Baleroy Mansion

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Baleroy Mansion
General information
Location West Mermaid Lane, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Coordinates Coordinates: 40°03′57″N 75°11′58″W / 40.06592°N 75.19958°W / 40.06592; -75.19958
Technical details
Size 22,088 ft. (land)
5,904 ft. (living)
Other information
Number of rooms 33

The Baleroy Mansion is a 32-room estate located in the historic and affluent Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the United States. It has obtained the title of "Most Haunted Home in America"[1] due to its alleged infestation of spirits, ghosts, jinns, demons, angels or other supernatural beings.[2] The mansion has been featured in a number of TV shows and books that deal with haunted houses.[3] Others have described it as "the most haunted house in Philadelphia".[4] The name "Baleroy" was chosen by its owner George Meade Easby,[5] great-grandson of General George Meade (hero of the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War). The estate's name was likely derived from Balleroy in France.

History[edit]

The mansion or its separate carriage house was originally built in 1911.[6][unreliable source?] The first owner was a carpenter who is said to have murdered his wife inside the main house. It was purchased in 1926 by "a family that traces its roots to Easby Abbey in 12th Century Yorkshire, England; that crossed over to America in 1683 aboard the Welcome with William Penn, and that counts among its descendants three - 'at least three that I know of,' says Easby - signers of the Declaration of Independence."[7] Baleroy housed many antique pieces that were handed down by famous historical people, including Napoleon of France, U.S. General George Meade, Thomas Jefferson, and others.

After the Easbys moved into this large and spacious estate in 1926, George Meade Easby and his younger brother (May Stevenson Easby, Jr., 1920-1931[8]) were playing one day in the courtyard of the mansion and laughing at their reflections in the main courtyard fountain, when Steven's reflection turned into a skull. George's reflection was normal. Steven died in 1931 from an undetermined childhood disease. This greatly devastated George and his parents, but they continued living in the mansion for the rest of their lives. They along with their housekeepers and visitors have experienced many hauntings throughout the years.[9]

George's mother died in 1962 at the age of about 82 and his father died in 1969, reaching about 90. Following their deaths Easby began to hire housekeepers to do general work in and around the mansion. However, none of the workers lived with him. In July 1992, Baleroy Mansion was burglarized by a very skillful thief. An estimated $202,000 worth of antiques were carefully stolen without ransacking or leaving a sign of forced entry. The police who were investigating the incident stated, "The thief seemed to know what he was looking for and where it was kept."[10] In an article dated April 3, 1999, in the Inquirer Magazine, "Easby tells a chilling tale of waking up and feeling someone clutching his arm. When he turned on the light, no one was there."[3]

In July 2012, indie rock band The Walkmen shot a music video for their song "The Love You Love" at Baleroy. The band was looking for a unique location to support the surreal nature of the video and witnessed some unexplainable events while there.[11]

2005 will alteration and death of George Meade Easby[edit]

Robert Yrigoyen, Pam Chapman and David B. Devan joined the Opera Company of Philadelphia in January 2006 after an extensive North American search for the company's first managing director.

George Meade Easby died on 11 December 2005, at the age of 87.[7] About a year his death, on 29 June 2004, Easby and Robert Paul Yrigoyen[12] signed a "Life Partnership Verification Statement".[13] The signing of this document along with a deed transfer took place at Easby's bedroom inside Baleroy Mansion and without any witnesses or informing anyone.[14]:11-12 Less than a year later, on 3 March 2005, Easby's 1999 will was altered or modified in a similar way. For the first time it authorized the legal transfer of Easby's entire properties and treasures (including millions of dollars invested in financial institutions and over 100,000 antiques) to Yrigoyen, a man that had been living with Easby since 1995. Easby had always wanted to preserve Baleroy Mansion and the valuable antiques it sheltered.[14] This led to Yrigoyen becoming a suspect of financial crimes, especially since the will was only signed in Easby's bedroom and without any witnesses, as well as the fact that Yrigoyen was engaged in selling Easby's treasure pieces for hundreds of thousands of dollars, signing Easby's name throughout the years and playing around with Easby's millions of dollars. In December 2006, the Pennsylvania Attorney General filed an appeal from the decree of the Register of Wills granting probate of the 2005 will on the grounds of undue influence and lack of testamentary capacity.

Many close friends of Easby may have been unaware of Easby's death or the controversy that began over the disputed will. They, including Easby's long-time friend Lloyd Gross,[9] were not subpoenad or mentioned in the court proceedings. Even one of the private nurses who cared for Easby, Zilpha Brown, did not show up for court as she was living in Saint Vincent in the Caribbean. The nurses were paid $100,000 a year to watch over Easby at his Baleroy Mansion. In 2008, the judge presiding over the matter concluded by stating:

"The Life Partnership Verification Statement that Meade and Robert signed on June 29, 2004 contains various provisions including one that the 'Partners agree to share the common necessities of life and to be responsible for each other's common welfare.' Ironically, the various legal and financial arrangements the petitioners invoke to allege undue influence such as joint savings accounts, powers of attorney, real estate holdings in joint names are also essential manifestations of a shared life of common necessities akin to a marriage. The record establishes that Robert and Meade had a longstanding, loving relationship, at the end of which Robert not only gently cared for Meade by making sure he had 24-hour nursing care, but also by assuring him the opportunity to meet with his friends in his beloved Baleroy. Based on the record presented, the respondent established by clear and convincing evidence the absence of undue influence."[14]:38

— John W. Herron

On July 9, 2012, Baleroy Mansion was sold after all antiques were sold at auction or donated to local museums. Most of Easby's antique cars have been sold in recent years.[15] They include the 1954 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith which was previously owned by Prince Aly Khan, husband of the American actress Rita Hayworth and father of Aga Khan IV,[16] and Easby's first automobile, the 1935 Packard Super Eight which was sold for $110,000.[15] A number of other antique items belonging to Easby have also been sold through auctions.

Hauntings[edit]

George Meade Easby allegedly first experienced paranormal activity shortly after moving into Baleroy Mansion, before the death of his playful young brother Steven.[2] Among the many claimed spirits or ghosts at Baleroy Mansion, one is said to be Easby's brother Steven, whose portrait once fell and landed about 15 feet (4.6 m) away from where it was hanging. The string or rope on the back of the portrait and the hook on the wall were reported to be still intact. Steven's full-body spirit has been said to haunt his room and that Easby supposedly encountered it when he was a child. A number of people have claimed to have seen the ghost of Steven lurking around them. David Beltz and a co-worker were busy working outside in the back of the house when they claimed to see young Steven looking at them from inside the house. Beltz stated: "I noticed a person looking out the window at me, a young kid with blond hair. He had his hands on the sill and was looking down toward the yard. I said to my buddy, 'Look at that little kid.' Then it just faded off and my buddy said, 'Man, that was really strange.'"[2] The co-worker refused to work at Baleroy again. According to Beltz, the co-worker "would never come back. He was really scared. He just said that he felt somebody stare at him all the time."[2]

One of the other alleged ghosts is said to be Easby's mother, Henrietta Meade Large Easby (1880-1962), who was described as "prim and reserved, a Victorian lady of few words". Psychic Judith Richardson Haimes claimed that she established communication with Easby's mother and some of the other ghosts of Baleroy.[2] The ghost of Thomas Jefferson reportedly haunts the dining room, standing beside a tall grandfather clock. Most of the furniture in the dining room belonged to General George Meade and were passed down to Easby's mother, including a large dining table.[17]

Another claimed ghost is an unknown elderly woman that reportedly walks the upstairs hallway with a cane. Family members and guests were toyed with by the spirits, and it was never uncommon to hear knocking and unexplained footsteps. A respected minister was hit by a flying antique pot that flew like a missile. Electrical fields in the house also attract lightning, and the electricity would go off for no reason. People, including family members, housekeepers, visitors, and even renovators, claim to have seen these ghosts.[18][19] Others have allegedly seen or heard 1930s phantom cars that drove up the long and narrow drive way into the estate's parking area,[3] but when they went to look there was nothing to see.[20]

Blue room and the chair of death[edit]

In the infamous blue room of the mansion, a 200-year-old blue chair known as the "chair of death" is said to be cursed.[7] It has been said that when someone sits in it, the person dies. About four people are said to have died, and Easby then banned people from sitting in the chair.[3][7] The chair was said to be owned by Napoleon. It has been said that the chair is haunted by the ghost of Amanda,[4] a red mist that is said to kill people who sit in the chair. The chair is said to have been made by an evil warlock in the 18th/19th century.

Tours[edit]

Although Baleroy was once open to tours showcasing its large collection of antiques, the antiques have been removed and the property is now a private home. Public tours are currently unavailable.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Coulombe, Charles A. (2004). Haunted Places in America: A Guide to Spooked and Spooky Public Places in the United States. Globe Pequot. p. 184. ISBN 1-5992-1706-6. Retrieved 2013-12-16. 
  2. ^ a b c d e The Baleroy Mansion
  3. ^ a b c d "Chestnut Hill's Baleroy Mansion's Many Ghost Stories". chestnuthill.patch.com. October 31, 2011. Retrieved 2013-12-16. 
  4. ^ a b Adams, Charles J., III (1998). Philadelphia Ghost Stories. Exeter House Books. p. 190. ISBN 1-8806-8312-1. Retrieved 2013-12-16. 
  5. ^ Avery, Ron (July 26, 1991). "'Squire' Revels in Domain: Baleroy's Items Are Lent to White House and Museums". Philadelphia Media Network. Retrieved 2013-12-16. 
  6. ^ Granato, Sherri. "Haunted America: The Ghosts of the Baleroy Mansion in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania". Yahoo! Voices. Retrieved 2 November 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c d Ginny Wiegand (December 3, 1990). "A Haunting Tale of Blue Blood and Red Tape". Philadelphia Media Network. Retrieved 2013-12-16. 
  8. ^ "May Stevenson Easby, Jr". Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  9. ^ a b Nesbitt, Mark (2008). The Big Book of Pennsylvania Ghost Stories. Stackpole Books. p. 3. ISBN 0-8117-4017-X. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  10. ^ McGuire, Jack (July 8, 1992). "A Murky Tale of Antiquity". Philadelphia Media Network. Retrieved 2013-12-21. 
  11. ^ Urban Outfitters Blog. "UO Video Series: The Walkmen". Retrieved 2 July 2012. 
  12. ^ "Orphans' Court Division Docket Report". 1363AP of 2006. phila.gov. 2007. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  13. ^ http://www.docstoc.com/docs/83057094/Life-Partner-Certificate
  14. ^ a b c "Estate of George Gordon Meade Easby, Deceased" (PDF). Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia. 2008. Retrieved 2013-12-23. 
  15. ^ a b "1935 Packard Super Eight Convertible Sedan (Engine no. 755611 - Vehicle no. 883-209)". Retrieved 2013-12-17. This Packard Super Eight, which the 18-year-old Easby purchased new on July 9, 1936, from Goldner Brothers, of Germantown, Pennsylvania. In many ways, the convertible sedan represented the ultimate eight-cylinder offering from East Grand Boulevard that year. Built on the 1205 chassis, it stretched 144 inches from axle to axle and was powered by a 150-horsepower, silky-smooth L-head straight eight, sending its power through an all-synchromesh transmission. Befitting a formal car, Easby's Packard was finished in a stately all-over black with green button-tufted leather upholstery and canvas top; only the door saddles were painted cream. In all likelihood, the top on this car has never been put down. Easby enjoyed a good drink more than he enjoyed the open air, and the top well behind the rear seat was fitted out with a well-equipped cocktail bar. With no space for the top to go down into, it was never lowered. The Packard was used regularly until 1947, and then it was put up on blocks in the carriage house at the Baleroy Mansion. Other expensive cars came and went in George Gordon Meade Easby's life, but the big Super Eight never left Mermaid Lane... 
  16. ^ "1954 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith (1954 Short Wheelbase Style 7249 Tourer - LWVH114)". classicdriver.com. Retrieved 2013-12-16. The automobile reportedly then passed to the Ali Kahn, husband of Rita Hayworth, on its way to its very long term owner, George Gordon Meade Easby. 
  17. ^ Riccio, Dolores (1989). Haunted Houses U.S.A. United States: Gallery Books. ISBN 0-6716-6258-9. Retrieved 2013-12-21. 
  18. ^ Ronan Sims, Gayle (December 14, 2005). "George Gordon Meade Easby, 87". Philadelphia Media Network. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  19. ^ "Spirited Welcome". People. October 31, 1994. Retrieved 2013-12-16. Guests at George Easby's Historic Philadelphia Mansion Discover They May Not Be Alone 
  20. ^ Nesbitt, Mark; Patty A. Wilson (2006). Haunted Pennsylvania: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Keystone State. Stackpole Books. p. 23. ISBN 0-8117-3298-3. Retrieved 2013-12-20. 

External links[edit]