Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Visit to Eliza Jumel's Mansion in Washington Heights, NYC: I Made Eliza's Ghost Laugh!

Me on the Steps of the Jumel Mansion
In researching my latest historical bio novel, about Aaron Burr and his last wife, Madame Eliza Jumel, I visited her mansion in Washington Heights, NYC. It's beautifully restored and maintained, befitting the once-richest lady in New York.
You can also hear the many stories of her ghost wandering the mansion in a purple gown, rapping on walls and windows, and yelling at schoolkids to shut up!
One July night in 1833, Aaron, age 77, showed up at Eliza's door with the same minister who married him to his first wife Theodosia fifty years before. After several rejections of his proposal, she finally agreed to marry him in the front parlor (photo below).

Front Parlor
When she realized he was a gold-digger (as by then, he was broke), she began divorce proceedings, also charging him with adultery, as he had a mistress in Jersey City. In an ironic twist, she hired Alexander Hamilton Jr. as her lawyer. But in the most ironic twist of all, he died the same day he received the final papers.
When we visited on Sunday, my husband Chris & I were on the 2nd floor where the bedrooms are. I was standing in the doorway of her bedroom (Aaron's is across the hall), and said out loud that I wondered if they ever slept together, or always in the separate rooms. Chris said, 'she was so old, and he was 80!'
I replied, 'Well, from what I've read of him, he could still get it up.'
A minute later, Chris asked me if I laughed after saying that. I definitely had not laughed.
That means somebody else did! He'd heard a woman's throaty chuckle, NOT my voice at all.

Aaron's Bedroom
We were the only (living) people up there at the time. I'm convinced it was Eliza, eavesdropping on us, and I was able to give her a laugh.
Have you ever heard of a ghost laughing? I never have!
If you're ever in the area, visit the mansion--it's an unforgettable experience.
Visit the Jumel Mansion's website at http://www.morrisjumel.org/


  1. Love the story, Diana. What a neat experience. Did you feel her presence or see any indication that she was "floating" about?

  2. Jannine, no, didn't feel a thing. I wish I had. I fully intend to go back with a recorder and a K2 meter and do some serious ghost hunting! --Diana

  3. I wouldn't be capable of writing a book about a vampire on a cruise ship--after saying, "Pardon me, but forget the
    borscht--I vant to drink your blood," I wouldn't know what to write!
    Naomi Rose