A spooky stay at the Three Chimneys Inn

Bret Belden

The Three Chimneys Inn, located at 17 Newmarket Road, is the oldest house in the town of Durham and one of the oldest buildings in New England.

Mystery and intrigue shroud the establishment, for it is said to house a restless spirit named Hannah, who has haunted the building for decades. Given the inn’s history, it is believed that several spirits other than Hannah reside in the building. Part of the original settlement at Oyster River Falls, the Three Chimneys Inn survived the Native American Massacre of 1694, where natives sprung an attack and killed a large portion of the town settlers. This property has now withstood over three centuries of cultural and commercial development, passing through four families’ ownerships prior to 1987.

Hannah is said to be a descendent of Valentine Hill, the first owner of the Three Chimneys Inn. According to both local legends and the employees of the inn, she unfortunately drowned in the nearby Oyster River and her spirit was never put to rest. Hannah has been making hairs stand on end since the 17th century with numerous paranormal encounters involving guests and employees alike.

The experiences at the Three Chimneys Inn include the usual occurrences: deadbolts locking on their own, footsteps echoing through hallways, inanimate objects moving and sightings of strange apparitions lurking inside.

 The graveyard behind the Three Chimneys Inn where spirit Hannah supposedly lingers.
Carlos Martens/Staff

The graveyard behind the Three Chimneys Inn where spirit Hannah supposedly lingers.


However, it is rather the unique encounters provided by guests and employees that give the chills.

On a cold, windy night, an employee said she was awoken in the dark when she felt someone playing with her hair. An insurance group dining in the tavern is said to have witnessed a wine glass float off the table and shatter on the floor. Another employee, fast asleep, said she woke to the sound of footsteps in the parlor, and she quickly hurried downstairs only to find every drawer and cabinet opened exactly an inch.

Hannah’s most famous eccentricities are an animosity of all things modern. She doesn’t seem to like change, and makes this well known when new technology and electronics are introduced to the Three Chimneys Inn. The employees said they have a difficult time with appliances and often resort to outside assistance for help. Strangely, the technical difficulties tend to leave the repairmen stumped. There have been instances where calculators have gone haywire, displaying the numbers backwards. There was also an occurrence upon which a printer continued to print for 20 minutes after the computer and printer were turned off and unplugged.

In preparation for this article, UNH journalism major and Three Chimneys Inn staff member Alyssa LeClair provided video footage of an incident involving Hannah’s ghost.

Early one morning, when Three Chimneys Inn employees heard the spine-tingling creaking of floorboards, LeClair pulled out her phone to record and joined to inspect the noise.

“It was freaky, I experienced an intense sensation of the chills,” LeClair said. “We didn’t know what to expect, which tends to be a common theme working here.”

The staff discovered muddy footprints strewn across the floor of the dining room. The prints were barefoot, and due to the shape and size, were determined to be from a woman’s foot. The video continued to show the muddy prints also appeared underneath a few rugs, which the staff couldn’t explain.

Employees at the Three Chimneys Inn welcome anyone to visit and hear about occurrences of potential paranormal activity experienced there. Take a tour of the old building and travel through history as you stroll through the graveyard out back. Just be wary, for you may not be alone.