Move over Casper. There’s tell of another friendly ghost - right here in Lyndon, at the Cahoon Farm, built by the Cahoon family, originally of Providence, R.I., and among the town’s founding families, between 1798 and 1802. Daniel Cahoon, whose spirit is believed to still inhabit the stately old Georgian at the corner of Red Village and Brown Farm roads, died on the property in 1811, having been charged by a bull. Generations of his family continued to occupy the home, said to be the oldest 2-story home in the town, until 1999, when Denise Brown moved into the home with her three young children.
At the conclusion of her tour, the realtor informed Brown that the home was believed to be haunted. She was relocating from Connecticut, having lost her husband at a young age in a tragedy, and said the idea of a spirit in the old home didn’t upset her. She has had several experiences while living there these past dozen years, only one of which, heavy footsteps on the stairs at night, frightened her.
Sitting in her kitchen one day this week, she said that time she was afraid, and said so out loud in the dark, as she heard what sounded like people ascending the stairs, recalling saying something like, “You’re scaring me. You have to stop.” It stopped.
The house is also known as the Hoffman House, another of the family surnames who occupied the home for a total of 201 years before it came into Brown’s hands. “It was built in sections,” she said, showing a thick binder of historical articles, photographs and tellings of ghost stories from the house’s long history. In the black binder is a thank you card, hand written by 3rd graders a number of years ago on Oct. 30, the day before Halloween, thanking her for showing her house and telling them the interesting ghost stories, and giving them goodie bags. Coming upon the cute, hand-crayoned card, Brown smiles.
Mostly the ghost stories are interesting and add some flavor to the home’s ownership. When the realtor turned to her at the end of her tour before she bought the house and said, “I’m obligated to tell you that the house is haunted,” Brown recalled, “I thought it was cool, and frankly, I thought, well, what’s one more ghost?”
“There have been people who have experienced things,” Brown said. “One guest said that his blankets were pulled off, another saw a ghost holding his head in his hands and warning of the drowning of a young son.”
Another person saw a young woman in an old-fashioned dress. People have reported hearing “glasses tinkling in the parlor (where the first piano in the entire town was said to have been), music playing,” said Brown. The family were very involved in the early days of Lyndon’s settling, and served in positions from town clerk to the Vermont legislature; the upstairs of the home has a wall that can be raised, and the double expanse of the top floor was used for parties and dances, Brown has been told.
Brown said, a few times, she had people come to her home and feel, for lack of a more scientific term, “freaked out.”
“The house just feels strange to them,” she continued. “They don’t feel welcome.” She said she had family of the Hoffmans visit once, and the daughter-in-law was telling about how when they were cleaning out a loved one’s things from the home, and were pulling things together, she heard a spirit say, “Okay, you can leave now,” telling her to get out in no uncertain terms. They believed if was Horty Hoffman, who loved the house and had done much work to revitalize it during her time there - and who happily shared the haunted house stories with an eager public wanting to know during her several decades of being the mistress of the Cahoon Farm.
Brown said she was once in the kitchen and felt a spirit and saw a woman, a widow, she presumed, come to visit her when she had just completed some work in the kitchen, installing a new counter top for her home - she loves to cook, she said. She was a young widow herself, and she felt it was the former mistress of the home, a widow, coming to meet the new mistress, also a widow, and the sighting did not frighten her, said Brown.
“I wasn’t at all afraid. It was probably not too long after we had moved in,” said Brown, who moved to Vermont to be near family in Montpelier about a year after her husband was killed in Connecticut in a workplace shooting at the Connecticut State Lottery building.
The only time she felt fear was that night with the footsteps coming up the stairs, said Brown, and it has not happened again.
In a 1939 article by a Mabel Hall Walter in a publication called “Old-Time New England,” she writes of the Cahoon Farm haunted happenings. She says while the stories are hearsay and folklore, “we had heard whispers that a crazy person had been confined there, and shivered at this evidence of the sad condition of some unnamed unfortunate of the past, necessarily cared for at home in the days before the institutional care of abnormal patients,” in a chamber in the home.
“Growing up with a ghost has its advantages. Madeline Hoffman Hall of Lyndonville and her older sister, the late Hazel Hoffman Moore, grew up with an invisible ancestor, Daniel Cahoon, affectionately called “Dan’l.” He had a habit of stalking the halls of their historic homestead on the East Lyndon Road. Their playmates never tired of hearing about the live-in spirit’s pranks,” wrote Hall.
The article goes on, stating, “Lyndon’s first two story house- Georgian-style home finished about 1798 by Daniel Cahoon Jr., Daniel’s son, who was one of the town’s settlers.” Daniel Jr. died of tuberculosis and exhaustion at the age of 26, and his father moved into the home. He died in 1811, having been charged by a bull, and was laid out in a second floor bedroom, where some of the sounds and reported hauntings have been associated with, stories go.
The stories of heavy footsteps span many decades of owners in the home. A great, great, great grandson of Dan’l’s, Kit, who was married to Horty, a one-time librarian at both the Cobleigh Library and at the college, “talked about her first awareness (of the ghost) after she was married in 1950. On a sub-zero morning, she was awakened at 3 a.m. to the sound of the front door slamming, feet stamping and walking about in the hallways – when she asked her husband the next morning if he’d had a bad time with the furnace, he reported that he had slept soundly. Then he grinned. ‘That’s just Dan’l, our family ghost,’ he remarked calmly,” the article stated.
Many school groups have gone through the house over the years, and Dan’l has been shared over and over, wrote Hall, as a “ghost with a sense of humor, relating experiences of overnight guests who had no previous knowledge of the playful poltergeist. There was the woman who sat on her bed, rolling up her hair, when suddenly, the foot of the bed pressed down under some unseen weight. Another friend awoke in the night as bedcovers were pulled off her shoulders. There ensued a gentle tug of war between guest and ghost.”
Another guest recounted hearing 18th century chamber music that grew louder, then was joined by the “mumuring of voices, tinkle of table silver and glassware, a woman’s soft laughter as the music faded, the scent of snuff filled the room. The scene could have been straight out of Dan’l’s time when large parties and dances were held in the large double room upstairs in the house. Family legacy claims Dan’l’s nighttime prowlings were in search of a wine cellar. Dan’l had been gored to death in 1811 at the age of 74. His widow, Lillis, blamed the accident on his frequent trips to the wine cellar that day. Indignant, she immediately had the wine cellar walled up,” the Hall article concluded. For many years, people have mused that Dan’l is in search of that wine cellar when they have heard the footsteps in the home.
In an article Brown herself wrote for the town’s historical society on the hauntings in her home in the Spring of 2004, she told of the day she saw the woman draped in black lace and thought, “There’s the widow of the house checking on the new widow of the house.” She said a friend’s daughter saw the same figure. A few years later, Brown wrote, also after having done some renovation work in the kitchen, the figure reappeared, this time in white and radiant. “Perhaps at peace.”
“Why would a ghost come to visit my kitchen?” Brown asked. “The history of Cahoon Farm offers an explanation. At one time, what is now the kitchen was divided, and inside of it was a small, sealed-off room,” she said, hinting at the chamber referred to in that 1939 article. “In that room, the family kept a patient - perhaps someone chronically ill, perhaps someone insane. It’s uncertain. But in that tiny cell, the family member was cared for and kept safe. It seems to me that the lady ghost must have had a deep devotion to the loved one in that room,” Brown continued. “She returns whenever something pulls her energy back, some change she needs to investigate, or the appearance of a visitor of whom she unsure.”
Brown ends her story saying again she was not afraid. “Would that we all had someone watching over us with such tenderness and concern, while we are alive to appreciate it,” she wrote.
This story was published previously in an earlier edition.