House of the Seven Gables

A house which Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote about as being haunted, today, sits restored in Salem, Massachusetts. It is also known as the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion and is the oldest, surviving wooden mansion in New England, having been built in 1668.
The son of a sea captain, Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts on the Fourth of July, 1804. A great, great grandfather was one of the judges at the Salem Witch Trials in 1692, which is most likely why Nathaniel added a “w” to his last name.  He would later write about the House of the Seven Gables in 1851. What’s the history of the famed house and is it haunted?

The House of the Seven Gables began with not as many gables, as it originally only had three. It was the home of sea-faring Captain John Turner who built it.  As Captain Turner and his family added onto the home many times over the ensuing years, it eventually became quite large and had seven gables. Three generations of Turners lived in the home until John Turner III lost the family fortune and sold it in 1780 to Captain Ingersoll.  Many families lost their fortunes as ties to England were severed due to the Revolutionary War. Captain Ingersoll was also a wealthy, sea-faring Captain like his predecessor Captain Turner. Both men owned many ships and hired their own Captains to pilot them. Captain Ingersoll was pleased to acquire such a fine home and remodeled it, removing four of the seven gables. Also see: House of Seven Gables Ghost Picture

After Captain Ingersoll’s death, his daughter Susanna inherited not only the prized shipping business of her father’s, but his house. Susanna became a very good business woman and more importantly a friend of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Young Hawthorne struggled as an author, as many believed he should give it up. Susanna was one person who encouraged Nathaniel, and it was that encouragement that helped Nathaniel to continue to pursue his literary craft. He would sit for hours with Susanna and hear about the house and how it had formerly looked with seven gables. Susanna told Hawthorne about the secret staircase and other oddities of the house. Nathaniel Hawthorne later moved to Concord, Massachusetts and became friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

Eventually, Nathaniel Hawthorne became a famous author and in tribute to Susanna he wrote the famous book in 1851 entitled, “The House of the Seven Gables.” The novel by Hawthorne told the story of a house that was haunted from its inception, due to shady dealings, witchcraft and death. In 1910, the book was so popular that a Miss Emmerton was inspired to purchase the original house and restore it for public display in Salem, Massachusetts. She worked hard to try and make the house fit the book’s description, though some of the add-ons were not original to the home.

Today you may visit the House of the Seven Gables along with the birth home of Nathaniel Hawthorne which has been moved to the site. Do burdened characters haunt the home, today? Where did Hawthorne receive the ideas of the haunting characters from the original story? Were there ghost stories about the house that were told to Nathaniel by Susanna that inspired the tale told to us by Hawthorne?

“Halfway down a by-street of one of our New England towns stands a rusty wooden house, with seven acutely peaked gables, facing towards various points of the compass, and a huge, clustered chimney in the midst. The street is Pyncheon Street; the house is the old Pyncheon House; and an elm-tree, of wide circumference, rooted before the door, is familiar to every town-born child by the title of the Pyncheon Elm.”

- Excerpt from "The House of the Seven Gables" by author, Nathaniel Hawthorne