A Brief History: Raynham Hall is located at 20 West Main Street in Oyster Bay New York. Long Island merchant Samuel Townsend purchased the property that would house his historic home, Raynham Hall in 1740. The property in downtown Oyster Bay, New York was a good location for Townsend since it was near the water and his shipping business was expanding. The homestead housed Samuel, his wife Sarah, their eight children, and their slaves. By 1765 Samuel and his brother Jacob owned 4 ships, and traded in various goods including lumber, tea, sugar, molasses, china, textiles, dyes, and rum.
When war broke out between the colonies and the British government Samuel Townsend took the side of the Patriots while many others from his area remained loyal to the Crown. Townsend was part of New York’s Provincial Delegation, which voted to ratify the Declaration of Independence. After the British forces defeated Washington’s troops in the Battle of Long Island, Raynham Hall was used to quarter British officers of the Queen’s Rangers, who were led by Lieutenant Colonel John Graves Simcoe. Samuel’s son, Robert Townsend who worked in Manhattan agreed to aid Abraham Woodhull in spying on the British for General George Washington. Townsend, because of him being a respected merchant had contact with British officers and it was thought he would be able to gleam valuable information for the Patriot forces. Townsend was given the code name Culper Jr. and Woodhull was Culper Sr.
Over time the homestead stayed in the Townsend family possession. In 1851 Solomon Townsend refurbished the house and renamed it Raynham Hall. Solomon redesigned the home, added carpet, wallpaper, and various furnishings, which gave it a more ornate appearance. He also added another wing onto the house, as well as a water tower. The last Townsend to live in Raynham Hall was Maurice Townsend. He was later committed to, and died in the Amityville Sanitarium. In 1933, Julia Weeks Cole (niece of Helene DeKay, Solomon’s wife) later deeded Raynham Hall to the Oyster Bay chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. In 1947 the D.A.R. decided that the upkeep of Raynham Hall was becoming too much for them to maintain so they donated the building to the Town of Oyster Bay. The town decided to restore the house to its 18thcentury appearance, and turned it into a museum. In 1974 it was added to the National Registrar of Historical Places.
Haunted History: The first written accord of any ghostly activity at Raynham Hall was in 1938, by Julia Weeks Cole. She gave the account of an overnight visitor who claimed to have heard what sounded like a horse. When the visitor looked out their bedroom window they described seeing a white horse and rider in the yard. It was thought by Julia Weeks Cole that this may have been Major John Andre’ who was instrumental in helping Benedict Arnold defect and attempt to give the West Point fortress to the British during the Revolutionary War. Shortly before his capture, Andre’ visited Raynham Hall. After being captured, he was executed by Colonial forces for espionage. Cole, also reported that her sister encountered the spirit of Robert Townsend in the house. Museum employees have claimed to hear footsteps in the hallways when no one is around. Also, noises have been heard up in the slave quarters which is used for storage and not open to visitors.
In the kitchen people have claimed to spell spices such as cinnamon, fruits, and baking bread. However, the kitchen is not normally in use, and fruits and spices decorating it are fakes. A former servant of the Townsends named Michael Conlin has been reported to have been seen near the garden and servants quarters. Conlin, who was from Ireland was employed by the Townsends in the 1800s. Another story involving employees of the Raynham Hall entails the mannequins inside the house. A couple of employees stated that when they have come to work in the morning and unlocked the door to enter that the mannequins were in different locations than where they were supposed to be, including one just inside the front door which scared the employee who opened it. Even though the building has an alarm system which includes motion sensors, no alarms were set off. In response to the mannequins having been moved, employees attached them to the floor.
The most famous story of Raynham Hall involves Sally Townsend and Lieutenant Colonel Simcoe. It is believed that Sally Townsend and Simcoe fell in love during his time at the Townsend family home. He wrote for Sally what some say is the first recorded Valentine’s Day letter in America. After the war ended Simcoe was sent back to England while Sally stayed in America. Simcoe went on to marry someone else. However, Sally unable to move on never married and became a spinster. She later died in the home. After her passing, Simcoe’s Valentine’s letter was found with worn creases from being read repeatedly. Sally’s room was in the Colonial portion of the house, known as the West Room. There have been many people who claim to have noticed a change in temperature inside the room, making it colder than the rest of the house, possibly from a cold spot. Perhaps it’s from Sally still sitting in her room pining over her lost love.