Connecticut Post (Sunday)
The ghosts of CT
STATE’S ‘HAUNTED’ NATURE LIES IN ITS HISTORY, EXPERT SAYS
With movies like “A Haunting in Connecticut” and being home to two of the most famous paranormal researchers of all time, Ed and Lorraine Warren, Connecticut has earned a reputation for being a “haunted” spot.
But why is that?
According to Charles Rosenay, author, ghost tour host and founder of Stratford’s Fright Haven, Connecticut stands as a “barometer” among other states for its supposedly “ridiculously haunted” nature.
“People from other states conceive that Connecticut is a haunted state,” Rosenay said. “People know Gettysburg. Gettysburg is known to be very haunted but people in Gettysburg will say ‘yes, we’re haunted, but not like Connecticut.’”
He believes this reputation is due to the state’s sometimes
“Connecticut is very historic. It has had many brutal wars through the years and what I think happens in certain places is that if it has a history of bloodshed or suffering, then the original powers, feelings and entities that had those sufferings continue,” Rosenay said he believes. “It never goes away.”
Among the first major instances of strife in Connecticut was the Pequot War, which was fought between the Pequot Tribe and early colonists starting in 1636. At the end of the two-year war, which led to events such as the “Mystic Massacre,” approximately 600 Pequot Tribe members were killed, and many were sold into slavery, according to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum.
The ensuing Revolutionary War had many battles in Connecticut, most notably in Groton and Ridgefield, which led to a number of casualties. Just last year, a number of skeletal remains were found underneath a house in Ridgefield, which historians believe belonged to soldiers who died during the Battle of Ridgefield in 1777.
Another historical event that adds context to the argument of Connecticut being a “haunted” state are the Connecticut Witch Trials.
Predating the nearby Salem Witch Trial by four decades, the Connecticut Witch Trials tried over 57 individuals for their assumed involvement in the occult between 1647 and 1692, resulting in 16 convictions and 14 to 16 executions, data shows.
“When Connecticut’s witch purges began, just a single witness was needed to mount a trial and conviction. If one had a vindictive enemy or someone who stood to gain financially from one’s downfall, then a witchcraft prosecution could result,” a TIME article titled “The Witch Trials That America Forgot” states.
While it was Connecticut that held New England’s first witch execution, launching the first large-scale witch trials in the American colonies, the Connecticut Witch Trials would slow down and eventually be outshined by the nearby Salem Witch Trials.
Salem was a more grandiose persecution, with 156 people accused of witchcraft from 1692 to 1693, resulting in 30 convictions and 19 executions. For contrast, between 1647 and 1654, Massachusetts acquitted half of the people it brought to trial for witchcraft, while Connecticut convicted and hanged all seven charged during that time.
“During this early period of witch hunting in New England, Connecticut proved to be much, much harsher in its treatment of suspected witches than Massachusetts,” Walter Woodward, the state historian, said at “New England’s Other Witch Hunt,” a recent lecture at the Darien Library.
Beyond history, Connecticut hosts its fair share of peculiar and abandoned sites that people have filled with stories of spectres and otherworldly phenomena. In April of this year, a paranormal investigation team entered the Ansonia opera house and claimed to have found “shadow people” and a “goat humanoid.” The team claimed that about 40 entities were inhabiting the building. Built in 1869 and abandoned since 1971, the 900-capacity opera house’s alleged haunted history has been debated at length over the years. Other sites around the state tied to ghost stories include Booth Memorial Park in Stratford, Fairfield Hills in Newtown and the Sterling Opera House in Derby.
These stories, which are often referred to as urban legends, take many forms in Connecticut. Rosenay believes that though there are “unexplained things” around the state, “everything has a basis.”
For example, Ida Richards, a 19th-century Norwalker, was so consumed by the untimely death of her fiance that she laid upon his grave in Pine Island Cemetery and died of a broken heart, the New York Times reported in 1879. Some believe, she still haunts the 300-year-old cemetery, Norwalk Historical Society program events coordinator Samantha Kulish-Fargione told Hearst Connecticut.
Each Halloween since 2011, the historical society hosts the Haunting at Mill Hill, one of Norwalk’s four historic cemeteries and the third oldest cemetery in the city, to highlight other unusual happenings.
“The premise is to learn about unusual deaths that have occurred in Norwalk over the years,” Kulish-Fargione told Hearst Connecticut. “We dive into old Norwalk Hours. We go onto the Library of Congress site and dive into old newspapers there and search for unusual deaths that have occurred in Norwalk. Murders, suicides, natural disasters, mechanical disasters, what we do then is take those specific deaths and those people and bring them back to life in the graveyard.”
But, though some of these cautionary tales are rooted in facts, many stories at the center of Connecticut’s urban legends are just that — stories.
According to a study by the Department of Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University in the U.K., urban legends exist as a common societal experience that anyone can tap into, and despite little to no evidence supporting numerous urban legends, they thrive as people continue to pass them down.
“The study of ULs (urban legends) is important academically because they represent enduring social narratives, which reach wide audiences and potentially influence significant numbers of people,” according to the study. “Content alters over time...and often embraces social and technological advancements (computer viruses, global warming, etc.). These modifications in surface structure ensure that ULs remain relevant, coherent and significant.”
Thus, legends of the likes of sea monsters and vampires continue to live on in Connecticut’s lore, filling in the gaps for unexplained occurrences throughout the history of the state.
However, all of this begs the question: is Connecticut really haunted or are we just embracing stories we’ve been told?