The Morris-Jumel Mansion, located in Washington Heights in Manhattan, New York, holds a significant place in American history. It is reputedly the oldest house in Manhattan, built in 1765, and it’s also well-known for its alleged supernatural inhabitants.
History of the Morris-Jumel Mansion
The mansion was initially constructed as a summer villa by a British military officer, Colonel Roger Morris, and his American wife, Mary Philipse. However, during the American Revolutionary War, the house was commandeered by both sides. George Washington used it as his headquarters during the Battle of Harlem Heights in September 1776. The house also served British and Hessian commanders when their forces occupied New York.
After the Revolutionary War, the mansion was confiscated by the American government as the property of a Loyalist, and it fell into a variety of hands before being purchased by Stephen Jumel, a wealthy French wine merchant, and his wife Eliza in 1810.
Eliza was a character with an interesting rags to riches story, risen from a humble background to become one of the wealthiest socialites in New Yorks. After her first husband’s mysterious death, she married controversial former U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr, although the marriage was short-lived.
The house was finally transformed into a museum in 1904, showcasing American life in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Ghosts of the Morris-Jumel Mansion
The mansion’s long and varied history is accompanied by stories of spectral presences and unexplained phenomena. The most famous ghost is said to be that of Eliza Jumel. Sightings of Eliza, often wearing a violet dress, have been reported by visitors and staff. She has been heard wandering the mansion, sometimes arguing with the ghost of Aaron Burr.
Stephen Jumel’s death was shrouded in mystery. Some believe that Eliza hastened his demise to inherit his wealth. His spirit is said to appear with a facial wound from his fatal carriage accident. One staff member reported feeling an inexplicable cold spot in Stephen’s former room, followed by the sensation of an unseen hand touching her shoulder.
The tale of the headless Hessian soldier is one of the oldest ghost stories associated with the mansion. His spirit is said to haunt the mansion’s grounds, particularly the area where a large, old tree stood before it was removed in the early 20th century. The soldier reportedly lost his head to a cannonball during a fierce Revolutionary War battle, and his ghost is often described as searching for his missing head.
Isabella, a servant girl, reportedly took her life in the mansion. Her presence is often felt in the servant quarters and the back staircase, where she’s been seen sobbing uncontrollably. In one instance, a visitor claimed to have seen a woman’s figure falling from a height, screaming before disappearing abruptly, reenacting Isabella’s tragic suicide.
The Morris-Jumel Mansion has been the subject of many paranormal investigations, including appearances on TV shows like “Ghost Adventures.” Despite its ghostly reputation, the mansion is a valuable piece of American history. It serves as a tangible link to the past, offering a glimpse into the Revolutionary War era and the centuries following it. Visitors today can tour the mansion and its grounds, experiencing its history firsthand – and perhaps, if they’re fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on your perspective), they might even encounter one of its spectral residents.