Thursday, December 20, 2018

Ep. 287 - The House of the Seven Gables

Moment in Oddity - Three Cages on St. Lamberti Church Spire
Suggested by: Kim Gasiorowski

For almost 500 years, St. Lamberti Church has had some rather odd objects hanging from its spire. They are a reminder of a terrible time when an Anabaptist Rebellion rocked the German city of M√ľnster. The Anabaptists were a Christian sect that held the belief that only willing baptism as an adult could get a person into Heaven. Because of this belief, they were not only considered to be heretics, but their children were said to be unsaved. They also believed in a communal form of government where wealth should be shared equally. Even though Catholics and Lutherans were at odds during this time in the 16th century, they both were against the Anabaptists. A preacher in the city named Bernhard Rothman didn't like the Catholic control of the city of Munster and he joined the Anabaptists and preached their ideals from his pulpit at St. Lamberti Church. The angry citizens supported the Anabaptists and many Catholics and Lutherans fled, fearing for their lives. Rule under the Anabaptists led to polygamy, the burning of all books except the Bible and Corporal punishment was meted out for trivial offenses against the new hierarchy. In June of 1535, Catholic Bishop von Waldeck gathered a mercenary army and laid siege to the city. They succeeded and arrested three rebel leaders: Jan Matthijs, an Anabaptist preacher from Leiden in the Netherlands and his two closest followers, Bernd Knipperdollink and Bernd Knechting. The three men were tortured and mutilated before being killed. Three iron cages were fashioned, big enough for the men's bodies and these cages were hung from the spire of the St. Lamberti Church as a warning to any other would-be rebels. The remains were left in the cages for 50 years. In 1800, the original tower was demolished and rebuilt and the cages were put back in place where they remain today and that, certainly is odd!.

This Month in History - Unabomber Kills First Victim

In the month of December, on the 10th, in 1985, the Unabomber killed his first victim. Bombings by the Unabomber began in 1978, but he wouldn't kill anybody until 1985. Computer store owner Hugh Scrutton would be that first death. Scrutton found a package in the parking lot of his store. He was killed when he opened it. The bomb was sophisticated and meant to do great harm as it was filled with nails and splinters. The FBI had already been looking for the domestic terrorist for several years as he had already sent or planted several bombs at this point. This search would be the longest and most expensive in FBI history. The Unabomber was finally identified and captured in 1996. He was Ted Kaczynski and it would be his brother David who would tip off the government after recognizing his brothers writing style and opinions in the Unabomber Manifesto after it was published in newspapers. Kaczynski was sentenced to life without parole. In total, he injured 23 people and killed three. The name Unabomber was created by the FBI and was an acronym created from University and Airline Bomber.

The House of the Seven Gables (Suggested by: Nicole Cardarelli)

Most of my adult listeners have probably read something written by classic author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Nearly all schools require a reading of "The Scarlet Letter." Hawthorne also wrote other classic stories and one of those books is "The House of the Seven Gables." Within the pages of this volume is a ghost story. Hawthorne himself claimed to be a skeptic, but even he had some experiences. And the house he wrote about was not a fiction. It is a real home that can be found in Salem, Massachuesetts. Apparently, it's not just the novel that claims that the location is haunted. Visitors and staff to the now museum, claim to have had experiences they cannot explain. Join me as we explore the beliefs of Nathaniel Hawthorne and the history and hauntings of The House of the
Seven Gables!

In July of 2017, I did a bonus episode for the Executive Producers of this podcast that featured the Boston Athenaeum. This was an exclusive membership-only library and many classical authors were members. These were writers like Henry David Thoreau, Henry Wordsworth Longfellow and Nathaniel Hawthorne. In the BonusCast, I detail a supernatural experience that Hawthorne claimed to have one day while in the nation's oldest library. He published this account as "The Ghost of Doctor Harris." What made this experience compelling to me is that like myself, Hawthorne claimed to be mostly a skeptic when it came to ghosts.

Salem, Massachusetts was home for Nathaniel Hawthorne. He was born here on July 4, 1804 and his family had a long history here dating all the way back to the Salem Witch Trials. In fact, one of his ancestors, John Hathorne, was an unrepentant judge during the trials. Hawthorne went to college and published his first work in 1928, but he needed to find a real job to pay the bills and he ended up at the Salem Custom House. There he met a man named William Baker Pike who was a Swedenborgian Spiritualist and he would discuss with Hawthorne his experiences of communicating with the dead. The author once wrote to Pike that "I should be very glad that these rappers are, in any one instance, the spirits of the persons whom they profess themselves to be; but though I have talked with those who have had the freest communication, there has always been something that makes me doubt." So Hawthorne was basically like most of us: an open-minded skeptic. Although he took this stance with his belief about ghosts, it did not prevent him from exploring these themes in his writing and this brings us to his novel "The House of the Seven Gables."

"The House of the Seven Gables" is a Gothic novel that strongly influenced H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft said of the work, "It is one of New England's greatest contributions to weird literature." The work was published in April 1851 by Ticknor and Fields of Boston and features a story that follows the lives of the Pyncheon Family of New England. The House of the Seven Gables is their ancestral home that was built on land seized from the original owner, Matthew Maule, by the patriarch of the Pyncheon Family. Maule was accused of witchcraft and hanged, but he called down a curse on the Pyncheon Family before he died. The tale explores themes dealing with guilt, witchcraft and the supernatural. Alice Pyncheon is driven mad by a spell and dies from shame. She comes back to haunt the ancestral home. The spirit of the land owner, Matthew Maule, also haunts the house in the story. This home exists in real life and actually was a place Hawthorne knew well because it belonged to his cousin Susanna Ingersoll. The home is also known as the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion and perhaps Hawthorne got his inspiration for writing about the house in his novel being haunted because the actual house reputedly was said to be haunted.

The House of the Seven Gables is one of the largest timber-framed mansions in North America still on its original foundation and its building dates all the way back to 1668 when it was built for Captain John Turner I. He had purchased the lot from Widow Ann Moore. The Turner family was one of the most successful maritime families in New England. They would influence the future maritime traditions in the colonies and this would spread into several areas including trading, fishing and mercantilism.  What one sees today is not this original house. The original part of the house was small, built around a central chimney. There were two rooms over two rooms. Around 1680, Turner was able to expand the house with two additions. One of these additions was the Great Chamber that had high ceilings and large windows. The other added a gable to the house and a kitchen lean-to.

His son, John Turner II, would inherit the house when he was only nine-years-old as his father died young. He added Georgian style to the house that included wood paneling to the walls of the dining room, parlor and Great Chamber. The wood work was then painted in the modern palettes of the time. John Turner III would be the final Turner to own the home. After the Revolutionary War, he suffered great business losses and came to a point where he could no longer maintain the home and needed the money from its sale to pay off his debts.

Captain Samuel Ingersoll was a wealthy ship captain and he purchased the Turner House in 1782. Ingersoll liked the boxy Federal home style, so he had four of the gables removed as well as the kitchen lean-to. His daughter was Hawthorne's second cousin, Susanna, and she inherited the house when the Captain died in 1804. The cousins had a twenty year age difference, but that didn't keep them from becoming close friends. Hawthorne dined at the house on a regular basis and loved the stories that Susanna would tell him about the house. He loved the unique look of the house because it had seven gables. Susanna died in 1858 and the house passed to her adopted son Horace Connolly. He stunk at business and ended up losing the house to creditors in 1879. The house would fall into disrepair for awhile and nearly became a tenement. In 1883, the Upton Family purchased the home and used it as both a residence and business. This family would be the ones to come up with the idea of offering tours of the house. They were already a family of entertainers with Henry O. Upton being a well-known musician who taught dance lessons around Salem and his wife, Ida, was a well-known artist. His children taught music and oratory. His wife created a souvenir for people to purchase after tours that she called a “Witch Cup.”

The Uptons moved to the Salem Willows neighborhood and decided to sell the house. Caroline Emmerton was a philanthropist and preservationist and she bought the house in 1908. She founded The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association, which assisted immigrant families settling in Salem. Emmerton hired architect Joseph Everett Chandler to restore the house. Chandler was a major proponent of the Colonial Revival architecture and he specialized in historic preservation. Emmerton hoped that by using the house for tours and as a museum, she could raise funds for her settlement programs. Emmerton modeled the house after the novel as well. The Secret Stairway was added at this time. She purchased the Hooper-Hathaway House and Retire Beckett House and moved them to the property. Eventually, Hawthorne's birthplace was moved here too. Tours are run on a daily basis.

When the staff is asked if the House of the Seven Gables is haunted, most say they have never experienced anything strange. But I personally believe that a skeptic like Hawthorne would not have included ghosts in his story about the house had he not been inspired by stories shared by his cousin. It seems like common sense to me that she had experiences or heard stories of experiences and Hawthorne was in the house enough to have his own as well. Plenty of visitors claim to have seen apparitions or felt something unexplained. There are stories of at least five ghosts here.

Susanna Ingersoll loved this house and her spirit still seems to be attached to it. Her full-bodied apparition has been seen in the house. Visitors claim to see her looking at them out of windows when they are touring the gardens. Another ghost is said to be the spirit of a young boy. He resides in the attic and is heard playing up there. There are the sounds of disembodied footsteps and laughter. It was thought that the Turner's servants lived in the attic and it is set-up today with a child's rocking chair and sleeping mat. Did one of the servant's children die up there?

There is another personal account that claims that Hawthorne's son's spirit has been seen. Lisa from Long Island wrote, "I decided to take a tour of the House of the Seven Gables property, also known as the Turner - Ingersoll Mansion located at 54 Turner Street. On that property now sits the birth home of American author Nathaniel Hawthorne, which was actually moved from Union Street onto Turner Street." While on the tour, she snapped a photo outside and in this picture, you can make out the picture of a young boy in the shrubbery. Another spirit said to be haunting this house is a woman who is doing the work of a seamstress. She is seen sewing and walking in the house.

Some claim that there is a residual haunting on the secret staircase. The apparition of a black man has been seen going up and down on the stairs. The only issue with this is that the stairs are fairly newer having been built in 1908. People claim that they feel they are being watched. Could it just be the eyes of the portraits throughout the house that seem to follow people?

Are the tour guides pretending that there is no ghostly activity because they don't want that reputation for the house? With so many different spirits being identified, it would seem that there must be some kind of activity going on. Or is it just that Hawthorne wrote about ghosts and people have projected this onto the house? Is the House of the Seven Gables haunted? That is for you to decide!


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  3. I just found this blog and must tell you about my experience at the House of the Seven Gables. The Saturday before Halloween, 2005, my older sister and I took a drive and toured Salem, Mass. A lot of celebrating was going on, due to Halloween being in two days. We ended our tour with the House of the Seven Gables. I'd heard of the house, of course, and knew about Nathaniel Hawthorne, but I knew nothing about hauntings. My sister and I took the tour, which included climbing a "secret" spiral staircase to the upstairs floor. We came out in a bedroom, and around the corner was a sparsely-furnished attic. I remember it was very chilly in there, cold enough to see our breaths. As the guide explained how the attic had been used by the servants, my eyes traveled down to an old mattress and pillow lying on the floor. Suddenly, I had a strange sensation: I "saw" a young boy, approximately 12, lying on the mattress, head in hand. He was watching us with a bemused expression on his face. It was a very clear image: a boy, dressed in a white button down long-sleeved shirt, black pants that were tattered at the calves, and no shoes or socks. He also had a mop of dark hair. I felt no threat or fear and could understand why he was watching everyone with a half-smile on his face. Later, on the way home, I told my sister my experience. I later looked up specters at the House of the Seven Gables and was shocked to find that a young boy has been seen haunting the attic! Up until that moment, I'd never heard of anyone or anything haunting the place. I've no doubt I plugged into some nebulous transmitter, and that's why I saw what I saw. Do I believe the House of the Seven Gables is haunted? You bet I do!