Former news editor uncovers stories behind haunts in New Hampshire and Massachusetts
Eric Stanway is not out to prove that ghosts exist, but is more than happy to tell you the history behind the more interesting spirits.
The Fitzwilliam author, and former editor at The Cabinet Press, isn’t a spirit hunter like the ones seen on popular shows “Ghost Hunters” or “Ghost Adventurers.“ He prefers to think of himself as a paranormal historian who looks into the setting of lives, and afterlives, for those who have crossed over.
“I handle these stories the same way as I handle newspapers,” Stanway said. “Everything I cover is true from ghosts to murders or something equally sensational. These are stories people have largely forgotten about.”
Stanway has written 14 books on the many mysteries hidden behind and within these spooky
settings both known and unknown. Each one is filled with photographs and historic facts behind some of the most haunted locations in the area. Readers are given the story, followed by Stanway’s own accounts of his visits.
He forgoes ghostly gadgets for primary sources, especially newspapers, and first-hand experiences of these haunted historic locations. His visits to these haunted destinations can come with gruesome details, and even paranormal experiences.
There are different kinds of ghosts that he has come across in his research. One is residual hauntings, where spirits go through a routine, almost like a film loop, and cannot be communicated with. These spirits continually walk through walls where doorways used to be, up and down a set of stairs or repeat some other mundane task.
The other category is sentient ghosts that can actually interact with the living, although they may get mad if you disrespect their domain. The subject of one of his most recent books, “The Victorian,” has plenty of these sentient ghosts wandering the Sylvester K. Pierce house in South Gardner, Mass.
“It is probably the most haunted house I’ve ever seen, based on sheer numbers,” Stanway said.
The mansion was built in 1875 by Pierce, an extraordinarily wealthy man. The 30-room house was meant to be a sign of his standing in society, but it soon became a setting for many tragedies over the years.
Pierce’s wife died soon after moving into the house, which was given to his new wife after his death about 12 years later. Many more involved with the mansion would later expire in terrible ways from drownings to self immolation.
These spirits would return to torment new owners many years later, which might just be why the house is currently vacant, he said.
“Edmun and Lilian Gonzalez bought the mansion and the paranormal activity really got crazy,” Stanway said. “The wife became a hot spot, as the spirits focused on her.”
One night Lilian was seen singing a lullaby to herself before her husband caught her digging through the stove. She then shouted that she had “found it!” The item she was referring to being the remains of a baby.
Stanway himself had felt the presence of spirits during his tour of the home. For example, he came across portal of energy underneath the staircase that would later show a strange smoky cyclone on video for ghost hunters. It was just another day exploring our haunted world for this curious author.
The mysteries of the Pierce house are just some of the many paranormal examples that Stanway has come across as he explores New Hampshire and Massachusetts. These include The Old Ringe House in Rindge, a haunted lake in Francestown and the remains of Madame Sherri’s castle in West Chesterfield.
These paranormal experiences are not exclusively had during his travels either. Stanway reluctantly feels the presence of the afterlife in his own home.
“I’ll be going up the stairs and feeling something behind me. I can feel the back of my hair go up for something I don’t understand. I see ghosts around my home frequently, they are always in the corner of my eye. I try and shut it out and just avoid dealing with it,” he said.
Stanway also has a fascination with the stories behind murders and serial killers, which are detailed in his latest book, “Stone-Cold Murder.” He is constantly uncovering the darker stories hidden throughout our history, and is always armed with a ghost story to tell.
Although he left the newspaper business in 2008, he still writes a column called “Taste of History” for Encore in The Telegraph. Stanway has always had a fascination with horror and history, which now combine within his recent venture in self-publishing his spooky research.
“It is an interesting career,” Stanway said. “Not the one I chose, but an interesting one nonetheless.”
Stanway’s books are available at the Toadstool Bookshop in Milford and online through Amazon.