The Carey Mansion, a spectacular home in Newport, Rhode Island, is a very specific cultural touchstone for generations of vampire aficionados. Its exteriors began and anchored each episode of Dark Shadows, the gothic saga of the Collins family that captivated daytime TV viewers for more than 1,200 episodes in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Fans of the show still convene there for special events — and some of them haven’t limited themselves to passive appreciation of the space.
How old is this edifice? Well, it depends on which part you’re talking about. The whiskey tycoon Edson Bradley commissioned part of it in Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle; that was completed in 1911 and featured jaw-dropping details like a chapel that seated 150 worshipers. Twelve years later, Bradley relocated to Newport, Rhode Island — and brought his magnificent mansion along with him. The Washington home was reconstructed and combined with an existing mansion on his new property.
Who Goes There?
Despite its $2 million (in the 1920s) price tag and countless irreplaceable artifacts, the mansion’s inhabitants didn’t appear to have lost sleep over security; the property is and always has been surrounded by a simple hedge. If you imagine, then, that its visitor’s log might not reflect everyone who has spent time there… well, you might be right.
Revisiting an Old Haunt
Dave, Shari, Steve and Jason have been called in to investigate at the invitation of Denise and Chris Bettencourt, the couple that has called the Carey Mansion home since 2009. The Bettencourts have long believed they share space with spirits — in fact, they first asked the team to check them out back in 2010 — but they feel that the energy in the house has taken a darker turn of late. One of the participants in a Dark Shadows fan event created a six-pointed star on the floor of the organ room as part of a séance; could the ritual have offended a benevolent spirit, or even summoned a malevolent one?
Amy Bruni and Adam Berry
Reports of activity at the property are so widespread that the team makes an early call for local reinforcements: Kindred Spirits’ Amy Bruni and Adam Berry, who just happen to be former colleagues from Syfy’s Ghost Hunters. It’s been seven years since the two squads have worked an investigation together, though everyone has gotten up close and personal with the house in search of its paranormal activity. Will all that history turn up something new?
Investigating From All Angles
With Amy and Adam on board, the Ghost Nation team has the firepower to give the Carey Mansion (AKA Collinwood, Seaview Terrace, Burnham-by-the-Sea… we could go on) the thorough investigation it deserves. Given that the house has hosted everyone from U.S. Army officers (during World War 2) to boarding-school children, college students and even a self-styled warlock, the stories to unravel here are virtually innumerable.
Ornate spaces like the mansion’s ballroom were reassembled after traveling by rail from their original neighborhood in Washington, D.C., but their origins are even more remote. Pieces of that version of the home hailed from other collectors’ properties in the United States (and buildings in France, Italy and the Netherlands before that; in some cases, entire rooms were imported intact from Europe). Given all the care that went into creating this unique destination, it should perhaps be unsurprising that the original lady of the house has been spotted in the ballroom long after her death.
The Bettencourts decamped to New York and encouraged the Ghost Nation team to spend a week at the Carey Mansion, so this investigation can run around the clock (and team members can bed down for the night — or sit awake in hopes of making contact — in areas where activity has been reported). The aforementioned lady of the house, Julia Bradley, has also been spotted here in the great hall.
Denise Bettencourt also has a very personal request for the team. She recently lost her father, Martin Carey, and feels that his strong emotional connection to his former home might have something to do with the presences she’s felt there. Evidence of contact with him could supplant the dark currents the Bettencourts have sensed with a feeling of peace.
Miles to Go Before They Sleep
The Carey Mansion is quite literally the largest privately-owned Gilded Age “summer cottage” (i.e., mansions built for wealthy American industrialists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries) in existence. It’s nearly 40,000 square feet, and when it was completed in 1925 it boasted 17 rooms on its first floor, 25 on the second and 12 on the third. The contents of some of those rooms are well-documented, while the contents (and inhabitants) of others are anyone’s guess.
Receiving Visitors in the Great Hall
Does an investigation begin when you say it does or when your environment says it does? The Ghost Nation team hears a veritable chorus of inexplicable noises before their gear is unpacked and installed around the mansion. After nightfall, flashing lights wash across the second-floor gallery overlooking the great hall. As Steve puts it, “now that’s how to kick off a week in a haunted mansion!”
Strategy and Surprises
The team decides to place cameras in the mansion’s most storied and active areas — the room where Julia Carey has been heard playing her beloved Estey pipe organ, the third-floor room where Denise Bettencourt saw ominous shadows, the second-floor hallway where Chris Bettencourt felt multiple spectral hands on the back of his neck and shoulders — but even with their extended resources brought to bear on the investigation, the Carey Mansion outperforms the team’s expectations.
Sleep No More
Sheri decides to bed down for the night on the third floor near where Denise saw a shadowy figure, while Jason and Dave unfold their cots in rooms where Mrs. Bradley’s image has been reported. Steve, in turn, chooses the organ room (a favorite of Mrs. Bradley’s and the site of the illicit séance). It boasts an array of ancient cherubic faces carved into the ceiling, a feature Steve seems to be alone among the team in finding beautiful rather than terrifying.
Fact and Fiction
Given that hundreds of people have called the Carey Mansion home (and thousands more have interacted with the architecture its builders collected from all over the world), it stands to reason that every space has acquired a whispered legend or two. Part of the team’s focus is to separate rumors — like the legend of the “round room,” where an unhappy nun is said to have taken her own life — from tragic events that can be confirmed with local experts.
Happily Ever After?
At the end of the most thorough investigation the Carey Mansion has undergone to date, the paranormal dream team reaches what they feel is a definitive take on the Bettencourts’ nightmarish suspicions. Who is sharing their home with them, and what do they want? Tune in for the whole story with the two-hour premiere of Ghost Nation: Reunion in Hell at 9|8c on Travel Channel this Saturday, October 31st.