NEW ENGLANDERS WANT to believe in ghosts — and we have so many of them — but we’re often too practical and hardheaded to believe in anything we haven’t seen or heard. There’s the old story, for example, of the New Hampshire farmer who was cornered by a scholar researching New England religious history. The visitor asked him whether he believed in baptism by immersion in water.
“Yep,” replied the farmer. “I seed it done.”
Well, I’ve actually “seed” a few ghosts. Several years ago, for instance, in broad daylight, one appeared in front of my incredulous eyes in the Massachusetts State House Hall of Flags. It was clearly discernible on one of the Italian marble columns there. Still is, as far as I know. A tourist attraction as popular as the flags themselves, it’s known as the “Bride in White.” If you’ve had a wine or two at lunch, as I had that day, you can also view the “Kissing Cavalier” on the outer portion of the marble stairway leading up from Doric Hall, the ghost of a chicken on the marble fireplace in the Senate Reading Room, the ghost of an English bulldog just outside the Reading Room, and perhaps most startling, the ghost of William Cullen Bryant on the lower portion of another marble column outside the Hall of Flags. The Massachusetts State House is a historic and eerie place.
One of the most famous New England phantoms, whose weird, scary voice was heard by thousands of people from around the world, hailed from a small town in Connecticut, back in 1930. Known as the “New Milford Ghost,” it consisted of a series of faint, spectral voices emanating from a small shed behind a restaurant at the north end of Railroad Street.
“Someone, please help me,” the ghost moaned. “I’m a little baby buried 40 feet underground. Help!” Another day the voice purported to be that of a murdered man seeking revenge. Then there was the Indian chief who had lived in the area some 200 years earlier. And others.
Thousands of outsiders, including members of the clergy, spiritualists, and newspaper journalists from around the country and even from Europe, as well as the merely curious, gathered in New Milford to hear the poltergeist. Gabriel Heatter, the most famous radio newsman of his day, reported on it in one of his nightly national radio broadcasts.
After a couple of weeks of bedlam — and very good business for the restaurant — the police barricaded the shed, the voices stopped, and everyone went home.
It seems that when an old refrigerator in the shed was sold, the wiring that went underground to the restaurant kitchen was removed. But the cable that had encased the wiring remained. By accident, two of the “ghosts” who owned the restaurant discovered that they could communicate between the kitchen and the shed via this cable, which distorted their normal voices. In a clandestine nighttime operation, they extended the cable through three adjacent stores to a hidden outlet in the men’s room of Garcia’s Tailor Shop. It was from there that they proceeded, for about two chaotic weeks, to spook the entire Western world.
Oh, for sure, it’s such fun to believe in ghosts.