Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Philadelphia Ghost Story

In a letter dated November 8, 1801, Maria Fenno wrote to Rebecca about an incident at a well known Philadelphia hostelry:

Mr. John Bleecker and a friend stayed at the City Tavern "where a ghost...disturbed their repose. It seems they slept in the room where poor Jackson put an end to his existence and the ghost as they described it to Mr. Otto [presumably the innkeeper] the next morning answered the description of that unfortunate young man."

Maria took the rational view: she thought that someone who knew of the "pranks at Princeton" perpetrated by Bleeker and his friend "determined to frighten them by a frolick of that kind." However, she felt herself to be in the minority and worried that the incident "would be an injury to the house as many people credit the story." The tale had no lasting effects, and the City Tavern survived for many years to come.

(The letter quoted here is from the Gratz Family Collection, Manuscript Collection No. 72, the American Philosophical Society.)

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