morris, a British Colonel, first owned the mansion. He had his 8500 square manor designed in the neo-Palladian style. This elegant house sat on 100 acres of thickly forested land. It had magnificent views and was the envy of all who lived in the colony.

During the Revolutionary War he and his family fled. George Washington then used the mansion as his base during the Battle of Harlem Heights.

In 1810, a French wine-buyer by the name of Steven Jumel and his wife Eliza bought the home.

Eliza Jumel had been an actress and prostitute in Rhode Island before their marriage. Steven did not find out about this until several years after they married.

Eliza Jumel
Eliza was a colorful character who caused a stir wherever she went. On a visit to Paris she befriended Napoleon and became infamous for being kicked out of France for being too wild.

Back in New York she enjoyed spending her husband’s money. Steven Jumel died in 1832 when he supposedly fell from a carriage. Shortly after his death rumors spread that Eliza actually had something to do with it.

Within months of Steven’s death Eliza married Aaron Burr the former vice-president and the man who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel--more about this and places Burr’s ghost is seen is here.

Burr squandered Eliza money in several controversial land deals and she promptly divorced him. After this she became a recluse.

It is said that when Charles Dickens met Eliza as an old woman it was she who inspired him to write the character of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations.

She died in 1865 but many believe she haunts the Morris-Jumel Mansion.

Several people who have visited this house museum state they encountered her ghost. She is heard tapping her cane on the floor during the day and witnesses state she spoke to them through an old grandfather clock that stands in the mansion.

Front of Morris-Jumel mansion.
One favorite story told by the curators happened in the 1960s. A group of school children arrived early one morning to tour the mansion. As they stood on the steps waiting impatiently they were noisy.

An elderly lady wearing a purple old-fashioned dress came out on the porch and yelled at them to “shut up.”

As they entered the museum they asked their tour guide about this old lady. None of the staff knew anything about her.

The children became exited in one room when they spotted a portrait on the wall. It was a picture of Eliza Jumel. The children stated that was the women who had yelled at them.

An interesting side note to this haunting is about a séance that was held in the mansion in the 1960s.

The participants supposedly talked to Steven Jumal during this session. He told them that he had not died from a carriage accident.

He stated a pitchfork stabbed him instead. Eliza had then undone his bandages leaving him to bleed to death. So Eliza had murdered him after all.

Eliza’s ghost is not the only one to haunt the house. A more fanciful story told is about one painting in the mansion.

This picture depicts several Revolutionary War soldiers. It is said if a person stands alone in this room they must be cautious for one soldier in this picture has been known to step out of this painting and accost visitors.

No comments: