Sometimes love stories take different forms than we’re used to. Sometimes, two people can fall in love and be separated by forces beyond their control. And sometimes, loved ones can appear to us after they’ve gone. Today, we’re exploring a love story like no other, where even the boundaries of the afterlife can’t always keep two people apart. The Duke Mansion in Charlotte, North Carolina is a home with a vast history, and a large collection of paranormal accounts. One story stands above the rest, however, possibly proving that love continues into the unknown after death.
The Duke Mansion was originally built in 1915 by a very famous name in the region. While it was built by Zeb Taylor, James Buchanan Duke was the most famous owner of the mansion, and yes it’s the same Duke family that gave their name to Duke University and many other endowments throughout the community. An example of colonial revival architecture, the home was built in the newest neighborhood at the time, Myers Park Neighborhood. It oozed opulence from the first time someone stepped foot on its marble floors. After purchasing the home, Mr. Duke worked with more local architects to triple the home in size, attempting to convince his daughter, aptly named Charlotte, to live with him in the home. The Duke family set up their most charitable achievement, the Duke Endowment, which now gives over $100 million dollars to worthy causes throughout the Tar Heel State.
After James Buchanan Duke’s death in 1925, the home would go through a series of new owners, including one Jon Avery. Avery moved into the mansion with his ailing wife, who would eventually need full-time care for her illnesses. Lonely and alone in the mansion, Avery put out a local want ad, looking for a tenant to move into one of the empty bedrooms. Only a few days later, a young writer known only as Maggie would respond to the ad. Of course, the grandeur of the home would shock and delight her, so she moved in immediately. As they spent time together, even with Avery’s ailing wife hospitalized, it was only a matter of time before the two would fall in love.
Not long after beginning their affair, it became obvious to Maggie that Avery was not willing to leave his wife as she lay in the hospital. He argued and pleaded with her, but in the end, Maggie ended the relationship and moved out of the Duke Mansion. Avery, distraught, asked Maggie to meet him back at the mansion exactly one year later at midnight. It appears that Avery felt his wife would die before the deadline, when the two star crossed lovers would finally be able to be together, but fate seemed to have a different plan. While Maggie waited the one year to meet again with her love, something would happen to Avery that fueled the paranormal rumors about the home.
One year later, at exactly 11:50 pm, Maggie showed up to the home and knocked on the large front door. She waited and waited, hoping to see Avery and finally discuss their plans for a future together. Finally, Avery showed up to the door and the two lovers spent one magical night together before separating again with plans to repeat the meeting exactly one more year into the future. The second meeting was entirely different from the first, however.
As Maggie arrived at the agreed-upon time, 11:50, she knocked on the door again and waited in the cold for Avery to answer. Ten minutes went by, then twenty, and after a half-hour waiting, Maggie was just about to leave, this time for good. But suddenly, she heard the heavy footsteps of Avery coming down the foyer stairs. Elated, Maggie rushed to embrace him, finally hugging the man she loved after so much time apart. When Maggie reached Avery, however, her hands went right through him. Bewildered and frightened, Maggie fled the house, this time vowing to never return, for her love had been taken into the afterlife. Jon Avery had passed away from complications with his childhood bout of polio, only a few months into their one year away from one another. Had Maggie seen the ghost of the man she loved, coming back for one more goodbye from the afterlife?
It’s worth noting, if you’ve made it this far into the heartbreaking tale of Jon and Maggie, that the story has very little in the way of verification. A man named Jon Avery may not have ever owned the home, but records after Jame Duke’s passing are more sparse, owing to the time period of the 1920s and early 30s and the reported loss of some of the records during later construction on the home. It was turned into multiple condominiums before a visionary owner decided to renovate it back into a single family home. Some time after, many efforts were made to protect the Duke Mansion, including raising funds for an endowment for the care of the home, and attempts to get the home listed on the National Historic Register, which today it is recognized as a historic part of Charlotte’s most famous family.
Today, the home has been opened to the public as a luxurious inn. It hosts events, weddings, and many guests who stay for the night in the home to experience the history and luxuriously decorated rooms in the mansion. They serve a full breakfast every morning, offer free Wi-Fi and of course, 4 acres of beautifully manicured gardens for one to stroll through on a hot North Carolina day. Maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of the spirit of Jon Avery, or any number of the owners the mansion belonged to throughout its long history. Nearly 110 years old, you’ll surely find something at the Duke Mansion Inn that will make your stay memorable. And the love story through the afterlife makes for great gossip over the breakfast table.
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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.