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America's Oldest Haunted Timber House

The almost 400-year-old frame isn't the only thing catching people's attention in America's oldest timber house.

Written by Sara Brown

The Fairbanks House in Dedham, Massachusetts. Photo courtesy of Sojourning Boston. The Fairbanks House in Dedham, Massachusetts, is thought to be the oldest standing timber-frame in North America. Photo courtesy of Sojourning Boston.

Any timber-home enthusiast knows these timeless structures come with a healthy dose of history. But did you know that the oldest timber home in America is actually a timber-frame home? And an even more surprising fact?

That same home may very well be one of the most haunted houses in America. Lived in for generations by the same family and lovingly kept just as it was in its early Colonial days, the Fairbanks House is Dedham, Massachusetts, was constructed over four years in the mid 1600s by English settlers Jonathan and Grace Fairbanks.

Today, the house is a museum, filled with history — and inexplicable occurrences. "There’s always been weird things happening in the house," says Justin Schlesinger, one of the museum directors, "from the doorbell going off a million times to flashlights never working."

Other spooky reports include hearing footsteps on the stairs when no one is there and even the alarm system sounding every night for several weeks without an explanation from the security company. Because the home is so old with such a long-running history, it's no surprise that — if ghosts do in fact exist — this is the place where you might come across one or two.

To dig a little deeper, Schlesinger contacted The Atlantic Paranormal Society last year, and invited them to come to the house, spend the night and see what they might find. The TAPS group made audio recordings all night in an effort to detect anything out of the ordinary.

"We heard footsteps in the beginning," he said. "Up where the children used to sleep."

A look inside the kitchen. Photo courtesy of fairbankshouse.org. A look inside the kitchen. Photo courtesy of fairbankshouse.org.

Schlesinger admitted that he didn’t get much sleep that night while the group camped out in 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.

The TAPS team told him spirits like to 'mess with electronics,' which might explain why tourists’ cameras often stop working during their visits to the house. 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 out of the ordinary.

"There’s nothing bad," she says. "They’re happy spirits." For more information on the Fairbanks House and to read about the home's timber-frame construction, visit www.fairbankshouse.org.

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