Haunted Rockcliffe Mansion in Hannibal
After John’s death, his widow, Annie, released the staff, packed a few belongings, and moved in with her daughter next door. The 30-room home stood empty for 43 years. Empty, that is, except for the elaborate furnishings, artwork, marble and tile fireplaces, Tiffany lamps, and even personal belongings of the Cruikshanks.
I remember my mother telling me about the caretaker of the house allowing her to roam through the rooms freely when she was a child. Many other local children would sneak inside on a dare to run up to the third floor to grab a piece of an old wall map hanging in the school room of the mansion. Strangely, none of these children vandalized Rockcliffe in any other way. None of the gorgeous hanging chandeliers were even damaged in any form.
In the late 1960s, the family decided to have the mansion razed. Two weeks before the date of destruction, several local families saved Rockcliffe. Upon entering the mansion, underneath the years of dirt and dust, many beautiful and fine artifacts and furnishings were discovered still intact.
Rockcliffe Mansion has changed hands several times over the last few decades, and remains open for tours and more. I actually had the opportunity to spend the night in the mansion one Halloween years ago. I have to admit, I encountered no ghosts.
Others tell a different story:
My daughter worked at Rockcliffe as a guide while she was a student in high school. She often talked with the caretakers at that time, Mary and Jerry McAvoy, about the possibility that the mansion might be haunted.
Mary had no doubt that she had encountered the spirit of John J. Cruikshank many times while staying at the home. She “would hear him come in through the servants’ entrance at 2 o’clock in the morning.” Mary went on to say that he would come in, slam the door, and wake up them up, always trailing the smell of cigars. Every morning Mary had to remake John J. Cruikshank’s bed because there would be an indentation of a man’s body as if someone had been sleeping there.
Mary and Jerry were not frightened, though. Mary says, “I just felt so protected.”
An interesting experience occurred in the winter of 2004 when a film crew came to Rockcliffe Mansion. One early morning when the crew came out of their bedrooms to begin filming, the equipment was already working by itself, and not even plugged in to an electrical source. In some rooms, the equipment wouldn’t even work at all.
The current owners of Rockcliffe Mansion, Warren Bittner and Juan Ruiz-Bello of Florida, have not had any paranormal encounters since they took over in 2010; but, Mr. Ruiz-Bello admitted to me that this could very well be because they are non-believers and not open to any type of paranormal activity.
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