Updated: Apr 27, 2020
I’ve talked at least once in the past about the hauntings in my home state of Mississippi. Living both in this state and relatively close to New Orleans, I’m in a part of the world that’s basically a gold mine for (alleged) paranormal activity, so why not talk about it? Today I’m going to tell you about Mississippi’s most haunted house in one of America’s most haunted towns. Let’s talk about McRaven House.
McRaven House, or McRaven Mansion, sits at 1445 Harrison Street in Vicksburg. It’s the oldest structure in Warren County — in fact, it was built before Vicksburg was a town or even before Mississippi was a state! At the time the building now known as McRaven went up, Vicksburg was known as Walnut Hills and Harrison Street was known as McRaven Street — hence the name.
McRaven House was originally built in 1797, but it wasn’t the sprawling mansion it is today. It started out as a small, two story hideout for a highway bandit named Andrew Glass. Glass travelled up and down the Natchez Trace on horseback, holding people up at gunpoint and robbing them. Glass’s original house was a pretty simple structure, as he probably didn’t need much else — as long as it did its job.
Everyone seems to agree that Andrew Glass died in the house, but it’s not clear how he died. There’s a legend that he was shot during a robbery and knew he was going to die, but managed to escape and get back home, where he asked his wife to kill him to put him out of his misery. Another version of the story said Glass was a womanizer and his wife slit his throat out of anger and jealousy. Whatever happened, his death paved the way for more people to live — and die — in the house.
After Glass’s death, and his wife’s presumed evacuation of the house, ownership went to Newitt Vick, who Vicksburg was named for. Then in 1836, Warren County sheriff Steven Howard and his wife, Mary Elizabeth, bought the house. The couple was expecting their first child and wanted to expand the tiny house to accommodate their growing family. They built the second part of the house, adding a bedroom, a covered porch and a staircase. (When Andrew Glass built the house, the second floor was only accessible by a ladder.)
The Howards no doubt improved on the house and made it more suitable for a family. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t be able to utilize their renovations. Just two weeks after giving birth, Mary Elizabeth died of complications at the age of 15. There was contradicting information on their baby’s gender; some sources said she had a girl, others said she had a boy. But regardless, Steven Howard left McRaven just a couple of years after his wife’s death. He died shortly after as well, and their baby was raised by his parents.
I couldn’t figure out what happened to the house for the rest of the 1830’s or even 1840’s. But in 1849, it was bought by a man named John Bobb.
John Bobb built the third portion of house, made it more elegant and added a men’s changing room and Greek Revival facade, the latter of which was later replaced with pillars.
This was the house’s last major renovation. Other than Steven Howard, who closed in some areas of the house, most of the renovation were just add ons, and no other parts of the house were changed. Because of this, National Geographic once dubbed the house the “time capsule of the South.”
The picture here shows the renovations that the house underwent over the years and how it grew. The portion on the left was built by Andrew Glass, the one next to it by the Howards, and the last one by the Bobbs.
the Civil War
In 1861, the Civil War began. This obviously had a huge impact on the country, especially Vicksburg. One source did say McRaven served as a Confederate campsite at one point. But most of what I found about the house and the Civil war concerned the famous siege of Vicksburg in 1863.
During the siege, John Bobb and his wife, Selena*, used the house as a hospital for both Union and Confederate soldiers. They built a cave under the home and stayed there during the siege, but the soldiers didn’t have this protection. Many of them died from common war maladies, such as botched surgeries, and the house acquired plenty of damage during the siege, much of it from cannonballs. 11 unidentified bodies are buried on the property, and in most cases, if not all, only pieces of the person’s body could be found — a leg here, an arm there. But as dark as this is, the house wasn’t done with death.
*I’ve only heard her name spoken, not written down, so it may be misspelled. I couldn’t figure out the exact spelling.
About a year after the siege, John Bobb saw Union soldiers destroying the rose bushes in his yard. He threw a brick at one of them and knocked him down, and the soldiers swore revenge. Later that night, the soldiers came back with more friends, dragged John Bobb out of bed, shot him multiple times and killed him. His wife sold the house and moved to Louisiana.
After John Bobb’s death and his wife leaving, McRaven stayed vacant for a few years until it was bought by the Murray family in 1866. Patriarch William Murray, his wife and some of their children died in the house. But two of their daughters, Ella and Annie, never married and lived in the house together well into the 1900’s.
The Murray sisters rarely left the house and lived with no modern conveniences of the time except a telephone. They were also known to be hoarders, ordering so many things from catalogues that they filled up their house and could only use the dining room. Ella died in 1960 and, after her death, Annie sold the house and moved to a nursing home.
The house was then bought by the Bradleys, who turned it into a tour home in 1961. In 1979, the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It was listed as the Bobb House and their website says the address is 1503 Harrison, not 1445. I’m not sure why.
The house switched hands again in 1985, this time bought by a man named Leyland French, who converted it back to a residence. But the ghosts of McRaven, if they do exist, weren’t too fond of French. He was physically hurt several times while living there, including one incident where an “unseen force” pushed him to the floor. Another time, a drawer slammed shut on his finger and broke his thumb. After this, French contact a priest and had the house blessed. This seemed to help a bit, and French stayed in the house until he put it up for sale in 2007 and left to take care of his parents. He still owned the house and even had caretakers for upkeep of the property, but he didn’t live there.
In 2015, the house was sold to the Reed family. French had put the house on the market for $1.75 million, though I doubt that’s how much it eventually sold for. Despite the caretakers, the house was falling into disrepair and the Reeds wanted to save it. They also turned it back into a tour house/museum. As far as I know, they still own it and it’s used as a museum today.
So with all that death and dark history, it’s no surprise that there is a TON of paranormal activity. I’ve looked into a lot of haunted places, and McRaven has more documentation of paranormal activity than almost any other one I’ve come across. I definitely can’t get into all of it here, but I’ll try to hit all the major points.
By far, the most active ghost is Mary Elizabeth Howard. Her old bedroom still has a lot of her things in it, including the bed she died in. Brian Riley, a tour guide at the house, says he once saw a teenage girl in “the 1836 bedroom” looking out the window — and she disappeared when she saw him. He also said a dresser in that bedroom opened and closed by itself. Since Mary Elizabeth died in the house in 1836 at the age of 15, I think it’s safe to pin these things on her.
Mary Elizabeth is said to be a friendly ghost, but also loves to play pranks. She’s known to lead guests astray, mess with lights and alarms, touch people and even “photobomb” guests. At one point, her antics got so crazy that the police got involved! But Mary Elizabeth has an understandable softer side as well — she’s especially active around young mothers and children.
The house’s first owner, Andrew Glass has also been spotted in the room he lived in. And even people who didn’t seem him still claimed to feel his presence. Women say they’re touched by an unseen force and men suffer “irrational bouts of anger.” Brian Riley claims to have spotted a chair in Glass’s room tilt back and then slam forward. Glass’s ghost is also blamed for things that go missing in the house — but the items always show back up.
And, of course, the ghost of the house’s last major renovator, John Bobb, has also been spotted. Brian Riley claims to have seen Bobb’s ghost twice — once in the middle of a tour! People have spotted Bobb strolling on the porch, smoking a cigar, and have even heard him talk. He’s also been seen in the men’s changing room, where the smell of cigar smoke has also been reported.
William Murray has also been spotted in the house, and phantom piano playing has been attributed to his daughters, Annie and Ella.
In addition to former owners, Civil War soldiers are a common sight. One was reportedly spotted as early as 1864, when a reporter saw a traitorous Confederate soldier that has been spotted multiple times since. Guests on guided tours have reported a Confederate soldier standing behind them, spotting his reflection in a mirror.
Another group said to haunt the property is Native Americans. In the 1830’s, the federal government forced tens of thousands of Native Americans in the southeastern United States to make an over 5,000 mile journey on foot to a territory designated for them in modern day Oklahoma. This journey is know as the Trail of Tears. Part of this trail winds through Mississippi, maybe even the McRaven property. Since many Native Americans died on this journey, it’s no surprise they’ve been spotted here as well.
Other reported activity include orbs. In one incident, Janis Raley, president of the Ghost Preservation League, was taking pictures in the cemetery. She and a colleague started playing songs from the time period, including the popular Dixie. When they looked at the pictures, the ones taken while Dixie was playing had tons of orbs in them. These orbs are also reportedly common on important dates, like the anniversaries of battles or reenactments.
Other activity includes objects downstairs moving on their own, as well as phantom taps in the men’s changing room. Two ghost boys named Eric and Peekaboo are said to play with toys around the house.
A bunch of people have documented their experiences in the house. The blog on McRaven’s official site has several, and there’s also a 2017 paranormal investigation by Society of the Supernatural and an episode of Ghost Adventures that feature the house.
Today, the house still functions as a tour house and museum, offering a history tour, a haunted tour and a “combination” tour. You can also host your own paranormal investigation, which I’m sure is where a lot of the footage spread over the internet comes from.
As of April 2020, the house is closed because of the virus, but you can still book a virtual tour. Tours are normally $15 for adults and $10 for children, so I assume they’d be about the same for a virtual tour, but don’t quote me on that. I will leave information about that below as well. (Their Facebook page says the tours are coming “very soon,” so I’ll try to update you if/when this changes.)
So that’s all I have for you today on McRaven House and, as always, I would love to know your thoughts. Do you think the house is really haunted? Have you ever been there, or would you like to go, either by virtual tour or in person one day when the world returns to some semblance of normalcy? Let me know in the comments.