Nance O’Neil’s Ghostly Guest

The Tyngsboro Colonial mansion where Lizzie Borden was entertained

It is know that on at least one occasion, Lizzie Borden was part of a house party thrown by her new friend Nance O’Neil which went on for a full week.  Most likely Lizzie was told all about the ghost which frequented the halls of Nance’s estate.  This article mentions that Nance sold the estate because it was haunted.  It is more likely that she sold it because she lived quite above her income and was forever plagued by creditors- but the ghost story is a good one for this time of the year.

The Lowell Sun, February, 1907- Excerpts

“Only a few days ago the spook appeared before Nance O’Neil, the actress, who was on a visit to her old home, Tyngsboro Manor, before leaving for Europe.  The sudden appearance of the ghost drove Miss O’Neil into such a state of excitement that she fled from the house.

Miss O’Neil lived in Tyngsboro Manor three years.  During this time she asserts that she saw the ghost twice, that it touched her and brushed past her at least five times, and that she was frequently awakened from her sleep by raps upon the walls of her chamber and the head of her bed, or by the attempts of unseen hands to remove the coverings of the bed.

This ghost, according to those who claim to have seen it, has the form and nature of a beautiful young woman.  She is described as wearing the garb of a century ago, her dress being pure white. Her face is pale, her features regular, and her raven black hair flows unbraided below her shoulders. Sometimes she is surrounded by a phosphorescent glow, while at other times she appears as an ordinary human being.

Not only is it declared that she appeared before people, but several residents of the town state that she spoke to strangers, and upon one occasion took in a belated woman traveller who was caught in a storm, provided supper for her, showed her the bed chamber, and then went outside and put up the horse, after which she disappeared.

Then came Nance O’Neil’s experience with the ghost. In 1904 the actress bought the 150 acre estate and its three-storey colonial house, barn, farmhouse and other buildings.  This house was built by the husband of Jonathan Tyng’s granddaughter.

The first time she entered it she felt a draft of air and a chill pierced her like a knife.

“From the moment I started to live in at the manor I was uncomfortable,” says Miss O’Neil in telling of her experience.  “I felt oppressed and could not explain what the matter was, I was in good health.”

“I began to hear strange knocks and then groans and other weird noises.  At night the walls of my bedroom and the head of my bed resounded with unexplainable rappings. I became convinced that the place was haunted.”

“Finally came my most terrible experience. I saw the ghost.  Coming out of one of the rooms on the first floor, I turned to ascend the stairway.  Looking up, I saw at the top the figure of a young woman with long, unbraided glossy hair.  The sight froze me in my tracks.  I tried to shout but could not. Overcome with weakness, I sank on the stairway.  When I looked up the figure was gone.”

Guests of Miss O’Neil frequently complained of strange noises in their rooms.  Several of them claim to have seen the white-draped wraith and Miss O’Neil became so nervous that she sold the place.  Returning to it the other day to sort out business affairs with townspeople, she claims that the figure appeared to her again. She is said to have become hysterical and to have fled from the house. At present the house is untenanted but it will be occupied soon by the Sisters of Notre Dame of Lowell, who are planning to build a school upon the estate.”

Who was the raven-haired Woman in White?

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