Extraordinary Incidents

Here are some extraordinary accounts of unexplained activity at the Merchant’s House Museum — some of which can be found in Board of Directors member Anthony Bellov’s 2007 booklet, “Some Say They Never Left.” It is available for purchase at http://www.merchantshouse.org/ and in the museum gift shop.

Barely a year after Gertrude Tredwell’s death, in 1933, a restoration worker saw “a small elderly woman in a light-colored dress standing in the doorway” — who promptly vanished. Not long after, noisy children playing outside the house were interrupted “when the door burst open and a tiny elderly woman flew out onto the high stoop in a rage, waving her arms wildly.” Neighbors who witnessed the event swore the description matched that of Gertrude.

Ever since the 1930s, the ghost or spirit or image or event loop or living memory of Gertrude has been spotted many times — sometimes as a young woman, but most often as an elderly one (usually on the main staircase, in the front bedroom where she died, or “hovering within view of the front door”). In the early 1980s, tourists rang the bell for entry and the door was opened by a woman in period clothing who told them the museum was closed for the day. It wasn’t — and the Museum's tour guides don’t wear period clothing.

Gertrude Tredwell, early 20th century

In his own words, Anthony Bellov recalls this July 1999 incident — which he considers the single most outstanding occurrence ever reported.

A former volunteer was visiting the museum with her boyfriend and her young son. They paid their admission and started the self guided tour. Upstairs in Mrs. Tredwell’s bedroom, the woman proceeded on her own to Mr. Tredwell’s bedroom. Fascinated by a display of family photographs, she suddenly smelled mothballs and heard a man’s voice. It had an almost new England quality — saying “Looking at the family, eh?” Standing uncomfortably close to her was an elderly man with a very weatherbeaten face, wearing a heavy old wool coat (which she thought odd since it was July). As he was telling her stories about different family members, the odor of mothballs was so strong she felt lightheaded as if she was going to faint.

On display in the museum is a portrait of Joseph Brewster, who built the house; and the old man started talking about him. He said, “I knew him very well.” Now, she had just read in the book that the house was built in the 1830s — and thought to herself, "This guy’s a nut." Just at that moment, her boyfriend and son walked into the bedroom. She turned to indicate the man, but he wasn’t there. So they combed the house. Neither they nor the staff could find him.

When they were all down in the parlor floor, she saw the man pass by, heading for the front door. He said, “Come back and visit us again, now.” — and she heard the door open and shut. Unnerved, she decided to leave. As she stepped outside, all of a sudden it hit her; this guy was not real. This guy was dead. He was a ghost. And she said her knees almost buckled.

Six months later, she decided to come back to the museum and report her experience. She told a staff member the whole story, so he took her to the office floor to show her copies of Tredwell family photos. There was a photo of a man in graduation robes and she said, ‘That’s him! The man I saw was much older, but it’s definitely the same person.” She had positively identified the long-dead Samuel Lenox Tredwell as the man she had a conversation with.

Sameul Lenox Tredwell, early 20th century

In the mid-1990s, three gentlemen were admitted to the Museum and proceeded to take the self-guided tour. They soon returned to hand the tour booklet back, saying that an older man had blocked their entrance — clearly wishing them to leave. As they stood in the parlor relating this to the site manager, they recognized the man — from a portrait of Seabury Tredwell hanging on the parlor wall.

(Posthumous) Portrait of Seabury Tredwell, 1879