The ghost stories page on this website has always been the most popular on this website. There is no doubt about it, people enjoy reading stories that involve the paranormal. Here, Cathryn McIntyre writes about two investigations she took part in, one in Concord and the other in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.
Author, and star of the Travel Channel's Expedition Bigfoot, Ronny LeBlanc, included an interview with Cathryn McIntyre in the latest of his Monsterland series of books about UFOs, Bigfoot and other unusual happenings in and around Leominster State Forest, an area about 20 miles west of Concord, Massachusetts.
True Story by Cathryn McIntyre
The following ghost story about my experience at the Captain Sawyer Inn in Boothbay Harbor, Maine was written and posted to this website soon after it took place in 2014. A short time later it was read by author, Greg Latimer, who has written several books on hauntings in New England. He set out to investigate the story I told by speaking to members of the Sawyer family who still live in the area and they were able to confirm much of the information that I had received from spirit about the hauntings at the Inn. Latimer wrote about the investigation in his book, Ghosts of the Boothbay Region (Haunted America).
In 2014, my boyfriend and I spent a night in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, where we had an unusual and intriguing experience. It wasn't a haunting exactly. This story is more about receiving information in answer to a request I made of my guides to know more about the ghosts who haunt the old Inn where we were staying. What made it most enjoyable and gratifying for me, is that it gave me an opportunity to prove to my boyfriend, who tended to be a bit of a skeptic, that when I say I am talking to spirit, I actually am.
Captain Sawyer’s Place is a bed and breakfast style Inn that sits majestically on a hillside on Commercial Street in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. It was formerly the home of Captain William E. Sawyer and his wife, Minnie, and was built by his father, Capt. William M. Sawyer in 1877. I knew nothing of the Sawyer family history when we checked into the Inn on September 23, 2014. We had stayed there once before but there had been little time then to spend exploring around town or relaxing at the Inn, so this time we were determined to do both. After visiting some of the shops in town, the highlight being Sherman’s Bookstore, which has been in business in Boothbay Harbor since 1886, we had dinner at Kaler's Restaurant, directly across from Capt. Sawyer’s Place, and later, after dinner, we made our way over to the post office to join the others who were waiting there for the evening ghost tour to begin.
I have come to enjoy these tours that are so popular now in these old historic towns, both for the history they provide and for their ghostly tales. Our tour guide was Sally Lobkowicz, founder of Red Cloak Haunted History Tours, that offers tours in several of Maine's historic towns. Wearing her bright red cloak and carrying an old fashioned lantern, she led us around to Boothbay Harbor's most haunted places, and as she told us the stories of each, I waited and hoped that there would be a story about ghosts at Captain Sawyer’s Place. It wasn't until nearly the end of the tour when we were positioned across the street from the Inn and gazing up at the impressive old structure that she began to talk about the Sawyers.
Sally told the story of “Mimi” Sawyer, the wife of the William E., who was believed to be the ghost who was still haunting her former home. There was mention of the widow's walk, of how Mimi was known to still appear there, as if looking out to sea for the vessel that would bring her husband home. Sally went on to tell us a story that was told to her by the Innkeeper, Kim Reed-Upham, about a disturbance that took place one day when they were getting ready to paint one of the rooms. They intended to paint it lavender, but before the painting could get underway there was a disturbance in the room. All of the photos were mysteriously turned sideways and other items in the room were in disarray. They concluded that Mimi was trying to send them a message and the message was that she did not like lavender. A decision was made to paint the room another color and that seemed to satisfy Mimi. There have been no further disturbances like that one since.
After the tour ended, we returned to the Inn and sat out on the front porch for a while taking in the sights and the sounds of Boothbay Harbor. It was a chilly fall evening and there were few people moving about on the streets. The restaurants had taken in their outdoor seating for the season, but one of them had left an outdoor speaker in place and their music, a selection from the 1940s that included Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, played out loudly into the streets. We sat there for quite a while taking it all in. We were pleased with our vantage point, high up on the front porch of the Inn overlooking the town and we were enjoying the music that we might not otherwise listen to, as we discussed the ghost tour and the stories we’d been told. We could easily see from there the darkened windows on the third floor of the building across the street that housed Kaler’s Restaurant. Sally had talked about how the third floor of that building was sufficiently haunted to prevent anyone from ever using the space for more than storage, and as I tuned into the energy of the building, something I had neglected to do earlier when we’d had dinner there, it seemed to me there might well be someone or something unfriendly there but I was not interested in finding out what. Instead I let it be known to my boyfriend, and to my guides, who are never too far away from me, that I wanted to know more about the ghosts that were haunting Captain Sawyer’s Place. My boyfriend raised an eyebrow, not wanting any part of this, but I was serious and evidently my guides were, too, because almost as soon as we gave into the cold and returned to our room, I began to receive information.
We were staying in the Novelty room. It is the room on the first floor of the Inn, to the left as you come in the front door. It has a bay window, a queen size four poster bed, two chairs and a small dresser with the TV near the door. I didn't sense anything other worldly in the room when we first checked in, or anywhere else in the Inn at that time, but when we came inside, after sitting out on the porch for a while, and as I lay down on the bed, I began to receive psychic impressions, or what you might call mental images. I immediately knew that what I was being shown was in answer to my request to know more, so I closed my eyes and focused and this is what I received.
I was first shown a baby - they were holding it out in front of me. Not sure of gender, but it was young - weeks, maybe a few months old. I could see its bright eyes and happy face, and what was either a cap or some kind of blanket that seemed to be wrapped up around one side of its head. What struck me about the cap was that it was a light shade of lavender. I then picked up the name Abigail and I felt Abigail was connected to that baby and that the baby had died suddenly - I told my boyfriend I thought it was a case of sudden infant death syndrome (a/k/a SIDS or crib death).
I then saw an image of a woman with dark hair who was wearing a checkered print dress. I only saw her from the back but I felt that she was in her 20s and I saw her kneeling down on the floor and playing with a child who I could not see. I wasn't sure if that woman was Abigail or not but I believed she was Mimi's daughter and I told my boyfriend that the scene where she was playing with the child on the floor had taken place right there in the Novelty room - in the space where the bed is now and where we were then lying. I told him I believed Mimi had a daughter who had died in her 20s and that she was also haunting the Inn. I was not sure of the name of the daughter, whether she was Abigail or not, because I did not think the child she was playing with on the floor was the baby I had been shown. I remarked at one point that I often confuse the names Abigail and Rebecca and perhaps her name could be Rebecca, but I was merely grasping to make sense of what I was seeing and also second guessing myself. The name that came most strongly was Abigail and I felt it was Abigail who was the mother of the baby who had died.
The next morning when we checked out of the Inn I asked Kim, the Innkeeper, what she knew about the Sawyers. She told me she knew very little but volunteered that they did have a daughter. I later contacted Sally Lobkowicz, our red-cloaked ghost tour leader, and she was able to give me the names of the Sawyer who had first built the Inn, Capt. William M. Sawyer, and that of his son, Capt. William E. Sawyer, who had later lived in the home with his wife, Minnie (a/k/a Mimi). With that information I began a search on ancestry.com, confident that I was going to find evidence that would confirm the information that I had received, and in fact, I did.
William E. Sawyer (1863-1941) and Minnie (Gove) Sawyer (1871-1937) had three children. Two daughters, and one son. Their daughter, Valeria Edith Sawyer was born Aug. 31, 1893. She married Webster T. Barter (1890-1968) in 1913; gave birth to a son in 1914, Clayton W. Barter (1914-1976); and died of pneumonia in 1918, at age 25, a week after her son, Clayton turned four. Clayton Barter went on to be raised by his father and step-mother and lived a long life.
Abigail (Anderson) Sawyer (1798-1870) was the mother of Capt. William M. Sawyer (1838-1906), the man who built the Inn. She and her husband, Capt. Stephen Sawyer (1795-1849) had 10 children, the first of which, a son named Wilmot, was born Feb. 23, 1821 and died one month later, March 23, 1821. I could find no cause of death listed for Wilmot Sawyer. Abigail also had a son named Stephen who was born Aug. 24, 1824 and passed Feb. 4, 1830, at 5½ years old.
I am not experienced enough with psychic detective work to state my findings with absolute certainty but I feel confident that the woman whose image I was shown playing with a child on the floor of what is now the Novelty room of the Inn was Valeria (Sawyer) Barter playing with her son, Clayton, and that she is still there, perhaps with her mother, Mimi, haunting the Inn. I am also confident that the baby I was shown was Wilmot Sawyer, first born son of Abigail (Anderson) Sawyer (1798-1870). After losing two of her ten children, Abigail went on to live a long life, but perhaps she still carries regrets about their loss, or finds herself so deeply tied to the land where her son, William M. Sawyer built his home, or tied to the other spirits who continue to dwell there in what is now Captain Sawyer’s Place, that she is unable to leave.
The Sawyer family were in the salvaging business in Boothbay Harbor, and they continue to be today. Their antique store, Sawyersway is located in Edgecomb, Maine, on the road leading into Boothbay Harbor. Here is a link to the Sawyersway blogspot where you can read more about the Sawyer family and see a photo of Capt. William E. Sawyer (aka Capt. Billy). http://sawyersway.blogspot.com/
The Red Cloak Haunted History Tours are offered in Camden, Damariscotta, Wiscasset, Boothbay Harbor, Bath, Hallowell and Rockland, Maine. For more information contact Sally Lobkowicz at email@example.com. - http://www.redcloakhauntedhistorytours.com/
Captain Sawyer’s Place is located at 55 Commercial Street in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. The website for the inn is: https://www.captainsawyersboothbay.com/
Kim Reed-Upham is no longer the Innkeeper and it appears the Inn has undergone some major renovations in 2017. I hope that the changes at the Inn have helped to convince the ghosts there that it is time to move on and that they have made their way into the light.
It has been twelve years now since this ghost investigation of The Old Manse took place and since my story about it was originally posted. There have been many who have read and enjoyed the story and others, including a Hawthorne descendent who were quite unhappy about it and the comments that were made about Nathaniel Hawthorne. Whether or not there was any truth to what the investigators uncovered that night and to what I experienced and wrote about, I think it's hard for anyone to deny the overwhelming sense of the past that still lingers inside The Old Manse in Concord. I found it to be haunted by several earthbound spirits who were determined to stay right where they were. I hope they will one day cross over into the light, and it is possible that they already have. My experience there left me so unnerved I haven't wanted to go back to investigate further but maybe one day I will. - Cathryn McIntyre
Note: Members of the Spirit Light Network who were in attendance included Rev. Steve Wilson, Bety Comerford, Amy Wilkins, and Michele Johnson, who are each seasoned investigators and skilled psychics. Bety Comerford is also a historian of the Concord area. The team was joined by writer, Cathryn McIntyre, who has an extensive knowledge of Concord’s literary history, as well as her own psychic ability. Cathryn had arranged this special tour through the Director of The Old Manse, Tom Beardsley, who was also in attendance, but graciously allowed the group free reign as they spent the next few hours exploring three levels of the home, including the third-floor attic space. It is important to note that the information relayed by members of The Spirit Light Network during this investigation were based on their own psychic impressions and not on any historical facts.
The Old Manse was built in 1770 for Rev. William Emerson (1743-1776) and his wife Phebe (Bliss) Emerson (1741-1829). They lived there together with their five children for the next six years and were living there in April 1775 when the battle for independence began in the field behind their house near the North Bridge. William joined the others at the bridge to defend against the British soldiers that day as Phebe stood at the upstairs windows with their children looking on. The following year William left to join the army at Fort Ticonderoga in New York and died there of camp fever. William and Phebe’s children included William Emerson (1769-1811), who was father of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), and Mary Moody Emerson (1774-1863), who is remembered as Ralph Waldo Emerson’s brilliant and yet eccentric aunt who advised her nephew, as well as his friend, Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)). Mary Moody Emerson was one of the first of many babies who were to be born at The Old Manse. In 1778, the Rev. Ezra Ripley (1751-1841) was hired to replace William Emerson as the minister in Concord and he moved into The Old Manse as a boarder of Phebe Emerson’s. Two years later he become her second husband and Phebe then had another three children with Ezra. The oldest was Samuel Ripley (1783-1847) who in 1841, upon the death of his father, Ezra, became owner of The Old Manse. Samuel married Sarah (Alden Bradford) Ripley (1793-1867) and together they had nine children, among them a daughter, Sophia Ripley (1833-1914), who married James B. Thayer (1831-1902). Sophia and James Thayer had four children, including artist, Theodora W. Thayer (1868-1905). In July 1842, Samuel Ripley rented The Old Manse to newlyweds, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) and Sophia (Peabody) Hawthorne (1809-1871). The Hawthornes lived there for the next three years, referring to it as their “Garden of Eden” and they always remembered their time at the Manse as the happiest years of their lives. Their daughter, Una (1844-1877) was born in The Old Manse.
The tour began in the gift shop at 6:00 PM on May 19, 2010, just as a light rain was beginning to fall. The shop was displaying one of a new line of T-shirts that bears Hawthorne’s image along with the statement “Hawthorne was a Hotty” and when Steve saw it he remarked that the image of Hawthorne on that shirt had come into his mind as he drove toward the Manse that night and he said that each time he looked at it he was overcome with a sense of anger and resentment toward Hawthorne. Steve observed then that at least one of the spirits in the house does not like Hawthorne and resents the way he is being remembered. This was a theme that was to continue throughout the tour and Steve picked it up again and more intensely as we went on into the house, crossed through the kitchen and went into the dining room where a copy of Charles Osgood’s 1840 portrait of Hawthorne is displayed. Steve said he could not even look at that portrait of Hawthorne without experiencing a sense of hostility towards him.
This dislike of Hawthorne came as a surprise to me. In the stories of Hawthorne in Concord that are often repeated and much loved in town, Hawthorne is portrayed as a handsome, romantic figure who was devoted to his writing and deeply in love with his wife. The Hawthornes considered the time they lived at the Manse (1842-1845) as the happiest of their lives and visitors to the Manse today are still told the story of the romantic and magical time the Hawthornes experienced there. Some of the magic of that time is preserved in the house by the etchings that Sophia made on the window glass in both the dining room and the upstairs study. In the dining room she captured a moment in 1845 when she held her young daughter, Una up to the window glass to look out on the new fallen snow, referring to the ice covered trees as “glass chandeliers”, and in the upstairs study the Hawthornes’ love for each other was captured as they took turns using Sophia’s diamond to write words on the glass. One of those statements written there is “Man’s accidents are God’s purposes,” likely referring to a miscarriage Sophia had after falling in 1843.
In spite of this romanticized ideal of Nathaniel and Sophia and their lives at the Manse, according to the spirit that Steve was tuning into, Hawthorne was not as he was being remembered to be. One issue that appeared to be a source for some of the resentment was that Hawthorne had been a poor tenant. It is true that Nathaniel and Sophia did many things to the home that most tenants would never consider doing, like leaving etchings on the window glass, and putting a hole in the kitchen wall in order to accommodate a more modern stove. They were also months behind on rent when they were finally asked to leave the home in 1845. I would never have imagined there could be resentment over such mundane issues still being felt by the Ripley family all these years later, but Steve confirmed that in fact there was. In addition, it was noted that this home that had first belonged to Rev. William Emerson and then to the Ripley family until 1939 when it was turned over to the Trustees of Reservations, is often mistakenly identified as the Hawthornes’ home and that appears to be an ongoing source of aggravation for those members of the Ripley family who remain there.
As we moved on to the third floor attic space, the revelations about Hawthorne continued and they revealed a side of Hawthorne that, if true, will be distressing to anyone who, like myself, is reluctant to let go of the romanticized image of him. I describe the tour of the attic here, although it is not in the proper sequence of events.
As we explored around the rugged, unfinished rooms of that third floor attic space, I continued to tell the group what I understood to be true about the Hawthornes’ loving relationship and happy home life but that did not dissuade Steve, or more accurately, the spirits there from continuing to express their dislike of Hawthorne. Steve asked whether or not Hawthorne was some kind of dandy or cad, and my first reaction was to deny this, but as I tried to reconcile my long held view of Hawthorne with the image of the man that Steve was describing, Steve began to talk about a party that had taken place “at the house with the large porch around it.” I was not even thinking about the Wayside at that point, or the fact that the Hawthornes’ had also lived there, but I acknowledged that yes, there was such a home and that it was the only home that Hawthorne had ever owned. I then noted that the porch on the Wayside was not there in Hawthorne’s time, but Steve said that was simply a way of describing the house. Whoever this spirit was, it was telling him that something had taken place there at the Wayside that had upset this individual greatly and had left someone, either this individual or someone they knew, pregnant and unmarried.
At one point I began to describe to Steve the theme of Hawthorne’s book, The Scarlet Letter. It is the story of an affair between an unmarried woman and a minister and their illegitimate daughter, who, it is said, Hawthorne modeled after his daughter, Una. As we were in the home of many ministers, and picking up on the story of an unmarried woman’s pregnancy, it seemed possible that there could be some correlation, but it was not at all clear what it was. Steve indicated he was being told that the way that Hawthorne explained the genesis of his story, as his having come upon documentation of such an incident housed among the old files at the Customs House in Salem where he was at one time employed, was false and that in fact the story had come to him in another way.
As we continued on in the attic, the other team members offered their own impressions of the situation Steve had described. Michelle said she saw a woman with dark curls as the woman who was pregnant; others seemed to concur with Steve’s description of a woman in a white dress who was carrying a parasol and who kept pointing out her baby bump to him; and there were several exchanges that took place having to do with the women who had lived in the house and all the babies that had been born there. Phebe Ripley alone had given birth to as many as seven children there. At one point, Betty began to experience the physical symptoms that a woman might feel who had given birth multiple times. She described the feeling as if her insides were coming out and said she was experiencing profound physical discomfort. Both Amy and Michelle experienced what they described as labor pains, and Michelle’s became particularly intense later in the tour.
When I mentioned Sophia Hawthorne’s miscarriage it brought much speculation around the state of the Hawthorne marriage and his relationship with his children. Was this illegitimate pregnancy that was mentioned the result of some dalliance of Hawthorne’s? This just made no sense to me, but if true, I wondered who could the woman have been? And who was this spirit who was still there at the Manse and still angry about it? Was it the woman herself, a relative of hers, or just someone who had lived in town and knew about the situation? There were no definite answers given and delving into all I knew about Hawthorne, I could not come up with any scenario that seemed to fit this speculation. Still this theme of resentment toward Hawthorne was prominent in the house and it stemmed not just from one individual but from others who lingered there as well. It seemed they were all equally appalled by the way Hawthorne continued to claim star billing in this house that did not even belong to him and continued to be remembered as an admirable figure when in their eyes he did not deserve such admiration.
In one of the front rooms of the attic Steve saw an image of a woman standing there looking out and it was as if she had stood there many times. [The day after this tour I read in an excerpt from a memoir written by Edward Simmons, who was son of Mary (Ripley) Simmons (daughter of Samuel and Sarah Ripley), that his grandmother had used that room as a nursery and it was there that the famous scene of Sarah rocking a baby in a cradle with her foot while she read a book in Sanskrit had taken place.]
Before we left the attic there was another spirit identified - someone who was described by Bety as being from a more puritan time. I mentioned that the home was built in 1770 and Steve suggested that it could be a spirit who was attached to the area more than the home, which seemed to make sense, but the issue came up again a few minutes later after we left the attic and were standing in what I refer to as Sarah Ripley’s room on the second floor. Whether or not it was actually the room where she slept, it is in this room where her portrait is hung over the fireplace and where the cradle that she rocked so many babies in and other personal items of Sarah’s are on display. In this room Bety began to pick up on a name that sounded to her at first like Rush or Rusha and as she continued to connect she said the name “Jerusha”. At the time I had no idea who she might be referring to, but the next day I searched through the Emerson/Ripley family tree and I found the name Jerusha there, not once but three times. The first was a Jerusha (Bradford) Gay (1699-1783) who was a great-great aunt of Sarah (Alden Bradford) Ripley’s; the second was Jerusha’s daughter, Jerusha Gay (1734-1812); and the other was Sarah Ripley’s aunt, Jerusha (Bradford) Weston (1770-1833). The Jerusha who was still there at the Manse could have been any one of those women but might more likely have been Jerusha (Bradford) Gay whose lifetime stretches back closer to puritan times.
Also, while standing in Sarah Ripley’s room on the second floor, Michelle mentioned the name Frances. I could not recall any Frances who lived at the Manse at that time, but later I found a woman named Frances Ames Randall (1866-1968) pictured in an 1882 photograph of the Ripley family that was taken in the yard in front of the Manse. She is the daughter of James W. Ames, who was son of Margaret (Bradford) Ames, a sister of Sarah (Alden Bradford) Ripley. There are fourteen members of the Ripley family in that photo, including those with the surnames of Ames, Simmons and Thayer. When I look at it closely I get the sense that many who are in that photo are still present at the Manse today. The team seemed to confirm that Frances Randall was one, and I had suspected perhaps Sophia Ripley Thayer or her sister, Elizabeth Ripley, who had lived in the Manse for many years, were also there but neither of their portraits that hang in the Manse elicited a reaction from the group members. Neither did the portrait of Sarah Ripley herself that hangs on the wall of her room, but the portrait of Theodora Thayer, that hangs in the room adjacent to Sarah Ripley’s room did get their attention.
Theodora W. Thayer was one of three children of Sophia Ripley (daughter of Samuel and Sarah Ripley) and James B. Thayer, who was a prominent legal scholar and Dean at Harvard College. I first encountered the spirit of Theodora on a visit to the Manse in the summer of 2009 when a friend and I were taking a tour of the house. As we stepped into Sarah Ripley’s room I immediately sensed a spiritual presence and I saw two images, one of a man in a minister’s robe standing near Rev. Ripley’s desk that is in that room and the other was an older woman, who was wearing a white or light colored dress. I was not then and am still not sure who I saw (perhaps it was the same woman in white that Steve had mentioned seeing), but when I walked into the adjacent room, a room that was once used as a nursery, I immediately sensed the presence of another female spirit in that room, and when I saw the portrait of Theodora on the wall there I felt certain it was her.
I knew nothing about Theodora Thayer or the Thayer family at that time, but Tom had told me that Theodora was an artist, who was thought to be a lesbian and that she had committed suicide while in her 30s. I returned to the Manse a few weeks later, after doing some research and learning that in fact Theodora had been a successful artist, famous for her work on miniature paintings, and that at the turn of the 20th century she had lived in the Carnegie Towers in New York City, that had been the home to many artists, and it was in August 1905 when she died.
I was allowed to spend a few minutes alone in Sarah Ripley’s room on that visit and also the nursery where I felt I made a brief connection with Theodora. What she conveyed to me was that she was there in the house seeking a mother’s energy. It was not clear to me whether it was her own mother she sought out, her grandmother, or just the maternal energies in general that were so strong in the house, but after that visit I was convinced that Theodora was in fact one of the entities who was haunting there. I also felt that Theodora’s spirit had come home with me that night and I had spent some time over the next few days encouraging her to work through whatever it was that was holding her back so she would be free to move on. After a few days she seemed to go and my hope was that she had heeded my advice and crossed over, but evidently she had simply returned to the Manse.
Steve picked up on her energy the minute we stepped into the nursery room for the first time. He looked at her portrait and confirmed for me that she was indeed one of the spirits that was haunting there. He also explained that she had been drawn to me because of our shared feminist attitudes. Theodora was an artist who wanted to be just that. She didn’t want to marry, have children or enter into any role that was subordinate to a man. She wanted the freedom to live life on her own terms, but she had been pressured by her family to conform to more acceptable standards, to marry and have children, as her sister had done. There was the sense that her life was often compared to that of her sister, Sarah, and there was the sense that some of the discontent Theodora felt with her own life was caused by that constant comparison.
Later in the tour as we returned to the nursery room a second time and gathered around the table there to reflect on all we’d seen it was suggested by Amy that a male figure within the Thayer family had attempted to “show her what she was missing”. This suggestion of rape or attempted rape was disturbing to hear and I hope there is no truth to it but it seems clear that something must have happened that caused Theodora to despair to the point where she would take her own life and then to continue to haunt in this way. It was suggested that she will not cross because she does not wish to encounter family members, or to give up the freedom she now feels she has. “This is her freedom,” were the words that Steve used, and I found that idea to be deeply disturbing.
I have always valued my freedom - perhaps more than I value anything else. I have never wanted to commit to anyone or anything but my own art - in my case writing - and I reject any emotional ties that ever pull me away from it. To me marriage means surrendering my own needs and desires to the needs and desires of somebody else. I recognize the joy that children can bring, but I also see them as a burden and I had never fully considered it before, but I believe now that many of the women of The Old Manse experienced marriage and children exactly this way. There were few options available to women during their time besides marriage and children. Those who wished to pursue education or art had to do it on their own. It is said that had she lived at any other time Sarah Ripley would have become a professor at Harvard. As it was she remained there at the Manse taking in whatever information she could within the limited time she had available to her, and if it was an image of her that Steve saw looking out the window of that third floor nursery space, perhaps she was longing for a different life for herself and looking out on a world that did not allow her to have that.
So many women in those times were dependent on their husbands for their own survival and with few, if any, birth control methods available they had little control over the number of children they would have. In that situation I suspect there were many women who experienced a subtle but ever present resentment growing within them and perhaps that is the source of the resentment that is still felt within the Manse against Hawthorne. Two centuries after he lived there, Hawthorne continues to epitomize the handsome, romantic and yet dominant male of the 19th century, and I wonder if maybe he is resented by the women of the Manse more for who he was and who he continues to represent than for anything he actually did.
Steve told me that Theodora would be coming home with me again, as she had done last summer, and that if I was willing, I could help her work through many of the issues that were holding her back and this would allow her to cross. The technique he suggested involved allowing her to meld her own energies into mine and then experiencing along with her some of the emotions and attitudes that we share. In this way I could help to release her, while at the same time freeing myself, from some of the attitudes and beliefs that might be holding me back as well.
I felt Theodora around me very strongly for the first couple of days after this tour, and I experienced a deep sadness and a level of darkness that I did not wish to go into. If my assisting her to cross meant I had to experience the kind of darkness that had led her to take her own life, then I decided I wanted no part of it. I prayed for myself and for Theodora for the next few days, in an attempt to free up my own energies from her use and to connect with other higher entities who might assist her to cross. I eventually began to feel better and feel as if the energetic ties between the two of us that were dragging me down had been severed.
The fact that I was unable to use this technique successfully is more a reflection of my own lack of experience and personal preferences and does not negate the value of this method for helping to free earthbound spirits. It is a technique that has been used successfully many times by members of The Spirit Light Network and anyone who is interested in learning more about this process should contact Rev. Steve Wilson c/o The Spirit Light Network at: www.thespiritlightnetwork.net.
My efforts to assist Theodora are continuing, but I have chosen to do it in my own way. My research into Theodora’s life and work is also continuing and I hope to find somewhere a reliable record of the events that led up to her death. So far I have found very little, other than a remark made and referenced in a biography of fellow artist, Eulabee Dix, that the Thayer family had greatly succeeded in covering up the circumstances of Theodora’s death. One has to wonder in light of the information uncovered by the team on this tour of the Manse, what it was that the family had fought so hard to keep hidden. It is also interesting to note that Theodora’s brother, Ezra Ripley Thayer, who, like his father, became a Dean at Harvard College, would end his own life 10 yrs after her. That death was attributed to depression, brought on by poor health, but in light of the information that came out during this tour, I am left wondering if there was something more to it.
In the master bedroom that is across the hall from Sarah Ripley’s room on the second floor of the Manse, and was the bedroom of the Hawthornes during their stay there, is a portrait of their daughter, Una. It was painted during the last years of Una’s short and troubled life and shows an auburn-haired woman with a sober expression and large sad eyes. Every time I have stepped into that room over the years I have been unable to focus on anything other than that portrait of Una and I have always felt overcome by the sense of sadness around Una and her life. I have even written about that sadness in my book, Honor in Concord, where my character of Julie, who represents Sophia Hawthorne in the story, breaks into tears in that room after listening to the story of the tragedies in Una’s life and seeing the image of her in that portrait. Given all that, I don’t know why I was surprised when Steve began to tap into what would be the saddest and most troubled of the spirits in the house and identified her by pointing toward that portrait of Una.
Una was born in The Old Manse, most likely in this room, on March 3, 1844. Her first year must have been joyful as she was welcomed into her parents’ “Garden of Eden”, but the Hawthornes spent the years after they left the Manse in flux as they struggled financially, moved multiple times, and Sophia gave birth to two more children, a son, Julian (1846-1934), born when they were living in Salem, and another daughter, Rose (1851-1926), born while the Hawthornes were living in Lenox, Massachusetts. Una was nine years old when U.S. President Franklin Pierce, who had been her father’s college classmate, offered her father a post as consul in London and the family moved there. The family stayed in Europe for the next several years, and in 1858, while the family was living in Italy and Una was 14 yrs old, she came down with Malaria and later Typhus. She nearly died at that time and never fully recovered from those illnesses.
Una had always been considered an artistic and eccentric child, but as she became an adult her mental state was more and more in question. After the loss of both parents and several heartbreaking romances, including a broken engagement to the nephew of writer, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, losing George Lathrop to her younger sister, Rose, and finally the death of her fiancé, Albert Webster, Jr., who died while on a voyage meant to improve his health near Honolulu, Una seems to have simply withered away and died. It is said her once glorious auburn hair had turned all gray and she moved into a convent in Windsor, England, where she died soon after in 1877 at the age of 33. Her brother, Julian records in a letter written soon after that she appeared to have died of a broken heart and it was he who arranged for her burial near their mother’s grave at Kensal Green in London. It would be Julian’s descendants, who years later would work with the Anglican nuns to exhume both Una’s and Sophia’s remains and bring them back for reburial in the Hawthorne plot at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord.
I began to relay to the group some of this information about Una and the tragic details of her life, but before I could even get the words out they were already describing to me the erratic patterns of this particular spirit, how emotional she was, how sad, how fearful, and how desperate she felt. She was filled with regret over her short life that had been so dominated by illness and heartache, and she revealed that she was also tied to this house out of a need to connect to the maternal energies. With Una though there seemed to be more to it. Una appeared to be searching, not for her mother, but for a child, one that she either dreamed of having or believed she had once had.
Una is a very troubled spirit, and as the group tried to figure out in what way they might help her, another spirit entered the room that Steve quickly identified as the man in one of the photographs that was laid out on the foot of the bed. The photo was of Una’s brother, Julian, taken when he was an older man. There was another photo of Julian and Una taken when they were children that Steve pointed to as a way to identify the two spirits we were dealing with. Steve said Julian was there to protect Una, to protect her against this intrusion perhaps, or protect her from herself, from revealing too much. It only added to the difficulty of trying to decipher the clues.
Bety repeated the words she could hear Una saying, “Please don’t tell, please don’t tell...” This evidently was in reference to the secret that she had not yet fully revealed to us. She was torn between the desire to reveal it and the hope that no one would ever know. The fear was that the family name would be tarnished. The fear was in what her father might think and feel about her. The fear was that she would betray her brother who had fought hard to cover the secret and was still determined that the world would never know. As the group attempted to leave the room, Steve felt he was being held back. Una would not let him go until the secret was told, and at that point more details emerged, which for now, out of respect for Una, I am choosing not to reveal.
In the same way that I was told Theodora would come home with me that night, Amy was the member of the group who took Una home with her and promised to do what she could to help her. I do not know at this time just how that worked out, but I have experienced my own sense of connection to Una since that night, and I have tried to reason with her, much as I had done with Theodora, to let her know that it is now 2010, and that times have changed, views have changed and she will not be judged harshly for anything that may have occurred, either judged by those of us here, or in spirit. I encouraged her to find the strength she needed to face her father and mother and once and for all, come to terms with any regret or shame she might feel related to them that is continuing to hold her back. I believe it is the only way for her to find happiness and peace again, but I do not believe that I succeeded in changing her views.
As we prepared to leave the second floor there was a sudden flurry of activity – many of the other spirits in the house who had not yet had a chance to convey their story to us seemed to want to make themselves known. I had attended a ghost event at The Old Manse last fall that was headed by another ghost group. They had filmed multiple orbs in the same upstairs hallway and before I left home for the event that night I had meditated and had also seen the spirits forming in this hall. That was the same night that I was nudged, not once but twice, by one of the spirits in the house. I still do not know who the spirit was who had somehow managed to physically interact with me.
In the downstairs parlor there was one other spirit identified by the group - this one from the painting of Rev. William Emerson, the original owner of the house, painted by his grandson, Edward Emerson. It is a painting of William on a horse heading off to war at Ticonderoga, where he was to die of camp fever. Steve stated that he felt William Emerson’s spirit was also there in what had originally been his home. It occurred to me then that he was the minister who I saw there in Sarah Ripley’s room last summer. I am still uncertain who the older woman that I saw there might be.
I believe there are many other spirits there at the Manse. They each seem to have their own reasons for remaining there, but whatever their reasons, the Manse seems to have a particular draw for them. Maybe it is because it is so well preserved and kept intact as to what it would have been in their time, or maybe because it contains objects that they recognize and were part of their lives. Or perhaps it is because the Manse continues to hold the energies of the past, of its people and of the events that took place there, and with the constant retelling of the history of the house that energy is reinforced and the spirits there are able to feed on that energy so that they may remain there indefinitely.
We shared some of what we’d witnessed with Tom and thanked him very much for the opportunity he’d given us, before departing the house. Then we walked together in the darkness across the open field beside the Manse and onto the path that leads to the North Bridge. There, the group picked up on the spirits of soldiers who remained there, British Soldiers who had died and been buried there but were never identified, and some of the American men.
It was eerie standing near the bridge in the darkness with the rain falling and the outline of the minuteman statue visible against the dimly lit sky. We formed a circle, held hands, and Steve spoke in a Native American language as we worked to combine our energies and awareness in order to create an opening that would allow these soldiers to finally cross over. I could not tell whether or not we had succeeded, but the others felt that yes, we had been successful in assisting at least one of the lost souls there to cross. As we headed back to our cars I was more concerned with what I might be facing in the next few days as I would be dealing once again with the haunting presence of Theodora.
This was such an unusual experience, the tour of the house itself and those few moments spent standing there at the bridge. I am grateful to Tom Beardsley, former Director of The Old Manse, for granting us permission to take this tour, and to the members of The Spirit Light Network who joined me and helped me to connect with and learn more about the spirits who remain there.
Information about The Spirit Light Network can be found at their website: www.spiritlightnetwork.net. Information on The Old Manse is available at http://www.thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/greater-boston/old-manse.html. Information on Cathryn McIntyre and her work can be found at www.theconcordwriter.com