CAHOKIA, Ill. — The Jarrot Mansion in Cahokia’s historic district is a beautiful example of a federalist brick home from the early 1800s. There are rumors that the old home is haunted.

Nicolas Jarrot, a wealthy French businessman and landowner, built the home between 1807 and 1810. Nicolas contracted a fever in 1820 while working at one of his mills. On December 8, 1820, Nicolas died.

Winn said that they noticed striping on the door, so clearly that is what Nicholas did. Once the wood was installed, he had it hand painted in tiger striping.

The mansion is now owned by the Jarrot Mansion Project (JMP), an organization that is attempting to restore the mansion to its former state before Nicolas’ death and sale to the Catholic Church.

Brad Winn, Superintendent of the Cahokia Courthouse, displays a photograph of Nicolas’ wife, Julia Jarrot. She outlived Nicolas by 50 years or more.

“She’ll eventually go to St. Louis across the river. She dies in 1875, leaving a large family of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on, but she sells the house,” Winn said.

It was sold to a school by Julia. In 1905, it became the area’s first K–5 Holy Family School. The Holy Family Parish Church next door has been in operation for approximately 50 years.

There are different points in the house where the JMP shows what the original interior would look like.

The Jarrot Mansion has two stories. There are four rooms on the bottom floor, two on each side of the foyer. There was a drawing room, a ballroom, and two guest rooms on the second floor.

After Nicolas’ death, a porch was constructed. It was removed by JMP. They demolished not only the porch, but also the rear door fire escape erected as part of the elementary school.

Some of the rooms on the ground level have also been repaired. JMP did so by scraping paint from the walls and doors and matching modern paint as closely as possible to the original.

Is it haunted?

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources designated the Jarrot Mansion as a historic site in 1974. Because the mansion has been present since the 1800s, it has a lengthy history.

According to Winn, this fireplace looks exactly as it did when it was built. Historians use it to tell the tale of the house as well as the story of the family that lived there.

Nicholas had seven children. The rooms across the hall were his children’s bedrooms. This is a fireplace in one of the children’s bedrooms

Stones in the fireplace have witnessed 200 years of history. They unearthed a child’s shoe and a little bottle while restoring the area around the fireplace. The items may have been left behind while the house was being built.

Other intriguing aspects of the house. Horse skulls can be seen if you look above the bulletin board in the foyer.

“Four horse skulls were discovered,” Winn stated.

Two of the horse skulls sat above where the family used to eat their meals. Winn also said that a skull was discovered near the fireplace.

Winn stated that they have no idea why the shoe, bottle, or horse skulls were left beneath the stones and inside the house’s walls.

“Nicholas made a lot of enemies with some of the contractors that worked on the house,” Winn explained. “He appeared to be a difficult boss to work for.”

Winn stated that Nicholas based this house on a memory he had of federalist brick homes and intended to recreate that style of residence.

He’s a pretty picky guy when it comes to the style he wants in the house. For example, when the floating staircase is complete, and he had it demolished and rebuilt. “Because he doesn’t like the way it looks,” Winn explained.

Brad Winn, Superintendent of the Cahokia Courthouse, in front of the Jarrot Mansion.

“He’ll wind up with quite a few lawsuits and litigation because of his business tactics here in town,” Winn said.

Is it possible that the skulls were left here as a method of cursing at home?

“We found no sign of flesh on the bones, so if somebody was attempting to curse the house by putting it in there, you’d think they’d want to make a big stink by, you know, leaving flesh on there and letting it rot,” said Winn. “We simply don’t know.”

According to Winn, there is some speculation that they were created to aid with acoustics. The ballroom is directly over the location of the heads.

According to architecture scholar Barry O’Reilly in “Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy: Archeology, Culture, History, Literature.” The large volume of the skull made it an ideal sound-box that added resonance to the sound of dancing feet during céilidhe (a traditional Irish or Scottish social gathering with music and dancing).

Winn said there are numerous stories about whether the house is haunted. Some of them include stories about the nuns who used to live there. He believes those stories were used to keep people out of the house.

“I’m not sure, but I’m presuming that whenever there are animal skulls in such a place, it might lead to some supernatural ideation, but I don’t know if it’s haunted,” said Winn. “I’ve been here about seven years. I’ve never heard anything,”

Here’s my theory, he continued: Was this the Catholic school, correct? So there were nuns living here. Some children prefer to look around residences that haven’t been adequately secured.

According to Winn, some police officers dislike parking near the property. “They don’t like parking next door because they sometimes peek up and think they see something, but the lights in the building are strange. And the windows have that type of restoration glass, and some of the molding and faulty glass create strange reflections in the glass and light.”

One of the haunts in the house is known as the “snapping ghost.” Winn said he could see a nun simply snapping at the kids as a form of discipline, and maybe they just said if you hear that, you know you’re in trouble.

The ballroom that became a classroom when sold to the church, being restored back to a ballroom.

Though many would like to believe that the Jarrot Mansion is a part of haunted history, Winn doesn’t elaborate on that aspect. He says that the supernatural isn’t important to the JMP project, and they are more concerned about preserving history instead of ghosts.

Winn stated, “I’m not trying to hide anything; I just haven’t seen the snapping ghost that is supposed to be here.”

Visit this link to donate to the Jarrot Mansion Project and help it reach its goals. To schedule a tour of the mansion, call Brad Winn at (618) 332-1782.


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