Selene Castrovilla is an award winning Long Island Author and we are so excited to have her writing on our site. In honor of Halloween, she has decided that her first topic would be the haunting of Raynham Hall.
Raynham Hall is a museum in Oyster Bay. During the American Revolution it was the home of Samuel Townsend and his family. Long Island was taken over by the British at the start of the war. Samuel Townsend would not pledge his loyalty to King George, and he was put in jail.
Besides being worried about Samuel, his family had to worry about themselves. Their home was occupied by John Simcoe of the Queen’s Rangers – a particularly brutal part of the British army. The Townsends were forced to live with Simcoe, and tend to his needs.
Robert Townsend was living in Manhattan. He ran a dry goods store (like a grocery store, but selling nonperishables such as grain and oats.) He was also a reporter for a British newspaper. His third occupation was a secret. He was a spy for General George Washington.
Yes, Robert was the spy referred to as “Culper Junior” in the Culper Spy Ring. Washington credited the Culper Ring for providing vital information. He specifically mentioned Culper Junior in one spy letter, writing that he could always depend on his intelligence.
Robert often obtained information from the British officers who bragged to him, wanting to see their names in the newspaper. But there is speculation (and evidence) that his sister Sarah (called Sally) provided him with details she overheard at Raynham Hall.
The teen-aged Sally was courted by John Simcoe, who wrote her the country’s first valentine. Because of his affection for her, he might have let his guard down. (Books have been written about this “love story” and her spying, but they are embellished. We don’t know enough to say for certain that Sally was a spy, sending information to her brother.)
The other interesting thing about the Townsends is that they were Quaker. Not only against war, but forbidden to lie. Robert (and possibly Sally) sinned by spying. Later, Robert returned to Raynham Hall. He lived there with his sister Sally, growing old together. Neither one ever got married. It is said they were both haunted by what they’d done for freedom.
Is it possible that in death, Robert and Sally are doing the haunting?
Raynham Hall is said to be one of the most haunted places on Long Island. They said Robert and Sally’s ghosts are still there, unable to rest because of their sins. People have reported incidents with their ghosts. Paranormal investigators (“ghost hunters”) have been there, and also experienced communications with unexplained presences.
What do you think? If you lived in revolutionary times, would you risk your life and soul to help George Washington?
Do you believe in ghosts?
Have you ever “met” a ghost?
Pay a visit to Raynham Hall and explore it for yourselves: if you dare!
Raynham Hall is located at 20 W Main St, Oyster Bay, NY 11771.
Here’s a link to their website: http://raynhamhallmuseum.org
If you’d like to learn more about Robert Townsend and the Culper Spy Ring, check out my book Upon Secrecy! Here’s a link to it on Goodreads: click here