[NH] Henniker – Ocean-Born Mary Ghost Story

The Ocean-Born Mary story is charming tale set in old New England, with adventure, romance, and — of course — a classic ghost or two. This is the legend:

Mary Wilson was born at sea on July 17th, 1720 (according to the old calendar), soon after her parents set sail from Londonderry, Ireland, aboard the ship, the Wolf. As the ship neared Boston harbor, it was boarded by pirates, led by the ruthless — but very young and handsome — Don Pedro.

Don Pedro learned that there was a newborn aboard, and offered to let the Wolf and its passengers continue their voyage, unharmed, if the Wilsons would name the baby “Mary,” after his beloved mother.

The Wilsons eagerly agreed, and Don Pedro honored his promise.

However, before his own ship of ruthless (and now unhappy) pirates sailed away, Don Pedro returned to the Wolf with a length of Chinese silk. He told the Wilsons that the fabric should one day be used for Mary’s wedding gown.

And so it was, when Mary and Scotsman Thomas Wallace married, in Londonderry, New Hampshire, just before Christmas in 1742. Theirs was a happy marriage, and they quickly had four sons and a daughter.

Sadly, Mary was widowed soon after the birth of her last son.

Word of the tragedy reached Don Pedro, still young but eager to take his fortune and settle far from the call of the sea. He ordered his men to row up the Contoocook River to the 6,000 acres of land he’d been granted by the King of England. “Don Pedro” was actually an English nobleman, previously the “black sheep” of the family, but his wandering days were over.

Don Pedro had his ship’s carpenter build a fine mansion on a hilltop in what is now known as Henniker, New Hampshire. The beams and detailing in the house are uniquely like a ship.

When the house was completed, Don Pedro went to Londonderry and begged Mary to live with him — as his housekeeper, since she still mourned her late husband — and Don Pedro supported Mary and her children in grand style for many happy years.

However, the fortune that Don Pedro had earned was also a curse upon him. One night, men came to the Henniker mansion under the pretense of visiting with their old friend, Don Pedro. Mary and her children went to bed, unaware that tragedy would soon strike.

Mary heard a curse from outside her window, and then a groan. Recognizing the voice of Don Pedro, she rushed to the garden and found him alone, dying with a pirate’s cutlass in his chest.

Before he died, he told Mary where he’d hidden his gold, and he asked her to bury him beneath the hearth in the home they’d shared so happily.

She honored his wishes, and lived a long and comfortable life, never leaving the Henniker home. She barely touched the treasure buried in her garden, because Don Pedro had left such a fortune.

One of Mary’s hobbies was painting, and the American eagle and stars she painted over the front door of the home, can still be seen there today. Inside, her landscape murals also decorate many rooms in the home.

After her death in 1814, her spirit remained in the house. In the early 20th century, the home was opened to the public and visitors often saw her rocking chair sway gently as she let them know she welcomed them.

Mary has been sensed near the hearth she tended carefully after it became the final resting spot of Don Pedro. Two state policemen saw her one night, crossing the road in front of her house.

Hans Holzer, the famous ghost expert, has conducted two different and apparently successful seances to contact Mary. As recently as 1963, Mary put out a blazing fire in the house, while the owners watched in amazement.

On many Halloween nights, Mary rises from her grave in Henniker’s Centre Cemetery (twelve rows back from the front gate, and marked with a special plaque), and rides a magnificent horse-drawn coach to her home. (Her grave is shown in the photo, below.)

Ocean Born Mary's gravestone
Ocean-Born Mary’s gravestone, in Henniker, NH

Many people have seen Mary’s ghost. They always comment on her red hair, green eyes, and magnificent stature, at about six feet tall. She is, by all accounts, an astonishingly beautiful woman as a ghost, just as she was in life. Her home is now privately owned and definitely NOT open to visitors. Please respect the owners’ privacy.

Ocean-Born Mary remains one of America’s most famous and beloved ghosts. Many people around Henniker will tell you about their encounters with her, especially around Halloween.

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That is the legend, and it is a wonderful story. Unfortunately, only half of it is true.

If you enjoyed that tale, you’ll enjoy many other pages at our website. Thanks for visiting!

However, if you want to know more about the real Ocean-Born Mary, read The Truth about Ocean-Born Mary’s Ghost. It is not nearly as romantic as the ghost story.

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