"It's a road map to the Other Side. Take a left at the cemetery. Go down Highway 666 until you hit a dead end. And you're there. Haunted America."Milwaukee Journal
Haunted Heritage recounts Michael Norman's and Beth Scott's unearthly explorations of supernatural folklore that has been passed on by word of mouth and preserved by memory.
Based on eyewitness testimony newly rediscovered ancient archives, overheard tales, and actual paranormal visitations, the authors have compiled an astounding collection of American ghost stories.
Its chilling tales will not be easily forgotten.
About the Author
Michael Norman is a writer and retired journalism professor who lives in an absolutely unhaunted house near the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St.Paul. Beth Scott, who passed away in early 1994, was a freelance writer for more than thirty-five years.
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By Michael Norman, Beth Scott
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2002 Michael Norman and the Estate of Elizabeth Scott
All rights reserved.
A Revolutionary Haunting
Monuments to America's Revolutionary War heroes adorn the landscape in countless New England villages and counties. From Boston Harbor to Fort William Henry on Maine's rugged seacoast, inland to historic old Fort Ticonderoga and Saratoga, patriot homes, battlefields and birthplaces mark the intense interest Americans have in that bloody fight for independence.
One of the emerging nation's first martyrs, Nathan Hale of Connecticut, is just such a Revolutionary hero, a soldier-spy whose exploits are known to countless schoolchildren. Though his life was short, his valiant efforts on behalf of the patriot cause are still held as a model of unselfish bravery. Several monuments commemorate his life.
A boulder marks Halesite, near Huntington, New York, the place where it is believed the British captured him.
In South Coventry, Connecticut, is the remarkable Hale Homestead, where Nathan was born in 1755, the sixth of twelve children of Deacon Richard and Elizabeth Strong Hale.
The Homestead today is open to the public, administered by the Coventry Historical Society for the Antiquarian and Landmarks Society of Connecticut. The home and grounds are evocative reminders of the colonial era as costumed docents guide visitors through the intricacies of eighteenth-century life. Nathan Hale's Bible and fowling gun are on display.
Tourists may not know, however, that the colonial Hale family must have been fonder of their home than even the family could have anticipated. The Homestead is reputedly haunted by the ghostly visages of Nathan Hale's own family.
The story of the Hale Homestead must begin with the Revolutionary hero himself. Ironically, Nathan Hale could have avoided the great conflict. A graduate of Yale College at the age of eighteen, the calm, pious young man with remarkable athletic skills accepted a teaching job in East Haddam, Connecticut, in 1773. By all accounts, Hale was quite a good teacher during his year in East Haddam. He moved to New London the next year and began what he probably assumed was going to be a life of teaching and scholarship.
It was not to be.
Hale was excited by the ideals embodied in the American Revolution and volunteered to fight in July 1775, one month after his twentieth birthday. He was commissioned a lieutenant by the Connecticut assembly and joined colonial troops in driving the British from Boston.
When His Majesty's forces invaded the New York area, Hale, by now a captain, marched with colonial troops to drive the Redcoats from their new encampment. Captain Hale was a daring and resourceful soldier, commended by his superiors for many acts of bravery. On one occasion, his men captured a British supply ship from under the cannons of a British war vessel.
The ragtag American soldiers, however, were growing dispirited. General Washington's troops were facing disintegration in New York. Soldiers began to desert, slipping away from their posts, headed for home. The commander-in-chief needed information about British troop movements in order to prepare his tactics, and he needed it badly. He turned to an elite fighting force, the Rangers, for help. Washington asked their commander to find a volunteer who would penetrate the British lines to collect intelligence on enemy positions, tactics, and troop strength.
Captain Nathan Hale had been awarded a place in the small Rangers outfit after he captured the British supply ship. On the Rangers commander's second call, Captain Hale stepped forward. He would take the assignment.
Disguised as a Dutch schoolmaster, a role ideally suited to his background, Hale successfully crossed British lines and gathered the vital information. But, as every American knows, the young patriot-spy was captured by British troops on September 21, 1776, as he attempted to make his way back to the American side. A British loyalist cousin may have betrayed him.
Hale was tried as a spy before General William Howe, the British commander, and sentenced to hang on the following day. Calm and courageous even as the noose was dropped over his neck, Captain Hale asked for a Bible and gave the executioner, Major Cunningham, a letter to his family. The British officer denied him the Bible and ripped up Hale's last letter.
So, just three months after his twenty-first birthday, Nathan Hale met his death. His reputed final words have been included in history books for decades: "I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
Contrary to generations of history books, however, he probably didn't say that. According to a recently found war diary penned by British Captain Frederick Mackenzie, who witnessed Hale's execution, the young soldier's final words were: "It is the duty of every good officer to obey any orders given him by his commander-in-chief." Mackenzie's record of what Nathan Hale actually said is not as stirring as the oft-quoted passage cited above, but certainly still befitting the man's stoic nature.
In the same year Nathan Hale lost his life, 1776, his father, Deacon Richard Hale faced a daunting challenge: How could he provide room for his own twelve children and a cluster of pretty teenage girls brought into his life by the widow he had married in 1769?
Born at Newbury, Massachusetts, in 1717, Deacon Hale had moved to Coventry in the 1740s. He bought a large farm and married a local girl, Elizabeth Strong, in 1746. To that union were born twelve children, eight boys and four girls. Not surprisingly, Mrs. Hale died in 1767 following the birth of her twelfth child. Little Nathan was twelve.
Two years later, in 1769, Deacon Hale married Abigail Cobb Adams, the widow of Captain Samuel Adams. She brought to the marriage several teenage girls. One of them, Sarah Adams, married John Hale, one of Nathan's older brothers.
The precise date of Deacon Hale's house remodeling isn't known, nor do records indicate if it occurred before or after Captain Nathan Hale's execution. He rebuilt the mansion as a two-family house shared by father and son, and their wives who were also mother and daughter. As the children of this blended family grew to adulthood they moved away, although several members of the family lived at the Homestead over the years.
The haunting of Hale Homestead has been documented since at least 1914. In that year, the great American antiquarian, George Dudley Seymour (1859-1945), purchased the vacant Hale Homestead and spent the rest of his life making it a centerpiece in his quest to immortalize his favorite American hero, Captain Nathan Hale.
He also came to believe the Homestead was haunted.
Indeed, one of the first documented ghost sightings involved Seymour himself. He had completed the acquisition of Hale Homestead in the spring of 1914 and embarked on a journey to visit it. He had gone by train from New Haven to Willimantic where he then rented a buggy to take him and an unnamed friend to South Coventry. Heavy rains had turned the roads to muddy ruts. Both men were tired from the long trip.
Seymour recorded his impressions of the Homestead in his diary:
"Isolated, dilapidated, unpainted, and vacant, the (Hale) house presented a forlorn picture, heightened on the inside by streamers of paper falling from dampened walls. ... [Seymour's friend] jumped out of the buggy and ran to the window, and what should he see but Deacon Hale's ghost looking out of the [school room] window to see who had arrived. As my friend put his face against the pane, the Deacon stepped back to the inner end of the room and vanished into thin air. My friend was so jarred by the apparition that he did not mention the matter to me for hours. I must say that the Deacon's ghost never appeared again to my knowledge."
A patent attorney by profession, Seymour probably did more than any other single person to make Nathan Hale famous. He not only "collected" houses associated with the Hale family, but also commissioned artist Bela Lyon Pratt to sculpt a new statue of Hale. There were three already in existence, but Seymour disapproved of them all. Pratt's statue is now almost universal, gracing the headquarters of the FBI and CIA, the Chicago Tribune building, Phillips Academy in Massachusetts and three Connecticut cities. A miniature version is at the Hale Homestead.
Seymour successfully campaigned for Nathan Hale's portrait on a postage stamp. Bela Pratt's one-and-a-half-cent stamp carried his portrait from 1925 to 1938. Interestingly, there is only a "shadow portrait" of Hale extant, so Pratt's statue and stamp are, to some extent, imaginative likenesses.
But George Dudley Seymour was also keenly aware that not all history is to be found in dusty tomes. He collected all manner of legends and stories connected with Nathan Hale, indeed he seems to have been addicted to writing down nearly everything he thought or heard ... including accounts of the ghosts at Hale Homestead.
Local residents told Seymour that the ghost of Lydia Carpenter, one of the Hale family's servants, "was said to be always listening to catch scraps of household gossip." It may also be Lydia who has been seen sweeping the upper hall toward morning and the woman in white who putters around the kitchen at an early hour.
In addition to Deacon Hale, Seymour found that another member of the Hale family had been sighted at the Homestead.
Seymour wrote that the ghost of one of Nathan's brothers, Lieutenant Joseph Hale, "who was confined, it was said, in one of the British prison ships off the Jersey coast ... came home to die, and his ghost clanked his chains in the great cellar of the house."
However, more recent research casts doubts on Seymour's account of Joseph Hale's war service. He served in the Lexington alarm with several of his brothers (six Hale sons fought for the patriot cause) and was a Knowlton Ranger with the rank of lieutenant and when a musket ball grazed him he was captured at Fort Washington, New York. That was on November 16 or 17, 1776, barely two months after his brother's execution.
Whether Joseph ever was confined to a prison ship is unknown but he certainly didn't "come home to die." Records indicate that he was exchanged for a British prisoner and was serving as a lieutenant in Colonel Ely's regiment by 1777. He met Rebeckah Harris, the daughter of prominent judge Joseph Harris, in New London, and married her on October 21, 1778. They returned to Coventry where they bought a house near his father's farm.
In 1784, he became "low in consumption," a term used in earlier days to describe tuberculosis. He died that same year, leaving his young widow with four small children born during the Revolution.
George Seymour wrote that Joseph "was assigned the northwest chamber of his father's house" during his final days. According to a historian at the Hale Homestead, it is possible that Joseph did "come home to die," in 1784 even though he had a house nearby. His widow and children did live at the Hale Homestead following his death.
So if it is Joseph Hale rattling around in the Homestead cellar, the chains he drags are not those that he wore when he died.
There are two additional candidates for the ghosts at the Homestead — John and Sarah Hale, Nathan's older brother and stepsister who were married, lived and died in the house.
John Hale emulated his father in many ways. Born in 1748, he died shortly after Deacon Hale in 1802. Like his father, John became a deacon of the church and served in various public offices. From 1791 to 1802, he was a delegate to sixteen sessions of the Connecticut General Assembly. He served as justice of the peace, town clerk, and treasurer for many terms between 1786 and his death. Earlier, he was a lieutenant in the Revolution's Knowlton Rangers.
He continued to live at the Homestead after his marriage to his step-sister, Sarah Adams Hale. Their only child was stillborn. Sarah died a year after her husband, in 1803. She was fifty.
Another person who believed the Homestead is haunted, perhaps by the ghosts of John and Sarah Hale, was Mary Elizabeth Campbell Griffith, of Manchester, Connecticut. Her late husband, Harold Griffith, was the Hale Homestead caretaker for George Dudley Seymour.
Mrs. Griffith moved to the Homestead in 1930. She lived in the building's ell for many years. Her two daughters were born there.
In an oral history of the Hale Homestead collected in 1988, Mrs. Griffith recalled one perplexing episode:
"It was early in the morning. Harold (Mr. Griffith) was out milking. Everyone else was in bed. I heard somebody come down the back stairs. I didn't even look. I asked Harold when he came back, and he said, no, he hadn't been in the house at all. ... Clump, clump, clump. It was so plain. I never could explain that...."
George Seymour believed the house was haunted, Mrs. Griffith said. But she seemed to excuse that eccentricity by adding, "He'd been to England, and liked that sort of thing...."
According to Mary E. Baker, Hale Homestead Administrator, staff members have not seen any ghosts nor found evidence of their presence.
"However, we strongly believe in bringing history to life," she said. "Sometimes that includes bringing the people who lived here back for a few hours for special programs. This is done at Halloween time and on special weekends when the Nathan Hale Fifes and Drums put on colonial encampments and battle reenactments. On such occasions, 'Nathan Hale' himself can sometimes be seen here, trying to recruit men to join the militia, or signing autographs with his feather quill pen for children. Even on ordinary days, it is not uncommon for one of the Hale family members to be on hand."
Visible and invisible.
Coventry and South Coventry are located on the Willimantic River in Tolland County in east-central Connecticut. The Homestead, 2299 South Street, is open from mid-May to mid-October for a small admission fee.
Visitors may also want to visit the Nathan Hale Cemetery above Wangumbaug Lake. A 45-foot-tall granite obelisk is dedicated to the memory of the famous patriot.
Patty Cannon was evil.
There's not much doubt about that.
A description of her crimes against man and child might begin with the escaped slaves she captured and sold back into captivity, to end with the countless anonymous peddlers and unfortunate travelers who made a final, fatal mistake by taking lodging at her infamous public house in western Delaware.
Even in the raucous, rough 'n' tumble 1820s, she stood several ax handles above most other reprobates.
But history might be as recent as today when it comes to Patty Cannon. Her ghost may roam the old paupers' field where her bones came to rest — at least for a time.
Patty lived on a property that straddled the Mason-Dixon line at Reliance on the Delaware/Maryland border. There she operated an inn where she'd take in wayfaring travelers, feed and entertain them, and then, when they had gotten quite comfortable, murder them.
She'd drag their lifeless bodies to a corner of the basement, rummage through their packs and clothing for whatever she might be able to turn into a profit, and then stack their remains up in the corner until she could safely dispose of them. No sense in calling too much attention to herself, so she'd wait until there was a good load to put in her wagon and then haul them away for a quick burial at some isolated field.
It's not that the authorities didn't suspect Patty was up to something nefarious.
That's why she chose her living accommodations with such care.
When the Maryland constables came looking for her, she'd hotfoot it across the road into Delaware and stay in her barn until they'd given up and gone home. When the Delaware authorities showed up, she'd cross back over the state line and sit on the porch of her Maryland home.
It's not clear why the police from the two states didn't ever figure all this out and show up at the same time.
In any event, Patty's wickedness didn't end with straightforward murder.
Stories were told of her taking crying slave children (Maryland was a slave state in the 1820s) from her servants and killing them in most horrible ways.
She operated a kind of depraved reverse Underground Railroad. Slaves who had bought their freedom often went into Delaware and Pennsylvania to find work. Patty's gang of thugs would secretly scout out farm fields in those states, kidnap the black freemen, drag them back to her house, and chain them in the attic or in the cellar, next to the cadavers. Georgia and South Carolina slave traders came up the Nanticoke River near her home and, on an island in the river, they'd attend Patty's appalling auctions of her human goods.
As it happens, Patty Cannon's undoing was directly connected to one of the slave auctions. Patty killed a slave trader and, for some reason, put his body in a blue trunk she owned and then buried it behind her own house. Some time later, she decided to rent out the land. Years passed. One day a tenant's plow horse tumbled into a fissure that had suddenly opened in the ground. After he pulled out his horse from the bottom of the hole, he spied Patty's blue chest. Thinking he'd found Captain Kidd's or Blackbeard's treasure, he pulled it out and forced open the lid. Of course, there was no treasure, only the rotting carcass of the old slave trader, still neatly wrapped in one of Patty Cannon's tablecloths. Even the butcher knife she'd used to kill him with was in the trunk.
Excerpted from Haunted Heritage by Michael Norman, Beth Scott. Copyright © 2002 Michael Norman and the Estate of Elizabeth Scott. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ENTR'ACTE — HAUNTS OF IVY,
ENTR'ACTE — THE LUMINARIES,
Haunted America Books from Tom Doherty Associates,
Praise for the Haunted America Series,
Index of Place Names,
About the Authors,