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(Photo by Kelley Fryer/elan Magazine )
(Photo by Laura Robida/elan Magazine )
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No matter where you might visit in New England, every old town seems to have one or two ghost stories to share. Maybe it's an embellished tail of a murder from centuries ago, maybe it's an old house with lights that flicker at the oddest of times, or maybe it's a sighting of a mysterious woman in a grave yard. Whatever the legend, no matter how accurate or terrifying, the stories add a little something to the character of a town. That, and as the cold weather starts to creep in, certain haunted or mysterious locations along the shoreline can make for an interesting visit.
The Legend of XYZ
One of the popular haunts along the shoreline is the Grave of XYZ in Deep River. In the late 1890s bank robbers rolled into town and the lead robber was shot and killed by a bank guard, Captain Harry Tyler, as he tried to pry open a window at the Deep River Savings Bank. When his body went unclaimed, the town buried him in the corner of Fountain Hill Cemetery after receiving a note asking for the unknown man be buried under a small block headstone with the initials "XYZ." The initials were odd enough, but for the next several decades, residents claimed to see a woman dressed all in black visiting the headstone once each December. The woman never spoke, visited the grave, and then disappeared again. Today, XYZ's grave can be found in the rear of the cemetery adorned with pennies, flowers, and occasional cigarettes.
Coffins Beneath Your Feet
Graveyards are an obvious theme among haunted places in Connecticut, but not all burial sites are as well marked as some people might naturally assume. The Guilford Green isn't considered haunted but not everyone in town is probably aware that the Green was once a burial site for the Congregational and Episcopal Churches centuries ago. However, according to local historian Joel Helander, after the hurricane of 1938, some residents were in for a bit of a shock when they went out to clean up the green after the storm.
"There was an article that I found that tells about an uprooted Elm tree close to the west curbing of the green about opposite what is now the catholic church which revealed in its root system two coffin shaped hollows," he said. "So it was very clear that the trees that had been toppled in the hurricane had grown around and encased the coffins. It was a curious site."
Make Mine Murder
Madison has its fair share of dramatic and eerie tales too including the gruesome 1878 murder of Mary Stannard up in the Rockland region of North Madison. Stannard, who had been carrying on an affair with Rev. Herbert H. Hayden, discovered she was pregnant and arranged to meet Hayden to take abortion medication. She was later found dead with a large wound on her head and her jugular, carotid artery, and larynx slashed. While the crime was horrific, the trial that followed was reportedly equally as stunning when Hayden, somehow managed to escape a conviction despite physical evidence linking him to the murder and eyewitness accounts. An autopsy revealed that Stannard hadn't been pregnant at all – she was simply suffering from an ovarian cyst.
In the southern part of Madison, one of the famous historic homes, the Deacon John Grave House, reportedly has a rather permanent resident. Town Historian Henry Griggs said legend has it that back in the mid-1700s a woman by the name of Mary Grave disappeared after reportedly falling in love with a soldier boarding in the home. After he left, she either decided to try to follow him or decided life wasn't worth living without him, so her spirit reportedly remained in the home. So if you go for a visit, maybe watch out for cold spots.
Clawing Her Way Out
If you take a drive over the bridge to New Haven, the Evergreen Cemetery is home to one of Connecticut's most notorious graves, the grave of Mary Hart. Known as Midnight Mary, legend has it that she was accidentally buried alive and when the coffin was dug up later, she was in fact dead, but it looked as though she tried to claw her way out. People who visit the grave at night have reported seeing shadowy figures and hearing bloodcurdling screams. If you visit in the day, the words on her headstone "The people shall be troubled at midnight and pass away" is enough to probably make your blood run cold even in the warmest of weather.
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