John La Farge was an American painter, muralist, stained glass window maker, decorator, and writer. He is best known for his innovations in stained glass design. He was commissioned to design the interior of Trinity Church in Boston.
These murals and stained glass designs led to other important commissions for public buildings including churches. He wrote eight books and numerous essays about art to establish a tradition of fine arts in the United States.
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Church of the Ascension, Corner of 10th Street and Fifth Avenue
La Farge was commissioned to paint The Ascension for the church. He painted it, using four coats of heavy white lead to get the rich tones he wanted.
When he ordered it to be hung, the canvas’ stretcher was unable to support its weight and it fell. The artist ordered a stronger stretcher to be built and the mural stayed in place.
According to legend, Oliver La Farge, the artist’s grandson, was told The Ascension fell again. He and friends rushed to the church where he was told his grandfather died at the moment the mural fell.
51 West 10th Street, Rimskys’ Experiences
Artist Feodor Rimsky and his wife lived in Studio 22, La Farge’s former home. Late one fall night in 1944, they returned home from an opera. They noticed the door was unlocked and a light was on. They had locked the door.
Rimsky pushed heavy drapes aside. He saw a strange man, dressed in formal clothing of an earlier era in the library. When he approached the stranger, he vanished.
Rimsky told the previous owner of the building about this ghostly encounter. The man showed him pictures of previous tenants. Who Rimsky saw was La Farge’s ghost.
The Rimskys were entertaining friends one night. William Weber, who had had psychic experiences, was among them. Suddenly, Weber stopped talking, turned ashen and asked his wife and two companions if they could see what he saw.
They didn’t and joked about him seeing La Farge’s ghost until he described the apparition. They realized he had seen the ghost.
John Alan Maxwell and La Farge’s Ghost
In spring, 1948, La Farge and his wife visited illustrator Maxwell. It was a warm day. He had finished his job and decided to take a nap. He took off his clothes and slipped under a sheet on the couch. Suddenly, he woke up. The room was dark and he felt a presence.
As his eyes got used to the darkness, he saw a woman bending over him, straightening the sheet. Maxwell sighted a man standing behind her. They were dressed in clothing of an earlier time and appeared not to notice him.
He thought they were burglars and became alarmed. He struck the man with his fist. The stranger vanished. Maxwell searched the studio. No one was there and the outer door was still locked. The man realized he encountered the ghosts of La Farge and his wife.
Several years before the building was demolished, Maxwell had a party. He told one of his guests, a model, about his experience with the two spectral visitors. She told him she had seen the ghost of a woman dressed in nineteenth-century clothing float down that hall and disappear.
Maxwell’s Guest Sees La Farge’s Ghost
He told his visitors about his ghostly experience at another party. As one of the women was leaving, he jokingly told her to scream if she saw anything eerie.
Soon, the party-goers heard footsteps running in the hall and the woman screaming about seeing a man. Maxwell and his guests searched the building, waking tenants to find out if they had seen the man. No one had seen him. The conclusion was that the woman saw La Farge’s ghost.
This was the last time anyone saw a ghost of the La Farge… Probably.