The Fairbanks House at 511 East Street, dates from the mid 17th century and is thought to be North America’s oldest surviving timber frame house. It was built around 1637 for Jonathan Fairbanks (Fiarbanke, Fairbanck, Fairebanke or Fayerbanke) (born 1594 – died 5 December 1668), his wife Grace (nee Lee) and their six children. They were an English family from Heptonstall, Yorkshire who had emigrated to the Boston in 1633. It was handed down as a home through eight generations of the Fairbanks family and is now a museum.
On 14 April 2011 an article entitled ‘Footsteps when no one is there, the ghostly laughter of children… Is America’s oldest house haunted?’ in the Daily Mail stated;
Today the house is a museum, but it could very well one of the most haunted houses in America.
Justin Schlesinger, one of the museum directors whose ancestors built the property, said: ‘There’s always been weird things happening in the house, from the doorbell going off a million times to flashlights never working.’
He added that there are sometimes footsteps heard on the stairs when no one is there. Also, a newly-installed alarm system went off every night for several weeks with the alarm company unable to offer an explanation.
If there are such things as ghosts, he said, ‘this would be the logical place for them to be.’
For decades now, throngs of visitors from all over the world, from school children to distinguished architects, have toured the house, entranced by its authenticity.
Over the centuries, there must have been some deaths in the house, museum business manager Lee Ann Hodson said.
There’s even been a shocking murder. In 1801, one of the Fairbanks sons, Jason, was convicted in the killing of his girlfriend, Elizabeth Fales, in a nearby pasture. She had apparently spurned his marriage proposal.
He was hanged from the gallows on Dedham Common in one of the most sensational murder cases of the time.
On a whim last year, Mr Schlesinger, 25, asked a ghost-hunting group, The Atlantic Paranormal Society, or TAPS, to come in and see what they might find.
He spent a a night in the house with the TAPS investigators.
‘We heard footsteps in the beginning,’ he said. ‘Up where the children used to sleep.’
The TAPS group made audio recordings all night in an effort to detect anything out of the ordinary.
They told him after reviewing the tapes that they did record some sounds.
‘They thought it was kids, because they got some laughter on the recordings.’
Schlesinger admitted that he didn’t get much sleep that night while the group camped out on sleeping bags in the house’s tiny parlor, especially when his cell phone went off in the middle of the night and began playing organ music.
‘I don’t know if scared is the right word,’ he said.’Maybe startled or confused.’
The ghost hunters told him not to worry, that if there were spirits in the house, they were likely his own family and wouldn’t harm him, thebostonchannel.com reports.
He said the TAPS team told him spirits like to ‘mess with electronics,’ which might explain why tourists’ cameras often stop working as well.
‘There is so much history living in this house,’ he said.
The TAPS group returned last weekend for a second round of testing armed with their electro-magnetic field detectors and audio recorders.
Team leader Traci Boiselle, 38, described the outing as ‘awesome.’
‘This time, the house had a very different feeling,’ she said. ‘We had lots of knocking and moving sounds.’
‘My take is that definitely there is some paranormal activity in the house,’ she added.
But Lesley Haine, one of the house’s tour guides who was raised in Dedham, said that while it’s hard to keep flashlights working there, she’s never personally noticed anything too odd.
‘If there are spirits out there, they are good spirits,’ she said.
‘There’s nothing bad. They’re happy spirits.’