Let me ask you a question: Who is a haunting for?
That might seem silly, but just think about it for a second.
Is a haunting for the haunter or the haunted? If you were to do die tomorrow, why would you haunt someone? Would it be for your sake or for theirs?
Just consider what's going on. You're dead and you're never coming back. Your Earthly coil has been shed. None of it affects you anymore. Time, space, ailments, old age, it's all gone. The length and breadth of the universe is yours. Eternity is yours. What do you do?
You're a celestial being now. Does anything that happened in life matter to you?
Let's say you were murdered. So what? Why would you care? You can see the endless reality of the stars ahead of you. Why would the transgressions of an evolved ape against your former meat vessel, all those breathless eons ago, matter to you?
Well, maybe we can delve into that question with a look at the S.K. Pierce mansion!
|This guy's house, remember?|
The final residents
When we last left the Gardner, MA Victorian, it was dilapidated and left to ruin. The Pierce family had all but abandoned the area and the house was left to a man who turned it into a boarding house. The habitation wasn’t to last, though. Jay Stemmerman boarded it up and moved back to his home state.
The mansion was left empty and crumbling for decades until it was purchased by a DJ from Worcester and his wife. Mark and Suzanne Veau bought it in the year 2000 and got right to work fixing it up. That was when the legend of the haunted Victorian really came into being.
Mark was nothing if not happy to make his experiences with the deceased residents of the house known to everyone around him. In fact, he and the house were featured on an episode of Ghost Hunters. That’s the kind of trophy that only a few of us can claim.
Season 3, episode 4 of the show saw the crew investigating the entire house at the behest of the Veaus, and you can still check it out for yourself. It takes place back when the producers were still trying to play up the whole “ghost hunting plumbers” thing and you’ll have to sit through Jason and Grant fixing a toilet at the beginning, but it’s still a lot of fun. They run down the experiences of the Veaus and they all seem to boil down to hearing bangs and their teenage daughter seeing an apparition. They also apparently used to feel intoxicated for no reason at all. Why anyone would want to put a stop to that is anyone’s guess. If a ghost is going to take up residence in your home, getting you drunk for free, on a work night, and without a hangover is the least they can do for you. They also bring up Eino Saari, but we’ll get to him later.
|There was also a whole thing about the Widow's Walk.|
I don’t mean to ruin the end of the episode, but I had to go through the trouble of signing up for Discovery+ to watch it, so I’m going to. The Ghost Hunters wrap it all up by saying they can’t say the house is haunted, but there’s nothing negative to be afraid of, even if it is. That would change later on.
After the Veaus left the house, it was turned over to Edwin Gonzalez and Lillian Otero, a couple from Dorchester. Now this is when things start to get dangerous.
Edwin has shared claims of seeing shadow people in his office, hearing evil voices throughout the house, getting up to investigate banging on their doors, only to find no one there, and even seeing a full-bodied apparition of an apparent suicide victim in their bedroom.
It gets worse for Lillian, though. She was full on possessed and dug a hole in the basement for reasons that she never knew. Edwin simply found her down there with a shovel in her hand, going to work on the dirt floor.
He asked her what she was doing and all she could say was that she didn’t know. It could have been chalked up to the stress of it all getting to her if she didn’t happen to dig up a damn bone. They took one look at it and saw how closely it resembled a human pelvis. That’s more than enough reason to reach out to someone for help.
Enter the Ghost Hunters yet again. That’s right; the house was on the show not once, but twice. Jason, Grant, and the gang made their way back to the S.K. Pierce mansion five years after their first visit and came away with a totally different outlook. Not only did they capture clear audio disturbances in the office, but there was also a lot of activity in the basement. This time, they made it clear to the couple that they had to stand their ground against the negative entities in the house and make the home theirs, not the ghosts’. That’s quite a difference from the first go around, so take that as you will. You can rest easy about the pelvic bone, though. It was analyzed and found to be an animal bone.
While all of this was going on, Ghost Adventures also visited the house for an episode. They did their typical ghost bro thing of trying to get the dead people to fistfight them, so that’s fun, I guess. It all just goes to show that this is one famous haunted Victorian mansion and that there’s been no lack of people investigating it for the better part of two decades. Now let’s talk about what those hauntings actually are.
Firefighters were called to the mansion on April 3, 1963 for reports of a fire in one of the boarding house rooms. They arrived to a fire that was already out with no signs of it spreading up the walls, or really anywhere that wasn’t the bed. On it was the sole victim of the blaze: Eino Saari.
This was one miserable dude in life. He was a Finnish immigrant who had pretty much given up on any aspect of his life that wasn’t getting blind drunk on moonshine. He was a prick to everyone else in the house and his passing wasn’t exactly a cause for much mourning.
Let’s go over those details again, though. The firefighters arrived and the fire was already out. It was also completely limited to the bed that Eino was on. There was no damage to the walls, the curtains, the furniture, the floor, nothing. Just Eino and the bed he was in.
This has led to a lot of speculation that he died by spontaneous human combustion. That’s one possibility. The other possibility is that this guy was so saturated with high octane hooch that one night of falling asleep with a cigarette in his mouth led to his entire body going up like a Roman candle. Once that alcoholic fuel dissipated, the fire realized it had to sober up, and just went out.
He’s also one of the most common apparitions to run into at the haunted Victorian mansion. Edwin Gonzalez tells the story of just sitting at his desk one day when a face sprang right out at him from the shadows. It scared him so much that he fell right off his chair.
It’s also very common for investigators to find Eino in the basement. This is supposed to be where he hid his booze and he still likes to keep an eye on it. He’s a very negative entity with no good intentions left in him.
Here’s the type of EVP that’s usually associated with him.
Next up on the ghost list is a small boy that many different people have come across. There’s no real telling who it could be, but he’s one of the better known spirits of the house, and he was seen by Mark Veau as well as a handful of neighbors.
Shortly after moving in, Edwin struck up a conversation with a man who lived next door to him. Everything was going well until the guy asked him about his son. That’s a pretty normal thing to ask about, unless you’re like Edwin and don’t actually have any children.
The neighbor told him that he would often see the young boy running in between the windows of the upper level of the mansion over the winter. You can imagine the guy’s surprise when Edwin told him that neither he nor Lillian were even living in the house at the time.
You can take that as a sign of the neighbor misunderstanding what he saw, but he wasn’t the only one to do it. Another neighbor, this time a woman with a young son herself, asked Edwin why she never saw his son out playing in the yard. She knew that he had one because her own son had seen the young boy at the window, asking him to come play with him.
She was so convinced of it that Edwin had to take her on a tour of the place just to show her that he and Lillian lived alone. That woman’s son grew to be so focused on the ghost boy next door that she ended up moving away just to keep him from seeing it.
Here’s some evidence of the ghost boy. You can hear a disembodied voice saying “Sam and Mom's here.”
Here’s one of someone asking for “lights please” while the investigators offer a light up toy for him to play with.
Of course, no list of the ghosts of the haunted Victorian mansion would be complete without S.K. Pierce himself. He’s said to still reside in the residence and he has no problem with letting everyone know that the place is his. That also extends to his factory. Here he is saying “My factory” when a group of investigators brings it up.
He’s also known to get all indignant about female modesty in his home. Go in there in a sundress and you’re likely to find out just what he thinks about a half-naked lady in his presence. That’s what you get when you lived at a time when you needed three layers of clothing just to go bed.
The Red Room lady of the evening
Then there’s the supposed prostitute who was murdered in the red room. People, especially women, complain of finding it hard to breathe whenever they’re in the room. They also feel uneasy and want to spend as little time in there as they possibly can. It’s said that she was strangled to death in her bed, but once again, there’s little real information to go on. There are no records of prostitution at the house and nothing about a woman being murdered in it.
Mattie Cornwall was a Nova Scotian woman who worked for the Pierce family as a nanny. She was born in 1859 and saw to the day to day keeping of the house. She died of an acute inflammation in her hip, two years after she got married and she’s one of the strongest presences in the house. It’s said that she still tends to the long dead residents and keeps them all in check whenever guests come to visit. She made it her life and has kept to her word of taking care of it long after anyone could expect her to.
And the rest
There are more spirits in this haunted Victorian. There are a lot more. Ellen Peirce is said to still walk the hallways and psychics have claimed that there’s a literal portal to the other side in the kitchen. It would take reams of paper to cover them all, but this installment has to end somewhere. I encourage anyone who wants to know more about it to really look into it. The history of the S.K. Pierce mansion is rich and there lots of different things to learn about it. For instance, there might just be a tunnel leading from the basement to the old site of S.K.’s furniture factory.
There are books to read and videos to watch. Delving into the mystery and lore that surrounds the house might just be the best thing to ever come out of Gardner. For now, though, let’s look to the future.
Future of mansion
The mansion at 4 West Broadway in Gardner, Massachusetts is currently owned by The Dark Carnival. They’ve put a lot of money and effort into restoring the old house and bringing it back to its former glory. Their plan is to open it up as an attraction for visitors and ghost hunters alike. Once the renovations are complete, they’re also going to rent out rooms to anyone brave enough to spend the night.
Full disclosure: I tried reaching out to them to see what the current plans for their grand opening happened to be and I never heard back from them. Covid certainly had its effect on it, and it’s anyone’s guess as to when they’ll open their tours to the public. I’ll be sure to let you know if I ever get an update from them.
|Not that I'm bitter about it, or anything.|
Seriously, it's fine! Stop looking at me like that!
Until then, I'll ask again: who is a haunting for?
There are more confirmed deaths in the S.K. Pierce Mansion than most other places, to be sure, but what about the rest of them?
Remember that the mansion was built on top of an older foundation. Perhaps those unconfirmed deaths happened at the old residence. That's certainly a possibility.
What if they didn't? What if hauntings are just for the haunted?
What if all of those EVPs are just what we want to hear?
The S.K. Pierce Mansion is a house that just looks haunted and maybe that's enough. Even Grant, from Ghost Hunters started off the whole first episode by saying that the house was built to look haunted. Maybe the ghosts aren't coming from the people who lived there, but from the people who experience them instead.
Maybe a house that looks haunted is enough to make it haunted. Not by actual ghosts, but by the mental specters of the people who create them.
Maybe simply looking like it's haunted is enough to make it haunted and the S.K. Pierce Mansion is a product of our collective imagination.
That's certainly a possibility as well. I know which one sounds cooler to me!
Conference with the Dead
It's the haunting season and you just can't communicate with the dead unless you have a good Spirit Board!
As it just so happens, I know a guy who creates them by hand. Each board and planchette is handmade and unique to the owner! It will be a part of you until the day you pass on and start using it from the other side!
Check it out on Etsy and let the board that was always meant for you give you the gift of communication.