Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Manhattan's Most Haunted House
Visit the Merchant's House, located in downtown Manhattan, and you'll find yourself walking through a bizarre time capsule. In 1835, a wealthy businessman named Seabury Tredwell purchased the house for his wife and seven children. His eighth child, Gertrude, was born in 1840. As her parents and siblings died or moved away, Gertrude refused to leave her childhood home. She died in an upstairs bedroom in 1933.
It's an unremarkable story--except for one fact. Gertrude wasn't fond of change. Over the years, she never altered anything about the house or its furnishings. When the city purchased the building after Gertrude's death, historians found that the house looked exactly as it had in the mid-nineteenth century. There were no "modern" conveniences of any sort--and an outhouse in the backyard was still in use.
Now, Gertrude's house is a museum, with the Tredwells' belongings (including their undergarments) on display. But for many visitors, Gertrude herself is the main attraction. They insist that she's still there, though perhaps a little harder to see. The staff of the museum is even compiling a book entitled, Some Say They Never Left: Tales of the Strange and Inexplicable at the Merchant’s House Museum.
This week the New Yorker has a short article on a paranormal investigator who's currently examining the old house, and several credible accounts of ghostly visitations are recounted in the story.
In the nineteen-seventies, someone decided to fit the kitchen with a cast-iron stove. One day, the story goes, a museum worker witnessed the stove shaking violently, as if someone were pushing it from behind. In the early nineties, the museum’s curator installed a computer. The machine froze every time she typed “Tredwell”—the last name of the house’s original owner. “Well, not every time, but three out of five,” Pi Gardiner, the museum’ current executive director, explained one night recently. “Our theory was that the spirits were, like, ‘What is all this newfangled technology?’
I could be wrong, but it certainly sounds like Gertrude to me.
Visit the Merchant's House website for a 360-degree tour.