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Oneida's Farnam Mansion provides home to spirits, owners

Buying a haunted house isn't for everyone, but for the couple who bought the supposedly haunted Farnam Mansion in Oneida three years ago, they've found a comfortable life sharing their home with what they call spirits.

The Farnam Mansion on Main Street in Oneida has all the makings of a haunted house; creaky stairs, lots of small, dark rooms, a cellar complete with a former lab.

Credit Provided by Gerri and Brian Gray.
Unexplained mist near woman's left arm during a paranormal investigation at the Farnam Mansion.

The brick Victorian Italianate home built more than 150 years ago is currently owned by Gerri and Brian Gray.

They've recreated a Victorian atmosphere, with heavy dark furniture, ceiling length curtains and dark rugs. They've painstakingly restored some of the woodwork and marble fireplaces, and there are some touches of gothic styling with a tiny coffin, skull and candelabra on a gleaming table. It all creates a mood that would welcome the paranormal.

When the Grays moved into the house more than three years ago, the previous owners didn't even try to mask the haunted nature of the home, which soon became apparent to them in the formal dining room.

"When we first moved in to the house, we had experiences with phantom cats or a small dog in this room a number of times," Gerri Gray said. "We would feel it brushing against our ankles while we ate. We think it was the spirit of a cat or small dog, because of how small it was and it would always rub against your ankles, like a cat would."

The Grays turned it into a bed and breakfast called Collingswood, based on the old "Dark Shadows" TV series. While it was a bed and breakfast, guests had all sorts of stories of visiting spirits, many of them in the drawing room just off the center hall, which the Grays call the seance room, because of the seances they hold there.

"We've had people experience all sorts of things in this room, from the appearance of a ghost cat, a marble came out of thin air, rolled from there to the dining room," Gerri Gray said. "Somebody picked it up and said it felt hot."

While touring the house, there are always stories of sightings.

One story of the ghosts that haunt the mansion came after thoroughly cleaning the attic.

Credit Provided by Gerri and Brian Gray.
Orb and mist at the bottom of the staircase.

"Then six months to a year later, this was found," Gerri Gray said. "A little slate board, and we found a name on it. Edna Selcraig. We did some research and found out she was the granddaughter of the original owner of the house."

Does that prove a ghost left it?

"Well, I had vacuumed every part of the attic and I hadn't seen it," Gray said. "It just had her name written on it. It was almost like a gift for us. That's how we interpreted it, kind of a thank you for restoring the house and loving it."

There has been other paranormal proof so to speak. The paranormal research group New York Shadow Chasers has documented activity they say is caused by spirits, using equipment that measures electromagnetic energy.

There are also pictures of apparitions of figures the Grays say are ghosts of those who died in the house; unexplained shadows in front of a chair, orbs at the bottom of a staircase, and mists next to people standing in the house.

The Grays have closed the bed and breakfast portion of the home for now, opening up the home to seances, book signings and ghost chasers. They find living with spirits makes things interesting. So will October 31 be especially active at the Farnum Mansion?

"Halloween is usually a little bit more active," Brian Gray said. "But we find the really active times, the anniversary dates of the deaths. Or when we have a lot off people in the mansion. They love a crowd. They love the attention. It's all the energy. They feed off of it."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.