Historic Spirit Tours At Raynham Hall

Christoper Judge, the director of visitor services at Raynham Hall, Samantha Lynn Difronzo, a spiritualist healer, and tour guide Mary Kenny, led Historic Spirit Tour participants through the dark halls of the Townsend house. (Photo by Jennifer Corr)

It was a dark and cold night in Oyster Bay on Friday, Feb. 24. And it was quiet too, until multiple cars pulled up next to Raynham Hall while Samantha Lynn Difronzo, a spiritualist healer, was roaming the house in preparation for a Historic Spirit Tour through the preserved Townsend House. After those in their cars wandered from the parking lot to inside the historical Raynham Hall for the tour they booked, Difronzo assured them the house was very active with spirits that night.
But in order to understand the spirits that Difronzo, Christopher Judge, the director of visitor services at Raynham Hall, and the attendees were looking for, it’s important to understand just some of the history of Raynham Hall.
According to the museum’s website, in 1740, 23-year-old Samuel Townsend purchased the property now known as Raynham Hall, which gave him closer access to the waterfront that would benefit the shipping business he co-owned with his brother, Jacob. The property, known as “The Homestead” then, was home to Samuel, his wife Sarah Stoddard Townsend, their eight children, and 20 enslaved people. Along with managing his successful business, he was an active member of local and state government, even becoming a New York State Senator after the American Revolution.
While most of Oyster Bay sided with the British during the American Revolution, Samuel sided with the Patriots. But unlike many of the Patriots who fled in the face of danger, Samuel and his family stayed in their home throughout the occupation.
From 1778 to 1779, the home served as a headquarters for a regiment of over 300 British troops and their commander Lt. Col. John Graves Simcoe, who later in life became the founder of the city of Toronto in Canada.
One of Samuel’s children, Robert Townsend, used his work as a merchant as a cover to eavesdrop and observe British troop movements in coffee houses, social events and shops and docks in Manhattan. Under the code name “Culper Junior,” Robert formed the first link in a chain of agents who came to be known as the Culper Spy Ring, and helped to supply information to George Washington about critical information arising out of New York City and Long Island.
In 1851, descendant Solomon Townsend II purchased the property from his aunt and remodeled and enlarged the home, bringing it from 8 rooms to 22, and transformed it into an elegant Victorian villa.
Difronzo began the tour by pointing out the spirits that were around, from the spirits of the British troops who occupied the home from 1778 to 1779, children who once lived in the home, to Samuel Townsend who she saw sitting at his desk, as well as his wife Sarah.
During the tour, Judge and Difronzo led the attendees through the original part of the house, and the added-on Victorian parts of the house. Attendees were encouraged to download an app on their phone called Ghost Tube that includes a Magnetic Field Detector, Sound Spectrum Analyzer that could assist in identifying Electronic Voice Phenomenon (sounds found on electronic voice recordings that are interpreted as spirit voices), among other tools. They were also encouraged to take plenty of photos in an attempt to capture proof of the spirits presence.

Spiritualist Samantha Lynn Difronzo said she saw the spirit of Samuel Townsend at his desk, an original piece of furniture, in the back-left part of the room.
(Photo by Jennifer Corr)

“What we’re trying to do is not only tell historical stories, but also connect with the people who lived in this home, the three generations of the Townsends who lived from the late 1730s all the way to the late 1800s… as well as the enslaved who lived here from the 1740s to the early 1800s,” Judge said.
Difronzo told the attendees that there are very intelligent spirits who still live here. She encouraged the attendees to speak up if they think of something, see something or feel something. And she added that if anyone did not want to be touched, they could either tell the spirits around them to back off, or tell her and she would communicate with the spirits.
“They love to share their history with you,” Difronzo said. “If you do have questions about them, they will answer you.”
All of the attendees expressed interest and excitement as they wandered Raynham Hall in the dark.
Many expressed feeling cold sensations and were asking Judge questions about the home’s history, and Difronzo questions on topics beyond the physical realm, such as what the spirits around were doing and trying to communicate.
“I don’t like the term ghost hunting,” Difronzo said. “It demoralizes the spirits and it demoralizes their history. And it’s so unique to have history actually being presented with the spirits… It honors them a little bit better. And it’s respectful.”
The first Historic Spirit Tour was held in October 2022, and its popularity has kept the event going indefinitely, as each tour keeps selling out.
It has served as a great fundraiser for the museum, and it’s so popular that people have complained that there should be more tours offered.
“It’s been very successful,” Judge said. “People are loving not only learning about their local history right here in the backyard, but the opportunity to potentially communicate with the historic family in this home.”
Tickets range from $25 to $30.
For more information about Raynham Hall and the Historic Spirit Tours offered there, visit raynhamhallmuseum.org.

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