Haunted New York

by Laura Kusnyer, 10/26/2010

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  • Morris-Jumel Mansion
    65 Jumel Terrace, 212-923-8008, Washington Heights, Manhattan
    Oh, Aaron Burr. We don't know whether to feel sorry for him or to blame him for the City's ghost infestation. Burr and Alexander Hamilton represented a man accused of murdering his fiancée in SoHo and got him off the hook at the trial; according to the tale, after the verdict came down, the victim's cousin put a curse on the two of them. This might explain Burr's lingering presence in the City, where he occasionally joins daughter Theodosia at her One if by Land, Two if by Sea stomping grounds. Or maybe the former vice president won't depart because he's just bitter. Some believe he died a disgraced man for killing Hamilton in the famous duel that took place only a few years after the trial.

    Another of Burr's scandals is centered around what is purportedly Manhattan's oldest building, the Morris-Jumel Mansion—which served as George Washington's headquarters during the Revolutionary War. It was later home to the wealthy married couple Eliza and Stephen Jumel. Burr and Eliza had an affair, and soon after, Stephen was found dead. He had fallen out of a window and onto a pitchfork. If this sounds fishy, the subsequent denouement only adds to the intrigue: Eliza and her lover married right away. Burr, then 77, was rumored to be after her money. They divorced three years later—and Burr died the day it was finalized.

    Following the divorce, Eliza's mental health deteriorated drastically. Her behavior became erratic, to the point that she demanded an armed garrison to follow her on her daily rides about the grounds. Following her death in 1865, she was often spotted roaming the mansion in a white dress. The most famous sighting of all occurred in 1965—100 years after her death—when she allegedly shushed a group of schoolchildren. The group concurred that she was wearing a purple dress that day. Some still claim to see Burr at the house. Aaron Burr. Even the name gives us shivers.

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