October 31, 2010

October Horror Mania: Midnight Mary

I've been super busy at work lately, but I wanted to end this month with one more tale of Yankee style horror: Midnight Mary!

If you visit New Haven Connecticut's Evergreen Cemetery, you might stumble upon the somewhat ominous grave stone of Mary E. Hart. The epitaph reads

At high noon
Just from and about to renew
Her daily work, in her full strength of
Body and mind
Mary E. Hart
Having fallen prostrate
Remained unconscious, until she died at midnight
October 15, 1872
Born December 16, 1824

Above this, large bold letters spell out the following:


In his book Legendary Connecticut David E. Philips explains that because almost nothing is known about the real, historical Mary E. Hart, many legends have arisen to explain her spooky funerary monument.

Most of them are pretty gruesome. For example:

  • A few days after Mary was buried, one of her aunts had a dream that she was still alive in her coffin. To calm the aunt's fears, the family opened Mary's grave. They were horrified to see her body twisted in a painful position and her fingers shredded and bloody. The aunt had been right! They reburied Mary and put up the gravestone to detract attention from her premature burial.
  • Mary had been a witch while she was alive, and threatened on her death bed that anyone who disturbed her grave would die at midnight. Naturally, three teenagers went to her grave at night to test the theory. Ha! Nothing happened. Until, seven years later, one of them was found dead with his throat ripped out. Seven years later the second died the same way. Finally, after another seven years, the last interloper died as well. The throat-ripping murderer was never found.
  • Three sailors visiting New Haven decided to see if the legend of Midnight Mary was true. When they didn't report back for duty the next day police searched the cemetery. Their hats were found near Mary's grave, but their bodies were found impaled on the iron fence surrounding Evergreen Cemetery. Something had frightened them, and all three had died while trying to escape over the fence.
There are a couple Midnight Mary videos on YouTube. This first is a trailer for a horror film. I love that it starts "Sometimes summoning the dead isn't such a good idea." Sometimes?!

And this is footage of some brave college kids who go to see Mary's grave. How will it end?

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

October 17, 2010

October Horror Mania: The Two Lost Hunters

Misty Maine woods from this site.

The Malecite (or Maliseet) are an Indian tribe that live in northern Maine and parts of Canada. Like many other native groups who live in cold climates, their folklore has stories about cannibal monsters and other nasty creatures. This gruesome story collected by the University of Maine Folklife Center is perfect as the days get short and the nights get cold.


Two hunters became lost in the woods. As night came on they happened upon an abandoned cabin. They were cold so naturally they went in.

No one had been inside the cabin for years, but there was still a pile of dry wood next to the fireplace. They would be warm and dry for the night. But there was just one problem - lying in the bunk was a dried out human corpse.

One hunter said nervously "I don't want to stay here with that thing!"

The other one said "Why are you so scared? He's been dead a long time!" and put the body over with the wood.

Both hunters climbed into the bunk, but the more nervous one couldn't fall asleep. Instead, he listened to his friend snoring.

After a while, the snoring became a gurgling sound. The gurgling went on and on. It didn't sound good.

The nervous hunter lit his lantern to see what was going on. He was horrified to see the corpse lying on top of his friend! The corpse had chewed through his neck and was sucking out his blood.

The hunter ran out of the cabin as fast as he could. But as he ran through the woods, a glowing ball of fire flew behind him, howling wildly. Amazingly, in his panic the hunter ran all the way through the woods back to his own home. Just as the ball of fire was about to engulf him he ran inside and slammed the door. Then he passed out on the floor, unconscious.

The next morning he told his neighbors what had happened. They set out for the abandoned cabin, bringing a priest with them. When they reached the cabin they found the dead hunter's bloodless body and the dried out corpse. Its mouth was stained with blood.

They removed the hunter's body for a proper burial, and then they lit the cabin on fire. They could hear a voice inside, screaming for help, but the priest told them to ignore it. The cabin eventually collapsed in flames. As it did a glowing ball shot into the sky where it disappeared, never to be seen again.

October 10, 2010

October Horror Mania: "More Weight!"

This weekend Tony and I visited Salem with our friend Lori. The town was in the grip of Halloween mania! Hundreds of people were walking around in witch hats, friend dough was for sale outside the cemetery, and we had to wait in lines to get into Samantha's costume shop and the witchcraft supply store Hex.

Of course, the hardships we faced as Salem tourists were nothing compared to what Giles Corey endured in 1692.

Fried dough outside the cemetery. Yes, it smelled really good.

Giles Corey was an elderly farmer in Salem Village who had a reputation for being stubborn and mean-tempered. As Marion Starkey writes in The Devil in Massachusetts,

This Giles even at eighty was a powerful brute of a man, slow of comprehension, but quick of temper, and so born to trouble as the sparks fly upward; his life had been punctuated by lawsuits and worse.

Starkey doesn't write what the "worse" was, but according to information at the Salem Wax Museum, Giles was rumored to have beaten one of his servants to death. He doesn't sound like a nice guy.

Giles Corey mannequin at the Salem Wax Museum.

His wife Martha was a strong-willed and outspoken woman, and expressed her doubts about the Salem witch trials when they erupted in 1692. Naturally this led to her being accused of witchcraft herself by the allegedly possessed girls.

Giles was called as a witness at her trial. He said he found it hard to pray when Martha was around and that he once found her mysteriously kneeling by the hearth at midnight. He initially agreed with the court that his wife was a witch, but when he himself was later indicted he changed his tune. He realized that she was as innocent as he was.

Although he wasn't too bright, Giles knew if he was convicted of witchcraft the authorities would confiscate all his property. So rather than stand on trial and lose his family's fortune, Giles refused to speak. If he didn't say a word there couldn't be a trial.

Sheriff George Corwin decided to make him talk. This is where things get gruesome.

The sheriff applied what was known as peine forte et dure, or hard and forceful punishment: slow crushing by heavy weight. Giles was stripped naked and tied to the ground outside the jail. Boards were placed across his chest, and rocks were piled on.

Giles still refused to talk.

The sheriff put on more rocks.

Giles didn't say a word.

The sheriff added more and more rocks. This continued for two days. According to tradition, the words Giles said were "More weight..."

Giles died after two days. His tongue protruded from his mouth due to the pressure on his body, and Sheriff Corwin allegedly pushed it back in using his cane.

Martha was hanged three days later. Their family, however, got to keep their land because Giles refused to speak.

Giles Corey stone at the witchcraft trial memorial.

Martha and Giles had both been excommunicated before their deaths, but this was revoked after the Salem witch trials ended. It doesn't seem to have helped Giles feel any better in his unmarked grave. His ghost is rumored to still haunt Salem, particularly around times of disaster. But unlike ghosts who arrive before disasters to give warning, Giles only seems to show up afterward.

He probably comes to gloat.

October 04, 2010

October Horror Mania: Rufus Goodrich's Funeral

The Beckley Tavern in Berlin, Connecticut. From Catherine North's History of Berlin Connecticut (1916).

Well it's October, and October means Halloween. And Halloween means scary stuff. Stuff even scarier than my usual posts about ghosts, phantom hitchhikers and Bigfoot hiding in the barn.

Last October I blogged about New England monsters, both well-known and obscure. This year I thought I'd start the month with one of the more gruesome tales I've read recently. Apparently it's true.

This story comes from Catherine North's 1916 book History of Berlin, Connecticut. It's an innocuous title for a book that a tale of such ... supernatural evil! (Insert your own maniacal laughter here if you choose.)


Back in the mid-nineteenth century, the hard-working men of Berlin, Connecticut liked to gather at the local cider mill. Why a cider mill? Because back then most cider was alcoholic!

One night while the men were imbibing and talking about work Rufus Goodrich came in. No one paid him any notice. Although he came from a prominent local family, Rufus was lazy and had never amounted to anything. He was a joke around town.

As the other men drank and talked, Rufus sat in the corner silently sipping his cider with a smirk on his face. But the more he drank the less silent he became. First he began to mutter. Then he started to giggle. The other men still ignored him. But when he started to cackle wildly, the conversation in the room stopped.

"What's your problem you lazy idiot?" a prominent farmer finally shouted.

He said, "No problems, not anymore. I'm just laughing because I'm going to be famous while you're all stuck in this miserable little hamlet."

"Famous? For what?! Being an idiot?" The men laughed drunkenly.

Rufus ignored them and continued talking. "This evening I was walking through the woods when I encountered a man dressed all in black. But he wasn't an ordinary man... he was the Dark Man himself. The Devil!"

Some men laughed, but a few remembered their grandmothers' old stories and grew quiet.

"He asked me how much it would cost to buy my soul. 'I don't want to be rich', I said, 'I want to be famous. How famous can you make me?'"

"The Devil said, 'What if I told you that thousands would attend your funeral? Would that be famous enough?' I said 'Thousands at my funeral? You bet! Where do I sign?'"

Rufus drained his glass and slammed it down. "So I sold him my soul. And now gentleman, good night. Fame awaits!"

The next day word spread quickly through Berlin that Rufus Goodrich had sold his soul. People assumed he had left town to find fame because no one had seen him since he left the cider mill.

A few days later a farmer noticed a loud buzzing sound coming from inside one of his barns. He also could smell something awful inside.

When he went into the barn he found the source of the terrible odor. There was Rufus Goodrich's body, wedged between two hayposts. It looked like he had fallen and broken his neck, and had been there a few days.

The buzzing was caused by the fat black flies that crawled over Rufus's bloating corpse and swarmed through barn. The farmer had never seen so many flies! At first he thought there must be hundreds of them.

But then he realized there were even more. The Devil had kept his word. Rufus's funeral was indeed attended by thousands... of flies.