The country estate of American author Edith Wharton (1862-1937) is hosting Halloween tours, readings and a masquerade ball. Located in the Berkshires in Lenox, MA, the mansion, named The Mount, was designed by the author and completed in 1902. During the 10 years she and her husband lived there, she wrote several ghost stories in addition to other works. On Halloween night, her last ghost story written before her death, All Souls, will be offered as a special reading in the spooky allure of the Edith Wharton home. Ghost tours will be held later that evening. The weekend festivities conclude the following night with a masquerade ball.
Wharton was born into the traditional privileged class of “old New York” complete with old money and established families. The environment for an upper class young lady at that time was to marry a man of equal or greater wealth from a socially prominent family. She married Teddy Wharton in 1885, 12 years her senior, from an established family in Philadelphia. He had bouts of acute depression so the author designed The Mount and the formal gardens as an isolated retreat for writing and entertaining.
She considered the estate to be her “first real home” even though she only lived there from 1902 to 1911. During those years, she wrote two of her three most famous novels, The House of Mirth (1905) and Ethan Frome (1911). Much of the estate included design ideas from her first non-fiction work, The Decoration of Houses (1897). She produced more than 40 books within 40 years from fiction, authoritative works on architecture and formal gardens, travel, collections of short stories and poetry. She won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel, The Age of Innocence (1920).
Halloween visitors will hear how stories spooked Edith Wharton at home as a child and adult. As a young girl, she was aware of things she could not see. “Formless horrors” haunted her and she said she could feel something unseen behind her. After she was in her 20s and married, she still could not sleep in the same room with a book that had a ghost story in it. She would burn those books because they were “downstairs in the library.” She used the criteria of spine-tingling fear to determine whether or not something was a good ghost story.
The Whartons sold the estate in 1911 and, from 1942 to 1976, it was part of the Foxhollow School for Girls. Residents heard strange noises and experienced unexplainable feelings of being watched in the living quarters of the mansion. The Mount later became the home for the theater company, Shakespeare & Co. Actors also heard strange noises and reported shadowy figures dressed as if they were from the early 20th century. The popular Syfy program, Ghost Hunters, investigated the mansion in 2009 and determined there were significant paranormal indications.
Whether creaking boards are the result of ghosts or the settling of an old house, Halloween stories blend with turn-of-the-century elegance in a spooky evening at the Edith Wharton home. For more information about the Halloween night events or the masquerade ball on Nov. 1, the website is listed below.
By Cynthia Collins
The Mount – Halloween Events
Top photo credit: David Dashiell, Creative Commons license