Those who work at the Hermitage and are familiar with the 200-plus-year-old mansion built by President Andrew Jackson agree there’s a supernatural vibe to the place.
“Those who are in the mansion or on the grounds experience physical feelings, sights and sounds that defy explanation,” said Mike Zimmerman, the Hermitage’s director of interpretation.
As the days count down to the spooky Halloween holiday, the Hermitage offers a unique experience to the public with its Ghost Tours that start Sept. 16 and will continue through Nov. 8. It’s a spooky voyage at the mansion that explores the grounds and home with interpreters ready and willing to spin stories about strange goings-on there.
“The tours start right on time, and we don’t want any souls left behind,” said Zimmerman.
He said Ghost Tours were one of the Hermitage’s most popular events the past five years. Each tour lasts 90 minutes, and employees are excited to have them again.
What is special about the tours is the fact visitors get the rare gem to see the historic mansion after dark.
“People are amazed to see the home lit up at night,” said Zimmerman, who conducts several tours himself. “I don’t let my interpreters have all the fun. I love to explore and explain the supernatural aspect of the Hermitage at night, along with everyone else.”
The lantern-led tours explore the grounds and inside the Hermitage and participants hear stories and lore about Jackson’s reported encounter with the infamous Bell Witch, ghosts from the Battle of New Orleans and supernatural sightings in the mansion.
Ghost Tours will be suitable for children 10 years old and older. The tour includes plenty of walking. The main walk is the path to the Hermitage mansion, which is about 200 yards.
“After we leave the mansion, we walk to and around the garden before returning to the Andrew Jackson Center,” Zimmerman said.
Each tour will start and end in the breezeway of the Andrew Jackson Center. Groups are limited to 13 guests this year. Each guest is required to wear a mask for the entirety of their tour, and guests are asked to remain 6 feet apart from others at all times.
“It’s really quite fun,” he said. “I emphasize this is not a scary haunted house where people jump out and scare you. But, if you are into it and the fascinating stories, you could very well experience some things.”
And while there are new and old stories about ghosts and sightings, one that fascinates visitors is about Jackson invited by John Bell to visit his house in Adams to “witness and experience” how the Bell Witch abused and tortured his family there.
“I can’t give away the end of this story,” said Zimmerman. “Our tour guests will learn the outcome.”
Another lore – or possibly true – story uncovered on the tour dates back to the ghosts of the Battle of New Orleans. On the grounds is the War Road that is next to the entrance of the property and comprised of trees planted from the battlefields of the era.
“There is a huge presence in this area,” Zimmerman said.
He said historical and modern stories are told along the tour.
“Many people who conduct the tour have great stories to tell,” he said. “My interpreters tell about things that have no explanation that have happened to them here.”
Zimmerman tells visitors intrigued to go on the tour that the experience is not meant to scare anyone.
“Some may think this is a creaky old house, but if you listen and engage with the parts of history, they might be open to their own experience,” he said.
The Hermitage has a long history in every way possible, said Zimmerman.
“Our tour is a combination of guest experiences, staff experiences, as well as legends and stories from the time of Jackson himself,” he said. “You are free to believe in spirits or ghosts or not, but many people, myself included, have had experiences on these grounds that defy explanation. Personally, I never lock up the mansion at night without saying goodnight to the general. I don’t take any chances.”
Each tour includes a complimentary wine tasting from the Natchez Hills Winery tasting room, available to guests 21 and older only.
Tours are each Wednesday through Sunday at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Ghost tour tickets are $35 for non-members and $30 for Hermitage members. Tickets can be purchased at thehermitage.com/event/hermitage-ghost-tours-2.