Taylor Swift’s Haunted House

Posted by junketseo in Salem Ghost Tours
Taylor Swift’s Haunted House - Photo

The picturesque town of Watch Hill, Rhode Island, is typical New England, with its beachfront boutiques framed by the Atlantic Ocean and the white billows of tacking sailboats. It is here that music sensation and wunderkind bought a seaside saltbox home that gazes out over the sea. But it must be mentioned that Watch Hill is not all about celebrities and carousels.

Indeed, the quaint community is also known for its unearthly activity, and the epicenter of this ghostly commotion may very well be the house that served as the inspiration for Taylor Swift’s song “The Last Great American Dynasty,” immortalized on the Grammy-winning album Folklore. The ghost that is said to haunt this place is the spirit of the residence’s previous owner, a woman named Rebekah Harkness, and the house that Swift now owns was called by Harkness “Holiday House.” This is where the ghost of Rebekah is said to haunt.


Haunted Home is Where the Heart Is


It seems this attachment can even survive the grave. If anyone had the gumption to escape the shackles of death, that person would be Rebekah Harkness. She was a St. Louis heiress whose family was modestly wealthy. At the age of 24, Rebekah married a photographer, and their relationship lasted until 1946 when they parted ways. Eight years later, this divorcee then married William Harkness. Mr. Harkness just happened to be “the heir to the Standard Oil name and money,” as Swift would sing in her song. Together, Rebekah and William would purchase the Watch Hill house that straddles the cliffs that give way to the surge of the Atlantic.

Rebekah’s husband died in 1954 of a heart attack, prompting many socialites to whisper that his new wife may have been too much for the old man to handle, and his heart eventually gave out. She was a divorcee, after all.  A few rumors even insinuated that Rebekah married him solely for his money and may have hastened his demise by nefarious means. Whatever the reason for poor William’s death, Rebekah sure had “a marvelous time ruining everything” after her hubby’s passing.

Rebekah then was known for being an eccentric, who, according to biographer Amanda Woytus, behaved like a crazy rich person. As alluded to in the song “The Last Great American Dynasty,” Rebekah did, indeed, fill her pool with Dom Pérignon champagne and dyed her neighbor’s dog green following an argument. She was also known to occasionally move hundreds of thousands of dollars from one bank to another for the sheer delight of confusing her weary accountants. She was also known to fill her fish tank with goldfish and Scotch, a mixture that led to death—albeit happy- goldfish. Rebekah eschewed social norms.

Rebekah’s true passion, however, was ballet, and she tirelessly supported the Joffrey Ballet for years, as well as the eponymous Harkness Ballet Foundation.


As the lyrics of Taylor Swift’s song go, “She was in love with the boys from the ballet.”


As much as she loved the ballet and the literal intoxication of opulent living, Rebekah’s one true love may have been her Holiday House. In a fevered whirlwind of spending, Rebekah renovated her Rhode Island home and expanded the saltbox frame to become a veritable mansion, adding eight additional kitchens and 21 more bathrooms.

During this remodeling period, Rebekah also became infatuated with reincarnation and even held spiritual retreats at this home. Possibly in hopes of contacting her dead husband, or more probably for reasons all her own, Rebekah conducted seances in hopes of communing with the other side. Could this be why Holiday House is reported to be so haunted? Did Rebekah open the door to the other side? Or was she simply so attached to this property that she refuses to leave it nearly 50 years after her death?

And so it goes still at the house on the cliffs at the height of Watch Hill. People who walk the pristine sandy beach that sprawls at the foot of Holiday House have reported the ghostly figure of a woman walking the crags, seemingly staring out into the sea. She is usually witnessed after midnight, and her ghost is rarely reported to be present at any time close to daybreak. Locals believe this ghost is the spirit of Rebekah Harkness herself.

The stones in the cliffs may hold Rebekah’s energy, which is released occasionally to manifest as a residual haunting, basically a playback of past events imprinted on the environment. However, some researchers maintain that this haunting in Rhode Island is an intelligent haunting, and the ghost of Rebekah is cognizant that this is her property. Even in death, she keeps watch over the place. Although no one has ever reported interacting with her ghost, the specter has been seen walking near the fence that sequesters the mansion from the beach. This ghost is not fixated on a particular site on the property and seems free to roam about as she pleases. But just as Rebekah was hard to comprehend in this life, her motives in the afterlife are just as confounding.


“Who knows, if I never showed up, what could’ve been?”


The community of Watch Hill is very aware that a celebrity of the caliber of Taylor Swift lives in their midst, and they seem to be absorbing the attention their little town is getting. But if you want to experience Holiday House for yourself and possibly catch a glimpse of the ghost (which is probably a better chance of seeing than the superstar herself), the locals are very nice folks. Climb Larkin Hill, take a left at one of the oldest merry-go-rounds in the United States, and then descend to the sands of the public beach that is nestled at the bottom of the cliffs. There, you will see a Holiday House that overlooks a view of a lighthouse and the wild Atlantic Ocean. Take some pictures and shoot some videos. You never know who might show up! And remember, Rebekah was all about making a scene!




Harrison, Barbara Grizzuti (22 May 1988). “‘Is There a Chic Way to Go?'”. The New York Times.

Swift, Taylor. “The Last Great American Dynasty.” Folklore. 2020.

Woytus, Amanda (2020-07-25). “The story of Rebekah Harkness is way more complicated than Taylor Swift lets on”. www.stlmag.com