SK Pierce Mansion

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Many spirits still adore this mansion, making it a bit crowded for the living.

Spiritual residents represent every era of the home’s history.

The Living have no rights. We impose our will. You serve our whims.


S.K. Pierce Mansion was added to The National Register of Historic Places in 1922.

As of 2022, the Sylvester Knowlton (S.K.) Pierce Mansion is a beloved, beautifully restored, 1875 Victorian Mansion, a community landmark that has been certified as being full of spirits. It sits on a 10,124 sq ft corner lot. Its interior takes up 6,661 square feet.

It has also proven to be a huge money pit. Fortunately, the property has had several owners who could put a boatload of money into maintaining it from slipping further into disrepair. Unfortunately, their pockets were not quite deep enough to make big progress in restoring it to its former glory, much to the disappointment of the resident spirits.

The current owner as of July 29, 2022, is Bob Conti, a dentist from New Jersey who bought it in 2015, sight unseen. He was the hero who had the ability to not only repair its creaky state, but completely restore S.K. Pierce Mansion, which has received kudos from the community and even the mayor of Gardner.

“We all kind of agreed that it was within years of being completely condemned, that’s how bad it was,” he said. “There were roof leaks, plaster was falling, the interior was deteriorating. It was in rough shape.” Conti shared with The Gardner News in a 2022 article interview, “We had to replumb the entire house, renovate /restore the entire house, bring everything up to code and looking nice – with the intent of keeping everything looking as original as possible, which was somewhat of a task.”

This seven year restoration journey was under the direction of curator Kenneth Watson, a preservationist contractor who came through with flying colors. When Tom and I stopped by during our 2021 fall road trip, the mansion had a new olive-green paint job, a new roof, refurbished windows and was looking pretty sharp on the outside!

It is loved and cherished once more, with tours about to start. There are 7,000 people on the waiting list, eagerly wanting to see the most haunted home in Massachusetts.

All fourteen rooms are now in outstanding shape with furniture and items used in 1875 on display. There are five bedrooms, and three bathrooms, one for each floor. Originally, there was an apartment in the basement, but now this space is used for storage.

The common rooms such as the parlor, the dining room, the billiard room, and the library make the visitor feel like they stepped back in time, with marble fireplaces, ornate woodwork, cornices, and antiques. What makes it complete is the ornate, circular, main staircase that takes the living up to the enclosed widow’s walk, to enjoy a beautiful view of the city nearby.

The resident spirits may even make personal appearances, if they are in the mood. But be warned: they still hold their belief in the separation of the economic classes, and though they may tolerate visitors, they don’t always like their presences. Except for one spirit, they are not welcoming, but are possessive of what they perceive as theirs.

Conti has just interviewed applicants to be hired as “the not easily scared docents” who are willing to show people around this haunted house, no matter what they may feel or see, describing each room and the history of the mansion.

As of 2023, tours of the home have started through Conti’s company, Dark Carnival. Later, Conti hopes to open a bed and breakfast for guests who dare to spend the night. Hmm! Certain spirits won’t be pleased.

The one drawback to staying overnight is that the spirits feel superior and take advantage of people’s weaknesses for chuckles and to continue to feel powerful. Potential guests and tour participants must sign a detailed injury waiver that states “the entities in this mansion are extremely advanced and have demonstrated a unique ability to impose their will ‘physically’ on guests.”



Jonas Pierce and his brother, Sylvester, decided to buy Stephen Taylor’s chair factory that had been founded in South Gardner around 1830. Sylvester bought his brother out, and took over. Soon, orders for furniture went through the roof, causing more factory buildings to appear on both South Main Street and at 104 East Broadway during the 1850s. Sylvester Knowlton (S.K.) Pierce became a rich man, and was proud of his success. By 1875, he was inspired to build his dream mansion, sparing no expense to showcase his wealth to all, and the special people he invited there.

He knew just where to build it too. Right across from his factory, there was a corner lot. He bought the house already on the property, and either destroyed it or moved it down the street. He then hired two hundred men to construct his spectacular mansion using part of the foundation of the former home.

After a year and a half, Sylvester, his wife Susan Elvira, and their son Frank Jackson Pierce, moved in to enjoy the beauty of it. He built a tunnel from his mansion to the factory, so he wouldn’t get wet in inclement weather.

Their joy and happiness together lasted two weeks before tragedy struck. Susan caught a flesh-eating virus that killed her.

Sylvester didn’t stay a widower for long. In 1878, he got married again to a lady named Ellen Louise West. They had two sons, Stuart Knowlton Pierce (1879), and Edward West Pierce (1882).

Sylvester invited his well-known and famous friends to play billiards and socialize. These included circus owner P. T. Barnum, Norman Rockwell, and Calvin Coolidge.

Sylvester died in 1888, leaving his wife Ellen, thirty-two year old son Frank, (who took over the factory), nine-year-old Stewart, and six-year-old Edward. Ellen inherited the mansion and spent the rest of her life there.

After she died in 1902, the three Pierce sons fought in court for several years over the mansion, with Edward coming out the winner. In 1910, he married his sweetheart, Bessie L Howe. They had two daughters, Annette Howe Pierce (1911) and Rachel West Pierce (1914).

Tragically, Rachel died of a virus in 1916. Throughout the twenties, Annette grew up in the mansion with her parents, eventually leaving to start her own life. Edward and Bessie continued to live there happily until the Depression came, which destroyed their wealth.

To make ends meet, they opened The Victorian Inn, which eventually turned into a boarding house. Edward and Bessie lived in either the basement apartment or one of the third floor rooms.

Apparently, at first they were not choosy as to whom they rented their rooms to during the boarding house era, and some undesirables moved in. An entrepreneurial lady of the night rented the Red Room to set up her business. Unfortunately, one of her clients, David, murdered her in a fit of rage.

They must have learned their lesson, and established standards as to whom they would offer a rental contract. Renting didn’t bring in much money for maintenance, but they could live on it.

Bessie died in 1951, but Edward continued to live there, feeling depressed because the house was becoming a creaky fixer-upper. He had no money to fix it up, and his remaining brother wouldn’t help. That bridge was burned a long time ago.

A boarder Eino Sauri rented the master bedroom. One night in 1963, when he was drinking and smoking in bed, the mattress caught fire, killing him. What was odd was that the fire was contained to just the mattress, and didn’t spread.

Three steps ahead of a condemnation notice, Edward gave the mansion to his friend in 1965, to save it from the wrecking ball. His friend invested a boatload of money to stabilize the structure. Edward rented the basement, and stayed there until he died in 1967.

Several owners afterward did their best to improve the property, but after running out of money to do so, (and in one case, going through divorce), they sold it to the next hopeful Victorian enthusiast, in between times when the mansion was vacant.

Edward Gonzales and Lillian Otero bought this mansion, even though it resembled the Addams Family home. Lillian saw it as the fulfillment of a long-held dream to own a Victorian, while Edward saw it as a major money pit. They bought it in 2008, but didn’t move in until April of 2009, because it had no heat.

Lillian came every week to work on projects, trying to ignore the spirits messing with her all the while.

The unfriendly spirits found that Edward was easy to scare, and Lillian had a maternal extinct they could exploit. Besides the regular spirits with attachments to the house and demanding standards, there were two powerful, nasty presences in the basement, set to do as much harm as possible.

After the couple made it public about their spirits, investigators came out of the woodwork, paying fees to investigate. Edward and Lillian put the money toward the many projects that were needed to be done around the mansion. They finally had to move out in 2011, just two years after moving in. Edwin’s and Lillian’s experiences with the not-so-friendly spirits and the nasty ones were written down in a book by medium Joni Mayhan, “Bones in the Basement: Surviving the S.K. Pierce Haunted Victorian Mansion.”

It is a scary read, but a truthful thriller. Joni Mayhan spent a lot of time there while writing the book. One of the nasty spirits in the basement followed Joni home, but she had a shaman friend banish it.

Edwin and Lillian didn’t sell until 2015, leaving it empty, but still a mecca for paranormal investigation groups and TV reality shows. One nasty entity was left in the house. During one early investigation, a female investigator was shoved backwards, and she would’ve tumbled down the central staircase, if it wasn’t for two of her team members who caught her.

Bob Conti is the current owner, and after seven years of hard work, the mansion is completely restored, and through his company Dark Carnival, it is now a paranormal attraction for enthusiasts and paranormal investigators, and a place for paranormal history tours, as it is too haunted for private owners to claim as their home.

As of 2023, both evil entities are gone, leaving a large group of spirits who still feel they own the place. Bob Conti is doing well with the tours, and may be opening his bed and breakfast, though not for the easily scared or vulnerable.


S.K. Pierce Mansion is home to many spirits who don’t want to share ownership. There are a variety of reasons why they are there.


The spirits of murdered people and their murderers can be stuck in the same place.

Bobby Mackey’s, KY (The spirit of a victim who lost her head and her unborn baby in her murder, looks inside to find her head and baby, as is her two evil killers).

Mission San Miguel, CA (The spirits of a murderous, greedy gang who slaughtered a whole family group, are doomed to forever look for the gold they killed for, while their victims haunt the same place, Mission San Miguel).

Old Washoe Club, NV (The spirit of a murdered female and her remorseful killer are stuck here).

S.K. Pierce Mansion, MA (The spirit of a prostitute who was strangled to death, and the spirit of her crazed killer are trapped together in the mansion).


People who suffer failures in life, sometimes are stuck as spirits in their disappointment and guilt.

Levy House, NV (The tragic accident of an active girl resulted in two restless spirits, the victim, and the male who was supposed to be watching her).

Kenmore Mansion, VA (The Patriarch who lived here during the Revolutionary War gave generously for munitions for the Patriot cause, which resulted in money problems for his family. He still worries).

Shanley Hotel, NY (The spirit of the barber stays here to look after the spirit of his young daughter who drowned in the well when he wasn’t watching her).

S.K. Pierce Mansion, MA (The spirit of S.K.’s youngest son, Edward, is stuck here because he couldn’t maintain the mansion and had to sell it out of the family. It is humiliating that he had to rent his old basement).


Spirits often like to spend their afterlives in places where they were the happiest, sometimes in numbers that make it uncomfortable for the living to stay there too. Spirits may not be willing to share without a protest.

McRaven House, MS (The spirits are former residents from every era of the house, making it impossible for owners to make it their home, or have a bed and breakfast. It is a historical museum that has paranormal events).

Dumas Brothel Building, MT (Owners had bought the building with dreams of restoring it to be a bed and breakfast. Unfortunately, too many strong-willed spirits still resided there, so they sold it to a group of paranormal investigators).

Madison Seminary, OH (The city fathers found that no one wanted to rent any of the buildings because many spirits still love the place and were not shy about showing themselves. It now is a mecca for paranormal enthusiasts, who either investigate or go on historical tours).

S.K. Pierce Mansion, MA (Quite a few strong-willed spirits call this mansion their home, not leaving much room for the owners who want to claim it as their main residence).


The spirits of children or adults who suddenly die, sometimes like to spend their afterlives in places they were familiar with, and felt love and acceptance. The spirits of adults sometimes feel that they still own the places, and have high expectations of the living).

Brumder Mansion, WI (Three spirit children, Emma, Sarah and Timmy, who died here, still love the Brumder).

Bee Bennett Mansion, CA (Happy little boy spirits who both died suddenly, entertain themselves by playing pranks!).

S.K. Pierce Mansion, MA (The spirits of S.K., Susan, Ellen, Edward, Nanny Maddie Cornwall, the burn victim Eino Sauri, little Rachel and the blonde boy still love the mansion. The spirit children play freely, while the adult spirits expect the living to maintain the mansion, and their privacy).


When spirits are unhappy with the living, they can become restless and let the living know how they feel, sometimes in bold and scary ways.

Brumder Mansion, WI (The spirit of a doctor who had rented the entire third floor while alive, wasn’t happy about the living or other spirits using his rooms).

Landoll’s Mohican Castle, OH (The construction of a new building in 2018 sent a spirit into a rage that she expressed against guests and staff with the intention of scaring them away).

S.K. Pierce Mansion, MA (The spirit of fire victim boarder Eino Sauri is very possessive of the master bedroom, and aggressively showed his displeasure at Edwin and Lillian. Some of the spirits for different reasons tried to scare Edwin and Lillian out of their house, using extreme measures).


Moving houses off properties can awaken spirits into action. They can be attached to the house or to the land.

Hampton Lilibridge Townhouse, GA (After the house was moved to its new location, a murderous spirit became active during the renovation process, but the living were protected by a grumpy spirit or two).

Hartford Huguenot House Museum (It was moved to the Hartford Heritage Park. During its restoration, spirits offered hands-on help for their forever home).

S.K. Pierce Mansion, MA (S.K. Pierce built his mansion partially on the old foundation of the former house. This could be a cause for the unfortunate lack of happiness the family experienced if spirits connected to the land were still there, fuming).



S.K. Pierce Mansion has been proven to be a very spiritually active, having many paranormal hot spots. There isn’t a space that isn’t claimed by a spirit, who is either working through an issue, or just enjoying their memories. The intrusion of the living is tolerated, as long as they don’t stay too long or spend the night.

Signs of Spirits

The living hear disembodied footsteps, slamming doors, and objects moving on their own.

They probably hear disembodied voices as well.

Cold, unexplained winds and cold spots will suddenly happen.

The Spirit of S.K. Pierce

He saw the living people as contractors, and not owners, who were going to restore his house.

He had the frustration of anyone who had hired contractors who were slow in progressing.

Why didn’t they hire two hundred workers like he did?

The straw that broke the camel’s back was the appearances of so many paranormal investigators brought in by Edwin and Lillian, who were purely annoying, and intrusive.

He expressed his unhappiness by making a roaring sound on the central staircase. He wanted to fire them.

Finally Happy Somewhat

As of 2023, he is happy with the restoration, but still doesn’t like the common people perusing the house.

He probably makes personal appearances as he enjoys his memories, while glowering at the living.

Investigators have recorded him growling at them in annoyance.

The Spirits of Susan and Ellen

Both these ladies enjoy looking out the windows, and remembering their good times with S.K..

They probably like to wander the rooms and halls, and common areas, enjoying the beauty of the restored interior, that they loved so much.

The Spirit of Nanny Maddie Cornwall

She has been described as a young woman, wearing a black dress with her hair in a bun.

She had the best time of her life working for S.K., and she continues to do so, becoming more of a house manager, as well as looking after the child spirits.

New Duties

Her spirit is the most positive presence. Her power has grown, which she uses for good. She is the protector of the house, and chases away spectral intruders.

She is a troubleshooter, keeping the lesser spirits in line, and willing to pass on information to the living through mediums, and even EVPs.

Through a medium, she let an owner know that the spirit of S.K. Pierce doesn’t like dogs running around free in the mansion.


Spirit of Edward

He is working through his shame at failing to take care of his father’s house, and having to sell it outside the family.

One medium thought that it was his shadow in the basement where he died in the apartment, filling it with an oppressive, sad energy.

Once the house was restored, he felt that his shame was greatly diminished, and he left the basement, perhaps to the third floor to be with his daughter.

The Spirit of Rachel

The spirit of two-year-old Rachel enjoys playing on the third floor.

The living can hear her giggles and the pitter-pat of her little feet.

The spirit of Edward may be watching her play and spending time with his little one.

The Spirit of Eino Sauri

He was a WW2 veteran who rented the Master Bedroom for many years.

His spirit walks the halls going about his business, because he doesn’t want to admit that he died in such a way.

People have smelled a whiff of something burning in the master bedroom.

This is My Room!

After Eino burned to death, his spirit has claimed the room, and protests in scary ways when the living sleep there.

He appeared right in Edwin’s face, screaming at him, after Edwin and Lillian moved their bedroom set into the master bedroom.

The Spirits of the Prostitute and her killer, David

Sometimes living women who come into the Red Bedroom feel like something is trying to choke them.

She tries to communicate with both investigators and mediums, but the spirit of David always stops her.

One investigator caught an EVP from David: “Let’s cut everyone’s throat!”

The Spirit of the Blond Boy

The spirit of the blond boy has been seen from the street, running from window to window in the front of the mansion.

Many neighbors have seen his apparition doing this.

He likes to hide objects in new places, and plays little tricks on the living.

Mediums have tried to move him on, but he just giggles at them.

Seeking a Playmate

He connected mentally with a neighbor boy, asking him to come and play with him.

When the boy’s mother and the boy came over, she saw that there was no living boy.

The boy took her to the hallway, and said that is where the blond-haired boy wanted to play ball.

The family moved away, to protect their son.

The Spirit of the Mourning Servant

She was described as being a dark-haired woman with a creepy smile.

People have heard her crying on the third floor, sad about her baby dying.

I Like Power

She wanted to tell Edwin and Lillian about her sorrow and that her baby had died, and have some fun at the same time.

She enjoyed feeling powerful, taking over Lillian’s body when she possessed her and took her to the basement, to dig through the ashes to find the little pelvic bone of her baby.

Her spirit was always near Lillian, standing behind her, waiting her opportunity to repossess her again.


For a long time, people have had numerous experiences with the spirits, some nice, others not so nice; terrifying in fact. Not only are the spirits not friendly, they enjoy the power they feel after scaring or possessing the living.

For years, paranormal investigators have had a field day gathering hard evidence that points to the many spirits who reside here.

Paranormal investigator and author Thomas D’Agostino wrote in the forward page of Joni Mayhan’s book, “The Bones in the Basement,” that after eight years of investigations at S.K. Mansion, he knows that this Victorian is the most haunted house in New England.

D’Agostino shares,”The ghosts there know who you are and why you are there. In many cases, they are not pleased with your presence and are not afraid to lash out at you for intruding upon their domain.”



As of 2023, both dark entities are gone, leaving a large group of spirits who still feel they own the place.

The spirit of S.K. Pierce finally has some peace in that his beautiful pride and joy has been restored, though perhaps he is a little annoyed that uninvited paranormal investigators and the common public are allowed inside his home. In his life, he only invited a few very special people to visit.

The spirits of his wives Susan and Ellen keep him company.

The spirit of Edward feels better now that the mansion has been fully restored, and can live here in his afterlife. He may find pleasure being with his little Rachel once more, who still has fun.

A servant who had a baby out of wedlock that probably died, is still here mourning her loss, while looking for ways to feel powerful. She had no power while alive.

The spirit of Nanny Maddie Cornwall is finding new jobs to do as a spirit, feeling good about using her power doing positive things.

The spirit of the blond-haired boy who drowned in the cistern is still playing in his favorite spots.

The spirit of the strangled prostitute and the spirit of her killer, David are stuck in the Red Bedroom. David fears punishment in this world as much as he does in the next. She can’t move on until someone knows her story.



4 West Broadway
Gardner, MA 01440

S.K. Pierce Mansion is found on a corner lot, at the intersection of Union Street and West Broadway in Garner, MA.



  • Bones In The Basement: Surviving The S.K. Pierce Haunted Victorian Mansion (Edwin andLillian Otero’s Story), by Joni Mayhan, 2014.
  • Mike Richard, Special for The Gardner News, July 30th 2021




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