THE GHOST OF MELROSE HALL 13 October 1895 Brooklyn Daily Eagle A Flatbush Legend Substantiated by Ancient Chronicles ___________________ TRAGIC FATE OF THE FAIR ALVA ___________________ Immured in a Secret Chamber She Died of Starvation and for Many Years Her Restless Spirit Haunted the Old Mansion. It Still Stands on Bedford Avenue, Between Clarkson and Winthrop Streets. ___________________No one would suspect that the peace of that venerable, orderly, conservative old town of Flatbush has ever been disturbed by a ghost, and if it were not for the haunted house, part of which stands to this day, and the testimony of well authenticated chronicles, no body would believe it. But there are those in Flatbush at the present time, intelligent, educated, and quite sane, who would make a long detour rather than pass a certain spot there between 12 and 1 o'clock at night. That site is the old site of Melrose Hall, on Bedford avenue, between Clarkson and Winthrop streets. Melrose Hall stood, until five years ago, at the end of that magnificent double row of pines in Melrose Park. A regal residence it was a hundred and fifty years ago, when it was occupied by Colonel William AXTELL, a loyalist and member of the King's council. It was the scene of sumptuous dinners, splendid balls, costly private theatricals and receptions that were attended by men famous in civil and military life and women renowned for their beauty and accomplishments. The house was situated in park like grounds that covered twenty acres. It was a large, spacious old fashioned structure with no pretensions to architectural beauty. It was of frame, with great heavy, hewn timbers, the main building two and a half stories high, with wings on either side. But inside it was a pretentious and costly mansion. The great double oaken door led into an immense hall, taking up the entire length and depth of the main house. It was wainscoted in dark oak, the polished floor covered with rich Persian rugs, bear, tiger and lion skins, and the walls were hung with paintings by old masters, interspersed with instruments of war and the chase, while in the center is a fireplace large enough to roast an ox. To the left, a broad mahogany staircase leads to the rooms above. The whole of the lower floor in the right wing was taken up by the library, and that of the left wing, by an oak paneled ballroom. The living, drawing and guest rooms were in the upper stories of the main building and over the library. There was only one apartment over the ballroom and that is the one upon which is based the ghostly history of Melrose Hall. It had no visible communication with the rest of the house and the only light it received was from two small diamond shaped, stained glass windows, glazed in lead. They were always tightly closed. The room contained the family skeleton. Colonel AXTELL, according to tradition, was the second son of an English nobleman, and he married the daughter of a wealthy British merchant. His fiance was accomplished and prepossessing, but unfortunately she had a sister named Alva whom the colonel fell in love with. His engagement had been announced, the wedding day was only a week off, but he was determined to marry his intended wife's sister. However, when he found out that if he had his way he would be disowned by his family and that from his future father-in-law not a penny was to be expected, he feared poverty for himself, as that he could offer no future to the woman he loved better than life. Shortly after the wedding he received an important appointment in the American colonies, and had immediately set sail for New York. The next ship which sailed for that port from England bore the colonel's beautiful sister-in-law, who, as the story goes, had disguised herself by putting on men's clothes. Arrived in this country she dressed herself again in women's clothes and secured a position as a maid. She saw her sister and Colonel AXTELL driving a magnificent carriage attended by a retinue of mounted servants and she decided to reveal herself to him and did so. They resolved never again to be separated. It was then that Colonel AXTELL built Melrose Hall. The apartment over the ballroom he fitted up with all the luxury and comfort that money could buy and for three years it was the living tomb of Alva. The door to this room, covered by the life size painting of one of the colonel's ancestors, communicated with his study, which no one, except an old Negro woman, was ever permitted to enter. She was one of the hundred slaves kept by the colonel and was devoted to him and no one beside her and the colonel knew what the secret chamber contained. Three years passed, when there was a serious Indian outbreak, necessitating Colonel AXTELL'S absence from home for a month or six weeks. Upon his return he found that the old Negress had died a week after his departure and he rushed to the secret chamber only to find Alva, dead. Of her beautiful form there was nothing left but the skeleton. She had gone through the horrible torture of starvation without uttering a sound, for fear of exposing the man for whose sake she had sacrificed home and honor. The sight gave Colonel AXTELL his death blow. He returned to the apartment at midnight, the usual hour of his visits there, carried Alva's remains out of the house and buried them at the foot of a great oak tree. Three days later he died, leaving a full confession. It was during the night following the day Colonel AXTELL'S burial that strange noises were first heard in Melrose Hall. The last stroke of 12 from the town clock had hardly died out when the inmates of the house were started from their sleep by a piercing scream, followed by distressing moans, that seemed to come from far off and were yet so plain that the voice could be distinguished as that of a woman. Servants were sent out to ascertain the cause and they returned with livid faces and trembling limbs. The widow was told that the voice came from the secret chamber. At 1 o'clock, with one last terrible wail, the voice became silent. The next night it was heard again at the same hour. In the ballroom footsteps could be heard. No one had the courage to make an investigation, but soon it was generally known that Melrose Hall was haunted by the spirit of the beautiful Alva, whose story had somehow leaked out, and was gossiped about town. The place was thenceforth shunned as much as it had been sought after before and Mrs AXTELL, a few months after her husband's death, sold the property and went back to England with her children. For a long time it stood empty, save for the ghost, and the residents of Flatbush would gladly have seen it go up in smoke. Finally the new owner found a tenant, but he didn't stay long. Neither did his successors, until a minister of the gospel, the Rev. Dr. ROBINSON, bought the place. He lived there from 1845 to 1879 and always asserted that the ghost never disturbed him, because he went to bed early and was a sound sleeper. After his death the property was bought by Dr. Homer L. BARTLETT, who cut off both wings of the house, w hich was still in an excellent state of preservation, and had the main building moved back several hundred feet. The remainder of Melrose Hall, which to-day fronts Bedford avenue, between Clarkson and Winthrop streets, is now the home of the Rev. Stafford J. DROWNE.
The Ghost Story of the Mansion in Melrose Park.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle 22 June 1884 Colonel AXTELL and the Dark Lady The Secret Door and the Concealed Stair What Greeted the Gallant Soldier on His Return from an Indian War. A ROMANCE OF MELROSE ABBEY Back to GHOSTS Main Back to CEMETERY INDEX Back to BROOKLYN Page Main