I had the pleasure of getting to know Ms. Carolyn Williams at Stonecroft Manor in Hannibal a few years before her death in 2010. She was a delightful lady, and shared many of her life stories with me including the paranormal activity she and her mother experienced during the time they were renovating Stonecroft. Building renovation is known by paranormal investigators to be an impetus for activity.

According to the Nomination Form filed in 1983 to place Stonecroft on the National

Deena West Budd
Deena West Budd

Register of Historic Places, James Burket Brown, a local druggist, inherited 80 acres of land from his father in Ralls County on what is now known as Carr’s Lane off of Route O. He built Stonecroft Manor from 1870 to 1872 as his family country summer home.

Brown had returned home from the California gold rush in 1852 with enough money to purchase and successfully run a drug store business in downtown Hannibal. He was also the mayor of Hannibal from 1882 through 1885, and once more in 1888.

In 1882, James Brown sold the home and acreage to Elizabeth McLeary Brown, his sister-in-law. She died two years later at the age of 50. The property was subsequently purchased from her five children by her brother and sister, Robert and Sarah McLeary.

In 1894, Robert died and bequeathed the property to Elizabeth’s two daughters, Nanny and Eleanor.

Robert’s sister, Sarah McLeary, took her two nieces to court in 1897. The court ruled that the house and 25 acres belonged to Nanny and Eleanor; and, the remaining 55 acres went to Sarah.

Stonecroft Manor was rented out after this until 1920, when the house and 25 acres were purchased by Mr. and Mrs. William Couch. In 1944, the house and 21.9 acres was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. J. Wesley Hammock.

It was during this time that the condition of the house started to decline as Mr. Hammock became unwell and was not able to maintain the property properly.

Carolyn Williams and her mother, Clara, purchased the property from Mr. Hammock in 1954. They worked diligently to restore and renovate the house as well as landscaping and creating beautiful gardens on the grounds. I remember touring the house when it was opened as a museum in the late 1970s. I also remember visiting the herb garden located on the property “patterned after the old English herb gardens.”

After Clara died in 1990, Carolyn moved into the lovely little cottage next to Carr’s Lane. Over delicious cups of tea served in her delicate hand-painted china cups, Carolyn told me that the odd experiences began shortly after they removed a back wall.

A brass pendulum fell off of a heavy wall clock that Clara was hanging in the kitchen, just missing Clara’s foot, and burying itself in the floor. They stopped working shortly after this to recover for a few minutes from the incident. Hearing a loud crash in the kitchen, the ladies ran in to discover that the pendulum was on the floor on the other side of the room. It was much too heavy to have bounced that far.

They didn’t have any further issues with the clock, but not long afterwards they began to hear footsteps in the house. They never did see anyone, but often heard footsteps in various parts of the house, especially in the hallway. They also heard doors opening and shutting by themselves throughout the house. The activity usually occurred in the evening hours.

After the mother and daughter had just gone to bed one night, they heard what sounded like a brick crashing through a window. Getting up and going downstairs to investigate, they found in a bedroom a book that should have been on a side table on the floor on the other side of the room. Carolyn explained that three books had been lying on the table, and the only one on the floor across the room was Angels by Billy Graham.

Another night when the ladies were getting ready for bed, they heard a crash in the basement. They were understandably too frightened to go down to the basement that night, and nailed the door shut instead.

The next morning when they un-nailed the door and went down the basement steps, they discovered cartons of freezer boxes knocked off their shelves and scattered all over the room. The windows and doors were locked from the inside, and no one could have been down there.

One night, a visiting niece was getting ready for bed in an upstairs bedroom. Almost as soon as her head hit the pillow, she heard footsteps come into her room and walk around her bed. She was too scared to even scream.

After the ladies opened the museum in the late 1970s, the paranormal activity ceased. Carolyn and her mother lived very happily at Stonecroft Manor for many years. When Carolyn passed away at the age of 89 in 2010, she was looking forward to being with Clara again. She was very much at peace knowing that the home where she had lived so many happy years with her mother was being restored by her friend, the current owner Harry Hosmer.

Mr. Hosmer purchased the home and began restoration before Carolyn’s death. She was able to enjoy watching her old home being restored to its former splendor from her nearby cottage.

I talked with Mr. Hosmer recently, and he assured me that they have experienced no paranormal activity through the renovation process or while living at Stonecroft Manor. It seems the spirits of Stonecroft are now at peace.