TOWNSEND — The setting is perfect for unsettled spirits to drift. Many of the homes and buildings were built shortly after the American revolution and still would still be recognizable to the folks who lived and worked there 200 years ago.
The Townsend Historical Society owns and operates four buildings in “The Harbor,” where the Squannacook River was dammed centuries ago to provide power for a mill and cooperage.
For years, rumor of a ghost has quietly circulated among the volunteers and visitors to the museum. No doubt, some of the classic signs of a haunting were observed: unexplained noises, strange feelings and flickering lights.
The Reed Homestead, now the office for the Historical Society, was built around 1809. Townsend historian Richard N. Smith wrote about the “handsome frame dwelling on Main Street” in “Dust and Divinity,” published by the historical society in 1978.
As it turns out, there may be a suitably tragic reason for a haunting in the old home.
Harriet Reed, the second generation of Reeds to live in the home, allowed her sister, Hannah, to return home to mourn the death of Hannah’s 10-year-old daughter. Smith writes the girl was of singular beauty.
Hannah did not find peace. One evening before supper, the distraught mother took her own life. Harriet found her sister hanging from the ceiling in the stairway hall when it was time to eat.
Harriet fled the house, never to return. After her death in her brother’s home, her relatives discovered over $8,000 rolled into her stockings and linens.
Fertile opportunities indeed for a ghost to take up residence. There are those in Townsend, however, who dismiss the sorrowful tale told by Smith as an author’s fancy.
As can happen, the daily users at the Historical Society learned to get along with whatever presences might be flitting through the buildings during business hours.
It took a fresh set of eyes and ears to recognize any phenomena might be unique.
The Spaulding Cooperage, another building owned by the Society, was rented to Laura Bradley for an antique co-op almost a year and a half ago.
Inside the co-op, a horse-drawn hearse is concealed behind a curtain. The Society had no place else to store it. The funeral conveyance is not what affected Bradley though.
She felt “something” and her clairvoyant agreed there might be a ghost, a female presence, in the old mill.
Not one to leave things to chance, Bradley contacted “Ghost Hunters,” an NBC television series. Investigators from The Atlantic Paranormal Society jumped on the case.
The big black TAPS trucks showed up in the peaceful Townsend Harbor April 11. A quick-working crew set up lights and cameras, toured the historic district and spent two nights in the buildings.
They rolled out as swiftly as they arrived, leaving everyone involved sworn to secrecy regarding their conclusions.
Jeannie Bartovics, site administrator, said all would be revealed when the show is aired in approximately three months.