Emily Dickinson Page

Picture hanging in the Amherst Inn
The Spectral Dickinson – Picture hanging in the Amherst Inn

I have been reading two biographies about Emily Dickinson. The first, White Heat, is beautifully written. This book, which is a biography about the friendship between Emily and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, has many lovely passages such as this one which describes The Homestead, Emily’s home, now a museum, “The Homestead… is spare of furniture; the rooms are cold, and though the docents are helpful, the poet has fled.”  I agree with Ms. Wineapple. The Homestead is indeed not haunted. But the same can not be said about The Evergreens, the house next door.  The Evergreens was built by Emily Dickinson’s Father for her brother Austin and his bride, Susan Gilbert as a sort of  bribe.  The elder Mr. Dickinson (Edward) was trying to convince Austin to remain in Amherst rather than go west to Chicago.

Emily's Grave -Admirerers place small tokens on her grave - pebbles and lichen - it is very moving.
Emily’s Grave -Admirerers place small tokens on her grave – pebbles and lichen – it is very moving.

While The Homestead is decidedly ghost free, The Evergreens is not.The Evergreens ironically became a hub of Amherst society while Emily was steadily withdrawing from that same society.  Next door to Amherst’s famous recluse, Emerson and Henry Ward Beecher were received and feted.  Today, the house is in a serious state of dilapidation, yet it retains most of the original contents. While dusty and seriously frayed, the chair Emerson is said to have occupied in the parlor looks as if he could emerge from another room and sit down once again to engage in conversation about the lecture he completed at Amherst College a mere 142 years ago.  Yet, the house is eerie. When entering the dining room where Susan Dickinson entertained her guests, there is a noticeable drop in temperature (even in the summer).  A chill hangs in the air over the table which looks as though it is set for a spectral dinner party.

But the downstairs isn’t the creepiest part of the house, that honor belongs to the upstairs of The Evergreens. Ascending the creaky back servants stairs, the visitor is most acutely struck by the lingering souls of long dead Dickinson’s. The nursery of Gib, Emily’s  little nephew who died tragically of typhus at the age of seven, remains exactly as the Dickinson’s left it after his death. Apparently, in her grief,  Sue just closed the door and NO ONE every went back in.  The feeling of voyeurism is palpable.

However, The Evergreens present a remarkable opportunity to look in on the past exactly as it was, not as a restoration or a recreation of a historical landmark, but as it actually looked (albeit with some deterioration) the last time the occupants left the rooms.  It sends chills up the spine.  It is just plain spooky.  The day I took the tour for the second time, by the time we reached the nursery, early winter darkness had decended and we gazed in upon the doomed little boys nursery by electric lamplight, the lamp swinging in the docent’s hand, sending shafts of weak light into the poignantly charming, yet deathly still

The corner of Gib's room at The Evergreens

The corner of Gib’s room at The Evergreens Courtesy of the Emily Dickinson Museum: the Homestead and the Evergreens. Amherst, Mass.

room. Emily’s words echoed in my head, “I am out with lanterns looking for myself…”  The Evergreens  is the saddest museum in America.  If there are such things as ghosts, they surely walk at The Evergreens.

The Homestead
The Homestead
The View from Emily's Window - the path between the houses
The View from Emily’s Window – the path between the houses
Emily's grave
Emily’s grave
Stay here - it is directly across the street from Emily's house...
Stay here – it is directly across the street from Emily’s house…

7 thoughts on “Emily Dickinson Page

    1. I would contact the Emily Dickinson museum in Amherst. They manage the Homestead and the Evergreens. The parlor is furnished. However, I do believe it does not look as it looked in Emily’s time. As I recall from the the tour, the parlor was quite dark with heavy curtains and dark furniture. It is now painted white and is quite bright and the furniture is similar to the type, but not original. The actual furniture in housed at Harvard. It would be worth some visits to see both the house and the furniture and to then reconstruct the setting from descriptions I believe the docents at the museum could give you. They are very informative. Also, I believe you can look on line. I may have a link in my links section. Good luck!

  1. I agree with everything being said about the nursery – the room of Emily Dickinson’s beloved nephew, Thomas Gilbert, who dies at the age of 7.
    I saw it today and I am still to touched I am not able to think of anything else.
    I want to thank for this article, which really finds the right words.

  2. I would love to see Emily Dickinson’s home someday – I have read all so much of her poetry and she was truly my inspiration to start writing poetry . I have wrote many poems about Emily and her family as well as reading many books about her – she has truly touched me .

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