The Mark Twain House
The Mark Twain House was the home of the famous novelist Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) in the Nook Farm neighborhood of Hartford, Connecticut.
Twain lived in the house with his wife, Olivia, and their children in the late 1800s. He wrote some of his best-known novels there.
The house has changed hands multiple times since the 19th century. Some paranormal enthusiasts believe the ghosts of members of the Clemens family haunt it.
Today, the house is open to historical and paranormal tours.
Mark Twin hired Architect Edward Tuckerman Potter
In 1873, Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) and his wife, Olivia, hired Architect Edward Tuckerman Potter (1831-1904) of New York to design their house. They started constructing it in August and bought some furnishings in Europe.
The three-story, 20-room, 11,500 square feet structure, equipped with the most up-to-date facilities, cost Twain and Olivia about $45‚000 (equivalent to about $1,195,715.69 today, according to westegg.com inflation calculator).
The Mark Twain House reflected the eclectic trends that dominated American architectural trends in the late-1800s. Twain biographer Justin Kaplan once jokingly described the house as a cross between a steamboat, a medieval fortress, and a cuckoo clock.
The family moved into the house on September 19, 1874, although work was ongoing. They lived in the Mark Twain House for 17 years (1874-1891).
Clemens would later describe the years they lived in Hartford as the happiest and most productive in his life (marktwainhouse.org). He wrote some of his best-known works, such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Prince and the Pauper, while he lived with his family in Hartford.
Professional success also meant financial prosperity for the family. Twain invested part of his earnings in furnishing, decorating, and equipping their new home. He hired top interior decorators and designers, such as Louis C. Tiffany & Co.‚ Associated Artists, to work on the entrance hall, dining room, library, conservatory, and billiard room.
The family soon faced financial challenges. Twain, Olivia, and their middle daughter, Clara, traveled to Europe in 1891. He gave lectures while traveling in Europe. Financial uncertainties forced him to give lectures to earn extra income to secure the family’s finances.
They left Susy and Jean at home.
Susy Clemens died in 1896
Susy died of spinal meningitis in August 1896 while her parents were in Europe. The incidents left Twain and his wife heartbroken. They found it too painful to return to the house where she died, so they sold the Mark Twain House in 1903 and moved abroad.
Twain and Olivia sold their house to Richard Bissell in 1903. The new owners lived in it from 1903 to 1917. They moved out in 1917 and rented it to a boys’ school, Kingswood School.
The house changed hands once again in 1922. A developer bought it from the Bissells and converted it into an apartment building.
A Hartford Courant report from 1923 said the developers partitioned the house into 11 three-bedroom apartments and a basement dining hall for social events.
Katharine Seymour Day and the Friends of Hartford
A group known as the Friends of Hartford, organized by a prominent social activist and preservationist named Katharine Seymour Day, purchased the Mark Twain house in 1929. The Friends of Hartford established the Mark Twain Library and Memorial Commission with Day as president the same year.
The group wanted to restore and preserve the house but needed funds for the project.
In 1930, they rented out the first floor of the building to the Hartford Public Library. The library occupied the space until 1956. They also retained the apartments on the upper floors and rented them out from the 1930s to 1963.
The Mark Twain Library and Memorial Commission started restoring the property in 1963 after it became recognized as a National Historic Landmark. They completed the restoration in 1974, in time for the anniversary of the 100 years of the property.
The Mark Twain House & Museum
The Mark Twain Library and Memorial Commission became the Mark Twain House & Museum in 2003. The organization continued restoring the Mark Twain house at 351 Farmington Avenue, Hartford and completed it in 2005.
The Mark Twain House & Museum opened the Mark Twain House to historical and paranormal tours. The organization offers guided tours, including during the Halloween Season.
Guides take visitors on a tour of the Clemens family house. They share tales about the building’s past, the Halloween traditions of the Victorian era, and paranormal activities in the house.
Mark Twain had an interest in ghost stories
Mark Twain was reportedly interested in ghost stories and paranormal phenomena (Ray Bendici, CT Insider, July 15, 2014). Even though he claimed to be a skeptic and said he did not believe in ghosts, he loved reading ghost stories.
Twain used to spend his summers at his uncle’s farm near Hannibal, Missouri, when he was a child. His uncle, John Quarles, owned about 20 slaves. He recalled hearing many ghost tales and paranormal stories from slaves when he lived on his uncle’s farm in Missouri.
He wa a member of the Society for Psychical Research in England. The group claimed to engage in the scientific investigation of haunting and seances.
Susy Clemens’ ghost
According to folklore, the ghost of Susy Clemens, Mark Twain’s daughter who died of bacterial meningitis in 1896, haunts the house.
George Griffin was a former slave who work for Twain’s family. Griffin’s ghost allegedly haunts the building. Visitors and workers reported encountering the ghost in Griffin’s former room.
An invisible presence and strange occurences
Some people who have worked in the house since 1929, after the Friends of Hartford purchased it for conversion into a museum, claim to have experienced paranormal activity there.
They reported having intense feelings of an invisible presence in the old mansion. There were also reports of strange occurrences, such as a strong smell of cigar smoke in the billiard room that Twain used as his study room.
Others reported phantom voices, laughter, and footsteps.
Lady in white nightgown
Staff members and visitors said they saw the apparition of a woman dressed in a white nightgown in the house.
A group of paranormal investigators, known as the Smoking Gun Research Agency (SGRA), investigated the house in 2009 and reported detecting intense paranormal activity in the building.
Members of the Ghost Hunters TAPS team led by Jason Hawes also claimed they saw shadowy figures and apparitions. They heard loud whispering and giggling in the nursery.
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Top image courtesy of Makemake is used under Creative Commons license CC BY 3.0.
|Other Name/s||The Clemens family house, The Mark Twain House & Museum|
|Address||351 Farmington Ave, Hartford, CT 06105|
|Activity reported||Haunting, Poltergeist, Shadow Figures|
Where to find
In the media
In Season 5, Episode 23 of Ghost Hunters, titled Mark Twain House, which aired in November 2009, members of the TAPs team traveled to Hartford, Connecticut, to investigate allegations of paranormal activity in the Mark Twain House.
They investigated the claims that Twain’s daughter, Susy, who died of illness, haunts the house.
https://marktwainhouse.org/about/the-house/hartfordhome/#:~:text=In%201873%20Sam%20and%20Olivia,house%20on%20September%2019%E2%80%9A%201874., “The Mark Twain House & Museum,” accessed on April 27, 2023.
https://marktwainhouse.org/about/our-history/, “From Twain to Today: How The Mark Twain House & Museum Came to Be,” accessed on April 27, 2023.
https://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/CT-01-003-0043, “Society for Architectural Historians: Mark Twain House,” accessed on April 27, 2023.
https://marktwainhouse.org/event/graveyard-shift-ghost-tours-of-the-mark-twain-house/, “Graveyard Shift Ghost Tours of The Mark Twain House,” accessed on April 27, 2023.
https://marktwainhouse.org/event/graveyard-shift-ghost-tours-9/, “Gravyard Shift Ghost Tours,” accessed on April 27, 2023.
https://www.6sqft.com/go-ghost-hunting-at-mark-twains-haunted-and-historic-connecticut-manor/, “Go ghost hunting at Mark Twain’s haunted and historic Connecticut manor,” accessed on April 27, 2023.
https://stonecroft.com/blog/the-mark-twain-house/, “5 Reasons Why The Mark Twain House Is So Unique,” accessed on April 27, 2023.
https://www.ctinsider.com/connecticutmagazine/news-people/article/Ghost-Tours-at-Mark-Twain-House-in-Hartford-Will-17041158.php, “Ghost Tours at Mark Twain House in Hartford; Will Lady in White Appear?” accessed on April 27, 2023.
https://boroughsofthedead.com/new-york-ghosts-mark-twain/, “New York Ghosts: Mark Twain,” accessed on April 27, 2023.
https://www.whig.com/archive/article/texas-man-makes-connection-to-his-missouri-ancestor-mark-twains-uncle-danl/article_c0dcf171-f6d6-599f-b7d7-c433879c03c0.html, “Texas man makes connection to his Missouri ancestor, Mark Twain’s ‘Uncle Dan’l’,” accessed on April 27, 2023.
https://www.thoughtco.com/mark-twain-write-about-slavery-740681#:~:text=Born%20in%20a%20Pro%2DSlavery,summers%20at%20his%20uncle’s%20place., “Mark Twain’s Views on Enslavement,” accessed on April 27, 2023.