Thursday, May 26, 2016

10 Most Famous Haunted Places in New England

New England has beautiful fall foliage, excellent clam chowder, and a huge number of ghostly legends and lore. From Rhode Island to Maine there are local stories of ghosts and spirits reaching out from the beyond to send chills up the spines of the living. I set off with nothing but a notebook and a sense of adventure to find out if there is any truth to the most popular legends here in New England.

10. Exeter, RI – The Legend of Mercy Brown

Mercy Brown was a young woman in Exeter, RI who was wrongfully assumed to be a vampire. In 1882 Mercy developed tuberculosis, a.k.a. consumption. Because this was before germ theory the townspeople decided that all of the people who were being diagnosed with consumption were being attacked by vampires in the night, causing them to become ill. Her brother Edwin had been showing signs of consumption shortly before Mercy died in 1883. Convinced Mercy was rising from the dead to feast upon her brother they went back to her corpse and cut out her heart, burning it and making Edwin ingest the ashes as a way to ward off his sister’s vampirism. Unsurprisingly, ingesting charred bits of his dead sister did nothing to stop the consumption and he too passed away, but the defiling of her dead body led to multiple sightings of her ghost in Chestnut Hill Cemetery where she and her family are buried. Some people say that they’ve seen her wandering the grounds of the cemetery, others say they’ve seen a blue ball of light that floats among the graves. Often people report a feeling of being pushed by an unseen force.

9. Bridgeport, CT - The Remington Arms Factory

In 1867 a factory was built in Bridgeport, Connecticut that soon became the Remington Arms Munition factory. One of the largest munitions factories in the world, the Remington Arms supplied a significant amount of the weaponry used during World War I and II. During the production for the wars there were several fatal accidents including an explosion in 1942 that killed 8 people and injured 80 others. In the late 1960s and early 1970s the demand for weapons manufacturing had declined and the factory eventually closed to relocate to the south. This left an abandoned, crumbling factory in the heart of Bridgeport that has been the home to numerous ghost sightings over the years. Reports of shadowy figures in the windows, furniture moving around by itself, screaming and moaning coming from the building have led to theories of ghosts and spirits haunting the property. Legend has it that the people who died in the explosion in 1942 can still be seen in the windows, running back and forth and wailing loudly.

8. Stowe, VT – Emily’s Bridge

In the town of Stowe there is a covered bridge known as Emily’s Bridge named after a young woman who died there. Multiple tales are told of what exactly happened at the bridge – some say she lost control of her horse and went over the edge into the water below, others say she was murdered by her fiancĂ©’s mother on the bridge, and yet others tell stories of a young woman who was jilted by her lover and hung herself on the bridge rather than face life without him. The last story is the most popular of the three, saying that she arranged a clandestine meeting with her lover on the bridge and they were going to run away together so she could escape her abusive family. For some reason he decided against it at the last minute and never joined her on the bridge, leaving her there alone for hours. Once she knew he wasn’t coming to join her she hung herself from the rafters. According to legend people driving across the bridge hear scratching noises from above as the feet of her dangling corpse drag across the roof of their car. Other legends say that her ghost only attacks men in revenge for the man who left her there alone to kill herself on the bridge.

Ray’s Seafood Restaurant, located in a little seaside town in New Hampshire, is a former residence-turned-restaurant surrounded by multicolored lobster sculptures and a beautiful, rocky beach. The building was once the home of two sisters, Goldie and Blanche, who lived there together until they were moved out of their home and into assisted living facilities in the 1960s. Despite dying elsewhere, Goldie’s things were still stored in the attic of the restaurant and after she passed people began reporting ghostly activity such as unexplained cold spots, phones ringing when no one is calling, third floor windows opening on their own and glasses shaking along the walls. According to legend the business had traditionally been passed from father to son but several years ago it was left to an in-law instead, causing Goldie to become less mischievous and more aggressive in her activities, breaking lightbulbs and otherwise causing trouble for the employees.

6. Kennebunk, ME – Wallingford Farm & Hall

Wallingford Farm in Kennebunk, Maine is haunted by the ghost of soldiers according to their website. Employees have reported seeing the ghosts of Revolutionary War soldiers walking along rafters in the barn, unexplained cold spots, slamming doors, and the sounds of feet running up and down the stairs. The nearby Wallingford Hall is also home to multiple ghost stories and sightings, ranging from a ghost of a ten year old girl who plays on the stairs to a woman who appears in the corner of the kitchen. Employees and people who have stayed the night have reported unexplained noises and slamming doors, though all reports indicate that the ghosts here are fairly benign and have never attempted to harm anyone. The ghost stories are so prevalent at Wallingford Farm that they have a section dedicated to the hauntings on their website including a poem and a link to all the different paranormal studies that have been done on the property.

5. Boston, MA – Central Burying Ground

There are dozens of stories of ghosts and hauntings in the Central Burying Ground in Boston but the most common (and the one told by the haunted walking tour of Boston) tells the story of a young medical student in the late 1970s. He apparently tried to take a rubbing of a gravestone and was beset upon by the ghost of a nine-year-old girl in a white dress. She supposedly appeared in the graveyard, first sitting in a tree and then appearing on the walking path and forced him to run through her to escape from the cemetery. After passing through the gates he approached his car only to have his keys knocked out of his hands by what felt like a still, cold presence. Believing the girl had followed him he went to the police to make a report only to recant his story a few hours later out of fear of being thought crazy. Legend says that this particular burying ground was used by a hospital to bury the bodies of children who had died of tuberculosis in the 1800s and that many of the ghosts reported here have been the ghosts of those children looking for someone to be their playmate.

4. Mystic, CT – Captain Daniel Packer Inne

The Captain Daniel Packer Inne is a Connecticut restaurant that is supposedly haunted by the spirit of a 7-year-old girl named Ada. She died of scarlet fever years ago and is purported to run around on the top floor of the restaurant, opening windows and tilting pictures on the wall in addition to trying to play with the many children who dine there. The staff even has a book where both children and adults can record their experiences with the ghost for other patrons to read. According to legend Ada loves to run up and down the stairs to the third floor, causing people who stand in the hallway below to hear the sound of running feet as she races around the restaurant. Despite being a fairly prominent fixture of the restaurant, Ada has never been reported to be angry or malicious, only playful and searching for other small children to play with her while they dine.

3. Providence, RI – The Biltmore Hotel

The Biltmore Hotel is said to be one of the most haunted hotels in the country. Built in 1918, it was owned by a known Satanist who supposedly used the hotel as the location for multiple dark ceremonies, even building a chicken coop on the roof to house chickens to offer as a sacrifice. Over the years there have been stories told of multiple murders back as far as the early 1920s, strange disappearances, and ghostly activities including the slamming of doors and strange noises. You can find multiple videos on YouTube of people staying in The Biltmore Hotel showing their doors slamming and lights flickering, purported to be the ghosts that inhabit the hotel. Legend states that the hotel only became haunted after the ownership changed hands and that some believe the satanic rituals that took place there had actually been keeping the ghosts and other spirits at bay.

2. Stowe, VT – The Green Mountain Inn

At The Green Mountain Inn they tell the story of Boots Berry, a man born to two employees of the hotel in 1840. He grew up in the hotel and became a horseman who, during the course of his duties, saved the lives of several people when the horses lost control of the stagecoach. Declaring him a hero, the townspeople made it clear he would never have to buy his own drinks again, but soon after he developed a drinking problem and was let go from the hotel. With nowhere to call home he traveled the country, earning the nickname Boots when he learned how to tap dance. Eventually making his way back to Stowe, Boots arrived to find that a young girl had somehow climbed out on the roof of the inn during a snowstorm. He climbed up and rescued the girl only to slip and fall to his death. Now the legend goes that people who stay in room 302 can hear him tap dancing on the rooftop where he rescued the little girl so long ago.

1.Boston, MA – Ghost of George Parkman

In the mid -1800s Dr. George Parkman was the head of one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in the Boston area. Despite being a notorious skinflint, at one point he loaned money to Dr. John Webster, a professor of chemistry at Harvard. After leaving the house one day to collect on the debts owed to him Dr. Parkman disappeared, never to be seen again. A week later a janitor by the name of Littlefield at Harvard discovered the charred remains of Dr. Parkman buried under the bathroom in Dr. Webster’s lab. In one of the first court cases ever to use forensic evidence, Dr. Webster was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death by hanging. The legend says that the ghost of Dr. George Parkman haunts his former home, stomping up and down the stairs and causing plumbing malfunctions because he is upset that his remains were stored under Dr. Webster’s bathroom floor.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Knock, Knock...

A few months ago I was sitting on my couch, eating brownies and binge-watching episodes of Friends when I heard a knock at the door. I opened it to find three people in business suits, each holding a clip board. "Can I help you?" I asked.

The first man stepped up and said, "Hi, I'm Ernie. These are my friends Lilly and Ronald. We are all trying to decide who gets to be boss of the neighborhood. If you choose me I'll bake cake for everyone!"

"That's nice," Lilly said, "But realistically no one thinks Ernie can make enough cake for everyone. If you choose me I'll be really nice to you and then I'll punch you in the face."

"Excuse me?"

"Yep. I'll be super nice to everyone, but eventually I'm going to go around punching people in the face."

"But I don't want to be punched in the face!" I yelled.

"Oh, you will. Wait until you hear from Ronald over there." She pointed to the man beside her who had been making sneering faces the whole time Ernie and Lilly had been speaking.

"Nah, you'll totally want me to be the boss of the neighborhood. I'll be the best boss! But, fair warning, if you choose me you will eventually get stabbed."

"What the hell is wrong with you people?" I screamed, startling the cat and making him run behind the sofa.

"The stabbing is just part of the price you pay to have the best boss of the neighborhood. I have to stab everyone to keep the jackasses from 3rd Ave from wandering over here and using your pool." he replied.

"So I can choose between the guy who wants to make me cake, the woman who wants to punch me in the face, or the dude who wants to stab everybody? I think that is a pretty easy choice."

"Wait, wait, wait!" Lilly said. "I know the cake sounds good, but realistically it just isn't going to happen. No one thinks it can happen. Technically you can choose Ernie and his wacky 'Cake For Everyone' idea, but we are doing this by majority vote, so if you vote for Ernie and Ronald ends up getting the majority of the votes from your neighbors then you will absolutely end up being stabbed. You don't want to be stabbed, do you?"

"But I'm stabbing to keep people safe!" Ronald bellowed. "Besides, the same thing goes the other way. If you vote for Ernie and everyone else votes for Lilly then you will absolutely get punched in the face, plus all those jackasses from 3rd Ave will be in your pool all the damn time! At least if you get stabbed by me you'll know your pool is safe. With her all you get is a punch in the face!"

"But I've never seen anyone else in my pool, and voting for Lilly or Ronald is giving my approval for being punched in the face or stabbed! Why would I do that?"

"To save yourself from being stabbed!" Lilly yelled.

"To keep your pool secure and to keep from getting punched in the face!" Ronald roared.

"I think I'm going to choose Ernie. Even if the cake thing doesn't work out at least he hasn't said he is going to actively harm me. Besides, if he is right about everything then I end up getting cake!" I said.

"Go ahead, throw your vote away!" Lilly and Ronald squawked as they walked down the sidewalk, heading next door to talk to my neighbor.

"So, what flavor of cake do you like?" Ernie asked.