By Lois Mittino Gray
Mary Emily Fauntleroy’s spirit seems to be stirring these days just in time for the Bicentennial Celebration. In anticipation of the town’s celebration, the Fauntleroy Home was refurbished and reopened for tours last fall after a six year hiatus. Historic New Harmony Interpreters wonder if she is making her presence felt again because the renovations tended to undo everything she did to make it her personal home.
Rachael Peyton, a junior student at USI from Corydon, who has been interning for Historic New Harmony since October, had her Fauntleroy paranormal experience about two weeks ago. “I was leading a tour group through the house when I starting hearing noises upstairs like footsteps. I looked and found no one there and became a bit distraught. I hurried my group out and I know they heard it, too. I know I was very careful to lock the door since I was a bit shook up and wanted to get out of there,” she said.
Later on in the day, Racheal received a call from Amanda Bryden, who has been the HNH Collections Manager for the past nine years. “Do you remember locking the door of the Fauntleroy Home? It’s not like you to leave it completely ajar after a tour,” she asked.
Amanda said the door was standing wide open when she passed by in her golf cart. When she stopped to check on it, she heard what sounded like people talking upstairs so she went up to see if a tour group was still there. After climbing the stairs, no one was up there. A bit unnerved, she called Rachael who assured her it was locked when she left. Both ladies are perplexed by the events of that day, but not surprised, as the house has a history of happenings.
When asked what she considers the most haunted house in New Harmony, Amanda said, “Absolutely without question, it is the Fauntleroy Home.” She recalls a story in which Maxine Watson and an intern were working this past winter in the house. There was a loud knocking on the back door that they both heard. When they went to answer it, no one was there. It had snowed the night before and there were no footprints in the snow on the porch. Creeped out, the ladies locked up and went right back to the office.
“Just because a building is old, doesn’t make it haunted to me. I’ve worked in many old buildings in my career. Most don’t bother me at all,” Amanda noted. “For example, many people say our HNH office at the Elliott House is haunted by a figure on the steps, but I never see anything. However, I could feel the vibes at the Fauntleroy Home even before I knew about the family.”
Both ladies think the tourists can sense it as well. On tours, it is the house that the question is asked the most often if it is haunted. Amanda has seen a picture in a book of a supposed earlier ghost of the home, a woman with child coming down the stairs.
That sighting of a pregnant woman aside, Amanda believes it is Mary Emily Fauntleroy‘s spirit that they sense. She thinks that the former resident may be upset by all the renovations recently done on the house. “We’re undoing everything she did to make it her home trying to restore it back to its original look for the bicentennial.”
The 2007-2013 restoration involved removing 20th century rooms, rebuilding the 19th century kitchen room, repairing the foundation and siding, painting the interior and exterior to the colors revealed in the paint analysis, repairing the chimney and fireplaces, replacing the 20th century windows with a 19th century profile, and installing a new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system. Renovations to the Fauntleroy Home were financed by Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites.
The house, best known as the ‘Birthplace of the Minerva Society,’ now appears more like the 1859 time period than it did even 100 years ago. In 1859, a women’s club called the Minerva Society was conceived in the parlor. This organization was atypical for the time as the intent was to cultivate the minds of young, well-educated women.
Mary Emily Fauntleroy was born about that time period in 1858 to the respected Fauntleroy family of New Harmony. She worked on the family genealogy and put things in the home to make it personal and hers. She sold the house and its contents to the Indiana Federation of Clubs who gave it to the state during World War Two. She died in 1954 and is buried in the Fauntleroy family plot in Maple Hill Cemetery.
Some say she was sad about moving out………some say she never left the house. Spirit stalking is fun to talk about, but I must admit, I was a little creeped out myself while touring the site for this story. When we were talking outside the home while sitting in my car, the power windows went up all by themselves. Did she want me to get going and drive away and leave?
I sure drove off right away. Who wants to enrage Mary Emily?
By Lois Mittino Gray