John Paul Jones House

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Unrequited love resulted in eternal heartbreak and restlessness.

Losing a forever home can cause a spirit to stay at the John Paul Jones House.

Past regrets of life choices can cause a spectral correction effort.



john-paul-jones-paranormalThis two story, Georgian style, yellow, colonial, pre-Revolutionary War house with antique windows, and a large flower garden in the front yard, was built in 1758, as a wedding present, from sea captain, Gregory Purcell, to his new wife, Sarah Wentworth Purcell. Gregory and Sarah lived in this house for 18 years, raising their family. The home has a gambrel roof, with a 5 bay front. Throughout the years, the lovely woodwork, carvings and beautiful moldings have been well-preserved, as the home was rescued in 1920, when it was given to the Portsmouth Historical Society and turned into Portsmouth’s first historical museum, because of who wound up renting a room from widow Sarah Purcell.

When Gregory died in 1776; perhaps at sea, Sarah Purcell opened up the rooms for rent, hoping to pay her expenses and care for her children. Gallant, handsome sea warrior, John Paul Jones, who served as a senior lieutenant in the new Continental Navy, and his steward rented rooms from Sarah, in the late 1770s, while his ship, Ranger was being repaired, and again from 1881-1882, while he supervised the work being done on his ship, America.

This Scottish-born seaman was described as being “of medium height, active, but quiet in manner, with a soft voice and a keen eye.”

haunted-paranormalJohn Paul’s first love was the sea and was a great naval commander, who never got around to settling down with a wife and family. He was hoping to do so at one point, when he inherited his brother’s property. Unfortunately, he was a victim of a dishonest executor of his brother’s estate, and went back to what he knew best.

John Paul Jones left Portsmouth in 1782, and never returned. He had battles and sea adventures to participate in and lead, hopefully earning recognition, and a position of importance, securing financial success; leaving women who inadvertently fell in love with him behind, wondering if he would return to them.

Unfortunately, Commander John Paul Jones had no other opportunity to serve in 1788 America, though he was awarded The Congressional Medal of Honor. Some politicians in American government found him to be a little too sure of himself and his abilities, not fully appreciating his tremendous gifts in the art of battle on the sea, and his courageous, brave heart. Others didn’t like the fact that he was born in Scotland, coming from the humble class.

As he was driven to lead and command in conflict on the sea, John Paul Jones joined the Russian service, with the understanding that he could return to America if America needed him to serve once more with the American Navy, as he considered America his adopted country. However, just 4 years later, at the age of 45, John Paul Jones left the Russian service, feeling unappreciated and disappointed that he didn’t get an independent commission for all his accomplishments.

In 1792, John Paul was finally offered by the American government, an appointment as commissioner and consul of the United States at Algiers, but he died before he received it, in Paris, France, feeling very alone, frustrated and stymied. Despite all his accomplishments for the Russians, he wasn’t given the rank that he yearned for.

john-paul-jones-ghostsSeven years after Captain Gregory Purcell died, the Purcell home was sold to next door neighbor, Woodbury Langdon in 1783, who was having his mansion rebuilt after it suffered a big fire. He moved in with his family. After the Langdons owned the home, nine other owners followed, including Samuel Lore, Henry and Alexander Lad, and Senator John F. Parrott.

By 1919, the home was a real fixer-upper opportunity, needing a boatload of funds to properly restore it. We are truly glad that the Portsmouth Historical Society accepted the challenge, and have kept this home in spit spot condition, including the home’s yards, presenting a beautiful curb appeal on the outside as well.

In 1972, the John Paul Jones House became listed on the Historical Register of National Places. Because the property has been restored beautifully, some of the spirits who loved this home have taken up residence.



paranormal-john-paul-jonesUnrequited or lost love can cause heartbreak and restlessness that continues on into the spirit world. People who have had to give up their beloved home, because of unplanned circumstances in their lives, sometimes choose to spend their after-life in their old home, not yet ready to pass on to the other side permanently.

Sarah Purcell must have lost the financial battle, and had to sell her home to her neighbor. Seeing as John Paul Jones was the epitome of a hero, having in spades the warrior mindset, one can see how women could develop huge crushes on this handsome, brave man with a Scottish accent! As his mindset was focused on professional success on the sea, he may not have allowed himself much time for love of the opposite sex; or if he did, he couldn’t put such a relationship before his profession. Any woman he did pay attention to, would be subject to wagging tongues of gossip. The story legend has been suggested that John Paul Jones had “affairs” with both the widow Purcell, and the wife of Woodbury Langdon, Sarah Langdon; though no proof was ever offered.

jones-hauntedPast regrets of choices made in life can cause a spirit to stay in this world, doing what they thought they should’ve done instead.

Perhaps John Paul Jones really was tempted to settle down in Portsmouth with Sarah Purcell, but felt compelled to continue to make his living at sea, a profession he was talented at, and had the possibility of getting some recognition and fame, which must have been important to him, being from a poor family in Scotland. He did stay at Sarah’s house twice, choosing to get his ships sea-ready at Portsmouth. There must have been some affection on some level. It would explain why he never returned to Portsmouth. Being successful was more of a necessity than having a beloved. When all that he wanted professionally eluded him, he found himself alone in a Paris room, defeated, where he died too soon.



Female Entity of Sarah Purcell

People have seen a white, very pale female apparition looking wistfully out the windows of the home, perhaps looking for either Captain Gregory Purcell, or John Paul Jones to return.

Male Entity

Thought to be John Paul Jones. Has communicated with paranormal investigators in the room where he used to stay, identifying himself as being John Paul Jones.

Unknown Presence

Whenever the living enter the shawl room, they may experience the cabinet door of the cabinet located there fly open. Perhaps, this entity is territorial, warning the living not to disturb the shawls in this room!

Female Entity

Thought to be Sarah Langdon. A female entity is seen, standing outside, peaking in the windows of this home.


A Strong Probably So. There have been so many personal experiences reported in this home, it points to some spirit activity. It would be nice if more investigators could try to capture more evidence, but the fact that some contact was made with a bold and courageous entity, probably John Paul himself, does give some credence to a haunting or two happening in the museum. John Paul Jones wasn’t afraid to face his enemies in battle, and he certainly is not afraid to communicate with the living in this world.

Staff members have reported personal experiences since the home became a museum, about 90 years ago.

While I couldn’t find on line any hard evidence captured by paranormal investigators, Thomas D’Agostino has reported in his book, Haunted New Hampshire that a group of paranormal investigators have captured some EVPs or perhaps filmed other evidence, such as flashlight responses, etc. while communicating with John Paul Jones, who has apparently moved back into his old room, that he had rented from Sarah Purcell.



43 Middle Street
Portsmouth, NH 03801

Paul Jones Mansion and Museum can be found in the historic district, on Middle Street, between State St. and Porter St, just a few houses west of the Rockingham building.



  • Haunted New Hampshire
    by Thomas D’Agostino
    Schiffer Books, 2006
  • John Paul Jones House page at Portsmouth
  • Captain John Paul Jones page on “Biographies in Naval History”
  • – “Haunted Places in New Hampshire”

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Our Photos are copyrighted by Tom Carr

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