Who Haunts the Jared Coffin House?
The Jared Coffin House is a large mansion sitting in the heart of downtown Nantucket. While a house with coffin in the name sound ominous, the name comes not from the box people are put into upon death but rather the name of the man who built the house. He haunts the Jared Coffin House.
It seems common for the creators of homes to remain after death, and the Jared Coffin House is no exception. Even though Coffin barely lived in this mansion her created, he has found a home there in the afterlife.
The Whaling Industry in Nantucket
The life of the Jared Coffin House revolves directly around the whaling industry that was so prominent in Nantucket’s history. Not only was the home built by a whaling shipowner, but while the home ran as an inn, people working in the industry stayed there. That, and someone who famously wrote about a whale also stayed there for a short time to appease his need to see the town he wrote so much about in one of his most famous works.
While Nantucket wasn’t the only New England town to have a prominent part in the whaling industry, that is one of the first things to draw people to the small island. The whaling industry-inspired Herman Melville to write “Moby Dick.”
The island got into the whaling business in 1690, with the recruitment of Ichabod Paddock, a haling instructor. To find whales, people watched for the giant beasts from three points along the south side of Nantucket. When one was spotted, a rowboat was sent out to harpoon the whale and drag it back if the animal was successfully killed. The next step was to remove the blubber, which was then sent to a factory to where they would boil it down.
Today, tourism at Nantucket is more about the island’s history and spotting the whales—without killing them. Whaling is illegal in most countries nowadays. The local whaling museum tells the history of this once popular industry.
The History of the Jared Coffin House
Jared Coffin was very successful with his business of owning whaling ships, which afforded him the funds needed to build a mansion. This large landmark was constructed in1845. The Jared Coffin House was the first mansion ever built on Nantucket and still stands today, looking much like it originally did.
The home has another historical significance in the fact that when a fire destroyed over a third of Nantucket in 1846, the Jared Coffin House was not damaged—even though the fire moved right around it. Coffin designed his home with brick walls and a slate roof, which helped keep the home from being engulfed by the flames of the out-of-control fire. The slate roof is claimed to have extinguished the fire when it tried to catch hold.
Coffin built this huge home for his family, but they didn’t stay there for long. They moved before the fire came through the island—that incident was about a year after they left. There are plenty of rumors about why the family up and moved so quickly from this gorgeous home.
One of the main stories passed around about their swift departure is that his wife wanted to be closer to Boston; perhaps that’s where her family was, and she wanted to be nearer to them. Then again, other stories say that she disliked the smell from a factory nearby that rendered whale blubber—that probably didn’t smell all that great, especially not on hot, sunny days. Whatever the reason, they left the mansion behind.
While the mansion has gone through many owners over the years, it seems that perhaps Mr. Coffin loved the home so much that he returned after death and never left again—his ghost is one of the most prominent reportedly seen at the inn. The house has also gone through numerous renovations, something that stirs up spirits in old homes. It runs as an inn now, with many beautiful rooms and an extra tenant who makes his presence known from time to time.
Mr. Coffin Haunts the Jared Coffin House
There’s an interesting story about a ghost haunting the inn that most speculate is Mr. Coffin himself. There’s a spirit of an older man that appears in the hotel often. He sits down in the rocking chair by the fireplace to relax.
While there’s no definitive proof that it’s the ghost of Jared Coffin, many speculate that the spirit rocking in the chair is Mr. Coffin enjoying time in the home he built so many years ago. Perhaps he wants to warm up while enjoying the home he didn’t get to enjoy in life.
Some people think that the older man isn’t Coffin at all and that Coffin’s ghost is hanging out in room 223. The spirit seen in the room resembles images of Coffin. Perhaps this is the area where he slept for the brief time he was in his mansion, or maybe this is where his study was.
Other Ghosts at the Jared Coffin House
Jared Coffin isn’t the only specter haunting the old home. There is at least one other ghost that makes regular appearances in certain rooms, depending on who is staying in them. Then there are strange ghostly things that happen, including the appearance of shadow people.
This other apparition appears as a puritan woman, noticeable by her attire, who visits the rooms of unmarried couples who are sleeping together and tries to frighten them. It seems that this ghost has some old-school values when it comes to sharing a bed before being wed. To keep the unwed couples from getting too comfortable in their beds at night, the ghost yanks the covers off the couples while they sleep—many awake to see the woman standing over their bed, which may be enough to keep them awake the rest of the night.
Other spooky happenings in the building include items moving around without explanation. The puritan woman isn’t the only thing waking people up at night, some report being woken up at night only to find a shadowy figure standing over the bed. There have also been reports of the ghost of a little girl in the hotel, but not much is told about where she’s seen or what she does.
Herman Melville and the Jared Coffin House
Another story worthy of mentioning when talking about the haunted side of the Jared Coffin House is that of Herman Melville’s time at the inn. The hotel wasn’t always known by its current name, and at one time, it went by the name the Ocean House. It was during this time that Melville visited the island.
In Melville’s book “Moby Dick,” Nantucket played a prominent role. Melville found himself obsessed with the whaling ships and their tragedies. He was also very inspired by the story of Captain George Pollard Jr., who survived a very traumatic accident while on his whaling boat, the Essex—the ship was rolled, and others boats in his fleet were lost during a storm. The Captain survived to tell the tale, and Melville traveled to Nantucket to meet him in person and see this town that haunted his storytelling.
He arrived in Nantucket on July 6, 1852. Melville visited the island with his father-in-law, Massachusetts Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw. They stayed at the Ocean House, which sat across from the home of Captain Pollard, located on Centre. Melville visited the island only for a couple of days, but he visited with many people, fueling his evident love of Nantucket.
So, aside from the connection of Nantucket and “Moby Dick,” one may wonder what Melville has to do with the ghosts of Jared Coffin House. Well, if you recall the old man ghost who enjoyed warming himself by the fire in the rocking chair, who’s to say that it isn’t Melville enjoying more time in Nantucket? His love of the island he visited after penning his famous novel could have pulled him back after death.
The Jared Coffin House is a beautiful reminder of the history of Nantucket, even if it’s based on a devastating history of killing whales. The ghosts that still roam this historical home make it an even more interesting abode. If you’re interested in the history of whaling, Nantucket, or Melville’s famous tome, this is a worthy destination that may allow you to pass the ghosts of Coffin or perhaps even Melville on your visit.