Usually my blog posts are filled with history and facts. This one, however, isn’t. Instead it includes three seconds of video that, a year after it was recorded, I still can’t explain.
I’ll call it a ghost story for lack of anything better. Last summer, I spoke at the Schuyler Mansion, the 18thc family home of the Schuyler family of Albany, NY; you can read more here, here, and here about the house and its significance in my historical novel I, Eliza Hamilton. The house was the childhood home of my heroine, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, and as an adult, she returned to it often with her husband, Alexander Hamilton, and their children.
My talk was late in the day, and after the house was cleared of other visitors, one of the site’s interpreters, Jessie Serfilippi, offered to take me inside for one final look before. There have been numerous unexplained events in the house over the years: thumps and bumps overhead, doors that refuse to remain shut, distant voices, and even a few faint figures in 18thc dress who vanish as quickly as they appear. If you believe in paranormal activity, then this all makes sense for a house that’s over 250 years old. If you’d prefer a more logical explanation, then the age of the house and the creaks and groans of its old timbers should suffice.
I’ll freely admit that when Jessie and I stood in the Family Parlor, we hoped Eliza might show herself in some way. The room was known to have been a favorite of hers. Her wedding to Alexander had taken place here, and the fortepiano she’d played as a girl was here, too. The room was quiet, and the security shutters had already been closed and latched for the night from the outside. With the shutters fastened and no modern electrical lighting, the room was murky with shadows. Jessie and I waited for a few moments, then laughed sheepishly at our own foolishness. I took a few more photos of the Parlor, and we left.
It wasn’t until several weeks later, when I downloaded the day’s pictures from my phone, that I realized I’d accidentally (?) taken one of the pictures in the parlor as a video instead. I’ve posted it above (and apologies for the stupid video-links that follow; that’s YouTube). It’s only three seconds in length, but clearly there was more happening than either Jessie or I realized. One locked shutter appears to open briefly to let the late afternoon sun spill into the room. Another circle of light darts quickly across the floor to the fortepiano.
Now I know I write fiction for a living, so you can take all this with as large a grain of salt as you please. But all my other photos taken at the time look like the one right, grey and grainy. There aren’t any bursts or circles of light, and the shutters stayed firmly latched.
I don’t have any answers. Was Eliza there with us? I’ll let you decide…..
The Schuyler Mansion is a state historic site, and open to the public. I can’t promise any Eliza-sightings, but please see their Facebook page for more information about visiting and tour reservations. All photographs ©2017 by Susan Holloway Scott.
Read more about Eliza Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton in my historical novel, I, Eliza Hamilton, now available everywhere. My next historical novel, The Secret Wife of Aaron Burr, will be published by Kensington Books on September 24, 2019. Pre-order now here.