Bogey and Bacall's honeymoon and a spite suicide are part of Mystic inn's history
The 1904 20-room Haley Mansion, now part of the Inn at Mystic, has one claim to fame that has made it into mainstream Mystic trivia: Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall spent their honeymoon there in 1945, staying in the gatehouse.
I saw a reference to this recently, and it made me think of a more interesting story about the mansion, which The Day reported in 1980: a tragic suicide by the caretaker, who evidently was romantically involved with the owner, Frederick Mosel, who was more than 30 years older than he was.
The caretaker, Finnish immigrant Aepeli Hettula, ended up throwing himself off the roof of the mansion after being told in a letter he had been removed from the owner's will and would not inherit the property, as he had long expected. He was 49. Mosel was 84.
Of course, the mansion, on prominent Reynolds Hill, looking over the village of Mystic and out to Fishers Island Sound, represents other interesting local history, having been built by the widow of a Mystic fish dealer, founder of the Fulton Fish Market in New York City, a symbol of the powerful economic influence on the town of shipbuilding and seafaring.
It is certainly one of the grandest houses in Mystic, a town with a lot of grand houses.
Mosel, described in various references I could find in web searches as a party-loving financier with some ties to advertising, bought the mansion and eight acres in 1943. He was the host for Bogart and Bacall on their honeymoon two years later.
Mosel, who also had homes in New Jersey, Florida and New York, usually visited Mystic with his unmarried sister. According to The Day's reporting of Hettula's suicide in 1980, the caretaker lived in the mansion with Mosel, not the separate gatehouse, and they entertained and spent holidays together like a family.
The Day obtained Hettula's suicide note and correspondence with Mosel because he had befriended the newspaper's publisher in a class at the YMCA in New London. He sent the publisher, Deane C. Avery, the letters and a picture of himself before taking his own life, evidently wanting the story to be told.
The Day reported that friends recalled how despondent Hettula became when learning he was not going to inherit the mansion he loved and tended, often crying inconsolably. He also was distraught because Mosel told him by letter and not in person.
Mosel had agreed to sell the property to the owners of the adjacent Mystic Motor Inn, which had been built on land sold off from the Haley estate. The mansion and motor inn are now combined as the Inn at Mystic.
"This will be a short letter because at the time I am too depressed — heartbroken is a better description — to say all I would like to," Mosel wrote to Hettula in 1980. "My health and other conditions have made it necessary to sell Mystic ... for $300,000."
Mosel offered Hettula $5,000 toward buying a house in Mystic and concluded: "I do appreciate all you've done for me in Mystic and I'll always love my association with you."
Hettula responded the day before he killed himself: "Why wasn't I told last summer that the will was changed from my favor pertaining to the house?"
"You lied to me when you said you wouldn't sell anything and you also repeated the same words again at Christmas in Florida."
"I have no plans for the future. My life is very disrupted, and I do not know where or what I will be doing. Is this what you planned for my life? My (ten) years of friendship, devotion and family closeness comes to a tragic end."
Hettula's body was found on the mansion's driveway. A friend said he was expecting Mosel to arrive later that day.
Mosel and his sister, fearing a confrontation, changed plans and went to Maine instead.
Of course, Bogart and Bacall, celebrating their marriage and enduring love for one another on Mystic's Reynolds Hill, is a much more uplifting story to remember the Haley Mansion for.
This is the opinion of David Collins.
Stories that may interest you
Stonington Borough, which has its own Planning and Zoning Commission, with strict rules, protects historic character in a way that other neighborhoods in town can't. The developer-enabling first selectman exploits that lack of protection.