Hauntings here include from the Revolutionary War & Victorian eras.
Causes for hauntings include a painfully hard choice, heart-breaking consequences, forgiveness, giving comfort and betrayal.
Spirits stay for the enjoyment of work and love of home.
Raynham Hall Museum is a twenty room house that was loved by several generations of the Townsend family clan, but is now owned by the City of Oyster Bay as a treasured historical structure, unique in its layout and architectural influences.
Looking at Raynham Hall Museum from the outside, the visitor can see that it’s owners throughout the eras made this interesting structure their own by adding their improvements that reflected their needs and sense of architectural style. The original 1738 house was first built as a 2 by 2; two rooms on the first floor and two rooms on the second, with a central chimney; a floor plan that was popular during early Colonial times. It’s first owner was a farmer and carpenter, Thomas Weeney, and this suited his needs. He farmed the six acres that were part of this property.
In 1738, a wealthy, successful merchant as well as Ocean City’s Justice of the Peace and Town Clerk, Samuel Townsend, bought this little home that sat on 6 acres and made it into a story and a half, lean-to salt box house; adding four new rooms. This was a popular style at this time; known as American Colonial Architecture. Samuel called this family home, The Townsend Homestead. Though the rooms of the house are considered small by today’s standards, The Townsend Homestead was a large home by American Colonial standards.
In 1751, Solomon Townsend, grandson of Samuel Townsend, was the one who added the Victorian style decor and architecture to the home. The central tower, with a sky light, carpeting, highly decorated wallpaper, ornate furnishings and a new wing to the home became Solomon’s Raynham Hall, named after a family estate in England. A Victorian water tower was also built, and the front of the home was pulled out.
Because it is a blend of architectural styles, its listing on The National Register of Historic Places doesn’t list a specific style of architecture, as it is unique as a structure.
While the front of Raynham Hall has been restored to its Colonial/Revolutionary War original state, the Victorian wing of the house remains in tact. Inside, most of the Victorian embellishments and outside Victorian structures like the Water Tower have been removed or modified. It has been restored to the styles enjoyed by the Townsend Family, mostly Colonial and Revolutionary lifestyle, though the central chimney hasn’t been built back inside where it originally was located.
While some of the rooms are set up to reflect how the Townsends lived, other rooms have exhibits. The museum has many artifacts from the Townsend family who lived here for such a long time. They haven’t been able to display all of it, due to lack of space to do so. Some of Raynham Hall is used for storage. With a new visitor center, they will be able to have a place to have other exhibits and storage, while setting up something special at Raynham Hall.
The current plan is to raise enough money to turn the old market building in Oyster City into the new Raynham Hall Visitor Center, and make Raynham Hall an authentic Colonial/ Revolutionary style House Museum with all the rooms looking exactly as if the Townsend family was actually still living there and just out for a walk. I can’t wait to come back and visit when this occurs in the future.
From December 1, 2016 through January 5th 2017, Raynham Hall will be “festooned with Victorian Christmas Finery.”
From 1738 through 1941, this interesting looking home was owned by various members of the Townsend family, who used the home to meet their everyday daily life, daily business and political work. After expanding the house from 1738-1740 to make room for his large family of 8 children and his wife, Sarah, Samuel set up his home office space and his general store in one or two of the front rooms.
Besides being a Justice of the Peace and Town Clerk, Samuel Townsend was a member of the New York Provincial Congress when The Declaration of Independence was ratified.
When the Revolutionary War broke out, the support of the townspeople of Oyster Bay was evenly split between the Patriot side, and the Loyalists who supported England. The Townsend family were strong Patriots. Samuel’s son, Robert, was a wholesale buyer for his father and also a free-lance journalist in New York City. Robert had British connections that could be useful in gathering information for troop movements of the British. Robert joined George Washington’s spy ring; a move that could’ve gotten him hanged if he was ever caught, suffering the same fate as Nathan Hale.
Because the Patriots lost the Battle of Long Island, The Townsend family had to consolidate their space and allow the commander of the Queen’s Loyalist troops, Lieutenant Colonel John Graves Simcoe, and his officers in as guests, to stay in their home. Daughter Sally was a beautiful girl who caught the eye of the commander, as well as other officers staying on the grounds of the Townsend homestead. This led ultimately to heartache and sacrifice for young Sally which changed her life forever.
Various members of the Townsend family lived at the Townsend Homestead. Sister Phebe married Dr. Ebenezer Seely and eventually moved into the Townsend Homestead and lived there with Robert and sister Sally; both of whom died there.
Solomon II, a merchant and importer, who was a dedicated public servant, bought the house in 1851 from Dr. Seely, and renovated this now fixer upper opportunity to be more Victorian; complete with a pulled out front and a water tower. He moved in with his family into his Raynham Hall in 1861, figuring that it would be safer out on Long Island.
Raynham Hall passed into their daughter Maria’s hands in 1895, though her brothers Maurice and Solomon Samuel lived there as well. Maria died on March 7th, 1908 with no will. On October 14th, 1912, the Raynham Hall was ordered to be sold to pay Maria’s debts. Some of the six acres were sold off, leaving some land for a side garden, and a place downtown to still have a garden. Raynham Hall, however stayed in the family when Edward Townsend Jr., grandson of Solomon II, was the one who bought the property. Maurice and Solomon Samuel also lived there.
Solomon’s wife, Helene, had two nieces; Julia and Sally, who purchased Raynham Hall for 100 dollars to keep it from being sold to someone outside the family line. They ran a Victorian tea room and a meeting place for The Oyster Bay Historical and Genealogical Society. Since 1933, Raynham Hall was deeded to Daughters of the American Revolution, who owned it outright in 1941, keeping it open to the public, and maintaining the Tea Room.
In 1947, the DAR offered Raynham Hall to the City of Oyster Bay, who became great stewards of this historic structure. They decided to restore Raynham Hall back to its American Colonial and Revolution era architecture, and present to the public as a partial house museum. Changes were completed by 1958. With the new plans to move storage and the welcome center to another structure, Raynham Hall will be an authentic house museum with its rooms set up the way they were used by the Townsend family. This should please the spirits who love this place even more!
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
Having to make hard choices that result in painful consequences, can cause a spirit to be unable to leave this world, due to heart-ache and wishing they didn’t have to make this choice which was the right one to choose for them.
Women who are abandoned by the men whom are their beloved, or who loose their beloved through accident or war, sometimes choose in their afterlife to stay in the same place that they last saw these men, and pine away, waiting in vain for them to return.
An unhappy female spirit, possibly two; could be Sally and/or the abandoned girlfriend of another British Officer or both of them could be here.
Sally’s Story: Despite being warned by her father not to fraternize with the enemy, Samuel’s middle daughter, Sally, became friends with British house guest Lieutenant Colonel John Graves Simcoe, and Major John Andre who visited often because of his duties in the British service. Major John Andre was a kind, likable fellow and the whole Townsend family liked him.
Sally became romantically involved with British Lieutenant Colonel John Graves Simcoe, who gave her a Valentine. Uh oh. A troubling choice was in her future.
One day, Sally inadvertently overheard the plan to bribe Benedict Arnold to surrender the fort at West Point and his Patriot troops, which would have been a terrible blow to the Patriots. Sally was in an awful spot. Did she love freedom and the Patriot cause more than her friend, Major John Andre, and her beloved, Lieutenant Colonel John Graves Simcoe? If Major John Andre was caught with the evidence of the bribery plan, she probably knew he would be killed.
She chose to tell her father of the bribery scheme. Her father immediately passed on the information to his son, Robert. Because of her revelation, Patriot forces caught Andre with the evidence. Because Andre wasn’t in uniform, they hung him without thought. British Lieutenant Colonel John Graves Simcoe, whom she thought was her beloved, left her; using the excuse that she betrayed the Loyalist plan, with the consequence of the death of Andre. He didn’t however, harm the Townsend family to his credit; just made sure he broke Sally’s heart.
One wonders if British Lieutenant Colonel John Graves Simcoe was just trying to use Sally. When he returned to England, he married his long-time sweetheart. Sally had an incurable broken heart and remained single for the rest of her life and died at the age of 82 years old at The Townsend Homestead. Her family supported her emotionally and never left her living alone in the home.
Apparently, Sally is still there, not able to let go of this world. Perhaps, she waits in vain for Simcoe to return.
2nd Forlorn Female Spirit:
Sally may have company in the form of another abandoned female lover, used by a British Officer who probably promised her the moon, and had put her up at Townsend Homestead to be his love interest when he was off duty. It is an old story, told in every war where soldiers interact with the local people.
Sometimes people who die unexpectedly by accident, at the hands of another or by execution try to contact and show their feelings to those loved ones left behind. Perhaps they visit the living that had something to do with their death, or those who look like these people who were involved, or anyone breathing who stays in the place where they died. They often have a worrisome, unfinished business or a burning goal to accomplish before they can rest.
Major John Andre wanted to let Sally know that he forgave her for turning him into the authorities, and is still her friend; he still wants to relieve Sally of her distress suffered because of his execution. Or perhaps, he wants to comfort her in her own loss of the man who abandoned her.
People who loved their homes while alive, sometimes choose to spend their after-life there or like to visit a lot.
Sally isn’t alone – she still has spectral company of family members and servants. Servants or Employees who loved their work, sometimes continue on the best they can while being in spirit form. At least one male servant still is working at Raynham Hall. Some think that a slave or two may also still be there.
Children who die from illness or in other ways, often like to stay where they were loved and felt secure. At least one boy is still playing here.
From the Upstairs Slave Quarters; Now used for storage.
Noises have been heard and the delightful smell of roses have been noticed. Perhaps the slave who was in charge of the garden, is still enjoying the flowers.
From the Kitchen area:
Delicious smells of cinnamon and apple pies baking in the oven often greet visitors to Raynham Hall.
First Floor of the Colonial section:
People have noticed the aroma of pipe tobacco and wood fire in the room where Samuel Townsend liked to relax with his family and smoke his pipe!
Entity of Sally Townsend – Strongly felt in the West Room
This was her bedroom and sitting area. The room is 5 to 10 degrees cooler than anywhere in the house. A strong aura of sadness is felt here.
Entity of forlorn female entity – used and deserted by another British Officer
She too mourns her loss and also keeps her room very chilly indeed.
Entity of a male member of the Townsend Family – probably from Victorian Era
As early as 1914 to 1933, this male entity has been seen going down the staircase constructed by Solomon II, during his Victorian renovation.
Entity of Major John Andre
Appears on occasion outside Sally’s bedroom, sitting on his horse, communicating with the spirit of Sally who still stays in her bedroom in the family home at Townsend Homestead. Perhaps he comes in and visits her, as a person would do to cheer up a friend.
Entity of Female Victorian Lady
Recently a visitor to the home heard the swish of petticoats behind her as she walked by the base of the staircase. Turning around she caught, by sight, just a portion of a female form dressed in a Victorian dress, going down the hallway toward the back of the home.
Male Entity of Irish Servant during Victorian years: Michael Conlin
The entity of a dark, curly-haired white male, dressed in Victorian servant’s attire of a dark coat with brass buttons, was clearly seen in 1999. He was standing at the entrance to the servant’s quarters, and looking into the garden.
Entity of Boy – Jack
Investigators recorded two EVPs in the children’s playroom, of a little boy, who identified himself as Jack, and said the word, puppy dog in the hallway near the playroom.
Yes Indeed! For a variety of reasons, Raynham Hall has a group of spirits who loved the place during their lives, and continue to visit and stay, very happy that the living had the good sense to preserve Raynham Hall.
Major Andre, who was loved by all the Townsends, still visits Sally to cheer her up and give comfort to her; still her friend. Other less happy ones find comfort here as well.
Many personal experiences have been reported since the 20th century up to the present time. When the nieces of Solomon and Helena moved in, they were the first to report their spectral company. Staff and visitors today continue to report paranormal activity.
Hard evidence has been caught by paranormal groups, like the Long Island Paranormal Investigators. On their website, they have posted pictures and EVPs caught in the upstairs master bedroom and children’s playroom. The master bedroom evidence suggests that other unknown spirits may also visit or stay at Raynham Hall.
A small two person investigation team, led by James Edward Garcia, had very good results in both of their investigations done in 2011 and 2013. Besides catching activity in the nursery, they also caught evidence of the humming entity who likes the staircase area, and caught more evidence in the bedrooms and dining room as well. Smaller groups have had a lot of success. The docent stays with them, perhaps, giving spirits more courage to come out and communicate.
20 West Main Street
Oyster Bay, New York, 11771
Raymond Hall Museum is the third structure from the corner of South St. and W. Main Street, in the historical residential part of Oyster Bay.
- The Big Book of New York Ghost Stories, by Cheri Evai, Stackpole Books, 2009.