The Mountain Times

°F Sat, April 19, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

I do believe in spooks!

It's the time of year for haunted forests, the dark nights come alive with ghostly figures, haunted houses vow to give visitors ("those that dare to enter") a genuine fright and tales of paranormal activity stream from the movie theaters.

Some are brave and enjoy being scared while others behave more like the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz who, terrified by the "haunted forest" closes his eyes, clutches his tail, and repeats: "I do believe in spooks. I do, I do, I do!" just for the chance that he may be sacrificed from the perceived impending doom.

Like it or not, Halloween is more than candy and cute kid costumes. It's the only time of year that, publicly, we 'looks behind the curtain' to see some of the dark realities lurking, and we celebrate them! Looking into these dark corners on Halloween, Oct. 31 is celebrated worldwide and has been for centuries. The origin of the word Halloween is Christian (it's contraction of "All Hallows' Evening,") but the holiday is commonly thought to have pagan roots.

Historian Nicholas Rogers notes that Halloween is typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, which marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the 'darker half' of the year.

Samhain was seen as a time when the 'door' to the Otherworld opened enough for the souls of the dead, and other beings such as fairies to come into our world. In the Celtic tradition, the souls of dead kin were beckoned to attend family feasts and places were even set at the table for them.

But harmful spirits and fairies were also thought to come up from the Otherworld and, therefore, it was important to take steps to allay or ward-off these harmful spirits/fairies, which is thought to have influenced today's Halloween customs.

In central Vermont, Halloween ranks among the largest celebrations of the year, with Rutland's Halloween Parade being the largest and longest continuously running Halloween parade in the country and enough ghost stories to fill many books. Hearing a friend or neighbor relay their own encounter with a local ghost may just make you wonder about the darker side, regardless if you believe in spooks.


In Central Vermont, Chittenden is commonly thought to have the most haunting history. The Chittenden Historic Society confirms this describing the town on their website as "The Spirit Capital of the Universe" from the activities of the Eddy brothers.

William and Horatio Eddy (aka the Eddy Brothers) were two spiritual mediums that lived in Chittenden in the 1870s. The Eddy brothers are said to have had psychic powers and held séances at their home in Chittenden claiming to materialize spirits of the dead including drowned sailors, Native Americans, and soldiers who died in the American Civil War.

Their powers were evident from an early age. They were said to randomly lapse into strange trances from which even the whippings of their abusive father couldn't rouse them. According to Joseph A. Citro, Vermont horror writer and folklorist, their father eventually sold his boys to a traveling showman, whose audiences tried futilely to awaken the brothers from their spirit-channeling reveries by punching, stoning and shooting at them.

Shockingly, the Eddy Brothers were not mortally wounded on the road and returned home to Chittenden when their father died. Not long after, they opened a rustic inn called the Green Tavern, and began to perform séances every night except Sunday.

All sorts of strange phenomena are said to have occurred at the house including, automatic writing, levitation and teleportation. The inn's guests, who came from all over the world, were free to inspect the premises during their stay for evidence of trickery, but none could be found, even by the famous journalist, attorney, and military officer Henry Steel Olcott, who wrote "People from the Other World" in 1875 about his visit to Chittenden.

The Eddy house stands at 127 Chittenden Road. It is now a lodge owned by the High Life Ski Club of New Jersey. Ghostly reports occasionally surface still from that location, but they are a far cry from what the Eddys experienced. Perhaps the ghosts prefer to reside where the Eddys now rest, at the Horton Cemetery on Mountain Top Road.

In nearby Pittsford, there is a former sanatorium that once was used for tuberculosis patients. In 1971, the building was converted into the Vermont Police Academy. Today, cadets still experience visits from a phantasmal nurse named Mary, who caught TB at the old sanatorium and died there. All of the old call buttons are still in the recruits rooms, and it is said that if pushed, the friendly ghost of the nurse, Mary, will pay a visit during the night.


The shadowy Whipple Hollow Road south toward West Rutland, lies the vanished community of Whipple Hollow, where you may encounter one of its former residents: a beautiful, veil-clad woman in white who still wanders the road at midnight. Vermont writer, Joseph Citro, relays the account of a driver who "stopped to offer her a ride one snowy night, but when he reached to open the passenger door, she vanished."


A few miles west, beside Lake Bomoseen, there lies another ghost town: West Castleton. The village was populated by slate workers from the 1850s until the Great Depression. Three of these workers once vanished while rowing across the lake one murky night; no corpses were found, only the empty rowboat. When the moon is full, the same rowboat is often spotted on the water, traveling mysteriously from shore to shore.
Alongside Buffalo Brook in Plymouth, there was a miner in the 1800s who strangled a fellow gold-seeker in order to pinch his claim and deposited the body in an abandoned shaft. The victim's ghost, still blue from oxygen deprivation (why he can't breathe now - or why he even needs to breathe - is unclear),  now haunts the area.


One of the more notorious spots for paranormal activity in Rutland County is Castleton State College, which once was the Castleton Medical Academy. Here, a paucity of cadavers forced the students to engage in grave-robbing (though they preferred the term "resurrection.") The headless ghost of a partially dissected girl now roams Castleton's Old Chapel on South Street, searching for her stolen noggin.

In addition, at the college's Ellis Hall, there is a bathroom on the second floor where toilets flush inexplicably and faucets and showers turn on and off without anyone's touch; it's said to be the work of a girl who killed herself in this dorm years ago. Pretty feeble haunting, but you have to remember that she's still just in college.

Finally, about 200 yards from the college there is an abandoned building. Inside you can see what look like old museum pieces. Although there is no way to enter the building, the objects inside seem to get tossed around.


An even spookier place is Hartford, Vt., the site of the worst rail accident in the history of Vermont. At about two a.m. on a frigid February night in 1887, a train headed to Montreal derailed while crossing the White River, fell to the ice below, and caught fire, killing more than 30 people. There is a story of a boy whose father, pinned beneath the wreckage, died as he attempted to free him; the mourning child remains at the site of the disaster, floating a few feet above the river. He's said to be walking atop the sheet of ice that overlaid the water on the night of his father's death.