Friday, October 15, 2010

McRaven House: The Most Haunted House in Vicksburg

Late one afternoon last week, my husband and I visited McRaven House — also known as "the most haunted house in Mississippi," and "the third most haunted house in America."

While researching its history before our visit, I was disappointed to discover that the house is for sale and is no longer open for tours. However, I am a firm believer in the philosophy of "where there's a will, there's a way," so I called the listing agent and requested permission to tour the grounds and take pictures.

When we arrived at McRaven, we found that the entrance was overgrown and blocked by an elegant old gate which was padlocked.
I was totally enthralled before we ever laid a foot inside the gate. Just look at the details of the grape clusters and leaves (you can click on the photos to enlarge them, if you'd like).
Padlocked gate or not, I knew I had to see more and, since we had permission to explore the grounds, we climbed over this beautiful ornate iron fence that was connected to the gate ...
We were there in late afternoon, and the grounds were shrouded in shade from the towering oak and magnolia trees.

The original pre-war strolling gardens dating from 1849, are overgrown now, but the old brick paths still meander in all directions, with faded Hydrangeas, Azaleas, Aspidistras, Crape Myrtles, and Grape Ivy gracing the walkways.
This is the path I chose to follow, because I couldn't wait to see the house ...

I was delighted with this most unusual door knocker on the front door, and would love to know its history.
The pierced columns on the front porch are interesting, too.

McRaven has seen its share of Vicksburg history, serving as a hospital during the Siege of Vicksburg, as well as the Union headquarters after the surrender. Occupied for many years by sisters Annie and Ella Murray, the house is currently owned by Leyland French, whose ancestor brought us French’s Mustard.

Totally unchanged since civil war days, battle scars and shell fragments still remain. It was a little unsettling to walk around the grounds where so much history had taken place. A somber reminder of that history was evident on the east lawn which was used as a Confederate encampment during the War.

Many a soldier met his Maker on the grounds of McRaven. A field hospital was set up during the Siege, and several minie balls dug up on the grounds bear teeth marks to witness the pain and suffering of those fallen comrades. This simple memorial commemorates the men who gave their all for the cause they believed in so strongly.

The Haunted History of McRaven House:

It is believed that at least five of the house's inhabitants over the years died in or near the house. One of these five was John H. Bobb, who built the last section of the house. He died violently at the hands of Union soldiers outside McRaven.

Mary Elizabeth Howard's spirit is said to grace the home also. She is believed responsible for antics of the lamp which sits beside the bed in her bedroom. [Note: While we were there, we noticed a light on upstairs and I'd like to think it was Mary Elizabeth just letting us know she was there.]

Her figure has also been seen on the flying wing staircase, and in the dining room. The wedding shawl which belonged to Mary Elizabeth has been known to cause strange occurrences — to some people it emits heat, and in some instances, it will almost jump out of a person's hand.

One of the first spirits seen by the present owner, Leyland French, belongs to William Murray who acquired McRaven in 1882. William Murray was seen on the staircase. As soon as he was recognized, French ran back up the stairs into the Bobb bedroom and locked the door. The next day he contacted the local Episcopal priest and had the house blessed. Murray's daughters, Ella and Annie, are other spirits that have been seen, both inside and outside on the grounds.

There have been many investigations conducted by experts in paranormal phenomena, during which pictures, videos, and recordings were captured revealing manifestations of energy forms at McRaven. Although quite visible on film, nothing was visible to the naked eye at the time the photos were taken. Perhaps, that is why I felt uneasy while we were there.

And speaking of feeling uneasy, I really had a feeling of uneasiness as I approached this old cistern and leaned over to take a picture of the bottom of it.

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but, thankfully, there was nothing in it but dirt and some old boards and broken bricks.

Next, I walked around to the west side of the house ...

There was a brick patio, more brick paths, and this old well, which I think at one time may have been home to gold fish.

I loved the way the light played on the leaves in the water ...

The Grape Ivy was as big as my hand ...
It seemed that everywhere I looked, I saw lagniappe, and this beautiful old fountain was the best lagniappe of all.

This old pot was sitting on a shelf on the porch. I'd love to know who put it there and when ...

I couldn't help but wonder if "anyone" was standing in these windows looking back out at me.

As I said at the beginning of this story, McRaven House is currently for sale (for a mere 1.4 million dollars), and I hope someone with that kind of money will come along and give it the tender, loving care it needs to restore it to its former glory and grandeur.

This tour of McRaven House is the last in a series of five posts I've written this week featuring stories about and photo tours of some of the antebellum houses in Vicksburg that have "ghost stories" associated with them. If the truth be known, most of the older houses in the historic district probably have "spirits" that share the houses or grounds with their owners — they're just not as well known as their counterparts who live in the "grander mansions."

I enjoyed my visits with the owners and some of the staff members of three of those "grand mansions" in Vicksburg -- Anchuca, Cedar Grove, and Duff Green Mansion. It was truly fascinating to hear the stories of their personal encounters with some of the "spirits" who share their homes. For some reason, these spirits, who seem to mean no harm, have chosen to stay in, or are unable to leave, the houses they loved and lived in over 150 years ago. May they rest in peace knowing their beautiful homes are being enjoyed by so many today.

Anchuca Historic Mansion and InnCedar Grove Mansion Inn
The Duff Green Mansion


D.B. said...

These photos are so beautiful. You really captured the "spirit" of the house. Sorry, I didn't mean to make a pun but it does look like a creepy place. Yet, you made it beautiful and intriguing. I hate to see this series end, I have enjoyed it so much. Thank you again.

Marjorie (Molly) Smith said...

I so enjoyed your photos and story, I just love the history of our old home. I also hope some one will buy this beautiful old place and give it the tender love and care it deserves.
Molly said...

Wonderful pictures and story- I love the history of Mississippi.

Tonja said...

This looks like the one I would most like to visit. The grounds! They sound so wonderful. All the brick paths and cisterns and wells and courtyards. Wouldn't you just love to know some of the folks who have walked there. Truthfully, I wouldn't have wanted to go too close to the house...scary!

These have been so interesting! Loved this series!

Deb said...

great cool that you got to take a tour and photos to share with us...

southern girl at heart said...

I was sorting through some books on my shelf when I came across a booklet about McRaven that was purchased some 23 years ago when we visited & toured it. That prompted me to research the web about McRaven where I came across your blog.

McRaven was one of my favorite places we visited during our brief stay in Mississippi. Not only do I love the history of the house, but the idea of ghost hauntings thrill me as well. I was so disappointed to hear that McRaven is no longer open to public touring.

I so enjoyed your blog and photos! Having visited In a time before the ease of digital photography, I now realize I never took any photos while there (though we do have a small bit of video footage). Your photos brought back wonderful memories of our visit there.

Thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

My husband and I visited this house many years ago when it was open for tours. We stumbled upon it that day. I had never heard of it, nor did I know it was supposedly haunted. It seemed a little creepy bc the weeds were taking over the yard. We toured the home and when we went to the upstairs bedroom, I immediately saw a woman sitting up in the bed. She was young and had long dark hair and was wearing a white gown. I did a double take and she was gone. I whispered to my husband what I thought I saw. He rolled his eyes and said I was imagining it. Then the tour guide told us about the woman who died there during childbirth. It was creepy, but it was real. I saw her plain as day....