The Biltmore estate has been a place of beauty, wonder and mystery since George Washington Vanderbilt II committed his fortune to create a mansion and grounds worthy of the best houses of Europe in the mountains of Western North Carolina.
The Biltmore House and estate – which was 125,000 acres at its peak – is many things. It’s a testament to the vision of George Vanderbilt. It’s a grand house and grounds. But there’s also a dichotomy.
Its existence is an indictment of a system that was so unbalanced that it allowed one family to accumulate more wealth than many kings in a country founded on getting away from royalty yet set about creating its own.
And overall, there’s something eerily beautiful about the whole estate.
Is Biltmore one of the most haunted places in America? I don’t know. I have never busted any ghosts. But if I wanted to see the supernatural, I would head to the Biltmore.
Here is my ranked list of the most likely haunted places and apparitions on the grounds.
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1. George and Edith Vanderbilt
The most likely candidates for ghosts are George – who so greatly loved the place – and Edith, who so greatly loved George.
The story of the Vanderbilts is a little like something out of a “Final Destination” movie. Having dodged fate in the North Atlantic when a family member reportedly objected to their plans to sail – George passed just three years later in Washington D.C. when an emergency appendectomy went wrong. He was 51.
So can an apparition travel from the place of its final reward to the place it most loved in life? If it can, that’s where you’ll find old George. Also, where you’ll find George is where you’ll find Edith.
The most common ghost story at Biltmore is the echoing voice of Edith calling for her first husband.
Edith remarried in 1925 – after inheriting $50 million from George – to a U.S. Senator from Rhode Island named Peter Goelet Gerry.
2. Peter Goelet Gerry
If Edith’s spirit is down there in North Carolina looking for George, I’m betting Sen. Gerry has come down from Rhode Island to look for his wife.
After all, he was married to Edith for about 32 years. George lasted less than 20.
3. The indoor pool
The Biltmore’s pool looks like something that was built to be haunted. It’s straight up out of “The Shining” or something.
Like the dwarves in Moria, whoever built this part of the Biltmore dug too deep and created something unholy. It’s really the creepiest pool I’ve ever seen. And that includes the one they built in the native-American graveyard in the movie “Poltergeist.”
The pool held 70,000 gallons of water and had a heating system and underwater lights.
However, it didn’t have a filtration system, so they had to drain it and refill it every few days. I’ve seen references to rumors that a child drowned in the pool, but they are only rumors as there seems to be no evidence to corroborate the story.
4. The grounds and cemeteries
If you’re looking for the spirits of the departed, a cemetery is a good place to start.
The Biltmore grounds contain multiple cemeteries. According to the Asheville Citizen-Times, at least five of them predate the Vanderbilts.
This is as good of a place as any from which our otherworldly wraiths may sally come forth from the grave.
5. The Halloween Room
There’s a cavernous room at the Biltmore that has been dubbed “The Halloween Room“. It’s filled with murals from folklore and soldiers that have an eerie tone.
It was once believed that the murals were painted for a Halloween house party. However, a connection was later made to a theatrical troupe called “La Chauve-Souris” – a vaudevillian comedic act.
Still, it would be hard to walk through this room without getting an eerie feeling. And how can a room named after the spookiest holiday be left off a list of potential haunted places?
6. The Shiloh Gate
In 1922, a security guard named Walter Brooks had a run-in with five boys at the Shiloh gate. Brooks may have had previous beef with one of the five, who alleged that the guard had hurt his dog.
Ultimately, after some exchange, Brooks fatally wounded Laurens West and Emory Lance.
Another man was seriously injured but escaped. If I know anything about hauntings – and reader, I do not – then the spot where a person lost their life is a prime spot.
7. The mansion itself
There are reports from people who visit the house and experience mysterious happenings. For example, the sound of footsteps, when no one is visible, could conceivably be someone in one of the many secret passages designed to allow servants to move about the house.
The idea was to not disturb the residents or the guests with the sight of someone doing honest work.
Others report walking through cold spots. Big houses can be drafty, even those that have 65 fireplaces. Some report the tinkling of piano keys while others may report strange smells.
Can I just say that if you’re a ghost and you’re haunting people’s olfactory senses, I think you may be doing it wrong.
Also in a house with 43 bathrooms, you may run across an odd odor or two.
8. Angry villagers
The Biltmore had to rub some people the wrong way, right? After all, that farmland was someone’s heritage.
There had to be somebody kicking around the Asheville area just mad as a hornet at the opulent ways of the Vanderbilts all the way up until it was opened to the public in the Great Depression to raise the money to keep it open.
9. Cornielia (Nilcha) Vanderbilt
I’m ranking this one last for a reason. There is one ghost I am quite sure you will never encounter at the Biltmore Estate.
Cornelia is the daughter of George and his wife Edith. She was 13 when her dad passed away in 1914.
Ten years later, young Cornelia married a British Aristocrat John Francis Amherst Cecil. Within four years of marriage, they had two sons and were settling into life at Biltmore when she up and bolted for New York.
By 1934, she had moved to Paris, divorced old Cecil, colored her hair pink and changed her name to Nilcha.
She never returned to Biltmore or even the United States. In fact, she spent the rest of her days being very, very rich in Europe, getting married a couple more times. The last time, she married a waiter who was nearly 30 years younger.
Nilcha was generally living it up. I’m not judging her. Still, I can say unequivocally that if there is a phantom, even a ghostly presence, at the Biltmore, it probably ain’t Nilcha.
Have you had a paranormal experience while visiting the Biltmore? Let us know in the comments. For more info on visiting the Biltmore, visit them online.