|The Great Séance at the
Haunted Houghton Mansion
North Adams, Massachusetts Septmeber 24, 2006
|By Joseph Flammer
The great séance in the ballroom of the haunted Houghton Mansion in North Adams, Massachusetts
began at midnight.
We arranged the seven long tables in the room together so they were linked side by side, forming one
enormous table in the center of the dark ballroom. A silver candelabra with three tall white candles
had been set upon the middle table; the soft light dimly illuminated the faces of the two mediums,
Mike and Kim, sitting in the middle of the thirty or so participants of the great séance circle.
The mediums were sitting together across from me so I could see their faces clearly. I figured they
were sitting together to connect their energies to reach the spirit world, like a superantenna, thus
better connecting us to the spirit world, too. They would whisper from time to time and look at
someone specific as if talking about that person. Then they would ask that person questions. They
asked one man if his father had "passed over" and another man about a white dog. "Yes, it was a big
white dog," responded the man. "It weighed one hundred and fifty pounds."
Indeed the mediums would connect all of us to the spirit world before long.
A handful of psychics stood evenly spaced behind us around the séance circle. The psychics were
experienced in séances, some possessed medium talents, as well. They were there to assist anybody
who might suddenly be overtaken by the powerful energy of the spirits or need help getting through
the séance because of the intense feelings one could develop such as sadness, emptiness or anger -
sometimes nausea or sickness. These sentinels would help us fight invasion or attack by bad entities. I
might be mistaking the purpose of the sentinels for I’m relatively new to all this - in fact, this was
only my second real séance and I don’t know all the particulars about what anybody can do in a
séance to ward away evil - but I think that was their purpose: to protect us.
Nonetheless, behind this outer circle of six people was poured a ring of sea salt to protect us all from
unwanted disembodied spirits from entering the circle. Why sea salt? I asked Maureen Wood the
question before the séance. She said the pouring of the sea salt was a tradition dating back many
years and believed to ward off evil. I wondered how far back it went. Centuries? I always like the
idea of being connected to my ancestors through tried and true traditions. Sometimes I think our
ancestors knew a lot more about the spirit world than we know. I remembered Reverend Steve
Wilson’s words earlier that day in a lecture that there is a great sadness on this earth, that mankind
has pulled itself away from the earth and stands naked, embarrassed and isolated. Well, that’s not
how he put it, but it’s what I felt he was saying. He said we have to get back to the garden. (Again,
Outside the circle of salt freely moved paranormal investigators, photographing and recording video
of the events that transpired in the séance. Later Josh Mantello, lead investigator for the Berkshire
Paranormal Group (BPG) , and Greg Onorato, a field investigator for BPG, would tell us they heard
a girl or a woman screaming upstairs in the mansion as the séance progressed. They said they ran
upstairs in the mansion to find the source of the screaming, but when they got up to the bedrooms, no
one was there. I remembered seeing and hearing a lot of commotion outside the circle at one point,
but neither I nor any other participant of the séance heard anything out of the ordinary from outside
the circle, including a woman's screams.
Mantello and Onorato were obviously very upset by the event and when the séance was over their
faces still held the flush and the seriousness of their stressful experience with the mysterious
screaming woman. Of course, we all figured it was the ghost of Mary Houghton, whose moan I had
head loudly in a forgotten bedroom upstairs in the mansion a year earlier, when we had met for
CONTACT I, the first paranormal conference ever held in the mansion. The moan had been as close
and as loud as a person standing right beside me but no one was there. Two women in the room at the
time heard the same thing and looked around with white faces and wide eyes. "What's going on?"
one woman had asked me. "We're being haunted," I responded, and watched her eyes widen as if she
was lost in the Black Forest.
After a prayer by the delightful Reverend Steve Wilson, a shaman, the two mediums participating in
the circle began their very serious communications with the dead. Earlier in the day during Reverend
Wilson's meditation and lecture, he recited Native American prayers, and then translated them in
English, and helped me see that my animal totem is a salmon because it has no feet to connect to
earth and flies upstream. He called the great power of the universe "Creator", not "God" and I liked
that because it better suits my own way of looking at the universe.
When the mediums did not speak for a minute or even seconds there would be stillness in the air that
was a mirror of our intense desire to connect to the other world, for we were all concentrating. Most
of us had our eyes closed. Most of the time I had my eyes closed, too; but I looked around the room
often to mentally record my observations.
The longer the séance went, the deeper the emotions that shot through us, the more we all felt
sensations of the spirits moving around and in us. Some of us could not fight off the cold sensations
running up our sides to our necks to the back of our heads and up the left sides of our faces, or a
heaviness in our chests, or sadness and confusion. The sensations were feelings brought in the circle
from outside ourselves. The sensations were imported by visitors from the other world.
We were silent at the table for a half hour before the man to my right began shaking, trembling,
breathing deeply. We would later conclude the spirit to be the man who once owned this old mansion.
Albert Charles Houghton had been the first mayor of North Adams, Massachusetts back in the early
Ron Kolek was the man who was now shaking with the spirit of Albert Charles Houghton. Kolek is a
radio ghost show personality and head of the New England Ghost Project. He unexpectedly opened
up his left hand which I was holding. I tried to keep a grip on it, for it went stiff, stiff as a board, like a
dead man’s hand, and I had to fight to hold his hand and keep the circle unbroken. We could not break
the circle, especially when spirits were inside somebody, I figured. Maybe I figured wrong, but I had
to make a decision right then and there about what I was going to do and why I was going to do it. I
held onto Ron's hand so the circle would not be broken. I figured a spirit was now inside Ron.
Breaking the circle could be dangerous, I feared. Even deadly for Ron, I thought. I had to hold on, for
Diane Hill, my ghost hunting partner and best friend, sat to my left in the circle.
At the same moment Ron was suddenly impaired by an invading spirit, so too was Diane affected and
she squeezed my left hand so hard I was sure she was going to break a bone. I tried to back off her
squeeze with a reprimand from my fingers. She too began trembling, crying, moaning. She too had a
spirit inside her. It was coming at me from both sides now: Ron to my right, Diane on my left.
Suddenly heat rose over my body. I was trapped between two people with spirits inside them and their
energies ran through me as if I was made out of copper and connecting an electrical circuit. I felt
intense heat. It felt like I was standing above a pit of fire. Yet it was not a heat like the heat of fire,
but THE heat of a spiritual energy all around me. I realized with dread I was at the threshold of some
unearthly portal. I feared at that moment I would fall into the portal and be swallowed up if this
continued any longer. I wanted out, out of this maddening circle of the séance!
I called suddenly for assistance and Maureen Wood, one of the six sentinels spaced behind us, came
to my aid. Instantly I began breathing deeply, growing disoriented, sweating, wanting to shout
something that I didn’t even have words for! I was angry. I wanted to explode. I wanted to tell all the
others to go to hell and then laugh at their damned faces! I wanted to…
That’s when Maureen Wood - a pretty blond with an athletic girl next door look - grabbed my
shoulders from behind, for she understood what was happening all too well and intervened to protect
me from the invasion.
At the split second Maureen touched my shoulders I felt the entity inside me leap into her hand. It
dawned on me the spirit had been waiting all along just for the chance to get inside Maureen so it
could talk through her and tell everybody what it wanted to shout. When the spirit jumped out of me
it felt like someone snapped a twig over my left shoulder. There was a break of energy, a sparking
leap of spirit as it flew out of me and into Maureen. Clearly it was Maureen the entity was more
interested in being inside of, no doubt so Maureen could express what the spirit wanted to say so
badly to everybody. It was Albert Charles Houghton.
Suddenly Maureen was trembling and breathing with great difficulty, tormented with the spirit of the
angry man who had been inside me. At the instant the spirit had jumped out of me and into Maureen I
felt cool and easy again, light and clear, as if the whole thing had never happened.
The problem of the invading spirit was now Maureen’s.
She was exhaling hard now as if trying to get a moth or a ball of cotton out of her lung. But it wasn't a
moth that was flying around inside her - it was the spirit of a dead person. The spirit inside her did not
want us in the house: I knew that much from when it was passing through me because I felt its anger.
For Albert Charles Houghton did not want the ghost of his daughter, Mary, who died in a car
accident, to be with the ghost of John Widders. Widders killed himself in the barn in the back of the
mansion the day after Mary died. He felt the car accident that took her life was his fault. (See story
about what happened to Mary and John). But why was Albert Charles Houghton fighting Mary and
John's love for each other? Why, even in afterlife, did he not want them together? Because Widders
was the family chauffeur and not good enough for his daughter.
We were caught in a ghostly family dispute that has been in process for a hundred years, and
probably will be for another hundred. The Houghton Mansion at 172 Church Street is considered one
of the most haunted locations in all of New England. It all began with a secret romance, then a car
accident - many, many years ago.