Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Haunted Crime Scenes

Jumel-Morris Mansion

Eliza Jumel
Eliza Jumel

The Morris-Jumel mansion on 175 Jumel Terrace in New York City was built by Roger Morris before the Revolutionary War, and it once had served as George Washington's headquarters. Although it's apparently haunted by five ghosts, the one most people claim to have seen is the specter of Eliza Jumel, who was made rich upon the death of her first husband, Stephen.

They took over the place in 1810, but spent a decade in France before returning to New York. Apparently all was not well between them at the time, for Eliza was allegedly having an affair with former Vice President Aaron Burr. Quite mysteriously in 1832, Stephen fell onto a pitchfork and died. Almost immediately, Eliza married Burr, who was 77. But apparently, they had company. A 1916 publication indicates that there was a ghost in the house, and these rumors persisted through the years.

The Burr marriage lasted only three years before they were divorced. Aaron Burr died in near poverty — after a life seemingly ill-spent. Eliza became reclusive, and she was a frightening sight to behold, with false teeth, unkempt hair, soiled clothing, and ungainly large feet. Finally, dementia took her and her babbling drove away even the staunchest relative. In 1865, she died alone in the big house. Within three years, people were telling stories about seeing her on the premises, clad in a white dress. It was said that each night after midnight there came a loud rapping that frightened all but the soundest sleepers, and people attributed the noise to Eliza.

The Morristown Museum
The Morristown Museum

According to Hans Holzer, in his compendium, Ghosts, there was some suspicion that Eliza had killed her first husband, Stephen, so he took a psychic into the place to try to discover the truth. The psychic supposedly channeled the man's spirit and heard him say that he had indeed been murdered — and he'd been buried alive. Perhaps that's why Eliza seems to get no rest. She either has a guilty conscience or she's not allowed to rest easy after such a heinous act.

The city purchased the imposing mansion in 1904 to open as a museum. Tours are offered by day, but some still said that spirits roamed the place by night. In 1964, several writers reported a woman wearing a violet dress appeared to half a dozen schoolchildren who were touring the house. They identified her from her portrait in the house as Eliza. She had shouted at them to "Shut up!" Never since has there been so dramatic a sighting.

Several séances have been attempted in the house, and the female spirit that reportedly shows up is generally delusional in the same manner that Eliza was during her final years.

It does seem that wherever murders or suicides take place, people believe they experience some type of residual energy, whether in the form of odors, cold spots, nudges, noises, or apparitions. There are many more such tales around the country, and regardless of whether there are genuine hauntings, they certainly keep the tales of the dead alive.

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