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It’s that time of year again… the leaves are popping into their autumn splendor, wood smoke wafts through the air in small New England towns, pumpkins and mums appear on doorsteps, and whispers of our favorite New England ghost stories find their way into conversation. Every New England town has its own spooky folklore, inspired by the centuries-old graveyards and historic buildings that set the stage for hauntings and sightings throughout the region.
In the early 2000s, a family renovated a beautiful Victorian home in Newton, Massachusetts. After finally moving in, it wasn’t long before their five-year-old daughter, Julielle, began telling them stories of her friend, Mrs. Woodman, who lived on the third floor and wore long dresses. Oh, and who also levitated slightly off the floor. The family was skeptical at first, but their daughter was insistent, so they did a little research. A Mr. and Mrs. Woodman had lived in that home in the late 19th century; the Woodmans had seven children, as did Julielle’s floating friend. All of the details provided by Julielle about her ghostly friend matched public records exactly. Although the visitations from Mrs. Woodman herself ended five years after they started, she still causes some electrical mischief every now and then, keeping watch over the home and the family.
Some mysterious and conflicting reports shroud the story of Emily’s death at the Gold Brook covered bridge in Stowe, Vermont. What isn’t disputed is that years ago, a girl named Emily lost her life at that site, after a jilted heart drove her to suicide. There’s nothing like a fall drive in Vermont, but avoid Emily’s Bridge if you’re taking that new hot rod out for a spin. There have been many reports of unexplained scratches and gouges in vehicles after a pass through the bridge — not to mention the poundings, footsteps, and wails that are commonplace at the site. This New England ghost story is one of the most famous in the state, and the hauntings continue to this day.
Colonel Jonathan Buck was one of the founders of Bucksport, Maine (called “Buckstown” back in the day). There are various iterations of this New England ghost story, but the tale goes something like this: Buck became convinced that a young woman in the town was a witch (some accounts say that she was his mistress) and sentenced her to death. Her very last words to the Colonel were a vicious curse: she swore that she would dance on his grave for all eternity. Buck died in 1795, and in 1852, his children memorialized his life with a monument near the site where he was buried. But that beautiful stone has a blemish that no sanding or solvent can remove: a small, dainty foot and leg-shaped stain down its side. The wronged woman remembers her promise, and dances on Colonel Buck’s grave to this very day.
Little Mercy Lena Brown died of tuberculosis centuries ago in the Rhode Island town of Exeter. Tuberculosis swept across New England during the 18th and 19th centuries, instilling deep fear and superstition in the hearts of communities all around the region. It became common belief that the spirits of loved ones lost to the illness would return, infecting other poor souls. To protect against this, Mercy’s father exhumed his daughter’s body, and cremated some of her remains, before burying her once more. Ever since that day, reports of little Mercy wandering through the village, strange lights in the graveyards, and many other odd phenomena abound, giving rise to another classic New England ghost story. There is a beautiful element of this spooky tale as well: often, terminally ill patients in and around Exeter have encounters with Mercy near the ends of their lives — she is seen as a shepherd of the terminally ill.
Dudleytown was founded in the mid-18th century by the Dudleys, an English family that came to the Americas and built a prosperous community. However, stories of freak accidents, short lives, and evil luck in the town prompted speculation. Were the Dudleys a cursed family? Was it the town itself that was cursed? Eventually, around the turn of the 20th century, the last dwindling residents gave up and left Dudleytown forever. Slowly, the forest swallowed the ghost town. Now on private property (and heavily patrolled), you can only gain access with express permission. Those who’ve had such a privilege describe an eerie silence, with no birds or squirrels to be seen, and odd experiences from the fairly mundane to outright paranormal (Orbs? Ghosts? Accidents? Oh my!).
This may not be one of the most famous New England ghost story, but it is certainly one of the most chilling. It tells of an Appalachian Mountain Club crew member who headed up the slopes of Mount Washington in the spring to prepare one of the mountain huts for hikers and backpackers. With directions to radio his friends when he made it safely to the hut, the man headed up the mountain. But he never radioed back to camp, and when his friends still hadn’t heard a thing by the next morning, they headed up the slope themselves. When they reached the cabin, they found all the windows still boarded up, and after minutes of searching and calling his name, found their friend cowering in a cabinet under the sink, an ax clutched in his white fists. It was only later, as he recovered in the hospital, that the man revealed his terrifying story: as he relaxed in the cabin, he felt a presence in the room, and turned to see a distorted face staring at him from between the glass and the boards covering the window. The face was repeated in every single window, and seemed to push through the glass into the room. The rest of the night, including how and when he climbed into the cabinet under the sink, was erased from his memory.
Whether you’re a bona fide ghost hunter, a general thrill seeker, or anyone in between, New England is the place to go for a spooky experience! Stay for the night and explore the many haunted inns, forests, graveyards, and taverns, and maybe you’ll experience a New England ghost story of your very own...