Mrs Molly Brown is more than just a Denver socialite from the gilded age, she’s a symbol that stands for perseverance and philanthropy. Today, you might remember her from the James Cameron film Titanic. She was portrayed by the incomparable Kathy Bates, preserving her tough exterior and love for her fellow man. In fact, if it weren’t for Molly, the tragedy of the night the Titanic sank might be less of a cultural zeitgeist. It was Mrs. Margaret Brown’s work with the survivors that brought the incident more notoriety after the initial news had waned.
The Unsinkable Molly Brown, they called her, and with good reason. Not only was she one of the women and children put into the lifeboats on the doomed steamer, she demanded that the lifeboat row closer to the boat as it sank to try to save more people who tread water in the freezing Atlantic waters. After being saved by the Carpathia, she kept in touch with most of the survivors through her own efforts to remember the sinking and help with funding for the survivors.
Today, a beautiful mansion stands near Downtown Denver that is affectionately known as The Molly Brown House. It was the home she shared with her husband at the turn of the century. Still decorated in a mixture of Edwardian and Victorian designs, today the home is a museum to the woman and legend. Built in 1880, the original owners asked for a Queen Anne style home. In 1894, the Browns would purchase the home for themselves to live in.
The home would go through many different eras, including a temporary stint as a boarding house in the 1920s and after Molly’s passing in 1932, it was remodeled into an apartment building. By the 1970s, the home had fallen into disrepair and was scheduled for demolition. The Denver Historical society was able to purchase the home and remodel it back to its original glory, using photos from the 1910s to assist with the restoration.
The Molly Brown House is full of history, especially that of the toughest woman this side of the Atlantic who helped save lives during the Titanic tragedy. She lived a happy life with her husband, JJ Brown. So one would think there would be no unfinished business to keep her spirit in the home. However, the house has a long history of hauntings just as much as it does for philanthropy and opulence.
The first thing recorded in the home that seemed ghostly was the smell of a tobacco pipe. The museum doesn’t allow smoking, so the origin of the smoke is attributed to the spirit of Molly’s husband, JJ, who enjoyed a smoke in the evenings after supper. Museum workers have also reported many lightbulbs in the home being mysteriously unscrewed, as well as furniture moving around in the night, a woman in Victorian dress being sometimes seen arranging the furniture to her liking.
Visitors to the home say they get the feeling of either of the Browns around them, like watchful spirits keeping vigil in their former home. Some guests have reported feeling cold spots in her bedroom and occasionally seeing her out of the corner of their eye as she turns a corner in the home and disappears. Her daughter, Katharine, is said to haunt her own room, pulling the blinds up and down at her leisure.
Today, you can visit the stately home and find out for yourself if the spirits in the home are fact or fiction. However, the one thing that is not up for debate is that the Unsinkable Margaret Brown is a Denver Icon and a woman with a tough exterior and kind heart. Molly once said: “I am a daughter of adventure. This means I never experience a dull moment and must be prepared for any eventuality . . . That’s my arc, as the astrologers would say. It’s a good one, too, for a person who had rather make a snap-out than a fade-out of life.”
And fade out of life she did not. After her death in 1932, her story has become an inspiring one for young women and men alike. Sometimes, when life seems difficult and unfair, one might ask “What would the Unsinkable Molly Brown Do?”
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Born in Death Valley and raised on the prairie, Deborah is a Wyoming-based paranormal researcher and a senior at the University of Wyoming, studying Communication. Her interests lie in folklore, history, rhetorical analysis and research. With an obvious love for ghost stories, frequently those interests combine with her work on Ghostlandia.