Joseph A. Citro, a Burlington resident and author of The Vermont Ghost Guide, and a new book, Vermont Haunts (available on Amazon), shared some of the stories he has gathered for his books with readers of the newspaper this week for our Halloween story. Here are some excerpts from his work, town-by-town, of Citro's research.
He tells a story from the Town of Albany, titled, "A Family Cursed," as such, "In 1823 the dying Merci Dale cursed the well-to-do Hayden family: they would die out in poverty in three generations. Strangely, they did. But are they also cursed to remain as ghosts in their brick Victorian mansion? What else would account for slamming doors, moving lights, and orchestral music playing in the empty former-ballroom? But these phantoms are not alone. During prosperous times, William Hayden Jr. was believed to have smuggled Chinese workers into the United States to work on the railroad he was building. When the illegal laborers died enroute, they were buried in the fields behind the barns. Sometimes at night people people still see the bobbing of lantern lights there, as if someone is forever digging graves..."
From Barton, Citro shares in his books a story titled "The 5-16 Ghost," stating that, "Where routes 5 and 16 meet in the center of Barton is a historic building that was once the Barton Hotel. Supposedly a former manager was wrongly accused of theft and dismissed from his job. Disgraced, he headed west and vanished. But after death he has returned to remind building occupants of the injustice that was done there. His ghostly footsteps can sometimes be heard in the building, followed by the unmistakable sound of an old-fashioned cash register opening and shutting."
From the town of East Barnet, Citro spins a yarn he calls "Inwood Oddities," writing, "The signs off Old Silo Road still stand like ghostly guideposts leading you to the haunted spot. Though it is no longer open to customers, the Inwood Manor may have guests just the same. During its years as a bed and breakfast, remarkable phenomena occurred there: cold spots, doors opening and closing, lights flickering, vibrating tables, and a grand piano -- covered and in a locked room -- resounded through the halls. Phantoms were witnessed including a disembodied hand, a woman in a striped dress, and an elderly man prowling the grounds outside. No one seems to know who the ghosts may be, but there have been many opportunities for spirits to take up residence. Over the years the building has served as a private home, a stagecoach stop, the dormitory for a croquet factory and a bed and breakfast. Perhaps its ties to the spirit realm are especially strong: several past owners were former monks."
Try, from Island Pond, "The Thing in the Cellar," another tale spun by Citro for a spine-tingling read, "When young Anita and her mother moved into the house on Back Street, they knew nothing of its haunted history. One night Anita and her friend Mildred were left briefly alone. They heard heavy chains being dragged in what should have been an empty cellar. When they saw the trapdoor begin to open, the terrified girls raced to a neighbor's home. Today the house is long gone, and no one knows what manner of subterranean something was emerging from that hole in its floor."
From the town of Kirby, comes Citro's story, "The Simpson Farm," of which he writes, "About 1910 Ed Simpson and his wife owned a farm on the line between Kirby and Lyndon. Ed was alleged to be a notorious drinker and wife beater. But he was a hard worker; he even plowed at night by lantern light. In time his wife became unable to tolerate his abuse. She took an ax to him during one of his drunken stupors, turning their bedroom into a charnel house. Subsequent owners have heard dragging, scuffing, and scraping, as if heavy furniture is being pushed across a wooden floor. Dark blood-like splotches that no paint can conceal appear on the walls and ceiling of the bedroom. And outside, people have seen lights in the fields, like lanterns bobbing up and down."
Citro also captures, in his work, the story of the Cahoon Farm of Lyndon, featured in our main story and told by its present owner, Denise Brown.
Another Lyndonville story is shared by Citro in "Beyond the Vail," in which he writes, "Lyndon State College is located on the former Theodore N. Vail estate. Though Mr. Vail was the first president of the AT&T, it is his wife Emma who seems to have mastered communication -- from beyond the grave. Most of her ghostly activities are in the theater, which stands on the site where she hanged herself. When a visiting comedian made jokes about her, his water glass fell off the table and rolled to the edge of the stage where it righted itself. A visiting magician had trouble with his equipment: each time he set down his prop balls they'd spin away from him. A tightrope performer suffered the first fall of her career - she claimed to have been pushed. Sometimes an inexplicable 'extra' appears during school plays. Regardless of the production, the 'extra' is a woman, dressed in 1900's fashion," writes Citro.
From St. Johnsbury, the story of The Kellogg House is told by Citro, who writes, "Occupants of this well-known haunted house on Mount Pleasant Street are apt to see a stranger in their midst. People have encountered a woman in old-fashioned clothing inside the house. Sometimes the stranger walks down the stairs and into the dining room without saying a word. If followed, she'll be nowhere around. She has even been spotted outside, as if arriving. She'll walk up the front steps and into the house, but of course she can't be located within. Some speculate she is a former owner or employee - perhaps a woman named Gypsy, who lived there 50 years ago."
Another story from St. J comes by way of Citro telling of a story at the Academy. It is called "Dog Lover," and goes like this, "St. Johnsbury Academy's Brantview House was originally a private residence. Supposedly, it's haunted by a ghost who likes dogs. A young woman employed as housemother was reading one night in the double parlor. Her Afghan hound snoozed at her feet. Suddenly the door opened. Her dog bristled and snarled at something the young woman could not see. As the animal cowered against her, she saw its fur being ruffled and smoothed as if by an invisible hand. The dog relaxed and seemed to watch something cross the parlor toward the main hall. After about 20 minutes the presence returned, shut the hall door, ruffled the dog's fur again, exited through the front parlor, and politely closed the door."
In a talk he delivered in Island Pond to the town's historical society two summers ago, Citro explained his fascination with Vermont spirits, saying, "I try to pass myself off as something of a conservationist: I'm trying to keep Vermont's eccentrics, ghosts, monsters, madmen, and murderers from becoming extinct." He told the group gathered that day that the NEK is loaded with spooky stories, saying, "To me the Kingdom is one of the scariest regions in the state. You've got it all: treasure tales, hauntings, high strangeness, monsters, dangerous depravity, walking dead... the works. It must seem as if you're living in the The Twilight Zone."
Citro went on, telling the group gathered in Island Pond another story from his Kingdom research, "One historically mysterious aspect of the Northeast Kingdom has everything to do with sounds.
Maybe even today certain residents of Newark and the surrounding towns are hearing an elusive low-pitched hum often described as resembling the distant drone of a diesel engine. As far as I know, no one has any idea what it is.
Apparently no one has been able to determine the exact source of the sound.
It is also difficult to pinpoint exactly when people started hearing it. Some say it has been around for a century, but it first reached public attention when the "Caladonian Record" reported it in March, 1997.
There are many puzzling attributes associated with Vermont's mysterious hum:
1. It occurs in places where there's no electricity, so we can eliminate dehumidifiers, blenders, milking machines, and pump motors submerged in wells. Even during power outages, the hum keeps humming along.
2. Not everyone can hear it. Those who can are often sharing a room with people who cannot. Even more weird: in some cases deaf people can hear it while someone with perfect hearing cannot.
3. Different people describe it in different ways. In general, it's perceived as low-pitched, like an electrical motor running in a distant room. Sometimes it sounds deeper, turning on and off at unpredictable intervals. Sometimes it fades in and out.
In the old days speculation might have gravitated toward the supernatural, but we put our faith in science. In this case, alas, the laboratory lets us down. The hum cannot be detected by microphones or special low-frequency antennas.
But the truth is, no one knows what causes the hum. As Vermont mysteries go, you might say this one is a humdinger," he told the Island Pond gathering.
HOLLAND: The site of a former logging camp near Holland Pond is occasionally visited by the presumed ghost of Riley Caswell, once owner of a lumber company who died in the 1880s.
LAKE MOREY: After realizing that Robert Fulton ripped off his steamboat design, Capt. Samuel Morey grew discouraged and sank his prototype, the Aunt Sally somewhere in Lake Morey. He died soon after. Many report having seen his ghost on the shores and Aunt Sally floating on the lake.
LAKE MEMPHREMAGOG: The leather clad phantom of General "Mad" Anthony Wayne, who died in 1796, has been seen walking on the shore and crossing the water. He also has been spotted at Fort Ticonderoga in New York.
LINCOLN, N.H.: The "boarding house," later converted to the "Long Run Inn" is reportedly home to a phantom guest in Room 6.