Jul 16, 2014
Ghost Tours at Mark Twain House in Hartford; Will Lady in White Appear?
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If you're a fan of Mark Twain or ghosts—or both—you may already know that his former home on Farmington Avenue in Hartford has been rumored to be haunted. What you may not know is that you can learn firsthand about the house's "haunted" history, as well as Twain's take on ghosts and the unearthly findings by paranormal investigation teams.
The Mark Twain House & Museum regularly presents Graveyard Shift Ghost Tours, which run hourly from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on certain weekends throughout the year. The popular special events feature an after-dark tour of the Clemens property that includes passing through the main house, the servants' wing and down into the basement, which is normally off-limits to visitors.
Focused on "haunted history, dark tales and Victorian traditions surrounding seances and spiritualism," it's "a rollicking good tour," says Steve Courtney, retired publicist and publications editor of the Mark Twain House who has written the book—literally—on the mansion's haunted history, We Shall Have Them With Us Always: The Ghosts of the Mark Twain House (available from the museum's gift shop). He points out that it's "not the kind of tour where things jump out at you from closets. It's more educational." Visitors will learn a lot about Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, and his experiences with the supernatural.
Make sure to read the story Paranormal investigators spin haunting tale about a historic house in Branford from the Shoreline Times. In the 1724 Harrison House in Branford, a historical society member asked in the otherwise empty dining room, "What kind of soup did you eat?" and a "ghost" answered, "Vegetable." Skeptical? It's on tape.
"Mark Twain was fascinated by ghost stories," says Courtney. "He loved to tell them. He learned a lot of them from the slaves on his uncle's farm when he was a boy in Missouri. He heard a lot of tales that he would later recount when he went on the lecture circuit, one in particular, 'The Golden Arm.' He joined the Society for Psychical Research in England, which investigated hauntings and seances in a serious, scientific way, or so they felt. He said he didn't believe a word he read but he read every one of their journals cover to cover."
For those unfamiliar with the history of the Mark Twain House, it's where the renowned author lived with his wife and three daughters from 1874 to 1891. While there, Clemens wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, in addition to other classic works. The Clemens family lived there for 17 years, until they left for Europe as a temporary recourse from serious financial problems. Following the death of daughter Susy at age 24 from meningitis in 1896, the Clemens family was too heartbroken to continue living in the home, and sold it. It subsequently was a boarding school and library before becoming a museum dedicated to the life and career of Samuel Clemens that is open to the public year-round.
Over the years, there have been reports of employees and visitors seeing the apparition of a young woman in a long white dress roaming the halls and ghostly faces in the windows; other have had their clothes tugged by unseen forces and heard the laughter of children, whispers and other unexplained noises.
Courtney suggests that the staff of the house has been familiar with the alleged ghosts for decades. "Even back in the 1960s and '70s, there were people who felt 'presences,'" he says, but adds that they were reluctant to discuss their experiences. "They thought it was undignified to talk about it."