“THE MANY HAUNTINGS OF THE S.K. PIERCE MANSION” #WeirdDarkness

THE MANY HAUNTINGS OF THE S.K. PIERCE MANSION” #WeirdDarkness

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TRANSCRIPT:

DISCLAIMER: Stories and content in Weird Darkness can be disturbing for some listeners and intended for mature audiences only. Parental discretion is strongly advised.

INTRODUCTION=====

She made her money on her back and that was just fine by her. She was tough and knew what it took to make a living in this world and no one was gonna get in her way. That massive old Victorian was an eyesore, anyway. Who cared if one of the boarders in this rundown crap-hole brought her Johns in to seal the deal? The Red Room was HER room and she could do as she pleased. She didn’t bother no one and no one bothered her. Then she felt his fingers close around her throat. They were thick and calloused and crushed her windpipe like a steel vise. That’s what you get when you sell yourself to the factory workers just outside the door. She never knew when one would lose his mind and assault her before leaving her with no money for her time. There was no telling what set this one off. Maybe she rushed him or maybe he just couldn’t get it up and wanted to take it out on her. It didn’t matter. What mattered was the heaving of her chest as her body screamed for air. She tried to take a breath but no air would come. She tried to cry out for help, but no sound escaped. She was together with a maniac in her bed and yet still utterly alone for the very first time in her life. People walked the stairs and enjoyed late suppers just on the other side of her wooden door. Good people, who wouldn’t hesitate to rush in and beat this monster off of her. Good neighbors who would chase him away and protect her while she gasped and finally felt the cool air rush in to soothe her burning lungs. But here she was, mere inches from help and completely unable to call for it. Her arms flailed and her legs swung wildly. The man held her firmly under his weight and sneered into her pleading eyes. He even leaned in close as her waving and striking against his back finally began to subside. His greasy, crinkled nose touched against hers and his fingers managed to tighten even more around her neck just as the world started to grey. The prostitute’s last living thought was at least a positive one. Her muffled pleas gave way to one long, low moan and her limbs drifted ever downward until they hung limply off the bed. “At least,” she thought, “I don’t have to smell his foul breath anymore.” Her body was unceremoniously shoved into her closet to hide the deed for just long enough for the man to make his escape. He got away with nothing more than a guilty conscience, but the woman would always remember him. She would relive that night for the rest of eternity and always find herself completely alone in the Red Room. No matter how many new neighbors came and went and no matter how many hands the house passed through, she would always relive it. Her body is long gone now, just like the boarding house that used to operate out of the old Victorian. She remains, though, and will never leave. This is, after all, the Red Room. This is HER room, and always will be.

I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.

SHOW OPEN=====

Welcome, Weirdos – I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, the strange and bizarre, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.

Coming up in this episode… The Many Hauntings of the S.K. Pierce Mansion!

If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, my newsletter, enter contests, to connect with me on social media, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.

Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!

STORY: THE MANY HAUNTINGS OF THE S.K. PIERCE MANSION=====

There’s no history of the S.K. Pierce mansion without the man himself. Sylvester Knowlton Pierce was born to Jonas and Achsah on the 11th of April in 1820. His parents gave him his life and not much else, though not for a lack of trying. This was the early 19th century when having kids was basically the only pastime available to people. He had six older siblings and lived a simple and modest upbringing, working odd jobs and trying to help make ends meet until he met his destiny.

It was in his one lifetime that he would go from literal rags to the kinds of riches that even wealthy people today would envy and he did it all on his own. He was the quintessential self-made man and that would figure heavily into his desire to build a lasting monument to his success.

His father died when he was just three years old and his mother followed when he was eleven. He was taken in by his paternal aunt and her husband until the age of fourteen when he moved in with yet another set of aunt and uncle who lived on a farm. It only took him one year to leave and end up working at a chair factory in Gardner, MA. Sylvester stayed there for just one year before leaving to work at a different chair factory in Putnam. This factory ended up relocating to Ashburnham, so he found himself changing his employment yet again to finally work for the man who would change his life.

Steven Taylor owned a chair factory (did people really need that many chairs back then?) in South Gardner and took him on as an employee. He would spend five years as his boss, but S.K. had been up to something this entire time.

Now twenty-five years old, he had been working since the age of fifteen and had saved up every last, damn cent that he could muster. In the year 1845, Sylvester Knowlton Pierce, the broke orphan from three different families, bought Steven Taylor’s chair factory and turned it into the third largest furniture manufacturer in the country in the coming years.

Just remember that the next time you want to bitch about how tough life is. This guy saved money from working in factories to become one of the richest men in the world and he had to do it all with a name like ‘Sylvester.”

It should also be noted that Gardner, MA was the absolute Mecca of furniture back in the 19th century. So much of it was made there that it was, and still is, known as “Chair City.”

That’s likely why S.K. Pierce was a furniture man. If Gardner were called something like “Fancy Ascot City,” then this would be a very different story.

Anyway, the time came for S.K. to build himself a mansion befitting of his social status. You can’t really hobnob with your elite brethren if you’re stuck renting a studio apartment, now can you? He bought a small house directly across the street from his factory and had it demolished. Then he used the lot and foundation to build the glorious Victorian mansion that you see today in 1875. With 6,661 square feet, three floors, 26 rooms and a grand, sweeping staircase, this monument to money has dominated the Gardner landscape ever since.

S.K. knew what he wanted and he knew that he wanted it fast. He employed two hundred men to build it and all of them worked around the clock to make it happen. It only took a year to construct this massive house and that was a hell of an accomplishment with hand saws and hammers.

It wasn’t just a cookie cutter McMansion, though, oh no. Remember that Sylvester was a furniture man. That meant that he had to go all out when it came to the woodworking in the house. He didn’t let a single cent in his bank rest until he was happy with the intricate carvings and finish work that still decorate the house.

He didn’t end things there, though. There was a newfangled technology on the market known at “gas lighting” and he tricked out every single room with it. It was still a rare treat to be able to see by anything that wasn’t candlelight back then and he was all about it. He even went crazy and had a furnace installed in the basement. The house has all the fixings of the modern world and would have turned many an eye back then.

Simply walking down the street, it’s impossible to not be taken in by the grandeur of the haunted Victorian at 4 West Broadway. A long, concrete walkway beckons you from the sidewalk. Three massive bay windows, three double windows, and the widow’s walk watch you while you pass by, hoping that there’s no one on the other side of them. As more than one person has put it, this is a house that just LOOKS haunted.

Like they say in Hollywood (I’m assuming), you’re only as successful as the people who visit your house. S.K. Pierce was no stranger to his famous friends and he had plenty of them. Just some of the names that crossed his threshold were P.T. Barnum, who I’m guessing he met at the “initials for names club”, Bette Davis and both of her famous eyes, Norman Rockwell, and president Calvin Coolidge.

These are just some of the famous people who visited the mansion while it was under S.K.’s ownership and it’s no doubt that it was quite the sight for its day. It also didn’t hurt that he had his own pool room on the third floor. This is where the men of industry would convene to smoke expensive cigars and challenge each other to billiards. It’s also speculated that the walls of the room would reverberate with boisterous toasts and the laments these older, rich, white people had about the youth of the day and their damn music.

Things were looking great for S K., but fate wouldn’t smile as kindly at his wife, Susan Pierce. The mother of his children was only able to enjoy a few weeks in the (soon to be) haunted Victorian before losing her battle with erysipelas. This was a bacterial infection that caused her great pain as lesions spread all across her face and hands. It wasn’t a pleasant way for her to go and she passed away in the very house that her husband had built for her and their family.

Not one to shy away from the newer model, S.K. Pierce ended up marrying a 28 year old woman two years after the passing of Susan. He was pushing 60 at this point, so it’s safe to say that the marriage ruffled a few feathers. While it wasn’t uncommon for widowers to marry much younger women at this time, it was his children who had the biggest issue with it.

Ellen West Pierce was an active member of the local church and a member of several community groups. All of that was well and good for her, but S.K.’s children saw her as a woman seeking an upwardly mobile arrangement with their father. They believed that she only married him to become a part of the high society that she had always envied and things weren’t great between them.

No matter what his kids thought of her, S.K. still had two children with his new wife and made her a large part of his estate. In fact, there’s still a safe in the house with her name on it on the second floor. Getting a personalized safe like that was a statement to everyone that she had a say on what happened in the family and with the money. It was basically the old timey equivalent of getting your name on the company letterhead and her stepchildren fumed at it.

One of her biggest detractors was Frank, one of S.K.’s three sons. Frank was the eldest and the man most closely associated with the furniture company in the waning years of his father’s life. He wanted the family business to remain with Susan’s children and not be taken over by a usurper who was no more than a few years older than he was.

Of course Ellen had her own quarrels with the older Pierce boys and she never let an opportunity to disparage them pass her by. She constantly accused Frank of squandering his father’s wealth and set up her youngest son, Edward, as the sole proprietor of the property in the event of S.K.’s demise.

This had a demoralizing effect on the other children and most of them would end up moving away from the house rather than continue to fight a losing battle. The family war set the mansion up for a tumultuous future after its creator and first loving owner passed away and left it in the hands of his feuding descendants and all of their bad blood.

S.K. Pierce, the great furniture titan of Chair City, died in the mansion on January 28, 1888. Things didn’t go well for the house after that. Ellen ended up inheriting most of his estate and sharing the furniture business with Frank. They were constantly at odds with each other and the rest of the family. Just a simple list of the lawsuits that flew between them all could fill volumes.

It was after the death of Ellen in 1902 that things really went crazy, though. Edward, Ellen’s youngest son who had been set up as inheritor, got the house and the deaths just wouldn’t end. His own youngest daughter, Rachel, died from gastroenteritis in 1916 and his wife, Bessie, followed her in 1951.

Edward was broke after the years of mismanagement that S.K.’s fortune had endured and he turned the house into a grand Victorian inn and later a boarding house. It would stay as such for decades until Edward really hit rock bottom.

The story isn’t 100% confirmed, but it’s said that he lost the house in a poker game in 1965. While that makes for a fun, if dark, idea, it’s likely just hearsay. The more plausible story is that Edward was unable to afford the S.K. Pierce mansion at the end of his life and sold to it a man named Jay Stemmerman, who agreed to let him live in the basement for the rest of his days. That’s exactly what the last Pierce in the house would do until his death in 1967.

It’s after this that the Victorian really started to fall into disrepair. It had just spent a few decades filled with boarders, gamblers, and prostitutes and it wouldn’t get any easier. The new owner dumped a few thousand dollars into some restoration work, but he never saw it through. There’s no telling why, but he closed down the boarding house in 1965 and just abandoned the property for decades to move back home to Florida.

It sat empty and crumbling until it was purchased by Mark and Suzanne Veau in 2000. Once again, things wouldn’t work out for the embattled mansion. The husband and wife were fated to end their marriage in divorce and put the house right back on the market a few years later.

2008 brought in two brand new owners in Edwin and Lillian from Dorchester. They made a go of it but ultimately sold the house yet again. That’s not to say that they didn’t leave their mark on it, though.

Their tenure was when the ghostly goings on really started to kick off. That’s exactly where we’ll pick up next, when Weird Darkness returns!

STORY: CONTINUED=====

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 a murderer 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!

The Gardner, Massachusetts Victorian mansion 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.

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: (EVP1 AUDIO CLIP)

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.” (EVP2 AUDIO CLIP)

Here’s one of someone asking for “lights please” while the investigators offer a light up toy for him to play with. (EVP3 AUDIO CLIP)

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. (EVP4 AUDIO CLIP)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

SHOW CLOSE=====

Thanks for listening. If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! And please leave a rating and review of the show in the podcast app you listen from – doing so helps the show to get noticed! You can also email me anytime with your questions or comments through the website at WeirdDarkness.com. That’s also where you can find all of my social media, listen to free audiobooks I’ve narrated, shop the Weird Darkness store, sign up for the email newsletter to win monthly prizes, find other podcasts that I host, and find the Hope in the Darkness page if you or someone you know is struggling with depression or dark thoughts. Plus if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell, you can click on TELL YOUR STORY – or call the DARKLINE toll free at 1-877-277-5944. That’s 1-877-277-5944.

All stories in Weird Darkness are purported to be true (unless stated otherwise) and you can find source links or links to the authors in the show notes.

“The Many Hauntings of the S.K. Pierce Mansion” from SlightlyOddFitchburg.com

WeirdDarkness™ – is a production and trademark of Marlar House Productions. Copyright, Weird Darkness.

Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” — Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)

And a final thought… “A lie doesn’t become truth, wrong doesn’t become right, and evil doesn’t become good just because it’s accepted by a majority.” – Unknown

I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.

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