One thing I’ve always found fascinating about New England, and something it’s famous for, is that it was home to many great literary geniuses. To name a few there’s Emily Dickinson’s home in Amherst, MA, Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox, MA, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s home in Hartford, CT. Also in Hartford lies this magnificent piece of Victorian Gothic architecture…the home of Mark Twain. Yes, the author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Life on The Mississippi had a beautiful home nestled in the capitol of Connecticut.
The Clemens Family
I won’t go too much into detail about Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) himself, you can read in more detail about him and his life here. However, what you should know before reading any further is about his children. Samuel and his wife Olivia or “Livy” as he called her, moved into their modern 1870’s mansion on September 19th, 1874 with 2 year old daughter Susy. Samuel and Olivia welcomed two other daughters while living in their Hartford home, Clara (b. 1874), and Jean (b. 1880). The couple also had a son prior to moving in, Langdon, who died from Diphtheria at only 19 months.
Susy was the oldest of the daughters, and was the inspiration behind some of her Father’s works. She was also gifted in writing and Samuel looked at her as his prodigy. She wrote a biography of her Father titled Papa: An Intimate Biography of Mark Twain which would be published much later. Susy died at the young age of 24 from spinal meningitis. It took a great toll on her parents, but her father was especially heartbroken.
Jean, the youngest of the three, was a sweet girl who was particularly fond of animals. She founded and worked with a number of local societies in the protection of them. At age 15, she was diagnosed with epilepsy which her Father blamed on a previous head injury she endured as a young child. On Christmas Eve of 1909, she was found dead in the family’s bathtub after an apparent epileptic seizure which lead to her drowning.
Clara, the middle and only surviving daughter, went on to become a contralto singer and heir of her parent’s estate after their passings in 1904 and 1910.
Samuel and Olivia hired New York architect Edward Tuckerman Potter to design their home in 1873 while they were abroad in Europe. Olivia had her mind set on what she wanted the home to look like, and their wishlist was lengthy. Despite rising costs from their contractor and construction delays, they moved into the home in 1874 though there were still things needing to be completed. The finished product ended up costing the couple $45,000 of Olivia’s inheritance money – but they couldn’t have been happier with the outcome.
“To us our house had a heart, and a soul, and eyes to see us with; and approvals and solicitudes and deep sympathies; it was of us, and we were in its confidence and lived in its grace and in the peace of its benediction.”
Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)
As happy as they were, their stay in their Hartford home wouldn’t be for very long…in 1891 they moved to Europe due to financial distress. The family would never come back to Hartford as the memories of their children’s deaths sat stagnant in the home, making it too painful to ever step inside again.
The house supplied many uses in the years following and became a boarding school, coal warehouse, and apartment units. In 1929 the home was ultimately bought by a group of preservationists and their restoration began in 1955. The Clemens’ surviving daughter, Clara, donated furniture and other family belongings to be used when the museum opened fully to the public in 1974. Efforts still continued in restoring many of the interior rooms and the outdoor grounds to fully encompass what the home looked like during the time when the Clemens family resided there.
The Alleged Hauntings & Manifestations
Due to the tragic and unfortunate deaths of 3 of the Clemens children, it’s said that their spirits still reside in the house and are the ones felt most often.
The apparitions seen the most are those of their daughters Susy and Jean, Samuel’s wife Olivia (said to be wearing all black with a black bonnet), and even Sam himself though not as often. Many folks including the museum’s tour guides have reported hearing children’s laughter, lights flickering, and seeing apparitions (mostly of women) moving from one room to another. The most active rooms of the house seem to be the drawing room, Susy’s bedroom, and the nursery.
In 2009, the Rhode Island based TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society), filmed an episode of their hit SyFy TV series Ghost Hunters at the Mark Twain home. The team had some pretty chilling experiences. To watch the full episode, click here.
I bought tickets for Mikey and I on a whim. I saw the tours being offered on Groupon for $25 (normall $40), and thought it would be a great rainy October day activity to do nearby. The home was absolutely breathtaking even from the parking lot. It sat perched on top of a steep hill, looking like something you’d only see in a movie. I’ve always been an admirer of Victorian/High Gothic homes and buildings so I was so anxious to see the inside.
Once with our tour guide, she lead us inside where we quickly huddled in the grand forier to get out of the rain. Next to us was a huge mahogany staircase, and if you looked up from the landing you could see all the way to the top of the 3rd floor. The floorboards creaked as we then made our way through the halls, up the stairs, and into the 10 of the 25 rooms in the home (some were off limits, I’m not sure why).
The overall atmosphere and feeling of the house was dark and eerie. Not threatening, just dark and eerie. There were certain rooms where I felt uneasy and the air just felt heavier, those rooms were the girls bedrooms and the servant’s wing. There was a bath connected to one of the girls bedrooms, but I wasn’t sure if that’s where Jean was found drowned in the bathtub…I didn’t want to ask. Just knowing the fate of their children, and the fact that I was in the home where one of them died was enough to give me the chills. If you’re wondering if I saw anything, I didn’t. But would I stay here overnight? Nope!
Want to See The House For Yourself?