Schooled by Ghosts at the Houghton Mansion

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It was to be my fifth investigation at the Houghton Mansion, which meant that my intrigue level was fairly low. I was well-versed on the history and had a good idea what to expect. While I was excited to be returning to one of my favorite haunts, I was looking forward to the social aspect more than the actual haunting. I would be in for a shock. My fifth visit was a wild ride I will never forget.

On previous visits, I investigated with like-minded investigators, eager to seek out the truth and experience the haunting firsthand. I wasn’t disappointed. While conducting an EVP session in the basement of the mansion, I saw a partial apparition materialize before my very eyes before it darted across the room and disappeared. This trip would be different. I would actually learn something about ghost behavior.

The Houghton Mansion is a somber place with a sad story.

In the spring of 1914, A.C. Houghton took several friends and family members for a pleasure drive in their new Pierce-Arrow Touring Car. When the car hit a soft shoulder of the road, it tumbled down the steep embankment, rolling over three times, killing Houghton’s daughter Mary and her childhood friend, Sybil Hutton. Feeling immense guilt over the accident, the driver of the car, John Widders, a long time friend and servant of the Houghton’s, put a gun to his head three days later and ended his life. Mr. Houghton died ten days later, possibly from undiscovered injuries incurred during the accident. Most of them never left the mansion.

In 1920, Houghton’s surviving daughter sold the mansion to the Masons, who built a tremendous Temple behind the house. The mansion has been under the care of the Lafayette-Greylock Lodge ever since, adding another layer to the haunting.

Since my last visit, I began teaching a Paranormal 101 class in the town of Gardner, Massachusetts, located 75 miles west of the mansion. Through the classes, I’ve met several talented psychic mediums who agreed to attend the Houghton Mansion investigation with me.

I have a theory that the ghosts at haunted locations usually follow the strongest medium during investigations. If they wish to communicate, they have a better chance at cutting right to the source, instead of being forced to navigate through tricky equipment to get their message across. This proved to be true at the Houghton Mansion, as well. While our group experienced ample activity, the other group didn’t have the same experiences.

I co-hosted the event with Jason Stanton, host of Ghost Chat Radio and author of several paranormal books. Since eleven people showed up for the investigation, we divided into two groups. My group consisted of Ken Murray, a budding psychic medium with immense talent, Dianne Truax, an experienced psychic medium, as well as Barbara Niles, Patricia White, Chantel Szlesok, and Lynda Szlesok, who were all developing sensitives.

While we spent the night investigating all the hot spots and gathered ample evidence, the three locations where I actually learned something were in the basement, in Mary’s room and in a third floor room filled with lockers used by the Masons.

The Basement

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I knew there was a dark entity in the basement of the mansion. We encountered him there several times before and saw him in the form of dark shadows moving in the darkness. There was also supposed to be a little girl there who answers to the name Laura. While the Houghtons had a daughter named Laura who died at the age of three, many aren’t convinced this is the same little girl. They theorize that the mansion was built on an existing foundation, so the ghost of the child could belong to the first house that sat on the property.

As we came into the basement, our adrenaline was running high. The mansion’s basement is downright creepy. It looks like it could be featured in a horror movie without needing any additional props. We went to a central room to the right of the staircase where most of the activity has been reported. I started my recorder before we entered the room, knowing that I might catch the ghosts off guard.

The chairs are arranged in a loose circle, which makes it easy for conducting EVP sessions. As we selected our chairs, I captured this chilling EVP of an entity giving us further instruction.

Before beginning the session, someone in the group needed fresh batteries. It’s not uncommon for investigators to discover their brand new batteries drain down to nothing in haunted locations. It takes energy for ghosts to communicate, and they will often pull energy from the batteries in our equipment. While the investigators were swapping out batteries, I caught this EVP.

As we settled into the session, the mediums in the group could feel an energy building. The darkness grew to epic proportions, filling the room with a sense of anger and loathing that even the non-mediums could feel. At one point, one member of the group became so overwhelmed with the dark energy, she needed to remove herself from the building to recoup her energy.

Once the session started up again, I began seeing a dark shadow pacing back and forth in front of a doorway (pictured above). I called several other investigators over to watch it and they saw it too. Typically when this happens, the activity comes to a grinding halt, but this time was different. The dark shadow person continued to pace back and forth for a full five minutes, allowing all of us to witness it. Unfortunately, none of us had a night-vision camera to capture it with. I’ll be adding that item to my wish list ASAP.

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Mary’s Room

While we had amazing experiences in all the rooms, perhaps the most interesting part of the evening for me was the exchange going on in Mary’s room. According to our psychic mediums, there were two women and a man in the room. The woman was fairly quiet, but the male was vocal. When Ken asked Mary if she rode side-saddle, knowing she was an avid rider, the male responded with “probably.” Then, he added an insult to the mix. “Fat bastard!” he said.

The insults weren’t contained to just Ken though. When Dianne asked who the woman was, the male spoke up again, saying, “slut.” Was he talking about the female entity or was his insult directed to Dianne?

Dianne commented that the woman was standing in the corner. She kept trying to get a reading on her, but the woman was illusive. Dianne knew she was an older woman, but she couldn’t glean much more from her. As soon as she made the comment, a male voice on the Spirit Box responded with, “It’s that poor bitch.” Was he talking about the female entity in the room?

When Ken mentioned that he no longer felt the male presence, but still felt the female, it appears that the male attempted to coach her. “You need to cloak,” he said clearly.

I find this interesting on several levels. First, who was the woman in the corner? When we detected the male, he quickly disappeared. I always thought that when they vanished like that, they actually left the room, but apparently I was wrong. Are they capable of cloaking themselves?

The second curiosity is the word he used: cloak. To me, it’s a word straight from an episode of Star Trek. I guess I figured that the afterlife would have their own special words for what they do, but this man was apparently once a Trekkie. Does this strike anyone else as being a bit surreal?

This brings me to the third interesting factor: the male ghost is probably not one of the Houghtons. For him to be aware of the terminology from a show that aired in the 1960s, he must have either lived in our time period or watched it on the mansion’s television. I might be making the wrong assumptions, but I just can’t envision A.C. Houghton camped out in the library room, watching old Star Trek reruns.

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The Locker Room

There is a room on the third floor that’s filled with old wooden lockers. We were told by Dave, one of the mansion’s caretakers, that the Masons used to use the room to change into ceremonial robes.

The minute we entered the room, our two mediums felt a sense of anger.

“They don’t like us up here,” Dianne commented. Ken was quick to add to her statement.

“They don’t like any of us up here, but they especially don’t like women in here,” he said.

It made perfect sense. Since the mansion was taken over by the Masons in the 1920s, the majority of the house became a male domain. While females were allowed in some of the public areas, they weren’t allowed in spaces the Masons felt were sacred areas. This included the locker room where they dressed.

Chantel asked if they wanted us to leave and a male voice responded with, “If you could.”

One of my mentors told me that there are often layers in a haunted location. One layer might be from one time period, while another layer could be from a different era. In some locations, they interact with one another but in others, aren’t aware the other layer exists. This seems to be the case in the Houghton Mansion, as well.

While we were talking to the angry Mason, a little girl was trying very hard to get our attention. In the audio clip below, you can hear her saying “Yohooo!” If the Masons objected to female investigators in the room, why would they let a little girl run around unless they didn’t know she was there?

I love going on investigations where I learn something and the Houghton Mansion didn’t let me down. I will certainly return to the mansion again and again, hoping for more insight.

For more information about the haunted Houghton Mansion, please visit their Facebook page by clicking here.
Joni Mayhan is a paranormal investigator and the author of 11 books, including Dark and Scary Things – A Sensitive’s Guide to the Paranormal World,  Devil’s Toy Box, The Soul Collector and Bones in the Basement, all available on, as well as and Smashwords. Click on any of the covers below to learn more about each of her books.

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Surviving the Soul Collector

After the Soul Collector blog picture

In 2011, I went through a horrific experience that will always remain with me. I think about it every time I walk into a dark room. It follows me into the shadowed hallways of my dreams and comes to me in quiet moments, like a whisper in the wind. I was the victim of an extreme haunting.

In many ways, I imagine it is similar to what people feel after they’ve survived an avalanche, a house fire or a near death experience. The symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress are very similar. My heart races and my self-defence mechanisms kick in. All I want to do is take flight and bolt from the room, even though I know this is something I can’t outrun.

People often ask me why I still continue to investigate the paranormal after living through something that has changed me to the very core of my being. I honestly don’t have a good answer for them. In some ways, I don’t think I have a choice.

I was born a sensitive. I can feel and hear the sounds that ghosts make when they wander into my space. It starts softly with a buzz in my ear that many dismiss as simple ear ringing. When I hear it, I’m helpless to resist it. It becomes stronger and louder, demanding my attention.

Most of the time, when I hear the sounds a ghost makes, I try to ignore it, but it’s often like trying to ignore a mosquito that buzzes near your ear. If I give it more than a few seconds of my attention, it acts as an acknowledgement. I can imagine them saying, “Oh, you can sense me!” That’s when they hover closer, often following me home to continue the one sided conversation.

Even though I practice paranormal protection, they still find a way to latch onto me. I have grounded and shielded. I have protection stones in my pocket and on my wrist. I carry religious medallions that make me feel safe. I spray my head and feet with Holy Water every time I leave the house, and  I keep a white light of protection surrounding me. I say prayers before and after investigations, and we always burn sage before we leave. While this would be enough for most people, it doesn’t work for me. They follow me no matter what I do. I’ve since learned that they can even come through the phone lines.

I was interviewing someone for the book I’m writing when I felt something drift into the room. It was dark and scary, the tone very similar to the one the Soul Collector possessed. In an instant, I was mentally back in that place in my mind. I remembered the way the Soul Collector hovered inches above me as I tried to fall asleep, and the way he caressed my hair as I lay on my side. I thought about the way he threatened to come after my daughter, holding me hostage with his demands, and the way he followed my son from his room one night. My stomach clenched as the sound moved closer. I could imagine him, licking his putrid lips as he imagined taking me over.

He could have been a serial killer in life. He had no conscious. All he had was the burning need for my soul. In that moment, I knew that I needed to do something to save myself. Thankfully, I had a savior in the wings who was eager to help.

If I’d known Michael Robishaw years ago, the Soul Collector would have been a three page book. Since meeting him, he’s helped me dozens of times in removing entities from my house. Michael is a Shaman, as well as a spiritual healer, Empath and medium. With the assistance of his Spirit Guides, he assists me remotely.

At one point, he recommended that I stop ghost hunting for a while to clear my aura, but it became abundantly clear that that didn’t make a difference. They followed me home from normal places too. I picked them up at grocery stores, movie theaters and from friend’s houses.

I excused myself from the telephone conversation as quickly as possible, promising to send the woman information that would lead her to more help, and contacted Michael. Shortly afterwards, I heard his spirit guides swoop into the room. The sound was like laser lights as they zipped around the room. I couldn’t see them, but there was no doubt they were there. The entity quickly retreated back to where he came from and the room grew quiet again. Michael had saved me once again.

Michael has helped hundreds of other people in the same way he’s helped me. One of those people was the woman I was speaking to. Unfortunately for her, the persistence of the dead will follow her through the days of her life just like it does mine. There will probably never be an escape. There will only be options.

Not all of the entities are as dark as the Soul Collector. Some of them are simply lost souls, looking for help. Those are the easy ones. I can help them cross over into the light and find their way to peace and tranquility. It’s the dark ones that bother me. They have no desire to cross over. All they want is to wrack havoc into the lives of the living. Those are the ones that make my blood run cold.

I will continue to search for answers. I won’t let the fear stop me in my pursuit of the solution to ending this madness. I will still walk into dark rooms, not allowing the entity to have power over me. I will fight it tooth and nail until it’s gone, but in the back of my mind I will never forget what it feels like to be helpless and afraid. I will carry that memory to my grave. And most of all, I will share what I’ve learned because knowledge is power.

Joni Mayhan is a paranormal investigator and the author of 13 books. To learn more about Michael Robishaw, read her chilling book Ruin of Souls.  Her other paranormal books include: Dark and Scary Things – A Sensitive’s Guide to the Paranormal World,  Devil’s Toy Box, The Soul Collector and Bones in the Basement, all available on, as well as and Smashwords. To learn more about her books, click on any of the covers below.
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The Reincarnation of a Haunted Mansion


It takes a special type of person to own a haunted mansion, especially one as paranormally active and famous as the S.K. Pierce Haunted Victorian Mansion in Gardner, Massachusetts.

The Pierce mansion was built in 1875 by furniture magnate, S.K. Pierce in the town that came to be known as “Chair City” due to its abundant production of furniture. During its 140 year history, the 6,661 square foot mansion was witness to a variety of lifestyles. Starting out as a luxurious family mansion during the Guided Era, it took a slow decline as a boarding house through the Depression years, before landing in the hands of a wealthy, if not eccentric, artist. When he abandoned the mansion in the 1970s, the house sat vacant for thirty years until a private buyer decided to transform it into a private home once again. While the Veau family was aware of the haunting and frequently saw the ghost of a little boy race up the grand staircase, they didn’t experience the same level of terror that the next owners did. Edwin Gonzalez and Lillian Otero only lived in the house for two and a half years before the extreme haunting drove them out.

By May of 2015, the house was back on the market. People speculated about who the new owners would be. Some hoped the house would remain a private residence, while others wished it would be opened for tours and paranormal investigations. The reality landed somewhere in the middle.

In June of 2015, after only being on the real estate market for two weeks, the house was purchased sight-unseen by a couple from New Jersey.

Victorian owners - old and new

On the surface, you wouldn’t peg Rob and Allison Conti as your typical haunted house buyers. The parents of three young children, Rob is a dentist, while Allison is a former investigator for a commercial investigative company. They live in a nice house in the suburbs of central New Jersey with a family dog named Capone and a pool in the backyard. If you dig a bit deeper though, you’ll see the reason.

Rob always wanted to run a haunted attraction. The dream started in childhood and followed him through his adulthood. Once he finally had the opportunity to realize his dream, fate stepped in and handed him a major obstacle.

Due to a tragic fire at the Six Flags Haunted Castle In 1984, where eight teenagers died, the laws for freestanding haunted attractions were dauntingly strict, essentially preventing anyone from opening another haunted house of its kind in the state of New Jersey. Even though he had the mental image of his ideal haunted attraction set firmly in his mind, he pushed it aside and came up with a completely different concept.

In 2010, the Conti’s opened The Dark Carnival in Freehold, New Jersey, a carnival-themed attraction held in an 8,000 square foot open-air circus arena, along with several other structures. Visitors to the amusement enjoy a winding maze filled with terrifying clowns, as well as attractions like The Meat Grinder, The Sanatorium, and a dark hallway filled with frights known as Night Terrors.

The Dark Carnival is heavy on creepy clowns, something that impacted Rob at an early age. When he was six years-old, his parents brought him to Madison Square Garden for the circus. The clowns came into the audience, looking for a volunteer to bring onto the stage. Despite the fact that he was hysterically crying, they were persistent about dragging him onto the stage. It was a traumatic experience for him, making him now appreciate why so many people are fearful of clowns.

When the S.K. Pierce Mansion went on the market, a friend of his wife sent them the MLS listing, thinking they might be interested, knowing about Rob’s childhood dream. Rob was astounded. “It was the house out of my head and the price was relatively affordable,” he said.

When he showed the listing to his wife, her reaction was a bit different. “Absolutely not!” she laughingly told him. After some further discussion, they decided to at least look into it and see if it was even feasible. Rob called the real estate agency the next day and immediately met with resistance. Known for its haunted history after being featured on numerous paranormal television shows, as well as the subject for my 2014 book Bones in the Basement – Surviving the S.K. Pierce Haunted Victorian Mansion, many people were calling the agency hoping for a peek inside the haunted mansion. The agency was careful about only showing the house to serious buyers.

After doing extensive research into the property, the Contis finally set the wheels in motion and put in an offer on the house.The real estate agency was astounded. In 25 years of business they had never sold a house sight-unseen. Rob knew what he was getting himself into though. It was the house of his dreams.

The Contis plan to fully restore the house, starting with the outside. Restoration on the crumbling soffits will begin within the next few weeks, with power washing and repainting soon following. Interior work will include the installation of a sprinkler system and some upgrades to the electrical and plumbing, as well as restoration to some of the plaster work. After a year of renovations, they will open the house to the public.

“Everything needs to be original looking,” he said. He will restore the Victorian to its former glory, down to the smallest details, such as having reproduction iron roof finials made for the top of the infamous widows walk. He was pleasantly pleased to learn that, besides the exterior decay, the house is structurally sound and in excellent condition.

The current plan is to open the house up for daily, weekly, or monthly rentals for eleven months of the year. People who have always wanted to spend the night in a haunted mansion will have an opportunity to do so. During the month of October, the house will be transformed into a weekend haunted attraction, complete with hired actors and high-end props. They are currently working on obtaining off-site parking options, as well.

Rob has been astounded by the attention his purchase has generated. “People are already trying to make reservations, even though the opening is still a year out,” he said. He was recently interviewed by Channel 7 News in Boston, in addition to being a guest on several paranormal radio shows. “Everyone has been amazingly supportive,” he said, of the town and the mansion’s multitude of fans.

(above) New owners, Rob and Allison Conti, with former owners, Lillian Otero and Edwin Gonzales

Rob understands the way people feel about the mansion. “It almost seems like it’s a community house. We own it, but it’s our responsibility to fix the house, so that needs to be done,” he said. Will they open it for paranormal investigations? Rob is still pondering the idea, knowing that it will require different handling from a normal rental. His primary focus, for now, is to fix the house. “Once we get that done, we can consider all the other options,” he said. One thing’s for certain: there won’t be any clowns, something that was hashed and rehashed by fans on social media.

During our hour long interview, one question kept rising to my mind. I waited until nearly the end of our conversation to ask it. Does he believe in ghosts?

“I’m starting to now. I’ve never been in this situation before. It’s hard to not to because there are tons of people all telling me the same story. I find it hard to believe that hundreds of people are in on the same hoax,” he said with a laugh. I’m fairly certain his opinion will be solidified in the coming years, if the Victorian ghosts are true to form.

The Conti’s set up a website, as well as a Facebook page where fans of the house can keep track of the progress. If you’d like to read more about the mansion’s dark history, check out my book by clicking the photo below.

Joni Mayhan is a paranormal investigator and the author of 11 books. For more information about her, check out her website or her terrifying true paranormal books on, including Dark and Scary Things, Devil’s Toy Box, The Soul Collector or Bones in the Basement.

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Secrets from the Grave – The Haunted Victorian Mansion

The Haunted Victorian Mansion has many secrets.

As I began writing a book for the owners, unanswered questions began piling up, one by one, making me realize there is a lot we still don’t know.  Finding the answers has proven to be very daunting because all of the residents are long deceased, and the historical trail they left behind is filled with gaps.

Here’s what we do know:

After becoming one of the wealthiest men in the county, furniture magnate, S.K. Pierce decided to build a house that matched his stature. He hired two hundred men to work around the clock for a year and a half . When the house was completed in 1875, it was a marvel to behold.

Standing three stories tall, the Second Empire Victorian boasted twenty-six rooms, including four bathrooms, two cisterns for running water, and a tower that provided grand views of South Gardner.

It wasn’t a happily-ever-after kind of story, though. Soon after the house was build, S.K.’s wife Susan died of a very painful bacterial infection that literally ate her flesh. He remarried two years later to Ellen, a woman who was barely older than his son Frank.  S.K. and Ellen had two more sons between them, Stuart and Edward.

By all accounts, the rivalry between the oldest son, Frank, and his step-mother was legendary. After his father’s death in 1888, the house passed down to Ellen, not to the eldest son, which was more customary of the time period.  His brothers Stuart and Edward left the furniture business to invest in car dealerships.

When Ellen died, the house was passed down to her three sons, who squabbled and fought each other in court for many years. The youngest son, Edward, ended up with the house and lived there with his wife, Bessie, and their daughter, Rachel, who turned it into a boarding house.

Tragedy descended upon the Pierce family once more, when 2 year-old Rachel died from Influenza. When Bessie died in 1951, the house fell into quick decline. The boarding house began developing a seedy reputation. There were reports of gambling and prostitution. When Edward allegedly lost the house in a poker game, a man named Jay Stemmerman became the new owner.

Jay was a wealthy man by his own right and would bring another layer of intrigue to the Victorian. After he abandoned the house in the 1980’s, the house sat empty for nearly twenty years. When the next owners purchased it in 2000, some of his odd paintings still graced the walls. Portraits of half-woman/half-beast, as well as full blown orgy scenes were depicted on the canvases. Due to the graphic nature of the paintings, many people wondered what else transpired during that time period.

The current hauntings only make the story more complex.  Having so much of the history at our disposal, we thought we’d be able to identify the ghosts who still linger there. Unfortunately, there are many we can’t identify.

Like, who is the little boy who has been seen in the windows and on the grand staircase? There aren’t any reports of a young boy dying in the house? We’ve asked many times, getting different responses.  Here’s one response we received while doing an EVP session in 2012.

And who was the full body apparition who appeared at Edwin’s side as he worked in his home office? Was it the ghost of Eino Sauri, the Finnish WWII veteran who died in the house in 1963, some say by self-combustion? Or was it the man who died of a heart attack at the pizza place across the street just before the ghost appeared?

And who is the evil entity in the basement?

Some psychics feel it’s Frank, the eldest son, who battled with his step-mother. Others say it is Edward, the youngest son, who lived in the basement after losing the house. Still others feel it’s a demon, brought in by an investigator with an Ouija Board. What does the house say?

Listen to the EVP by clicking on the link to find out.

We have asked this question numerous times, getting different responses many of the times. While in the basement, here’s another response we received.

Probably the biggest mystery of all revolves around the tunnel in the basement. Why would S.K. Pierce build a tunnel to his factory across the street? I’ve spoken to two separate people who have confirmed that the foundation of the building across the street has an identical blocked off opening. Although the original factory burnt to the ground in 1938, it was very likely that the new building would have been built on the existing foundation. If there was a tunnel, it has long been collapsed. Only the entrances remain.

What was the tunnel used for?

As I reached out to various people who have investigated there while researching my book, I heard various opinions. While tunnels of this sort were typically used for home heating, capturing the steam from the factory, opinions differ. Almost every psychic feels like it has something to do with children. Several have voiced an opinion that children were often used to work in the furniture factory across the street, which would make sense considering child labor was legal in the late 1800’s.  Another psychic suggested something even worse happened to children in the basement, alluding to physical and sexual abuse. Still another psychic thought that dark magic was practiced in one of the rooms at the factory across the street and that the tunnel was used to spirit them across unseen. Much of this will probably go undiscovered. Even if we were able to track down descents, no one will willingly provide this kind of information if it did indeed happen. The only hope we have is for the ghosts themselves to finally tell us.

One thing is for certain: some of the Victorian ghosts want help.

And we won’t stop digging until we find the answers.

Joni Mayhan

Joni Mayhan is a paranormal investigator, as well as a free-lance writer. Please check out her paranormal thrillers on and For more information about the author, please see her website: Click on the covers below to learn more about any of her books.

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To read more about the Haunted Victorian Mansion, check out Joni’s book Bones in the Basement. Click on the photo below to learn more about Edwin and Lillian’s harrowing experience in the S.K. Pierce Haunted Victorian Mansion.

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