Monday, January 26, 2015

Paul Morphy's Haunted Piano

The Haunted Piano of Paul Morphy
This piano was once owned by the prominent Morphy family from New Orleans, LA. Paul Morphy was the son of Alonzo Michael Morphy, a lawyer who served as a Louisiana state legislator, attorney general, and Supreme Court Justice. Alonzo, hailed from a Spanish family but like many creole families in New Orleans, was of Spanish, Portuguese and Irish decent. Morphy's mother, Louise Thérèse Félicité Thelcide Le Carpentier, was the musically talented daughter of a prominent French Creole family. Morphy grew up in an environment influenced by his mother and of civility and culture where chess and music were part of a typical afternoon.

Paul was born in New Orleans on June 22, 1837. He learned to play chess at a very young age by simply watching his father and uncle. According to his family, he was a prodigy and they recognized his talent and encouraged him to play at family gatherings. At nine years old, Paul was considered one of the best chess players in New Orleans. At twelve, he defeated a Hungarian chess master named, Johann Löwenthal in a three game match. At twenty one, Morphy was considered famous among Europe's most elite chess players. While visiting Paris, He meet with distinguished and recognized competitors like, World Champion Fredrick Edge, as well as Russian royalty, who were among Morphy's biggest fans.

When he returned to America, Morphy toured major cities on his way back to New Orleans. During this time, he was toasted by the Mayor of Boston as a "World Champion" and met with prominent political figures and their families including President, Martin Van Buren and his son.

By 1861, Morphy retired from Chess with a few exceptions he made for local appearances. His pursuit to further is education in law was temporarily stalled by the outbreak of the Civil War. Morphy's brother, Edward, joined the Confederate Army but Paul's status in the war is shadowed by many discrepancies. According to high ranking officials on General Beauregard's staff, for a time, Morphy was reported to be at Manassas and was an officer in Beauregard's unit. However, in General Beauregard's notes he referred to Morphy as unqualified and a poor soldier. 

Paul Charles Morphy June 22, 1837 - July 10, 19884

After the war, Morphy was not successful in opening his own law practice but was financially secure due to his family's wealth and stature. He spent most of his time in solitude and due to his seclusion, suffered from periodic depression. While living in New Orleans, he suffered a psychotic break and ran naked through the streets wielding an ax, looking for victims to butcher. Thankfully, he was arrested before he could harm anyone. 

Other unusual aspects of his strange behavior were recorded by his niece in her book called, "Lurid Figments". She wrote:

"Now we come to the room which Paul Morphy occupied, and which was separated from his mother's by a narrow hall. Morphy's room was always kept in perfect order, for he was very particular and neat, yet this room had a peculiar aspect and at once struck the visitor as such, for Morphy had a dozen or more pairs of shoes of all kinds which he insisted in keeping arranged in a semi-circle in the middle of the room, explaining with his sarcastic smile that in this way, he could at once lay his hands on the particular pair he desired to wear. In a huge porte-manteau he kept all his clothes which were at all times neatly pressed and creased."

Some have suggested that Paul Morphy may have suffered from mental illness or was possibly an diagnosed autistic. One rumor that has been passed down for generations says that when he died, he was surrounded by women's shoes, a fascination he reportedly had that made his already weird demeanor even stranger. 

Apart from chess, Paul was an equally talented pianist. His musically inclined mother taught him to play and his passion for music stayed with him throughout his lifetime. On July 10, 1884, Morphy died from a stroke when he attempted to cool himself in a cold water bath after walking in the mid day summer heat. His lifeless body was found slumped over the bathtub in his family home that is now the location formerly known as Brennan's Restaurant.

Rumors of Paul Morphy's ghost, still playing the piano at his former homes, have been on going since his death in 1884. By all accounts, it seems that Paul Morphy indeed suffered from some kind of mental illness, or perhaps, an ailment brought on by his anti-social behavior. Regardless of the reason, Morphy's spirit lingers on and not just in the locations where he lived and recreated. This piano, purchased at a private auction in New Orleans in 2014, is also rumored to be haunted by the ghost of Paul Morphy. This unlikely spirit has traveled with the piano for generations and according to many who have owned it, Morphy's spirit refusing to be separated from it. 

One previous owner reported that the identity of the piano playing specter was not confirmed until he researched Morphy's history and found that some of the poltergeist activity associated with the arrival of the piano in his home could be linked to the unusual behavior Morphy displayed before his death. When the previous owner would leave his home during the day, everything in his house would be sound. However, when he arrived home from work in the afternoon, he often found items of clothing from his closet on the bedroom floor. On one such occasion, he came home to find a ring of shoes set up on the parlor floor, just inside the hallway were the piano sat.

Today, the piano of Paul Morphy is on display at the Museum of Paranormal Oddities. Since it's arrival, piano music hauntingly bellows through the hallways. The cover on the piano is almost always left open for Morphy's ghost. When it is closed, the cover will mysteriously open back up, shortly after, belting out a ghostly melody of unusual rag time music. 

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