Author Edith Wharton’s one-time country retreat in Lenox, Massachusetts, called The Mount, is said to be haunted by various ghostly figures, including Wharton, her husband Edward, and author Henry James.
Wharton (1862–1937), born to New York’s high society, built the neo-Georgian mansion between 1900 and 1902. There she did much writing and hosted numerous guests who were the cream of society and the literati. One frequent visitor was Henry James. Wharton left The Mount in 1908 and sold it in 1912. The house passed through a succession of owners. For a while, it was occupied by Foxhollow School, a boarding school for girls. In 1978, the house was taken over by Shakespeare & Company, a troupe of actors that lives and performs plays there and opens the house to tourists in the summer. Shakespeare & Company purchased the house in 1980.
Stories of Hauntings have circulated for many years. Strange noises, rustlings, thuds and footsteps have been heard. Sounds of young girls laughing are thought to be connected with the residents of Foxhollow. Most unusual have been the number of visual apparitions reported there, particularly by members of the acting troupe. The phantoms have been seen both during the day and at night.
An unidentified apparition of a man with a ponytail was reported in the Henry James Room. The figure of a woman, recognized as Wharton, had been seen in a second-floor hallway, alone and with another ghostly figure who resembles James. A ghost believed to be Wharton also has been spotted walking back and forth on the terrace. Encounters have been reported with a seemingly hostile figure, dressed in a hooded cloak, who manifests at bedside and presses down on the individuals.
One of the most unusual and interesting encounters took place in 1979 and is recorded in Arthur Myers’s Ghostly Register (1986). Andrea Haring, an actress and voice teacher, lay down to rest late one night on a mattress in Edith Wharton’s otherwise bare writing room. She awakened at 4:00 A.M. and sensed presences in the room, which had become extremely cold. She saw three figures and furniture that included a small divan and a desk with a chair. Both figures and furniture seemed real. A woman, whom Haring recognized as Wharton, was on the divan, talking.
A man with muttonchop whiskers was at the desk, writing and gesturing to the woman. Standing with arms folded was another man, whom Haring recognized as Edward (Teddy) Wharton. The three seemed engaged in activity, as though they could hear each other, but Haring could not hear them. Wharton seemed to be dictating to the man at the desk. Haring thought about leaving the room, and at this thought, the ghosts turned to her and acknowledged her presence, then resumed their activity. Haring got up and left. She returned minutes later and found the room empty of apparitions, and warm once again.
Later, after examining photographs in a book, Haring concluded the figure at the desk was Wharton’s secretary of sorts, who may also have been her lover.
- Myers, Arthur. The Ghostly Register: Haunted Dwellings— Active Spirits, A Journey to America’s Strangest Landmarks. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1986.
- Riccio, Dolores, and Joan Bingham. Haunted Houses USA. New York: Pocket Books, 1989.
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