Things That Go Bump in the Visitor Center

Ipswich residents were shocked last week to learn of the sudden closure of the Hall-Haskell House, home to the Ipswich Visitor Center and a popular gallery featuring a rotation of North Shore artists.

The extraordinary glass artwork of Ipswich resident Mary Woodall-Jappe was being featured in what was scheduled as a week-long exhibition.

The building is more than two centuries old, and responsible authorities said they were closing it because of a structural issue.

Which sounds plausible on the surface, of course. But in this paranoid age, when conspiracy theories are exchanged like children’s trading cards of yore, we should probably take the initiative and debunk the most likely misconceptions before they take root and catch fire and scorch the innocent.

1. Someone at Town Hall did not secretly order the Hall-Haskell House closure because they hate Mary Woodall-Jappe’s art. This is inconceivable, because her art is fabulous. I have some of her pieces on display in my own home. (Good news: Mary’s show was rescued by the Meetinghouse Gallery at the top of Meetinghouse Green. Bad news: The show closed Sunday at 4 p.m. But you can still experience the wonder of Mary’s artwork online at

2. Ipswich old-timers did not slip in under cover of night and use handsaws to cut through support beams in order to weaken the Visitor Center structure and turn tourists away because “this town is getting too crowded.”

3. Joe Biden did not order the building closed until solar panels are installed on the roof. 

(3a. The Hall-Haskell House was not shuttered as a budgetary measure, to pay for a state-mandated fleet of electric cars for town officials.)

4. This was not an act of God, punishment for Ipswich’s sins. Ipswich may have plenty of sins, but God was reportedly juggling Trump cases last week and didn’t have time to focus on Ipswich. (A leaked inter-office memo from heaven reads: “Thy Lord God hath bigger fish to fry.”)

5. The Hall-Haskell House closure had nothing whatsoever to do with last week’s Town Meeting vote in favor of removing the Ipswich River dam. The building did not begin groaning in sympathy with the dam when news of the vote arrived. It should be understood that the Hall-Haskell House and the Ipswich River dam are not even of the same generation. The Hall-Haskell House regards the dam, a mere 115 years old, as a young whippersnapper. 

(5a. The Hall-Haskell House and the Ipswich River dam have not engaged in a mystical mutual suicide pact, betting on which one goes down first.)

6. The town did not falsely claim structural problems as an excuse to close the building so future town managers hired from out-of-town could live in the basement.

7. The structural damage was not caused by Covid.

8. There is no secret plan to demolish the Hall-Haskell House and put in condos. Nor a parking lot. The pro-condo people may have secretly lobbied for demolition, but the pro-parking lot people blocked them, and as a result of the standoff, the plan went nowhere.

9. The Hall-Haskell House did not simply give up the ghost in despair when it heard Harvard architectural students refer to the Hammatt Street lot as “the jewel of Ipswich.”

10. This has nothing to do with a feud between the ghost of Charles Hall and the ghost of Eunice Haskell. The ghost of Charles Hall has lived quietly in the house since he passed on in 1825, and he is on very good terms with the ghost of Eunice Haskell, who bought the house from him fair-and-square but was happy to let him stay on in the basement. Meanwhile, she is perfectly content to live upstairs, often coming downstairs on invisible visits to art shows, and sometimes vibrationally influencing shoppers to buy certain works of art. The Hall-Haskell House must be preserved, if for no other reason than to keep these two fine spirits properly cared for.

Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, in a house even older than Hall-Haskell, with its own ghost issues. Make a visitation to Doug at

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