BROOKTONDALE, N.Y. –– Paranormal investigators from the Travel Channel show Ghost Nation took a trip to upstate New York to check out the haunting of an old Speed family home built in 1850.

The house is currently occupied by David Torrey de Frescheville, a California man, who moved to the area ten years ago to pursue a graduate degree at Cornell University in landscape architecture and archaeology. He’s been living at his current address, The Phyllis Rose house as it’s called by the property owner, for the past five years.

David lives with his 87-year-old mother and the home health aides which provide her with around the clock care.

From his very first night in the home, David said that they’ve been seeing ghosts. His mother, he says, was the first to experience them.

“She woke me at about three in the morning, screaming at the top of her lungs. I came running down the stairs, like what is going on, and she says ‘there is a man in my bedroom,’” David said.

She went on to describe a man hovering over her staring down into her face. David said he searched the home and found no one.

A few nights later, he said he had a scare of his own that had him convinced the house was haunted.

“I heard somebody walking up the staircase. It was ten or eleven at night, and my mother cannot walk up the stairs,” he said. David’s mother, as she’s gotten older has experienced declining health and become immobile on her own.

David’s mother, Mary Torrey Quinn

“I’m thinking someone broke in the house. I don’t have a gun, I don’t have any weapons, what am I gonna do? I was so scared I was frozen. I had a pile of papers on the floor and I heard them kick the papers, and the papers scattered everywhere. I spun around and there was nobody there. I knew for a fact then that the house was haunted.”

David said that before he lived in the house he was extremely skeptical of the existence of ghosts. Now, he has no doubts that ghosts are real and living in his home.

“I didn’t believe in them or I thought that if they were there, they had no way to communicate,” David said.

He claims that he’s experienced communication from the spirit world in a variety of ways at the house  –– including hearing noises, seeing figures and having objects move on their own accord. He’s recounted seeing ghost dogs, ghost children, a woman in white, a man in all black with a sickle, bent spoons, flying pans, cabinets opening and closing and voices speaking to the people in the house.

The voices he says, he has been able to catch on camera.

The house is equipped with security cameras, originally intended to keep an eye on David’s mother  and the home health aides working within the home. Now, they serve a second purpose of recording the paranormal.

David is not the only one who has seen ghosts in the home.

Ghost Log that David and the aides use to track paranormal activity.

“I’ve met a lot of people who have lived in here that have said the same thing. (one of the home health aides) Rose, her husband lived in here and he said it was haunted,” David said. “He’d see people walking back and forth, cabinet doors opening, hearing footsteps. People hear voices, they’ll call your name. You’ll hear the dogs running.”

Rose LaBar corroborated the story. She has worked in the home for over a year as a home health aide, and her husband lived there in the 1980s. She said they’ve both experienced ghostly occurrences. She said she’s seen the woman in white, the man in black, and that spirits have referred to her by name. But moreover, she could sense the presence of spirits from the very first time she stepped foot on the property.

“When David first hired me, over a year ago, before I even got to the front door here, I could tell that there was ghosts,” said LaBar.

Four aides have quit because of the ghosts, David said.

David does have theories about who the ghosts are and what they want. He believes that the ghosts are the former inhabitants of the home, and part of the prominent Ithaca Speed family.

In the early 1800s, the Speed family moved from Virginia to Tompkins County. The family sold slaves and has been largely associated with the prominent African American Webb-Bailor family. There is currently an exhibit about the Webb-Bailor family up at the Tompkins County History Center.

Robert Goodloe Harper Speed, the third generation of Speeds to live in Tompkins County, and his wife Romelia Van Pelt were the original inhabitants of David’s house. Romelia, he believes, may be the woman in white.

Speed family photo. Courtesy of Tompkins County History Center.

David has speculated that the ghosts just want things to go back to how they were when they were alive, and want respect for their home.

“I think that they’re protective, and I think that they’re friendly towards us,” said David. “They know we mean well.”

Rose LaBar said she’s had the woman in white ask her to help her move something back. A cryptic message she interpreted as the ghost’s yearning for the past.

After years of experiencing paranormal phenomena on their own, experts have stepped in to help David and his mother. On Friday, Dec. 13 David’s house will be featured on an episode of Ghost Nation.

“I did not seek them out, I had a local team come and do some investigation and they got some evidence and they started showing it around and I actually had four TV shows call me,” David said.

Ghost Nation is actually the third team to take a crack at The Phyllis Rose. There was original investigation by Finger Lakes Ghost Hunters, but it is unclear if they were able to make any concrete findings.

Genesee Valley Paranormal Investigators, which has ties to the Ghost Nation team, came out to the house prior to the TV show being filmed, to help gather evidence and conduct a preliminary investigation.

Ghost Nation takes over for Genessee Valley investigators for the season finale. Ghost Nation is a new series, just renewed by the Travel Channel for season 2, that stars the former Ghost Hunters team. Ghost Hunters premiered on the Syfy channel in 2004, and has largely been considered the pioneer in paranormal tv.

In Ghost Nation, Stephen Gonsalves, Jason Hawes and Dave Tango take on cases form local investigators and using state-of-the-art technology, “attempt to uncover paranormal evidence like never before, while also debunking false claims.”

Jason Hawes is the creator of The Atlantic Paranormal Society, and has since gone on to found the United Paranormal Research Organization with his cohosts Gonsalves and Tango.

David was happy to have the help from experts.

“I wanted them to validate me one way or the other,” he said. “I really did think I was going crazy for a while. I was so scared at one point I almost put myself into mental health.”

What the investigators found at David’s home is under strict lock and key until the episode airs on the Travel Channel at 10 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 13.

After living with ghosts for the past five years, and having experts come in and evaluate his case, David says he’s made peace with his unexpected roommates.

“I’m not scared like I was before because I know now that it’s just dead people here,” David said. “That it’s not really anything evil –– at least I don’t think it is.”

Update (2:51 p.m.): This story has been updated to reflect David has lived in the area for 10 years, but in the house for five. Additionally the team that came into investigate prior to Ghost Nation, Genesee Valley Paranormal Investigators, and the name of the home, Phyllis Rose, have been added. 

Update (3:47 p.m.): The story was updated to include Fingerlakes Ghost Hunters as the original investigators. 

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at