302 Main Street, Oeneida, NY
This large Victorian home in Oneida, New York has been known under a few different names, the Farnam Mansion, the Polly-Anna and most recently the Collinwood Inn. In it's most recent incarnation, as the Collinwood Inn, it serves as a bed and breakfast themed after the 1960s Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. Much like the fictional Collinwood estate the bed & breakfast is named after, the Collinwood Inn is said to be haunted by the spirits of those who once lived there.
The Farnam Mansion
The house at 302 Main Street in Oneida was built in 1862 for businessman Stephen H. Farnam. Stephen had made his fortune in manufacturing axes and other hardware items at his factory in Little Falls, New York. Farnam relocated to Oneida in 1862, when he purchased a local hardware business. Stephen remained in Oneida for the remainder of his life and gradually became involved in other local businesses, including banking.
Stephen Farnam passed away at home on November 17, 1897 at the age of 75. He was survived by three of his five children and his second wife, Sarah (his first wife, Elizabeth, pre-deceased him by more than a decade). Farnam was interred in nearby Glenwood Cemetery (he had been president of the cemetery association at one point during his life).
Within years of Stephen's death, the mansion was sold by the Farnam family. Over the decades following it became home to suffragist Mary Dyer Jackson, and a succession of three doctors. The first of the three doctors, Robert L. Crockett also served as mayor of Oneida for two years. In 1983 the mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1986, the Farnam Mansion was purchased by Ken and Doloria Chapin, who transformed the place into The Polly-Anna Bed and Breakfast. After serving as a bed and breakfast for more than a decade, the mansion was sold once again and briefly returned to being a private residence until 2010, when it once again became a bed and breakfast.
The Collinwood Inn
In 2010, the mansion passed into the ownership of former antique dealer Gerri Gray. Gerri and her husband Brian wished to open a bed and breakfast (B&B) with a unique theme and for a brief time considered creating a theme based on author Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. After deciding that idea might be too extreme for some guests, they chose to turn it into a tribute to one of their favorite television shows, Dark Shadows. They named their new B&B the Collinwood Inn in honor the soap's Collinwood estate, where most of the plot took place.
The couple immediately set about restoring many of the Italianate mansion's original features, including uncovering ornate ceiling medallions that had long been hidden from view and forgotten. The Grays gave the guest rooms individual themes based on Dark Shadows characters. The rooms feature décor that evokes the spirit of the show. The room based on vampiric character Barnabas Collins sports Gothic furnishings such as an iron candelabra and a photo of actor Jonathan Frid baring his fangs in his role as Barnabas. The final touch is a purposely cheesy rubber bat attached to the headboard of the bed in a nod to the rubber bat prop used for Barnabas's transformation scenes.
Other guest rooms are themed after Barnabas Collin's true love Josette, the witch Angelique (complete with an iron cauldron in the room) and werewolf/ghost Quentin Collins (including an antique gramophone in a nod to the gramophone discovered in a hidden room on the TV show) . Another room, based on Baranabas' sidekick Dr. Julia Hofmman is currently under development at the time of this article.
Gerri and Brian have also created an atmosphere consistent with the Dark Shadows TV show in the common areas of the bed and breakfast. The 1897 Drawing Room in particular is designed as a tribute to a time-travel plot from the series. Reproductions of portraits used in the show also adorn walls throughout the mansion, giving fans the sensation of having stepped into the fictional Collinwood Estate from the moment they cross the threshold into the Collinwood Inn. The Grays have further macabre plans in mind that will bring to life moments from the show as they continue to develop and restore more areas.
Haunting of the Collinwood Inn
During their restoration of the mansion, Gerri and Brian noticed odd unexplained sounds and sensations. They heard footsteps in unoccupied rooms. They also felt the sensation of a cat or dog moving against legs when there were no pets in the home. Gerri felt someone unseen touch her hand while she worked in the kitchen. Lights turned on and off seemingly of their own accord. A spectral figure was seen to appear near an antique clock that the Grays had brought with them. The pair noticed that the figure would appear on the edge of the vision often when the clock had wound down. An antique child's writing slate appeared mysteriously in the attic in a place that had been empty. The slate bore the name of one of Stephen Farnam's grandkids.
The Grays researched the history of the mansion and discovered that multiple people had died there and that stories of it being haunted predated the Grays' ownership. There are three deaths recorded as having happened within the house just from the time of the Farnams' ownership. Stephen, his wife Elizabeth and their 31-year-old son Fred are all said to have died there. Stephen and Elizabeth lost another son at the age of one, but he appears not to have died in the mansion itself. Later occupants to die within the mansion include Dr. Robert Crockett (who died in his basement laboratory) and Dr. William Hummer (the third doctor to own the place) and Hummer's wife Shirley.
The earliest mentions of possible haunting dated back to 1913 when Mary Dyer Jackson sold the property after a mere five months of ownership. Rumors that the place was haunted began to circulate among the Oneida townsfolk shortly after. A local article had also been written by the owner previous to Gerri Gray, describing his witnessing an apparition of a man near a mirror in the downstairs hallway. The apparition is said to have resembled the deceased Dr. Hummer.
Gerri and Brian invited the New York Shadow Chasers to conduct a paranormal investigation of the home. A video of the investigation can be viewed on YouTube (see Related Sites below).
Events at the Collinwood Inn
Besides regular tours offered (see Visiting the Collinwood Inn below), the Collinwood has also begun offering special events. They have held haunted explorations of the house that allowed participants to bring their own ghost-detecting gear and work alongside the New York Shadow Chasers. In 2011, the Grays also hosted a Halloween Masquerade Ball to raise money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Central New York. The Masquerade is planned as being an annual event, featuring old-fashioned Halloween parlor games, fortune-telling, food, non-alcoholic drinks, a candlelight tour, a raffle and a costume contest. The event was held twice in 2011, once on Halloween itself and once the weekend prior for anyone unable to attend on Halloween night. The event was free to attend for guests who had booked rooms at the B&B. Check the Collinwood Inn Web site (see Related Sites below) for details on new and upcoming events.
Visiting the Collinwood Inn
Anyone wishing to book a room at the Collinwood Inn should visit their Web site (See Related Sites below). Upon request, guests who stay the night may participate in candlelight tours, Victorian parlor games or private showings of the films House of Dark Shadows (1970) and Night of Dark Shadows (1971). Both movies were shot at the Lyndhurst Mansion (see Lyndhurst Mansion), a little over 200 miles away in Tarrytown, New York. Hosts, Gerri and Brian, also offer tours of the house for non-guests as well as conducting tours of the nearby Glenwood Cemetery, in which Stephen Farnam and other members of his family are buried.