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Published October 8, 2014

Mordecai House: A Historic Haunting in the Heart of Raleigh

Have you heard of the ghost of Mordecai House? The oldest house in Raleigh, still on its original foundation, is nationally renowned for its paranormal activity. Visitors and workers report seeing a woman wearing a long black skirt, white blouse and a black tie haunting the hallways. Rumors also say she can be seen, sometimes, standing on the balcony if you pass by late at night.

Also known as Mordecai Manor, the estate is thought to be home to the ghosts of Margaret Mordecai and Mary Willis Mordecai Turk. Rich with history, it was later renovated into a two-story, Greek Revival-style mansion, Mordecai House was built by Joel Lane for his son in 1785. Lane, known as the founder of Raleigh, was an early settler who sold 1,000 acres of land to establish North Carolina’s capital city.

Joel Lanes’s son, Henry, left the house to his daughter Margaret. She married Moses Mordecai, a German immigrant who headed one of the few original families of Ashkenazic Jewish descent in the United States.

Mordecai House, Raleigh, N.C. circa 1896. From the collections of the North Carolina Museum of History.
Mordecai House circa 1896. From the collections of the North Carolina Museum of History.

Moses Mordecai, a judge and lawyer in Raleigh, became the house’s namesake. His wife Margaret was a stern, but caring woman who managed the staff of servants by herself. She was deeply proud of her house and its surrounding plantation.

RELATED: A Clairvoyant Exploration Of Raleigh’s Heck-Andrews House.

Mary Willis Mordecai Turk, a descendent of Margaret and Moses Mordecai, lived there during the 19th century. One of five generations of Mordecai’s who owned and inhabited the mansion, she enjoyed socializing, playing piano, and showing off her magnificent house.

In recent years, many visitors have heard a ghostly piano playing, lending to the theory that the manor is haunted.

Some viewers report seeing a gray, mist-like substance near the piano.

Emma Mordecai, Richmond VA studio portrait (courtesy Mordecai House, Raleigh, NC). From General Negative Collection, State Archives of North Carolina.
Emma Mordecai, Richmond VA studio portrait (courtesy Mordecai House, Raleigh, NC). From General Negative Collection, State Archives of North Carolina.

Others describe a woman wearing attire consistent with a 19th-century costume. Interested historians have matched the witnesses’ descriptions to what Mary Willis Mordecai Turk or possibly Emma Mordecai would have looked like when she lived in the house.

After the Civil War, the Mordecai family fortune was gone. Many deaths occurred in and near the mansion, and negative emotions were said to have attached themselves to the structure.

One interviewee, who wished to remain anonymous, but who worked at the house for several years, shared, “Oh yes, I had to work there after hours, once the public went home. I saw objects move. I heard footsteps upstairs, but I was alone.”

But he said he was never frightened by the activity. “You get used to it,” he commented.

The city of Raleigh purchased the property in 1967. Mordecai House is listed as a registered historical landmark. The furnishings in the house belonged to its owners and have been passed down through the generations.

When the house opened to the public, housekeepers and tourists began reporting paranormal events.

According to the website, portraits of family members who resided in the home seemed to fly off the walls when tour guides mentioned the names of those pictured. The mansion was featured on an episode of the Sci-Fi Channel’s “Ghost Hunters.” Trolley tours exploring “Haunted Raleigh” are certain to pass the spooky abode.

RELATED: Buried Treasure in Cary: The Ghostly Legend of High House.

Mordecai House is located at 1 Mimosa Street, in Raleigh’s Mordecai Square Historic Park. The park is off Wake Forest Road, one-half mile north of the State Capitol. Guided tours are offered Tuesday through Sunday. More information can be found at

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  • Ginny Gillikin


  • I have a journalism degree and an English minor from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. I am a staff writer for I enjoy music, books, photography, hiking and travel. Previous jobs include positions at Deep South Entertainment in Raleigh and ReverbNation in Durham. All my articles.

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