Hamilton said to haunt old NYC neighborhood

Alexander Hamilton. Photo: Wikipedia
Alexander Hamilton. Photo: Wikipedia

By Hans Holzer

Right now, most people would tell you Hamilton lives on Broadway in New York City. But in reality, the first U.S. Secretary of Treasury died just south of there in the historic Greenwich Village neighborhood.

In 1804, then-Vice President Aaron Burr mortally wounded Hamilton in a famous duel on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. After being shot, Hamilton was taken to and treated in his doctor’s NYC home before moving a few doors down and passing away in his own bed.

Yet, if you stroll through the neighborhood today, you just might discover that Hamilton did not go so quietly into the night. From doors slamming to a tenant seeing a man in 18th-century clothing, the politician’s ghost may still be lingering in the building where he spent his final days.

An excerpt from “Famous Ghosts: True Encounters with The World Beyond” by Hans Holzer.

There stands at number 27, Jane Street, in New York’s picturesque artists’ quarters, Greenwich Village, a mostly wooden house dating back to pre-Revolutionary days. In this house Alexander Hamilton was treated in his final moments. Actually, he died a few houses away, at 80 Jane Street, but No. 27 was the home of John Francis, his doctor, who attended him after the fatal duel with Aaron Burr.

However, the Hamilton house no longer exists, and the wreckers are now after the one of his doctor’s, now occupied by a writer and artist, Jean Karsavina, who has lived there since 1939.

The facts of Hamilton’s untimely passing are well known; in his “Political History of the State of New York,” D.S. Alexander reports that, because of political enmity, “Burr seems to have deliberately determined to kill him.” A letter written by Hamilton calling Burr “despicable” and “not to be trusted with the reins of government” found its way into the press, and Burr demanded an explanation.

Hamilton declined and on June 11, 1804, at Weehawken, New Jersey, Burr took careful aim, and his first shot mortally wounded Hamilton. In the boat back to the city, Hamilton regained consciousness, but knew his end was near. He was taken to Dr. Francis’ house and treated, but died within a few days at his own home, across the street.

Ever since moving into 27 Jane Street, Miss Karsavina has been aware of footsteps, creaking stairs, and the opening and closing of doors; and even the unexplained flushing of a toilet. On one occasion, she found the toilet chain still swinging when there was no one around. “I suppose a toilet that flushes would be a novelty to someone from the eighteenth century,” she is quoted in a brief newspaper account in June of 1957.

She also has seen a blurred “shape,” without being able to give details of the apparition; her upstairs tenant, however, reports that one night not so long ago, “a man in eighteenth-century clothes, with his hair in a queue” walked into her room, looked at her and walked out again.

Miss Karsavina turned out to be a well-read and charming lady who had accepted the possibility of living with a ghost under the same roof. Mrs. Meyers and I went to see her in March 1960. The medium had no idea where we were going.

At first, Mrs. Meyers, still in waking condition, noticed a “shadow” of a man, old with a broad face and bulbous nose; a woman with a black shawl whose name she thought was Deborah, and she thought “someone had a case.” She then described an altar of white lilies, a bridal couple, and a small coffin covered with flowers; then a very old woman “in a coffin that was richly adorned, with relatives including a young boy and girl looking into the open coffin. She got the name of Mrs. Patterson, and the girl” as Miss Lucy.

In another “impression” of the same premises, Mrs. Meyers described an empty coffin, people weeping, talking, milling around, and the American Flag atop the coffin; in the coffin a man’s hat, shoes with silver buckles, gold epaulettes…” She then got close to the man and thought his lungs were filling with liquid and he died with a pain in his side.

Lapsing into semi-trance at this point, Mrs. Meyers described a party of men in a small boat on the water, then a man wearing white pants and a blue coat with blood spilled over the pants. “Two boats were involved, and it is dusk,” she added.

Switching apparently to another period, Mrs. Meyers felt that “something is going on in the cellar, they try to keep attention from what happens downstairs; there is a woman here, being stopped by two men in uniforms with short jackets and round hats with wide brims, and pistols. There is the sound of shrieking, the woman is pushed back violently, men are marching, someone who had been harbored here has to be given up, an old man in a nightshirt and red socks is being dragged out of the house into the snow.”

In still another impression, Mrs. Meyers felt herself drawn up toward the rear of the house where “someone died in childbirth;” in fact, this type of death occurred “several times” in this house. Police were involved, too, but this event or chain of events is of a later period than the initial impressions, she felt. The name Henry Oliver or Oliver Henry came to her mind.

After her return to full consciousness, Mrs. Meyers remarked that there was a chilly area near the center of the downstairs room. Mrs. Meyers “sees” the figure of a slender man, well-formed, over average height, in white trousers, black boots, dark blue coat and tails, white lace in front; he is associated with George Washington and Lafayette, and their faces appear to her, too; she feels Washington may have been in this house. The man she “sees” is a general, she can see his epaulettes. The old woman and the children seen earlier are somehow connected with this, too. He died young, and there “was fightsing in a boat.” Now Mrs. Meyers gets the name “W. Lawrence.” She has a warm feeling about the owner of the house; he took in numbers of people, like refugees.

Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Duel. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Duel. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A “General Mills” stored supplies here – shoes, coats, almost like a military post; food is being handed out. The name Bradley is given. Then Mrs. Meyers sees an old man playing a cornet; two men in white trousers “seen” seated at a long table, bent over papers, with a crystal chandelier above.

After the séance, Miss Karsavina confirmed that the house belonged to Hamilton’s physician, and as late as 1825 was owned by a doctor, who happened to be the doctor for the Metropolitan Opera House. The cornet player might have been one of his patients.

In pre-Revolutionary days, the house may have been used as headquarters of an “underground railroad,” around 1730, when the police tried to pick up the alleged instigators of the so-called “Slave Plot,” evidently being sheltered here.

“Lawrence” may refer to the portrait of Washington by Lawrence which used to hang over the fireplace in the house. On the other hand, I found a T. Lawrence, M. D., at 146 Greenwich Street, in Elliot’s Improved Directory for New York (1812); and a “Widow Patterson” is listed by Longworth (1803) at 177 William Street; a William Lawrence, druggist, at 80 John Street.

According to Charles Burr Todd’s “Story of New York”, two of Hamilton’s pallbearers were Oliver Wolcott and John L. Lawrence. The other names mentioned could not be found. The description of the man in white trousers is of course the perfect image of Hamilton, and the goings-on at the house with its many coffins, and women dying in childbirth, are indeed understandable for a doctor’s residence.

It does not seem surprising that Alexander Hamilton’s shade should wish to roam about the house of the man who tried, vainly, to save his life.

This story was originally featured on The-Line-Up.com. The Lineup is the premier digital destination for fans of true crime, horror, the mysterious and the paranormal.