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Houghton Mansion

Transcript 7-18-05

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North Adams Transcript Article

Ghost Hunters Haunt Mansion - By Jennifer Huberdeau - North Adams Transcript {Posted 7/18/05}

NORTH ADAMS -- Two men dressed entirely in black leaned over a large, antique spirit board. Their hands moved in unison as the plastic pointer moved swiftly over letters and numbers on the board. They were trying to communicate with the dead. The word "S - W - O - R - D" was spelled out in quick succession. Christian Day, an elder Salem witch and psychic, tried to determine what it means. He was later told that a sword within the former Houghton Mansion had been missing for a while.

A digital photograph taken by Kim Huertas of Dracut showed the orange figures of a large man and woman covering her face, directly behind the men as they attempted to "contact" the dead. Day and his spirit-board partner, Shawn Poirier, were part of "Contact: The Berkshire Paranormal Ghost Conference and Seminar," sponsored by the New England Ghost Project and Berkshire Paranormal.
Day and Poirier, high priest of the Salem witches and co-founder of "Festival of the Dead," taught a seminar on how to use spirit boards, such as the Parker Brother's popular "Ouija Board" and the Salem-based "Cryptique Board" on Saturday. "It's just a piece of wood -- or cardboard -- the power is in you, the user," Poirier said. "Let's not mystify a piece of wood anymore. Like finds like."

Day, who teaches a seminar on spirit boards as part of the annual "Festival of the Dead," held in Salem, said the boards are just tools that open the mind's eye and act as "an interdimensional gateway to the world of the dead and to the subconscious mind." Poirier also conducted a seance to contact Mary Houghton, who is believed to be "haunting" the former Houghton Mansion, now the Masonic Temple, on Church Street.
Houghton was the daughter of Albert C. Houghton, the first mayor of North Adams. An outing in the family automobile in Pownal, Vt., ended in tragedy: Mary's friend was killed and she was fatally injured, dying within hours of the accident. Servant John Widders, who was driving, later shot himself in the basement of the Houghton barn. Houghton died later, reportedly from grief. Poirier said several psychics had felt that "Mary had some love in her heart for John Widders. She feels guilty. She believes she caused his death. There is much sadness and grief."
Fifth-generation psychic and investigator with the New England Ghost Project, Maureen Wood, was the medium to which "Mary" attached herself. Wood, who sobbed heavily, repeatedly said "I'm sorry," as Poirier led her into the building's library. There, "Mary" and "John" were united. "They are together, but they do not wish to leave," Poirer said.

While the haunting of Houghton Mansion by Mary and John has become infamous in the city, Joshua Montello, a member of the Masons and lead investigator of the Berkshire Paranormal Group, said no formal investigations had been conducted until the New England Ghost Project was contacted. A relationship between NEGP and the Masons blossomed after the initial investigations.
"I have an interest in the paranormal and history. I also have an interest in preservation," said Ron Kolek, NEGP's founder. Money raised from the weekend conference is being put toward the restoration of the mansion. Kolek, a natural skeptic, began investigating the paranormal after a personal experience.
"We all have our own beliefs. A lot of people are interested in the paranormal but don't talk about it," he said. For Kolek, the conference gave people an opportunity to experience different aspects of the paranormal and of paranormal research through workshops.

Among the presenters were: Dr. Michael Bell, a vampire and folklore expert; Elizabeth Foley, an angel and fairy expert; Dan Gordon, author of "Cape Encounters," a book on contemporary ghost stories of Cape Cod; and Karen Mossey, an electronic voice phenomenon (EVP) specialist, whose work was featured in the movie "White Noise." "We went into [the film] knowing that it was a Hollywood horror movie, but also knowing it would create an awareness of EVP that is unsurpassed," Mossey said. "Of course, they had to include a visual aspect for the movie so people could see and connect the video with the audio." EVP is said to be the presence of "messages" left by the dead in the "white noise," or background noise, of recordings.
"White noise is not an EVP. It helps the spirits to manifest themselves. They need some form of energy," she said. "Most of the time, people use it to affirm the existence of a loved one. It's a form of grief management. They use it to reaffirm that the personality of a loved one survives and goes on in some form." Mossey said the movie "White Noise" was a typical horror movie and that she does not believe in "evil forces" punishing the living for using EVP in the movie.

Montello, Berkshire Paranormal's lead investigator, said he hopes to make the conference an annual event. Poirier is planning to return in September to teach another seminar. Events are also scheduled for Halloween.