Last October I attended a nighttime ghost tour of Irvington. This year I toured a large, reportedly haunted, house during the day.
Built in 1858, the Hannah House is in need of repairs—to the tune of $2 million dollars. But like other sites in Indiana on the National Register of Historic Places, the Hannah House does not receive any State funds.
Alexander Hannah, who built the house, presumably went to California during the gold rush, making his fortune as a store owner selling goods to prospectors. After five years, he returned home and built what has become known as the Hannah House. In the front ran a toll road, for which he collected tolls. In the back ran railroad tracks.
Railroad? Hannah was descended from Quakers and according to legend, hosted runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad. Nearby tunnels to the house corroborate this legend. Tragedy struck. One night eight slaves sleeping in the cellar knocked over an oil lamp and burned to death. To escape persecution for helping runaway slaves, Hannah secretly buried the bodies somewhere in the cellar.
In 1872, he married. Sadly though the nursery next to Elizabeth’s bedroom was never used. Except for a stillborn child (of which there are no records but there is reportedly a small tombstone by theirs in Crown Hill Cemetery), he and Elizabeth never had children.
The house is furnished with period pieces. All of the original furniture was stolen between the time that Hannah died (1895) and when new owners moved in (1899). However, three of the original pieces did find their way back to the house.
Found their way back? During an estate sale, the volunteers of Hannah House were told about three pieces that would be perfect for the house. When they went to examine them, they discovered the name Hannah engraved on the back of the pieces. These pieces all belonged to “Grandma” and fill her room on the second floor once again. The bed was actually where she passed away.
Across the hall from her room is Hannah’s office, which has a secret passageway that leads down the back stairs to the kitchen. According to the stories recounted, it led to a stockpile of guns that the servants—former slaves—had access to in case they needed to protect themselves, the Hannahs, or the property.
The cellar is a step back in time, housing rows and rows of what looks like canned foods from another century. Covered with dust and dirt, some of the contents were recognizable—peaches, green beans—others not so much. Apparently, these glass jars and their contents were canned by Grandma herself.
As for paranormal behavior in the house, our tour guide recounted lots of stories—from legends and first-hand experiences. The Hannah House hosts nighttime ghost tours and has welcomed various psychics over the years. Interestingly, the psychics all recount the same story about the attic, that voodoo was performed there, presumably by slaves from New Orleans or environs.
The tour guide himself has heard sounds and seen spirits during maintenance work on the house well as during the numerous times that he has slept (!) in the house. He counted around a dozen distinct spirits that he has met in the house—none are malicious, one is frightened. While in the house, he has heard steps overhead that he traced up floor to floor to the locked attic. He has seen the spirit of what appeared to be a bounty hunter with long beard, coat, and guns at the top of the stairs. He has had lights turned off and doors closed on him, and heard a child’s laughter and a baby’s cry.
After his first night sleeping in Grandma’s bed, he woke with long scratches down his neck, but since then has been unmolested in the bed. On several other occasions sleeping in her room, he has seen the chandelier swing, the baby carriage in the room rock back and forth, and a man walking back and forth in the hallway outside of the room. Noise from a party on the first floor stopped when he peered over the railing to see what the commotion was about.
Thankfully, our tour was not interrupted by unexpected visitors—though Grandma’s room was eerily cold compared to the rest of the house, the usual sign of paranormal activity. Was the chill in her room an oddity or the presence of spirits?