Although you cannot venture inside Laurel Hall, you can stand on the porch of this spooky home and listen for a baby’s cries.Photo Credit : Don Shall/Flickr
“New England is a finished place,” Bernard DeVoto once wrote. It seems that some of its residents, though, never finish residing here. From eerie cemeteries to old hotels to sites of brutal murders, Yankee spirits have found plenty of places to haunt. Here’s a ghost seeker’s guide to the most haunted places in New England.
In Vermont, few locals cross Emily’s Bridge (also known as Gold Brook Covered Bridge) without wondering if there really was an Emily, and if she really hung herself from this covered bridge in Stowe after being jilted by her lover. Someone once claimed they’d made up the tale–but what of the mysterious lights, the disembodied cries, and the scratchings against cars and pedestrian alike?
Or what about that strange mausoleum down in Cuttingsville, Vermont, where a marble statue of a mournful man seems to seek entrance to the tombs within? That’s John Bowman, whose wife and two daughters are entombed here. Hallways in the mansion he built across the way–where he thought his family would reappear one day–are said to echo with an infant’s plaintive cries. Visit Laurel Hall and Mausoleum if you dare.
Again the jilted lover… one of New Hampshire’s most enduring ghost stories concerns Nancy Barton, who on a bitter night in 1778 took off into the woods near Jefferson in pursuit of her supposed fiancé, who had disappeared with her life savings. She was found soaked and frozen at the side of a brook and was buried there. Nancy Brook, it’s called today, and the woods around it are said to still resound with her desperate shrieks.
Another New Hampshire ghost haunts far more comfortable surroundings. Carolyn Stickney was the widow of Joseph Stickney, builder of the sumptuous Mount Washington Hotel. After her second husband’s death in 1922, she came to live at the hotel, and some say she never left. Her spirit has been seen standing on an interior balcony and sitting on a bed in her former suite. Are the tower suite’s lights turning on and off by themselves? Or is Carolyn concerned about the electric bill? Check into what may be New England’s most haunted grand hotel, and brace yourself for odd occurrences.
If Maine seems a hospitable place for the uncanny, credit a certain horror writer. Stephen King’s old home town of Bangor has been burying its dead in Mount Hope Cemetery since 1836–but just how dead are some of those folks? Visitors have heard footsteps in the cemetery when no one is around and felt cool air inexplicably intruding on the warmth of a summer day. (To add to Mount Hope Cemetery’s eerie charm, it was even used as a location site for the movie version of King’s Pet Sematary.)
Maine’s capital, Augusta, boasts what many consider the spookiest place in the state. So much the better that the Kennebec Arsenal was once a mental institution: a locale that figures in many a haunting tale. The grim structure was built as an arsenal more than two centuries ago, but tales of the torment of inmates in its early hospital days is said to account for today’s phantom screams and apparitions.
Salem, Massachusetts, summons thoughts of the supernatural, though of course none of the poor souls tried and executed here in the 1690s were really witches. Their tragic persecution, though, gives rise to a persistent story of hauntings. The Joshua Ward House stands where witchcraft suspects were once interrogated and, some say, tortured. Is it the spirit of the jailer or one of the accused who leaves warm candle wax in rooms where there are no candles, or tightens ghostly hands around the necks of visitors?
There’s a trim Greek Revival house in Fall River that witnessed perhaps the most famous double murder in American history. This is where Lizzie Borden allegedly “took an ax, and gave her mother forty whacks,” then similarly did in her father. Lizzie was acquitted, but not by history, nor in the public imagination. The Lizzie Borden House is now a B&B and museum, where some guests have reported ghostly footsteps, a strange floral scent, and the appearance of a woman’s face on a basement wall. It’s even been alleged that daddy Andrew Borden’s spirit will let you be if you leave money on the dresser in his old room.
A lively Rhode Island ghost story adds the mystery of a remote location to a true tale of murder. Over a century ago, the keeper at Block Island’s Southeast Lighthouse threw his wife down the stairs during an argument. He went to jail, but “Mad Maggie” stayed at the lighthouse, at least in spirit. And an angry spirit she is: she’s said to have thrown things at keepers and visitors, locked them in rooms, and chased them out of bed. And all of her victims have been men.
Among the elaborate “cottages” of Newport, Rhode Island, the term “haunts of the wealthy” takes on a literal meaning, if we are to believe the stories surrounding Seaview Terrace. The privately owned mansion was built in Washington, D.C., by distiller Edson Bradley, who remarkably moved it to a site on Newport’s Cliff Walk in 1923. It supposedly harbors the spirit of Bradley’s wife, Julie. She died in 1929… but has since been seen several times playing the organ in the mansion’s music room.
Easton, Connecticut’s Union Cemetery has a history dating back to the colony’s earliest English settlement. With some 400 years of interments, it’s no surprise that some of the permanent residents seem to have unquiet spirits. The “White Lady,” in her trademark gown and bonnet, roams along Route 59, the graveyard’s eastern boundary, and on one occasion even leapt in front of a car (she had nothing to fear, being already dead). “Red Eyes” is a bit more scary: There’s nothing to this specter but those piercing red orbs, which stare at evening visitors and sometimes even pursue them among the tombstones.
Although ghost towns don’t figure much in New England lore, they aren’t just a Western phenomenon. In a wooded corner of Pomfret, Connecticut, a few crumbling ruins and cellar holes are all that remain of Bara-Hack, a tiny 1780s settlement built around a flax mill. Abandoned before the Civil War, Bara-Hack (Welsh for “breaking of bread”) has been left, say some, to a ghost baby in a tree, phantom horse-drawn wagons, and disembodied voices.
Would you add anything to our list? Tell us your stories of haunted places in New England in the comments below!