Just a short drive from Boston across the Charles River takes you to the charming old town of Cambridge. The beautiful streets are home to one of America’s most iconic universities. They are also a setting for some supernatural sightings.
The historic town is full of architecture and evidence of the area’s past. It’s also home to a few mysterious tales. The Hooper-Lee-Nichols House is a stunning place to take in plenty of both.
If you want to do a ghost story tour near Cambridge, go here.
A Historical Treasure
The Hooper-Lee house dates all the way back to 1685, making it the second oldest home in Cambridge. The 300-year-old house sits on a spacious plot on Brattle Street. The home has evolved throughout its long history, undergoing many renovations and additions.
The home has also seen over three centuries of historical events. Many families have taken residence in the home, each leaving their own unique mark. The home has seen a transformation from the original First Period farmhouse to the structure influenced by diverse parts of history still standing today.
Now a part of The National Register of Historic Places, the building is a glimpse into the past. The home has been well preserved and is a great place to visit to learn about the rich history that’s taken place there. The home’s unique rooms are full of the stories that have taken place within the walls over the many years.
Dr. and Mrs. Hooper
Doctor Richard Hooper and his wife Elizabeth were the original owners and builders of the home. Believed to be from New Hampshire, they moved to the area so the doctor could practice medicine. However, locals were leery of the mysterious outsiders.
Sadly, Richard died in 1690, leaving the home to his wife and two children. Elizabeth found that she was unable to provide for herself or support their home. She petitioned to run the property as an inn and began taking in boarders to support herself.
The home’s condition began to deteriorate. Elizabeth was unable to maintain it and the neglect, combined with her frequent questionable guests, led to the downfall of the home. Elizabeth died in 1701, leaving the house neglected. Due to the family’s sagging reputation, she wasn’t even given a proper burial.
Other Notable Residents
Finally, in 1716, the Hooper’s son claimed the home and began the first of a long line of additions to the property. He purchased another home, dismantled it, and used the components to double the size of the property. In 1933, he sold the enlarged estate to Cornelius Waldo.
The merchant made his own set of improvements and additions to the home. Adding a third story and transitioning to a more Georgian look, his goal was to create a desirable rental property. With no record of him ever living the home, he died, and it was sold by his widow in 1758.
Judge Joseph Lee
Judge Joseph Lee was the lucky purchaser of the home. He set forth on even more renovations including adding stucco and an enclosed porch. He embarked on a military and political career that consumed his time and distracted him and his wife from starting a family. He left the home to his nephew Thomas Lee in 1802 and it would switch hands several times before ending up back in the hands of the Lee family.
George and Susan Nichols
After several other owners, George and Susan Nichols purchased the estate in 1850. They further enlarged the property to accommodate them and their six children. The two also made improvements to further elevate the style of the home.
Susan Nichols died in 1892, leaving the home to her children. None of them wanted to take residence in the property so it was doomed for sale and likely destruction. Luckily, a descendant of Judge Joseph Lee, Henry Lee, offered to purchase the property to save the structure.
The Transition to a Landmark
Ironically, when Henry Lee died, he sold the home back to the Nichols family for one dollar. This time, their son John would take ownership. John rented the home to his sister’s family until selling it to yet another family member in 1916. His nephew, Austin was the grandson of George Nichols and purchased the home because of the family’s part of its history.
Austin commissioned a renovation and further enlarged the property. His goal was to modernize it and make it as noble as the other homes in the area. He also added a plaque to commemorate the rich history of the home.
The last couple to reside in the home was William and Francis Emerson. Francis was gifted the home by her very wealthy father as a Christmas gift. Upon her death, Francis donated the home to its current owners, The Cambridge Historical Society.
Mysterious Sights and Sounds
There are many eerie stories surrounding the old home which isn’t surprising given its rich history. Countless spottings have led to the home becoming a hot spot of supernatural activity. In fact, The Hooper-Lee-Nichols House has a reputation for being one of the most haunted places in the Boston area.
An Unsettled Soul
The downfall of Elizabeth Hooper was sad and unfortunate. Unable to recover financially from her husband’s death, she took to drastic measures to attempt to stay afloat. Her crumbling business of an inn and tavern grew more and more unstable.
Shortly after she was punished for having questionable guests, she mysteriously passed away in the home. The locals lacked respect for the woman so her body was left inside the house wrapped in a sheet, with no one caring or willing to give her a proper burial.
To this day, it’s believed that Elizabeth’s spirit might be stuck in the home. She’s been spotted floating about the empty hallways. Is she eternally attempting to prove that she can bring life back to the once deteriorating property? Maybe she’s simply angry at the lack of respect for her body after her death.
A Tragic Death
During the time that George and Susan Nichols lived in the home, they loved to visit with their beloved grandchildren. One Fourth of July during their residency was no different. They invited their son and his young family to the home to celebrate the festive holiday.
Sadly, tragedy struck that day. Their granddaughter accidentally stepped on a smoldering firework. The intense heat caused severe burns to the young girl’s foot. Unfortunately, without access to modern medical care, severe infection set it. The relentless infection could not be controlled and ended up taking their grandaughter’s life.
Since that fateful night, evidence of the young girl has still been heard in the home. Visitors have heard soft crying sounds in empty rooms. The home still is said to have a sad vibe from the tragic events that happened on Independence Day so many decades ago.
An Unexplainable Vision
Many of those that have visited the home have caught a glimpse of a mysterious card game. The spirits of five British-employed Hessian soldiers have been witnessed in the house. These men were likely active soldiers in the American Revolutionary War, fighting for England.
Judge Joseph Lee owned the home at that time. Did the British Loyalist provide a place on his property for the men to hide at the time? Others believe that there may have been a war camp nearby. Either way, the visions of the card game remain unexplainable.
Visiting the Home
Today, the Hooper-Lee-Nichols House is the headquarters of The Cambridge Historical Society. You can visit the home and take a guided tour. Its rooms can even be rented for filming or private events.
Walking amongst the house is interesting as you can see signs of its seemingly endless renovations and editions. Check out the spaces that are part of the original farmhouse. You can also see the parts of the home that were added from other structures. One of the most interesting observations is how the time period of each renovation affected the unique features of the home.
The Hooper-Lee-Nichols House is a can’t miss when in the Boston area. The quick trip outside of the city is well worth it to check out the one-of-a-kind architecture. Plus, you might catch a glimpse of one of the home’s permanent residents.
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