The spirits of Mark Twain and his whole entourage
enjoy their home, which was once taken away by unhappy events.
Wow! What an immense, interesting mansion, definitely one-of-a-kind! The Clemens’ dream home measures 11,500 square feet, including 25 rooms on three spacious floors. The exterior was built in the Victorian Gothic Revival style, with a steeply-pitched roof and an asymmetrical bay window layout. In the interior, the plans called for seven bathrooms, with hot and cold running water, and even flush toilets: no outhouses for the Clemens family! At least one of the bathrooms had a shower. The mansion was lit by gaslight. Heat was provided by duct-work that brought warm air from basement furnaces. The Clemens clan also had a battery-operated burglar alarm system, and an “enunciator” bell, used to call the servants. In 1878, Samuel invested in an early model telephone, and put it in the kitchen.
In 1881, the interiors of the home’s public spaces, and grand entry hall were decorated by Louis C. Tiffany & Co., Associated Artists. The four interior designers, Louis C. Tiffany, Candace Wheeler, Lockwood DeForest and Samuel Coleman, were hired by the Clemenses to use their ideas and talents to create designs representing different parts of the world, and places where they had been and studied. Design motifs from Morocco, India, Japan, China and Turkey can be found throughout the expansive first floor. The drawing room, the library, the conservatory, the first floor guest room, The Mahogany Room, the entry way, the kitchen, and the dining room can all be found on the first floor.
On the second floor, were the master bedroom, the children’s nursery; Jean and Clara, and Suzy’s room and the girls’ school room. The third floor was Samuel’s private wing, where he wrote, played billiards and entertained male guests, smoked cigars and engaged in other manly behavior, like cussing, out of earshot of the ladies and children.
Visitors can tour the home, and what a treat it is. Check out their virtual tour on the official website. Thanks to two federal grants from SAVE OUR TREASURES, totaling 3 million dollars, “the marble floor in the front hallway underwent a historic restoration, and specialists re-stenciled and painted the walls and ceilings, with the help of scanning computers.”
The woodwork was refinished, in order to recover the Tiffany-decorated interiors of the mansion, which includes “50,000 artifacts: manuscripts, historic photographs, family furnishings, and Tiffany glass”. Many of the original furnishings, including Twain’s ornate Venetian bed, an intricately carved mantel from a Scottish castle, and a billiard table, remain at the house.
Mark Twain, who wrote such gems as Tom Sawyer, and Huckleberry Finn, was born Samuel Clemens. In 1870, he married the love of his life, Olivia, called “Livy”; a young woman from a well-to-do family. They moved to Hartford, Connecticut where they bought property along Farmington Avenue In 1873, he hired New York architect Edward Tuckerman Potter to design their new mansion, to be built on the top of the hill that overlooked their land. Potter’s designs included many ideas that were Olivia’s, which she came up with with the help of friends.
While Samuel and Olivia went to Europe, construction on their dream home was started in August of 1873. When the Clemens family moved into their new mansion on September 19th, 1874, a lot of work still had to be completed. The Clemenses had quite a “punch list,” and Samuel endured the same annoyances that many home owners experience: delays in construction, and rising contractor costs.
However, when the mansion was finally finished, Samuel and the family, especially Olivia, simply adored it. Samuel was quoted as saying, “It is a home – and the word never had so much meaning before.”
It wound up costing a whopping $40,000 to $45,000, which was Olivia’s inheritance money. Over the next few years, they took their time furnishing it. Meanwhile, Samuel Clemens wrote very productively in the atmosphere of his third-floor billiard room, producing The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; Old Times on the Mississippi; Sketches, New and Old; and A Tramp Abroad. His creative roll also included many short stories and even a play.
The billiard room served as his office, study and private man cave. After writing a project, he would organize it on the billiard table. Many a Friday night, was the scene of male bonding over games of billiards, and hot scotch.
Unfortunately, the Clemens family was not able to live there very long. In 1891, they moved to Europe, because of financial concerns. While Samuel was a great writer, managing money was an issue for him. In 1903, though they had the means once again to live in their beloved Hartford estate, they decided to sell their beloved mansion, because it triggered too many memories of their late daughter Suzy, who had died while they were in Europe.
The new owner was Richard M Bissell, the president of a fire insurance company. The mansion was a fixer-upper by this time, and Richard renovated to suit his family’s needs, transforming the home significantly from its original design.
In 1917, the mansion was leased to the Kingwood School for Boys. In 1922, it was sold again and used as a coal warehouse, which must have caused the Clemens family to collectively spin in their graves. Finally, it suffered the fate of many big old homes, and was subdivided into apartments, often signaling the decline of the building.
Only a hop, skip and a jump away from having a date with the wrecking ball, the Clemens home was saved in 1929 by a group of dedicated preservationists who formed the Mark Twain Memorial and Library Commission. They bought the mansion and its property just in time. The ground floor was rented out to help pay the bills. Though restoration didn’t begin until 1955, when the surviving daughter, Clara Clemens, donated furniture and family artifacts to the commission, to be used when the museum opened.
While the restoration was in progress, the first floor was opened as a museum in the 1960s, to help raise funds. The mansion was made a National Historic Landmark in 1963, opening up further avenues to raise the funds needed to restore the property, and freeing funds to pay off the mortgage, buy back artifacts, furniture, furnishings and the Clemens’ personal possessions. All of this work was completed in 1974, just in time for the mansion’s 100th anniversary. The restorers must have been very gratified to earn the David E. Finley Award, in 1977, for all their efforts and accomplishments. Despite this, there was more to do, and work continued in restoring many of the interior highlights and grounds to recreate the home’s appearance between 1881 and 1891, when the Clemens family lived there.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
People who have loved their homes and experienced happy and memorable moments during their lifetimes, sometimes choose to spend their afterlives there and coexist with the living. Restoration of old homes will often draw them back, especially if they had to leave before they were ready to, and are longing to come back.
Samuel and Olivia were unlucky in raising their children. Out of four offspring, only one, Clara, grew up and married. Samuel’s son died at the age of two, a death that he blamed on himself, for not dressing the boy warmly enough. Their middle daughter, Jean, was born with a condition that caused seizures. She died from a seizure in the bathtub, by drowning. The death that traumatized both Samuel and Olivia the most, however, was that of his favorite older daughter, Suzy, who died of spinal meningitis at the young age of 24. Suzy was gifted as well in writing, and Sam considered her a prodigy, a ball of energy and life, much like her father.
Three known Spirits reside here. There may be more still to be discovered.
Suzy Clemens – Perhaps Suzy wants to keep her mother company, as well as enjoy her old childhood home, and all the fine memories she had living there and playing with her two sisters.
Olivia Clemens – Livy, who spent her inheritance money creating the home of their dreams, but then had to leave it, because of financial issues. When the Clemenses were able to return, she didn’t feel like living there after the death of their daughter, Suzy. Now that she herself has passed on, and the living have restored her home, she can stay there with Suzy’s spirit, and perhaps with Samuel’s as well, as he may be hiding up in the billiard room.
Perhaps her other children come to visit as well, as the sounds and touches of children have been reported.
Sometimes spirits show themselves at an age when they were happiest. Sometimes spirits appear or manifest as children.
The personal maid of Olivia – Servants who have spent a large portion of their lives serving an employer sometimes want to continue to do so in their afterlife.
Experiences of Elaine Kuzmeskus
As reported by ELAINE KUZMESKUS – Spiritualist medium
Sitting on the round velvet sofa in the entryway – There are often three entities, Victorian Ladies, waiting to greet guests.
1) Susan Clemens, Mark Twain’s 24 year old daughter.
2) Olivia, Mark Twain’s wife; dressed in black, with a black velvet bonnet.
3) The maid of Olivia; an older woman, wearing a more plain outfit, signifying her station in life.
All three of these female entities appreciate and love attention from the living.
When visitors or staff members don’t pay attention to them, a small cool breeze may suddenly be felt.
The lights may gently flicker.
A cat may suddenly come into the room.
An apparition has been seen, looking out an upstairs window, captured in a still photograph.
Personal Experiences of Staff and Docents
Many personal experiences from tour guides and staff have been reported, especially around and in the following rooms: the drawing room, the library, Suzy’s bedroom, the master bedroom, and the nursery.
One male docent reported clearly seeing a transparent female dressed in a hoop skirt floating down a hallway.
Others report hearing laughter and voices.
Still others see the apparitions of young girls playing, and feel their clothes being tugged by children.
A young woman in a flowing white dress likes to float up and down the halls.
A big YES INDEED! The many personal experiences and hard evidence captured strongly suggest that there are Clemens family members in residence.
Since 2009, after GHOST HUNTERS captured positive findings, many groups have investigated this grand old mansion. The museum now has a special series of tours of the Mark Twain House Museum, called the “Graveyard Shift” tours. During these tours, the Clemens’ fascination with spiritualism and seances is discussed, and some of the findings of paranormal investigations conducted in the mansion are shared.
351 Farmington Avenue
Hartford, Connecticut 06105
The Mark Twain Mansion Museum can be found up on a hill on Farmington Avenue, between Gillett Street and Woodland Street.
- CONNECTICUT GHOSTS
by Elaine Kuzmeskus
- “Paranormal Investigators Probe the Unexplained
By Ki Mae Heussner
Oct. 29, 2009
Retrieved August 2, 2018
- Mark Twain House Wikipedia page
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr