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The surprising thing about "The Haunted Mansion" isn't that it's based on a Disney theme park ride, but that it has ambition. It wants to be more than a movie version of the ride. I expected an inane series of nonstop action sequences, but what I got was a fairly intriguing story and an actual plot that is actually resolved. That doesn't make the movie good enough to recommend, but it makes it better than the ads suggest.

The movie stars Eddie Murphy as Jim Evers, workaholic Realtor(TM), who is headed for a weekend vacation with his family when they get sidetracked by the chance to put a vast old mansion on the market. His wife, Sara ( Marsha Thomason ), is his business partner, but complains, as all movie wives always complain, that her husband is spending too much time at work. Their kids are Michael and Megan (Marc John Jefferies and Aree Davis).

Evers (or more accurately his wife, whose photo appears on their flyers) is invited to visit the Gracey Mansion, isolated behind a forbidding iron gate and surrounded by a jungle of sinister vegetation.

It's a triumph of art direction, inspired by the Disney World attraction and by every haunted house ever crept through by Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Christopher Lee , Peter Cushing , Abbott, Costello, et al. Doors bulge, curtains sway, and there's a scenic graveyard behind the house, complete with four marble busts that perform as a barbershop quartet.

The visitors are greeted by the butler Ramsley ( Terence Stamp ), gaunt, cadaverous, with a voice that coils up from unimaginable inner caverns. Also on staff are servants Ezer ( Wallace Shawn , looking his most homuncular) and Emma (Dina Waters, simpering over). On the premises but not exactly in residence is Madame Leota ( Jennifer Tilly ), whose disembodied head floats in a crystal ball and offers timely if disturbing advice.

The lord of the manor is Master Gracey ( Nathaniel Parker ), who seems obsessed with Sara Evers. Flashbacks explain why. In antebellum New Orleans, Gracey was in love with a young woman who looked exactly like Sara, and when they could not marry, they both killed themselves. Which means Gracey is a ghost, of course, but leaves unanswered the question of why he could not marry the ghost of his original lover and stop haunting respectable married Realtors(TM).

The movie's most intriguing element is the way it does and doesn't deal with the buried racial theme. We learn that the sinister Ramsley sabotaged his master's romance because if he married, the family would be destroyed. Presumably that would be because an interracial romance was dangerous in old New Orleans, but the movie never says so and indeed never refers to the races of any of its characters. That is either (a) refreshing and admirable, or (b) puzzling, since the whole plot is motivated by race.

The story, in any event, gives the characters a lot to deal with, which means we are not relegated to a movie full of banging doors, swinging chandeliers and other ghostly effects. There are a lot of those, of course, especially as the kids make their own way around the gloomy pile, but there is a certain poignancy about the central dilemma, and the Gracey character reflects it well, eventually answering one of the questions posed above, although I will not say which one.

The movie doesn't quite work, maybe because the underlying theme is an uneasy fit with the silly surface. Murphy is not given much to do; he's the straight man, in a story involving his wife and ghosts. If anyone steals the movie, it's Stamp, who must have been studying Hammer horror films for years, and puts the ham back into Hammer. "The Haunted Mansion" won't much entertain older family members, but it might be fun for kids and seems headed for a long run on home video.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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The Haunted Mansion (2003)

Rated PG for frightening images, thematic elements and language

Eddie Murphy as Jim Evers

Marsha Thomason as Sara Evers

Nathaniel Parker as Master Gracey

Jennifer Tilly as Madame Leota

Terence Stamp as Ramsley

Wallace Shawn as Ezer

  • David Berenbaum

Directed by

  • Rob Minkoff

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The Haunted Mansion

2003, Comedy/Fantasy, 1h 28m

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Critics Consensus

Neither scary nor funny, The Haunted Mansion is as lifeless as the ghosts in the movie. Read critic reviews

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Workaholic real estate agent Jim Evers (Eddie Murphy) is accused by his wife, Sara (Marsha Thomason), of neglecting his son (Marc John Jefferies) and daughter (Aree Davis), so he takes the family on a vacation. Along the way, the family stops off at a sinister mansion that Jim has been asked to sell, only to discover it's haunted by Master Gracey (Nathaniel Parker) ; his stern butler, Ramsley (Terence Stamp) ; and two other servants who need some help breaking a curse.

Rating: PG (Language|Frightening Images|Thematic Elements)

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy

Original Language: English

Director: Rob Minkoff

Producer: Don Hahn , Andrew Gunn

Writer: David Berenbaum , David Berenbaum

Release Date (Theaters): Nov 26, 2003  wide

Release Date (Streaming): Jan 1, 2014

Box Office (Gross USA): $75.8M

Runtime: 1h 28m

Distributor: Buena Vista Pictures

Production Co: Walt Disney Pictures, Doom Buggy Productions, Gunn Films

Sound Mix: Surround, Dolby SR, DTS, SDDS

Aspect Ratio: Scope (2.35:1)

Cast & Crew

Eddie Murphy

Terence Stamp

Wallace Shawn

Marsha Thomason

Jennifer Tilly

Madame Leota

Nathaniel Parker

Edward Gracey

Dina Spybey-Waters

Marc John Jefferies

Rob Minkoff

David Berenbaum

Screenwriter

Andrew Gunn

Barry Bernardi

Executive Producer

Remi Adefarasin

Cinematographer

Priscilla Nedd-Friendly

Film Editor

Costume Design

Mark Mancina

Original Music

Rosemary Brandenburg

Set Designer

Visual Effects Supervisor

Daniel Sudick

Special Effects Coordinator

David Wyman

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Critic Reviews for The Haunted Mansion

Audience reviews for the haunted mansion.

"The Haunted Mansion" is the Olive Garden of Disney films: bland and seemingly pointless. You may not die from the experience, but is that really a blessing?

haunted mansion 2004

Ah 2003, the start of Disney's major theme park ride adaptations into the movies...not counting a few earlier nondescript flicks and 'Mission to Mars' which I never realised was a theme park adaptation. If you think about this premise you could be forgiven for thinking it would turn out crap, especially with Eddie Murphy involved. And you wouldn't be far wrong on that one point, the casting of Murphy and his 'family' members in this film was a terrible choice. The reason being they all stick out like a sore thumb in the story, they all look totally out of place and none can act too well. The film has been turned into a Murphy vehicle and the film suffers for it, it feels forced, his family in the film feel forced and fake, the silly humour and annoying dialog from Murphy feels forced and its all in there simply for Murphy, awful decision. That aside the rest of the film is actually pretty sweet. The plot has been cleverly turned into a romantic ghost tale where upon the mansions owner is seeking his one true love whom he lost centuries ago. Of course his true love is Murphy's living wife so a battle of supernatural proportions ensues as Murphy must stop this aristocratic spook floating off with his wife. What works is the extra casting of the main ghost servants and their master within the mansion. Stamp is perfect as the stiff upper lipped butler with a dark secret, Wallace Shawn is perfect as the quirky sidekick footman ghost, Tilly is surprisingly good as the crystal ball gypsy spirit and Nathaniel Parker plays the noble British toff manor owner to a tee complete with thick dark locks. Not too sure how these ghosts work though, at times they can't or don't seem to interact with the living, then all of a sudden they can touch and pick things up. Its all very cliched and hammy of course being based on a stereotypical haunted house attraction but that's fine, you expect that. In fact they capture that atmosphere perfectly, the whole eccentric Disney ambiance coupled with an eerie fanciful glow. Indeed the film does work better if you have actually been on the attraction at Disney World. There are many many little homages to the ride throughout the film from visual references to dialog, some sequences showing identical sections from the attraction. It does sounds kinda tacky but it really works nicely and gives you a pleasant ghostly trip down memory lane. I really liked how the ghosts become 'more dead' visually the further from the mansion they are. So once outside all the ghosts have a really cool supernatural blue glow or aura which looks quite striking. I liked the graveyard and how it housed many of the ghosts from the attraction including the three famous hitchhiker spooks. As said I also liked the replication of sets from the attraction too, the hallway of portraits being the main one easily. One thing I didn't like was the swamp set New Orleans look for the mansion, not my personal cup of tea, I prefer the Liberty Square Dutch Gothic design from Disney World's Magic Kingdom. But how did that ghostly horse drawn hearse crash through the walls of the mansion complete with Murphy and co inside?. How would ghosts be able to knock through walls when they are...errr ghosts. And how on earth would living people be able to go through the wall with the ghosts??. On the whole the film does look really good and clearly a lot of thought and craftsmanship went into making the visuals realistic. Its really nice (and amazingly surprising) that they actually constructed the mansion instead of relying on CGI. The interiors and props all benefit from genuine craftsmanship too which really sets the mood, for all you 'Nightmare Before Christmas'/Addams Family/Munster lovers out there (like me) you'll love it. This is a film you really really really really did expect to be utter utter utter tripe...but its not!. Its actually a really decent looking light-hearted supernatural ride just like the real attraction. The homages are great for folk who have been to the attraction but for those who haven't they just come across as neat spooky visual candy. As I said the only let down is Murphy and co as the endangered mortal family, well mainly Murphy. His tomfoolery lets down the quite decent performances of the supernatural cast.

Not really what I'd watch but had some good bits, One for the kids.

full of awesome special effects but sadly not the best film around. the story is very mind numbinglly simple and eddie murphy offers some humour but not enough to save this film. what is obviously set up for a possible franchise gets off to a bad start. not bad but definitely not the film it could have been

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Currently you are able to watch "The Haunted Mansion" streaming on Disney Plus. It is also possible to buy "The Haunted Mansion" on Apple TV, Amazon Video, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Vudu, Microsoft Store, DIRECTV as download or rent it on Apple TV, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Vudu, Microsoft Store, DIRECTV online.

Where does The Haunted Mansion rank today? The JustWatch Daily Streaming Charts are calculated by user activity within the last 24 hours. This includes clicking on a streaming offer, adding a title to a watchlist, and marking a title as 'seen'. This includes data from ~1.3 million movie & TV show fans per day.

Streaming charts last updated: 9:15:20 AM, 01/12/2024

The Haunted Mansion is 5127 on the JustWatch Daily Streaming Charts today. The movie has moved up the charts by 2383 places since yesterday. In the United States, it is currently more popular than Phobias but less popular than Darby O'Gill and the Little People.

Workaholic Jim Evers and his wife/business partner Sara get a call one night from a mansion owner, Edward Gracey, who wants to sell his house. Once the Evers family arrive at the mansion, a torrential thunderstorm of mysterious origin strands them with the brooding, eccentric Gracey, his mysterious butler, and a variety of residents both seen and unseen.

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Streaming Charts The JustWatch Daily Streaming Charts are calculated by user activity within the last 24 hours. This includes clicking on a streaming offer, adding a title to a watchlist, and marking a title as 'seen'. This includes data from ~1.3 million movie & TV show fans per day.

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Haunted Mansion Prepares To Close Its Doors, Fans Mourn Loss 

in Disneyland Resort

A sign that reads "Haunted Mansion" in front of the white mansion holding the attraction of the same name at Disneyland Park.

The Haunted Mansion is one of the most iconic attractions across the Disney parks. Although it’s name and theming changes depending on the park, the overall idea and base attraction is the same. It’s seen the creation of two live-action films (both of which weren’t too well received) and some of the most popular theme park merchandise, but one version of the attraction is highly controversial.

The original concept for the Haunted Mansion ride reportedly goes back to Walt Disney’s original Imagineers, although it wouldn’t come to fruition until 1969 when it opened at Disneyland. Now, the ride can also be found at Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris, and is the only attraction to be located in four different lands across four different Disney parks. However, the original Disneyland location is perhaps the most iconic and well-loved, despite its controversial holiday overlay.

Related: Tim Burton Finally Reveals Plans for ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ Sequel

The Nightmare Before Christmas  is a 1993 claymation film often attributed to Tim Burton (who created the story concept but didn’t direct) and directed by Henry Selick. Over the years, it’s become one of the most popular Halloween and Christmas films of all time , and has found a massive audience amongst Disney fans. Jack Skellington, Sally, and Oogie Boogie have become some of the most popular animated characters, with Disney California Adventure naming their Halloween party “Oogie Boogie Bash.”

Jack Skellington and Sally in 'The Nightmare Before Christmas'

During the Halloween season, guests can meet and greet with Jack and Sally, and the wait times for their interactions often reach several hours. With the amount of popularity the film and its characters have, one of the biggest questions floating in the fanbase is why the film doesn’t have its own permanent attraction at one of the Disney parks? Instead, the film gets about five months in the spotlight as it takes over Disneyland’s (and Tokyo Disneyland) Haunted Mansion each year.

The holiday overlay of the Haunted Mansion first started in October of 2001. This wouldn’t be the first time an attraction experienced a holiday overlay, as the Country Bear Jamboree and “it’s a small world” were both offering holiday versions for several years before Haunted Mansion did. With the  Nightmare Before Christmas  theme, the entire attraction is overtaken by the beloved characters and elements from the film, including Oogie Boogie, Santa Claus, and Zero. The temporary pieces make use of the dim lighting and black light throughout the normal Haunted Mansion and utilize it to recreate dynamic scenes from the animated holiday film.

Haunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland, featuring a pumpkin scarecrow dressed as santa claus

While popular, the holiday overlay unfortunately takes away from the normal version of the ride for almost half of the year. Haunted Mansion closes for about two to three weeks in August prior to the start of the Halloween season in the parks and features the holiday overlay until January, after the Christmas season. Then it takes another several weeks to be reverted and refurbished if necessary, opening back up sometime in late February or March. In total, guests really only have about five full months of the regular Haunted Mansion, with the attraction being down for about a month and a half in total for the overlay. This year alone the attraction was shut down in August for the holiday overlay, and will continue with the  Nightmare Before Christmas  themed decor until January 21.

Related: Disney World Confirms Closure of One of Its Least-Popular Rides

Earlier last year, it was announced that the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland would be undergoing a heavy refurbishment as well as receiving “reimagined” grounds and an extended outdoor queue. Along with that news was the news that it would mean the attraction would undergo an extended period of closure. The Haunted Mansion will close on January 21 and currently does not have a reopening date, with many speculating it will reopen just in time for the Halloween season.

The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland at night

In light of this, one fan took to Reddit to share their upset about the amount of time Haunted Mansion spends in its holiday overlay. u/Historical_Gap3933 posted

This may be an unpopular opinion, but I feel that haunted mansion holiday is up for too long. I grew up (and still do) LOVING haunted mansion. It has always been my favorite ride. But with holiday being up for Halloween and Christmas, it’s basically only open for 6 months out of the year. I just wish it was around for longer. And I know the reason that they have it up for the duration of both holidays. But the the theming of the experience feels very Christmas-y (too Christmas-y for Halloween anyway). But I also know that many people very much enjoy having it up for such a long duration. So maybe it is just a me thing lol.
I miss Haunted Mansion by u/Historical_Gap3933 in Disneyland

Despite their disclaimer that it “may be an unpopular opinion,” the comments are full of people sharing a similar opinion, with one even saying, “this may be the most popular opinion on this sub.” “I like the holiday overlay, but it feels like they should just make Nightmare its own ride and leave the Haunted Mansion alone,” another user said, echoing several other comments under the post. “I’ll be honest, Haunted Mansion Holiday was fun the first time we rode it. After that, I just wanted regular Haunted Mansion back. I wish there was a way they could do it like they do for Mission Breakout: Monsters After Dark, where it’s half and half. I know the imagineers work super hard on the Mansion for the holiday, and they do an amazing job! But I love my Mansion the way it is,” said u/erinngoblaagh27 . However, others pointed out that while it may be a popular opinion online, the in-person lines and wait times for the holiday version of the attraction say otherwise.

The exterior of The Haunted Mansion at night.

“Well… wait times certainly don’t agree with you. HHM is certainly more popular than HM,” said one user. “There are many reasons that HMH goes up when it does & how long it stays up,” u/GrimTiki explained. “Partly because (despite the overall tone here) it is popular – popular enough after 2 decades of being up that the queue for the entire attraction had to be redone to accommodate that popularity – & there’s only so many crew that can & are certified for the work to install it and SWH & everything else around the parks – so unless there’s a massive audience falloff, HMH will be there before Halloween & after the new year for a long time.”

Related: Disney Issues Warning About Taking Mickey Mouse

Unfortunately for fans of the Haunted Mansion, the attraction is expected to be down for most of 2024 for the refurbishment and expansion planned, and will likely reopen just in time for the Halloween season, meaning that guests probably won’t get to experience the normal version of Haunted Mansion at all this year. With the amount of time the attraction already spends down or overlaid, and with it being such a popular attraction on its own, it remains to be seen how fans will react throughout the year as the ride continues to be unavailable.

What do you think about the Haunted Mansion holiday overlay? Is it fitting or is it time for  Nightmare Before Christmas  to get its own attraction?

haunted mansion 2004

The Haunted Mansion (2003)

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Hughes Turner Project

  • February 26, 2004 Setlist

Hughes Turner Project Setlist at Opera and Ballet Theatre, Chelyabinsk, Russia

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  • Hold On Play Video
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  • I Surrender ( Russ Ballard  cover) Play Video
  • Losing My Head Play Video
  • Alone I Breathe Play Video
  • Mistreated ( Deep Purple  cover) Play Video
  • Street of Dreams ( Rainbow  cover) Play Video
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  • Stormbringer ( Deep Purple  cover) Play Video
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  • Spotlight Kid ( Rainbow  cover) Play Video
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  • Burn by Deep Purple
  • Death Alley Driver by Rainbow
  • Gettin' Tighter by Deep Purple
  • I Surrender by Russ Ballard
  • Mistreated by Deep Purple
  • Spotlight Kid by Rainbow
  • Stormbringer by Deep Purple
  • Street of Dreams by Rainbow
  • You Keep On Moving by Deep Purple
  • Alone I Breathe
  • Losing My Head
  • Devil's Road
  • Ride the Storm
  • You Can't Stop Rock & Roll

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  • Hughes Turner Project Heroes of Rock II - Feb 23, 2004 Feb 23 2004
  • Hughes Turner Project RK "Ogni Ufi", Ufa - Feb 25, 2004 Feb 25 2004

Feb 26, 2004

  • Hughes Turner Project Opera and Ballet Theatre, Chelyabinsk - Feb 26, 2004 Feb 26 2004

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  • Hughes Turner Project Saklikent, Ankara - Feb 28, 2004 Feb 28 2004
  • Hughes Turner Project Maslak Venue, Istanbul - Feb 29, 2004 Feb 29 2004

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haunted mansion 2004

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I visited a 'haunted' 18th-century mansion in Manhattan and saw things I couldn't fully explain

  • Built in 1765, Morris-Jumel Mansion is the oldest surviving residence in Manhattan.
  • I went on a tour of the house that included the use of paranormal investigative equipment.
  • While I'm still a skeptic and didn't see any ghosts, I enjoyed learning about the historical site.

Insider Today

Located just off 162nd Street in New York City's Washington Heights neighborhood, there is a historic mansion dating back to the Revolutionary War that is said to be terribly haunted.

The Morris-Jumel Mansion , now a museum, functioned as George Washington's military headquarters during the Battle of Harlem Heights. Later, former vice president Aaron Burr married its owner, Eliza Jumel, who was one of the wealthiest women in America upon her death in 1865.

Jumel is said to haunt the mansion, along with other past residents and soldiers from the War of Independence. Every year around Halloween, the museum offers ghost tours to educate the public about the house and its history of paranormal activity.

I went on a ghost-hunting tour featuring the use of paranormal investigative equipment. While I still emerged skeptical about the existence of spirits, I enjoyed learning more about the little-known historical site — and witnessed some things I can't fully explain.

Here's what it was like.

Morris-Jumel Mansion, which was built in 1765, is the oldest surviving residence in Manhattan.

haunted mansion 2004

The Morris-Jumel Mansion was built by Colonel Roger Morris, a Loyalist who returned to England when the Revolutionary War broke out.

During the war, George Washington used the home as his military headquarters during the Battle of Harlem Heights. It was then purchased by Stephen Jumel, a wealthy French merchant, and his wife Eliza, an actress and socialite as well as a shrewd businesswoman, in 1810. 

After Stephen Jumel died in 1832, Eliza Jumel married former vice president Aaron Burr. She filed for divorce less than a year later, and successfully protected the fortune she accrued from real-estate investments in what is now lower Manhattan. She died in her bedroom on the mansion's second floor in 1865 with a net worth of $1 million, or around $15 million in today's money, according to the Museum of American Finance , making her one of the richest women in America at the time.

The house is also said to be haunted.

haunted mansion 2004

The New York Times reported in 1981 that Eliza Jumel negotiated a $2,000 discount on the house because even then it was said to be haunted by the ghost of a Hessian soldier who fought in the Revolutionary War.

Visitors and employees of the museum have also reported incidents of paranormal activity since it opened to the public in 1904. Some tour groups have claimed to see Jumel in full period dress on the second-floor balcony. Tour guides say they've heard voices and footsteps with no one else present. Others report running into that same Hessian soldier on the stairs.

The museum's staff keeps a record of these unexplained encounters known as the Book of Haunts.

I signed up for one of the mansion's paranormal-investigation tours to see for myself.

haunted mansion 2004

In the months leading up to Halloween, the Morris-Jumel Mansion offers two spooky tour experiences in addition to its regular schedule. The 75-minute candlelight ghost tour, where guides share ghost stories related to the home, costs $39.19. The paranormal investigation, lasting two-and-a-half hours and featuring the use of paranormal investigative equipment, costs $65.87.

Madeline Mungo, the mansion's public programs and visitor services manager, recommended that I book the paranormal investigation for a "more ghostly experience."

I'm not a big believer in ghosts and paranormal activity, but I do love exploring haunted places in the name of journalism.

The tour began with an introduction to the ghost-hunting equipment we'd be using, such as REM pods.

haunted mansion 2004

REM pods light up and make noise when they detect temperature shifts and "changes of the surrounding energy field," which some believe are indicators of paranormal activity, according to the device's  Amazon  listing.

Tour guide Karen Compton explained that staff would bring the REM pod from room to room as our tour progressed.

Each participant also received an electromagnetic field (EMF) meter.

haunted mansion 2004

Electricians use EMF meters to diagnose electrical or wiring issues. Paranormal researchers use them to measure electromagnetic energy that is thought to be associated with ghosts or spirits.

For example, Compton said, if we held up the EMF meter to a piece of wooden furniture with no electric wiring inside and the lights flashed to indicate a strong electromagnetic field, it could mean a ghost is responsible. Or, she said, it could mean that we're near a lightbulb.

Another surprising tool used by paranormal researchers: motion-activated cat ball toys.

haunted mansion 2004

The cat ball toys light up when something touches them or moves near them. If they lit up during the tour with no one nearby, paranormal activity could be one explanation, according to my guide.

I admit the cat balls made me feel more skeptical going into the tour since they seemed like a less scientific approach than the REM pod and EMF meters. Then again, as Compton reminded us, there's no proof for any of this. When it comes to paranormal investigations, it's more about the experience and feeling of the ghost hunt than the mechanics of the hunt itself.

As we assembled in the entryway, Mungo began telling us about the Morris family and the history of the house. Then, the cat ball inside the Octagon Room across the hall went off.

haunted mansion 2004

"This was built as their summer home to escape the city, which is funny to think about now, but at the time the city had only reached ..." Mungo paused as the cat ball lit up in the empty Octagon Room, where it had clearly not been touched. I, along with other members of our group, let out a nervous giggle.

"Interesting. Well, hello," she said, before continuing. "The city had only reached about Canal Street, so this up here was farmland. Before the Morrises, before colonization, this was the land of the Lenape, and this continues to be the unceded land of the Lenape."

The tour continued in the parlor, where Eliza Jumel married Aaron Burr in 1833.

haunted mansion 2004

None of the paranormal-investigation equipment lit up in the parlor, but Compton said that three weeks ago, she walked into the empty house on a Sunday and heard the room's original pianoforte playing music on its own.

In the dining room, Mungo pointed out a clock decorated with a moon that is said to wink at handsome men.

haunted mansion 2004

A few visitors stood in front of the clock, but none reported seeing the moon wink at them. I didn't get a wink, either.

Mungo said that while the dining room "is not one of our more active spaces," the moon is known to be flirty.

"He did wink at me last week, so he is exploring himself," Mungo said, eliciting a laugh from the group.

We then headed upstairs to Jumel's bedroom, where Compton introduced dowsing rods, another ghost-hunting tool.

haunted mansion 2004

Dowsing rods have historically been used to locate underground water sources, Compton said. The L-shaped tools feature long sticks that swing from side to side, even when held still by their handles.

"The idea is that if they cross, then you've found a spirit," she said. "Would anybody like to try them?"

I volunteered. I tried to stay perfectly still, but I could feel the way the slightest movement would cause the rods to swing.

"Eliza, are you here?" Compton asked. 

After a few seconds, the rods crossed. I wasn't convinced that a ghost had caused the movement, but I was excited that something had happened.

I handed them to another member of the group, and the rods pointed towards a lamp in the corner of the room. Compton explained that everything in the room was original except for the carpeting and that lamp. The original fixture shattered during the installation of new carpet, which some interpreted as Jumel expressing her displeasure at the design choice.

"Do you like the carpet now?" someone asked.

The rods remained still.

The parlor that served as George Washington's war room in 1776 seemed particularly active as Compton told us about his valet, an enslaved man named William "Billy" Lee.

haunted mansion 2004

Many people's EMF meters, including my own, flashed yellow, orange, and red, as Compton explained that Lee was a constant presence at Washington's side for two decades and was the only enslaved person freed in his will.

"He's excited to hear you," a member of our group said of Lee.

"William Lee always responds," Compton said.

Did the presence of electromagnetic energy indicate the ghost of Lee? Were all the EMF meters in the small space simply activating each other? Perhaps my EMF meter was responding to the electric candlesticks placed on the windowsills to fill the room with a flickering yellow glow. I don't know enough about how the devices work to say, but I did appreciate the acknowledgement of Washington's complicated history as a slave owner as part of the tour.

Compton said Aaron Burr's bedchamber, where Lin-Manuel Miranda spent time writing his hit musical "Hamilton," has featured a paranormal peculiarity known as EVP, or electronic voice phenomena.

haunted mansion 2004

In paranormal investigations, EVP is defined as "apparent ghost voices attempting to communicate through typical audio recording equipment," according to a 2022 study about paranormal experiences and sensory-processing sensitivity published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE .

Authors Jess M. Williams and Mark Blagrove wrote that EVP is "an example of an illusion that results in the perception of meaningful patterns in meaningless stimuli, referred to as pareidolia, occurring in both visual and auditory forms, such as seeing faces in clouds or hearing phantom words in white noise."

Compton showed us a video taken in the room around seven years ago during a ghost tour like ours. It took a few listens, but I could make out what sounded like a scratchy, high-pitched voice exclaiming something unintelligible. It just as easily could have been a creaky piece of furniture, or distortion caused by overlapping voices in the recording.

Downstairs in the kitchen, we tried some more EVP by recording ourselves asking questions to the home's former residents and listening back to see if we got any response.

haunted mansion 2004

I asked the ghost of Burr what he thought of his portrayal in the musical "Hamilton," but unfortunately did not get a response.

Mungo also spoke about the people who would have worked in the kitchen — the enslaved individuals whose names and stories were never recorded — and asked if they wanted to come forward. The REM pod and recordings remained silent.

I still didn't believe in ghosts by the end of the tour, but I was surprised by how much I wanted to see or hear one during my visit.

haunted mansion 2004

Even as a skeptic, I found myself hoping to hear some mysterious footsteps or feel a sudden chill. This made me hyper-aware of every aspect of my surroundings, which caused some false alarms, like a mysterious shadow that turned out to be my own reflection in a glass barrier. I was struck by how easy it is to interpret anything as a sign of paranormal activity if you want to find it badly enough — even if you don't really believe in it to begin with.

Even so, I enjoyed learning about the way paranormal investigations are conducted and getting to try out some of the equipment, which I never would have known about or bought myself. I also appreciated that the tour welcomed skeptics and simply presented stories and theories without trying to convince anyone of anything.

Mungo told me that more than anything, the goal of the ghost tours is to educate visitors about the history of the mansion and its extraordinary occupants.

haunted mansion 2004

The Morris-Jumel Mansion didn't always embrace its reputation as a haunted building, but Mungo said the museum started offering ghost tours and paranormal investigations about a decade ago to help bring more visitors to the little-known site.

"We're kind of a hidden gem, and because this is a fun thing that has a different audience than museums tend to have, it's a gateway for them to come and see this place," Mungo said. "You do still get the history of the house. We do sneak it in."

Whether or not Jumel's ghost haunts the property, Mungo feels that her story is worth telling.

"Eliza Jumel is the coolest lady in American history and we completely forgot about her," she said. "This is the only place that's still talking about her. It's layers upon layers of history."

haunted mansion 2004

IMAGES

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VIDEO

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