Haunted Houses by H.W. Longfellow

Haunted Houses

(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807 – 1882)

All houses wherein men have lived and died
  Are haunted houses.  Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
  With feet that make no sound upon the floors. 

We meet them at the doorway, on the stair,
  Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
  A sense of something moving to and fro. 

There are more guests at table, than the hosts
  Invited; the illuminated hall
Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,
  As silent as the pictures on the wall. 

The stranger at my fireside cannot see
  The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;
He but perceives what is; while unto me
  All that has been is visible and clear. 

We have no title-deeds to house or lands;
  Owners and occupants of earlier dates
From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,
  And hold in mortmain still their old estates. 

The spirit-world around this world of sense
  Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
Wafts through these earthly mists and vapors dense
  A vital breath of more ethereal air. 

Our little lives are kept in equipoise
  By opposite attractions and desires;
The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,
  And the more noble instinct that aspires. 

These perturbations, this perpetual jar
  Of earthly wants and aspirations high,
Come from the influence of an unseen star,
  An undiscovered planet in our sky. 

And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud
  Throws o’er the sea a floating bridge of light,
Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd
  Into the realm of mystery and night,– 

So from the world of spirits there descends
  A bridge of light, connecting it with this,
O’er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,
  Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.

Can you see them? Can you sense their presences? Are they just memories of those who have lived or are they more like impressions left in stone and mortar, plaster and lath board?

Another blog I follow of the more bookish kind did an analysis of Longfellow’s famous poem last year and my comments were: 

I thought this review was thoughtful and expressive. I’d never heard of the poem before The Wife ™ introduced me to it. The narrator, to me, is clairvoyant, among the living but able to see, hear and possibly even converse with those who have passed and still inhabit the home he now lives in.


Nice post insightful and encouraging. Would that we all learned to ‘commune’ with the departed in appreciation and reflection. We would learn much if we could only listen to the past and apply to the present and future what we glean. -KIA

What do you think? 

Is he really speaking of ghosts, Spectral Spirits who inhabit and share our habitations with us? Or is he just reminding us to be mindful and reflective of those who have lived before, yet whose memories and influence never truly leave us even after they’ve passed from this life to the next?

Are they really sitting table with us and attending our fireside chats with family and friends? Or is it just the thought of their presence in Holiday times like these in the Autumn that gives them life and breath again, ifor not for just All Hallows Eve? The focus of Family, Friends and Feasting certainly does seem to “thin the veil” a bit during this time of year, doesn’t it? 

Please tell me what you think in the Comments below and have a wonderful and safe Halloween and All Saints Day. 



One thought on “Haunted Houses by H.W. Longfellow

  1. Most of the people I know believe, without evidence, that the energy of people who have lived leaves an imprint, a soft impression. Many people believe in a collective energy field that surrounds things sort of like the mystical force from star wars. I have heard friends talk of a collective energy in the universe which we come from and return to, forever mixing and separating ourselves with others, becoming new and different individuals as we mix. I don’t know. I always thought the world must have a sort of collective consciousness. I figure we are broadcasting thought energy all the time. I figure some people have better antennas to be able to receive information from this source than others do. That would account for the stories we hear of people separated by huge distances having the same idea at the same time. I once thought some dreams were of two or more minds connecting in sleep to share an experience. Maybe even a glimpse into different dimensions. However as I said at the start, no evidence beyond a feeling. When I lose something I always claim the Pixies borrowed it. When I find it I always say they returned it. Sanity is rather over rated sometimes and can suck the joy out of some things. 🙂 Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

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