Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The residence of the seven Gables is universally well-known as an iconic, ground-breaking occupational of Gothic literature. Once we think Gothic, we rightly think that haunted houses, shrieking ghosts, and also things the go bump in the night. What if we read The house of the seven Gables together a killing mystery?

If us did - and also as I’ll display below, Hawthorne provides us legitimate reasons for doing for this reason - then our examine of House the the 7 Gables would emphasis on the question of who eliminated Colonel Pyncheon in 1692? any kind of serious examination of the Mysteries the the house of the seven Gables must start with this question.

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In the 1820’s the the novel’s present, in one unidentified town that the author positions as Salem, Massachusetts, the house is an oozing, decaying, cob-webbed, curtain-shuttered thing. We find inhabited by two wasting descendants of a legendary 17th-century Puritan soldier and also judge, who constructed the house, and also whom Hawthorne refers to only by the name of “Colonel Pyncheon.”

This 17th-century Colonel Pyncheon casts a lengthy shadow over the novel’s 19th-century Pyncheon House and family. The Colonel amassed the fortune which sustained his heirs lengthy after his death. Yet his method of doing so - that stole the floor after he framed the landowner for witchcraft, and also saw him hanged between the Salem Witch Trials - have cursed his family line v darkness and defeat.

This Pyncheon is, because that me, the main character of the novel. Hawthorne starts with Colonel Pyncheon’s story. The novel ends in former of Colonel Pyncheon’s portrait, which has actually occupied and also looked down on his descendants since the House’s birth. Colonel Pyncheon’s atrocity begins the whole lineage of human being sin the is the Pyncheon family, of i beg your pardon the home is synecdoche. This, to ~ reader, is the true challenge of the home of the 7 Gables! and even in death, and also in bloody murder, -especially in bloody, gruesome, killing - this countenance peers earlier at us with the pages, conference your gaze.

Most the the novel’s best admirers have concentrated on other elements of the novel. The following account by H.P. Lovecraft, one of the pioneers in the breakthrough of 20th century gothic and also weird fiction, remains illustrative. Lovecraft called Hawthorne’s novel “New England’s biggest contribution to weird literature” and also the work of Hawthorne that stands “foremost together a finished, creative unit amongst all ours author’s monster material.”

“Stealthy horror and an illness lurk in ~ the weather-blackened, moss-crusted, and elm-shadowed walls of the archaic dwelling for this reason vividly displayed, and also we grasp the brooding malignity of the place when we read that that is builder—old Colonel Pyncheon—snatched the soil with peculiar ruthlessness indigenous its initial settler, Matthew Maule, who he condemned come the gallows together a sorcerer’s in the year of the panic. Maule passed away cursing old Pyncheon—“God will give him blood to drink”—and the waters of the old well on the seized soil turned bitter. Maule’s carpenter kid consented to build the great gabled home for his father’s triumphant enemy, but the old Colonel died strangely on the work of its dedication. Then followed generations of odd vicissitudes, with queer whispers around the dark strength of the Maules, and peculiar and also sometimes destructive ends befalling the Pyncheons.” H.P. Lovecraft, “Supernatural fear in Literature,” 1927.

Lovecraft’s an introduction of House of the 7 Gables is usual of how readers, even an extremely admiring readers, think about the novel. His analysis centers top top the gothic environment of The residence of the seven Gables. The House’s “stealthy horror” and “brooding malignity” - descriptive phrases that explain a atmosphere or attitude but, in usual Lovecraftian fashion, existing only a facade of being descriptive in the physical feeling - give readers a feeling of the residence as a lurking malevolence. The major plot details Lovecraft consists of do much to reinforce our idea the Hawthorne’s novel as a haunted home novel. Lovecraft recallsMatthew Maule, “condemned to the gallows as a wizard” and also died “cursing old Pyncheon,” in lively language. His allusion to “the dark powers of the Maules,” intrigues us and creates suspense v the amorphous supernatural.

But once Lovecraft gets to Colonel Pyncheon’s death, the says only that the Colonel “died weird on the day of that dedication.” This expression “died strangely” does small to alert us to the horrible, byzantine, and still unsolved mystery that Pyncheon’s death, i beg your pardon Hawthorne himself beckons united state to abandon together his heroes ride away in a carriage in ~ story’s end.

Well reader, i’m going to perform you a genuine act of kindness here. I’m going come regale you through the story of just how Colonel Pyncheon’s corpse was found. Climate we can examine feasible causes that his death and, together, check out if we can solve this mystery!!

The scene of the Murder:


It to be a beautiful job in Massachusetts. Colonel Pyncheon’s new mansion had actually just been completed: perfect so freshly that lumber shavings, shingles, and also shards that bricks lay scattered around the exterior of the house. This day was to it is in the mansion’s ceremony of consecration, an occasion which would, Hawthorne explains, in Puritan culture be both “festive and religious.”Everyone had actually been invited. Native the lowliest laborer to the highest possible members of the theocracy - elders, deacons, magistrates, including the Reverend Higginson, the high sheriff, and also the Lt. Governor. An ox had been roasted whole, a sixty-pound codfish had been “dissolved right into a liquid of chowder,” and their commingled fragrant wafted skyward come greet the guests together they approached.

The residence loomed, as Hawthorne writes, “in pride, no modesty.” It to be gorgeous, if no grotesque - the house’s seven gables “pointed on every side” the the residence into the morning sky. “Spiracles rose from great main chimney. Tiny gargoyles and imps had been imprinted right into the plaster, sculpted globes the wood placed strategically in ~ jutting stories. Within, serving men pointed those with rough and soiled collars to the kitchen, those v velvet garments and embroidered gloves come the parlors.”

Everything was perfect and also conventional. Except, Colonel Pyncheon was i do not have anything to be found. By custom and also by courtesy that should have actually stood in the hall to greet his guests together they arrived. Yet the colonel had sequestered self in his study, and also his servants knew to never, ever disturb the Colonel Pyncheon in his study. Thus they refused to summon the Colonel, or also to punch on the door together the home filled to capacity.

Finally coming to be impatient v the hold-up and discourtesy, the Lt. Branch himself strode to Pyncheon’s study and knocked firmly and loudly top top the intricately sculpted panels. No response. Still more irritated, the Lt. Branch boomed on the door through the hilt of his sword. Still, no response. Currently the guests, who attention had actually been seized by the banging on the door, thrived silent and gathered about the doors to the study. Finally, the Lt. Governor flourished so furious regarding disregard the boundaries of propriety and twist the doorknob. The turned smoothly.

The doors flew open as a sudden, sighing gust the wind explode threw the house. There, in the beautifully furnished room, with its well curtains and also fine books arranged ~ above the fine shelves, beneath a freshly-painted portrait that himself, in one elbow chair of carved oak, slumped the Colonel Pyncheon. Papers and also envelopes to be scattered top top the desk prior to him, yet his large eyes gazed unnaturally towards the gathered group which stood and also stared hesitantly top top the threshold. Finally the Colonel’s grandchild, that was just a young boy, grew bold enough to get in the room and approach the Colonel.

The young froze halfway into the room and also shrieked. Colonel Pyncheon’s mustache and beard to be soaked with blood, his shirts stained with the red coagulated goo.

The factor for his stillness, for his absence, was currently shockingly clear. Colonel Pyncheon to be dead. That is rumored the at this minute of discovery, a loud voice the recalled that of the old magician Matthew Maul was heard come say “God hath provided him blood to drink!”

Examining the Clues:


Hawthorne, in a relocate that those familiar with his creating will identify as typical, provides us much more rumors than facts around the Colonel Pyncheon’s death. Therefore, when trying to rebuild the remainder of the scene as a detective might, we have only possible information.This is a disadvantage.

Hawthorne’s explanations because that the reason of Colonel Pyncheon’s death are inconsistent. The prominent Boston doctor John Swinnerton studied the body and also concluded that Pyncheon died of apoplexy. The coroner’s jury, after ~ meeting through the coroner and considering all evidence, reached a verdict of “Sudden Death!” The opinions of among doctors and coroners that examined the corpse, writes Hawthorne show a “bewilderment the mind.” In other words, it seems like elements of the death perplexed them.At the same time that he undermines the natural reasons for Pyncheon’s death, Hawthorne speak his reader that any kind of conclusion of unnatural death can only be based on speculation. Colonel Pyncheon was on of the many wealthy, powerful, and also highly-regarded guys of his day. His fatality would have been subjected to the highest scrutiny. If any shred of evidence indicated malfeasance, public official would have pursued it.

It is merely, “tradition,” to write Hawthorne, the is responsible for any type of suspicions of violence. “Tradition” which, the writes, “sometimes bring down fact that background has yet slip, but is oftener the wild babble that the time.” that then gives us some possible evidence of malfeasance. Hawthorne writes the Maybe:

There were “marks that fingers” on Pyncheon’s throat, a “print of a bloody hand” ~ above his shirt collar, and also that his spicy beard to be “dishevelled.”

Moments before the discovery of the body, someone had been step climbing the garden fence behind the home And, the home window beside the Colonel’s chair was open up at the moment of discovery. Had actually Pyncheon to be violently struck by a mystery intruder?

When the door come the room opened, part guests experienced a skeletal hand in ~ Pyncheon’s throat. The hand faded and disappeared once guests gotten in the room.

And then, Nathaniel Hawthorne pipeline it there. ~ lingering because that pages on the scene of Colonel Pyncheon’s death, tantalizing the reader through the possibility that he to be murdered by a competitor or, even much more sinister, the ghost the Matthew Maule, Hawthorne moves on. The novel quick forwards come the 1820’s, in what Hawthorne call “the real activity of our tale,” and follows the resides of few of Colonel Pyncheon’s descendants.

This is as with old Nathaniel Hawthorne: to present the opportunity that Colonel Pyncheon to be killed, offer us a variety of evidence ranging native murder, to herbal causes, come the supernatural, climate disavow every one of them.


Reexamining the Evidence:

Colonel Pyncheon was uncovered dead, with blood ~ above his mouth, beard, and also shirt. He had actually been alone in his research for at least an hour. The door was not locked, however nor was anyone conclusively watched entering or leave the room. No sound of disturbance to be heard till the door to the room was opened.

Hawthorne undermines the validity of every one of the evidence he provides thereafter. But because Hawthorne relates to them come the reader, we have to at least take into consideration them.

Natural Causes: Dr. Swinnerton determined the reason of fatality to it is in apoplexy - i beg your pardon in the so late 17th century could mean any type of internal rupture of organs or blood vessels. The ax was frequently used, though, to describe any kind of loss of consciousness complied with by a suddenly death. So it could likewise mean symptoms that us associate through heart attack and stroke. In the lack of any kind of violence, the blood on Pyncheon’s chin may seem continual with some form of hemorrhaging.

But throughout the 17th century, clinical science was lot less exact than today, obs. Physicians had neither precise understanding the the exactly how the body operated nor adequate method to detect and explain abnormalities. Based on all of this, the coroner"s jury’s conclusion that “Sudden Death,” which sound so apparent as to it is in ridiculous, actually offers us the most accurate, though indecisive, diagnosis that we have the right to accept with any type of degree of certainty. Yet that doesn’t typical there wasn’t much more to the story.

Suicide. If Pyncheon vomited blood, might this not be symptom of poisoning, one of two people by malfeasance or self-administration? This leaves open up yet an additional possibility - did Colonel Pyncheon walk suicide? that plausible given the unreliability the the coroner"s diagnosis.

Hawthorne repeatedly describes Pyncheon’s staunch Puritan beliefs. The religious views of the “old Puritan,” together Hawthorne calls him, would often tend to certain forbid suicide. Furthermore, Colonel Pyncheon had just completed structure the mansion in i m sorry generations that his family can now live, on land he had acquired through good effort. As the Reverend Higginson proclaimed at Pyncheon’s funeral sermon,

His duties all performed,--the greatest prosperity attained,--his race and also future generations solved on a stable basis, and with a stately roof to shelter them because that centuries to come,--what various other upward step stayed for this an excellent man to take, conserve the last step from earth to the golden gate that heaven!

Based on Pyncheon’s circumstances, and the testimony of peers like Higginson, suicide seems an extremely doubtful.

Murder. Natural Methods: Hawthorne tells us that maybe there were bloody hand prints top top Pyncheon’s clothes. He claims that maybe someone saw someone rise the garden fence, who could have entered and also exited the room unseen through the open window in the study.

It seems reasonable come assume the someone as an effective and unethical as Colonel Pyncheon would have acquired plenty of enemies while amassing his family fortune. Reader, I have to think about this one a possibility.

Murder: mythological Methods. Hawthorne tells us that maybe there to be a skeletal hand to suggest a spectral attacker. Someone could have said “God has given him blood come drink,” a referral to the curse the Matthew Maule uttered in ~ Colonel Pyncheon at the time of his death.

Hawthorne’s mention of Maule, executed as a witch, recalls the possibility of a Spectral Attack. This to be an actual thing, an invisible violence said to have been perpetrated by witches throughout the Salem Witch trials. Spectral evidence, in various other words proof that might not it is in objectively seen, was accepted by the courts throughout the Salem Witch Trials. Hawthorne’s an excellent grandfather, man Hathorne, a judge in the witch trials, really liked Spectral evidence. Maule’s fatality would occurred during or just after the Salem Witch Trials, and also Pyncheon path completed just after them.

I nothing know, reader. It’s hard to dominion it out.


The an ext I think around it, reader (and i have thought around it a lot), that is nearly like Nathaniel Hawthorne wants united state to wonder if Colonel Pyncheon was murdered. Hawthorne creates uncertainty bordering the herbal causes, and also introduces the possibility of killing by natural and supernatural attack. And also if Hawthorne wants united state to carry out something, us should probably do the (at least if the something is in relationship to his writings).

But if Colonel Pyncheon was murdered, that did it? How? Why? Hawthorne merely does not give us the ideas to resolve this mystery between the covers of his 1851 novel.. Hawthorne straddles the border between natural and also unexplainable, ending with a nod in the direction the probably, practically likely, maybe, it was just a heart assault or something. Or in ~ least, the is the fate that plainly befalls Pyncheon’s descendant, referee Jaffrey Pyncheon, in ~ the end of the novel. Jaffrey Pyncheon die in the very same chair, with the same symptoms, sitting beneath the Portrait of Colonel Pyncheon.


But - and this is wherein you are lucky - i have brand-new information. And also this info comes directly from Hawthorne’s newly recovered Lost Journals.

I quiet haven’t figured it the end completely. His handwriting is tough to read. And he deserve to be simply as evasive in his newspaper as he is in his fiction. But I can tell friend this with certainty. Nathaniel Hawthorne told just a portion of the true story the the House that the 7 Gables in his eponymous novel; he must have deemed the actual occasions too horrible and shocking to relate come his readers. In part ways, these newly recoveredvolumes bring into doubt not simply what we know around Hawthorne, however our very understanding the reality.

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Doubt not, there to be sinister, eldritch pressures at job-related in the home at the time of Colonel Pyncheon’s death, and also I need to conclude the Colonel Pyncheon stood one of two people at the center of them, or had become entangled in their web.

For now, the reason of Colonel Pyncheon’s death remains a mystery. Yet I’m walking to discover out who eliminated him, reader. Ns going to find out. And also when I find out, i’m going come tell girlfriend first!