The Stranger Side of Stamford

                It’s Halloween time and of course thoughts lead to ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night, right?? Well, Stamford has its share of legendary stories and in the spirit of the season, would like to share a few with you now.

                From its origins of its original Native American name ‘Rippowam’ and the settling of the town in 1641, (the name was changed to ‘Stamford’ in 1642), to our current city whose landscape is ever-changing with the tearing down of the old to make way for the new, Stamford has quite a colorful history. So I decided to do a bit of research on some of the more unusual stories of Stamford that you may or may not be aware of. As a lover of the strange and paranormal, Stamford did not disappoint.  Not that it ever does in this realm!

So let’s get to it…

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Columbus Park:  Did you know that the downtown area was once the city’s common burying ground? Columbus Park was Stamford’s main cemetery and some of the older graves were moved to Old North Field Cemetery so that Main St. could be created. Think about that the next time you are dancing to a band at Alive at Five! Mentioned in the book:  Insubordinate Spirit: A True Story Of Life And Loss In Earliest America 1610-1665 (great read if you want to learn more about this area!)


Witch Trials:  Salem, Massachusetts wasn’t the only place to have Witch Trials! In fact, Connecticut had witch trials going back as far as 1647. And while Salem put 19 to death for incorrectly being found guilty of practicing witchcraft, the Connecticut trials of 1662—ten were accused but only four were tried, convicted and tragically executed.  So what is the Stamford connection??  Stamford resident Elizabeth Clawson was one of two to be accused in 1692 (same year as the famous Salem Trials). She and fellow accused ‘witch’ Mercy Disborough were tried in (then spelled) Fayrefeild and tested to see if they were in fact witches. The test was brutal. You may have heard of ‘dunking’, but this is what is involved…they bound the right hand to the left foot and the left hand to the right foot and then thrown into water to see if they would float. If one floated, they were considered guilty but if they sank (and by the way, drowned) they were innocent. Either way, it was basically a death sentence. However, even after the ‘test’ and after testimony given during her trial, she was found to be “A woman of Pease (peace)”. 76 Stamford residents and elected officials signed and turned in a petition on June 4, 1692 standing by her good character and hoping to spare her life. She was in fact found NOT GUILTY and returned to Stamford where she lived until her death in 1714 at the age of 83.

For more information on this, you should read the case (which includes the scan of the original petition): and there is also a book on it: Escaping Salem: The Other Witch Hunt of 1692 (New Narratives in American History) or go to the website of one of Elizabeth Clawson’s decedents: (photo courtesy of this site)


Hoyt-Barnum House: Built in 1699 on land once owned by Munsee Indians, the Hoyt-Barnum house is the oldest home in Stamford. A true testament to the city’s founders, this wooden structure has held up through the roughest of New England weather for over 300 years. While the house itself is wood, the chimney was created of stone and (as per Stamford Historical Society) held together with such materials as mortar with clay, straw and animal hair. This home, built by Samuel Hoyt has a dark secret. It is said that the house and the land surrounding it is haunted by a family member of Hoyt’s that drowned in 1755.  However, that is not the only lost soul on the property. Hoyt’s first wife passed away inside the house in what was known as the birthing room—which is also where the children slept. This home saw many people living there including over 14 children who were raised in the home over the years. One infant died in the home. The Stamford Historical Society used to give tours around Halloween for years telling the tales and a few folks even caught anomalies in photographs taken at the home. One of the most known is the golden light photo which was taken in the area above what was the birthing room. Someone on one of the tours was able to capture a strange light coming from the corner of the room when there was no light around. The Historical Society will not let the photo be published but they did used to show it on tours. Unfortunately, due to the upcoming move of the house from its current location (and again, its location for over 300 years) to its future one at 1508 High Ridge Rd. next to the Historical Society, the house will be closed until its reopening in 2017. Our question is this…will the moving of the home stir up even more spirits?? To learn more about the Hoyt-Barnum House: (photo courtesy of )

hoyt-Barnum House-pc

Fort Stamford:  Just as Stamford is often caught in the middle of the Yankees/Red Sox war of baseball, so was it caught between the British Loyalists and the citizens of the newly formed United States of America during the Revolutionary War. Fort Stamford, which was occupied from 1781-1783 was part of this ongoing battle and was commanded by Brigadier General David How Waterbury Jr. Fort Stamford was commissioned as a Winter headquarters for troops protecting the area from British soldiers and among those housed there were local militia members and those enlisted to fight for a new independent country. If you think New England Winters are bad now, think of it for soldiers in the 18th Century. No proper warm clothing, relying on small fires for heat and food was sparse. As this was during the British Invasion of our area, the stealing of cattle, money, crops and other animals and resources happened over and over again. How any survived at all was a miracle. However, some were not so lucky. If the elements didn’t get them, hunger, illness and fatigue did. According to one account from 1782, a foot patrol of 14 Patriots were slaughtered by British troops on horseback.  The land that Fort Stamford sits on, like all land here, was once occupied by Native Americans. The Siwanoy Tribe once lived and died along the Minus River. The lands hold a tragic past and many souls rest uneasy because of this. Fort Stamford is one of these areas.  Jon Nowinski, journalist and member of the Smoking Gun Research Agency brought his team to the Fort site for a series of investigations. His team had some pretty intense encounters and not just on film. He mentions physical encounters, strange issues with their equipment, etc. And it’s no wonder. This site was not exactly the quiet, park-like place it is now! As with many hauntings reported in residential homes, activity seemed to perk up after a renovation on the grounds took place. It seems that after it was prepared for the Bicentennial celebrations, some things got a bit stirred up there. To read about Mr. Nowinski and his team’s experiences at the site, please check out this article from the Stamford Advocate published in 2014: Also, if you’d like to learn more about Fort Stamford and the restoration project: (photo courtesy of


Noroton River:  You’ve heard of Nessie, Champ or the legend of Georgie? Of course we were referring to the Loch Ness Monster of Scotland, Champ the beast of Lake Champlain, NY/VT and Georgie who was a creation of the former director of the Lake George, NY Historical Society.  There are famous sea serpents all over the world that have become myth and lore throughout history and yes, there are a few of us still hoping they will be seen but not captured. Stamford had its own serpent spotted in the Noroton River in 1889 while a man was clamming. Now remember, back then, the river was much wider than it is now and from time to time, aquatic life would make its way up from the Long Island Sound—in fact, according to the article published back then, a shark had made its way up to almost the exact spot the serpent was seen a year earlier! This was no shark sighting though. To quote the Boston Globe article on the story, Mr. “Ruscoe was suddenly confronted by an enormous serpent that stuck its head out of the water right alongside the boat. It had a large black head and its back was a copper color. It ran a big red tongue out of its mouth and emitted a hissing sound.”  I don’t know about you, but that would send ME running for the hills!  And that is exactly what happened!! Mr. Ruscoe was so frightened by what he had seen, he ran for about a mile before stopping because he was too tired to run any longer. However, when he returned, both his boat and his stash of clams he had worked hard to get that day had disappeared.  He was not alone in seeing this creature though. Over a dozen people claimed to have seen this serpent on this day and because so many people talked about it, they formed an ‘expedition’ to go and hunt it down. They never found it again and believe that whatever it was, made its way back to the Sound. So next time you’re out in the water off the Stamford coast, be sure to keep your eyes open…it could still be out there!  The original article appeared in the August 18, 1889 edition of what was then known as the Boston Daily Globe under the headline: Sea Serpent Season Opens. You can read it here: (photo courtesy of )


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So just when you thought you knew your city, along I come and shed some light on just a few of the many stories of Stamford. I’m a big believer in the two phrases: “Stop and Look Around” and “Learn Where You Live” and if you follow WOTM on Instagram, you know this to be true.

Take a little time here and there to read up on Stamford and find out its history. To maybe find out why your street or favorite park has that particular name or to look up and see if the part of the city you live in now always looked like that. Or take a walk! You may see your neighborhood in a whole new way. You may find a forgotten cemetery that may have one of Stamford’s founding families in it. (But please, be respectful on your visits. I can’t stress that enough.) Or you may find a house on your street that you didn’t realize is from the 1800’s. We are fortunate enough to be in that kind of a city that every corner has some historical value to it. And before it all gets torn down, moved or built over…take it in while you can.

Sure, you may come up with a ghost story or two in the process, but isn’t that part of the fun? And at Halloween time…there is NOTHING wrong with that!

Now go forth and as always, Keep it Local Stamford!!!

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By, Christie Cartolano for What’s on the Menu?

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#wotm #wotmnation #keepitlocal #ghosts #haunted #hauntings #seaserpent #norotonriver #hoytbarnum #CTwitchtrials #cemetery #columbuspark #fortstamford #halloween

WOTM Hits the 2015 Greenwich Wine & Food Festival!


If you’ve been following along with us either here on the site or on our social media pages, you know by now that this year, What’s on the Menu? was invited to be a part of the 2015 Greenwich Wine and Food Festival presented by Serendipity. I fully admit to being quite excited about this. While, despite the name, WOTM isn’t really a ‘food’ site, I do pride myself in letting people know about happenings in Stamford restaurants, bars and events. Maybe you’ve seen our new tagline on Facebook (thanks to DJ Mark—aka Dancin’ Mark—Smith for coming up with it), “What’s on the Menu is literally a gourmet menu of tasty events happening on any given night in Stamford.” To be invited to such an amazing gathering of chefs, mixologists and beyond? Well, I was more than honored to be asked and certainly hope to have other opportunities such as this one in the future. So enough of that…let me tell you about this fantastic day…


Held at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park on the waterfront in Greenwich, we were welcomed by the nicest people and the greatest weather. As we passed through the gates, white tents greeted us proudly. As we walked around taking it all in, the Celebrity Cruises rep stopped me and asked me to sit “in the big chair”. I kid you not, this was a humongous chair!  Ever want to feel like a kid again?  This did it. It’s always great to start off a day with a bit of humor.  After getting my first photo out of the way, it was off to the tasting tent itself where over 150 food, beverage and other vendors awaited us.


That’s me in the BIG chair! :)

Every kind of food and drink imaginable was available to us throughout the day. In the span of the first ten minutes that I was in the Grand Tastings tent, I tasted gourmet beef jerky, champagne ketchup, absinthe chocolates and a Bloody Maria. As the day progressed I would go on to try pulled pork, smoked sausage, prize winning hamburger sliders and my first ever taste of buffalo meat tacos.

Representing WOTM and our motto of “Keeping it Local”, I had walked into Saturday’s event with the mindset that I would like to check out as many Stamford’s vendor tables as I could.  I’m proud to say, Stamford was very well represented at this gathering.

Starting with the gentleman from Barcelona Stamford who was busy hand carving meat for each guest. I do apologize for not getting his name, but what a welcoming guy he was! I’m a fan of Barcelona (fiddlehead ferns are an addiction of mine) and it’s always nice to know that their people are just as friendly off-site as when you dine with them.

Pinot’s Palette was the next stop on my ‘Stamford tour’. I’m sorry to say I did not get to meet anyone from there, but they had the easels all set up and folks painting up a storm at each and every one. What a great souvenir to take home!  I then got to shake hands with the nice gentleman from Tomatillo Taco Joint from the Stamford location on Broad St. handing out the handcrafted tacos.  Have to say, their setup was as welcoming as their smiles.


Fun at the Pinot’s Palette tables.

Now, as someone who is a fan of BBQ, let me tell you how happy I was to see that both Dinosaur BBQ and Brother Jimmy’s were there in the Grill Master Party tent! I was able to get the pulled pork in both spots and I could have easily set up a chair at both locations and just ate there the whole day. The ‘Dino’ guys were very much in synch with each other and I’d like to say thanks to the Brother Jimmy’s girls who were serving that day for talking to me for a few minutes. Considering the lines, this was hard to do. But they were so outgoing and were smiling the whole time!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a particular Stamford-based company who was also in the Grill Master Party tent. Barbecue and beer go together SO well, so imagine my happiness to turn and see Stamford’s own, Half Full Brewery serving up their best. I was able to try both their Toasted Amber and Pumpkin ales as well as have a chat with Brian who was just the nicest guy. This is a man who loves what he does and it was so great of him to take the time to talk to me. There is a lot happening at the brewery, so please make sure to click their link to see a list of events and to sign up for their email alerts as well!


There was so much to take in during the day. The Empire City Casino tent had the roulette wheels spinning and hosted the 2015 Top Bartender Showdown hosted by Greg “Baba Booey” Dell’Abate, there was the Tacos and Tequilla tent which had, just what it says…tacos and tequila. This is where I tried the above mentioned buffalo meat taco. There was the Cocktail Demo Tent, there were wine and beer parings, celebrity book signings and for the VIP’s, the Big Easy dinner with Chef Alex Guarnachelli and food by Stamford’s own, OnTheMarc Events! And of course, the big stage where later in the evening, CMA & Grammy winning band Little Big Town would perform for the crowd.

Speaking of celebrities, I think my favorite event of the day was the Budweiser and Burgers Challenge. The emcee for this grilled beef on a bun extravaganza was Travel Channel’s Adam Richman and the judges for the challenge were…from Food Network: Geoffrey Zakarian, Alex Guarnachelli and Terry French as well as Top Chef winner Harold Dieterle and the one and only celeb chef, Rocco DiSpirito. These folks got to eat the best burgers around and I didn’t envy them their job of trying to decide which one was the best of the best. But when all was said and done???  Plan B was crowned the Best Burger in the Budweiser and Burgers Challenge!


Celebrity Judges at the Budweiser and Bugers Challenge

One more thing before I move on…this event is called the Greenwich Wine and Food Festival and so far, I’ve only really talked about the food. I do need to mention a few ‘spirits’ before all is said and done. Now, I’ve mentioned the Bloody Maria (for those who are unaware, it’s a Bloody Mary made with tequila instead of Vodka) and the beer from Half Full Brewery…here are a few other things I sampled: an incredible white wine from Angelini Wines, a new chocolate-mint Vodka from Iceberg Vodka (which tasted like a peppermint pattie and can already see putting some in hot cocoa this holiday season) and my favorite drink of the day—the Cow Wow. What is this concoction you ask?  It’s Butterscotch Schnapps mixed with ‘cereal milk’. They actually take milk, pour it over corn flakes, brown sugar and cinnamon and let it soak for hours. Then drain it and use the milk in the drink. I can’t express how awesome this drink was!

There is still so much I could write about this day and know that I’ve forgotten to mention quite a bit.  However, I don’t want to end this article without mentioning some people who really helped to make the GWFF run as smoothly as it does. I really need to do a special shout-out to both the volunteers and the Greenwich PD. They did a wonderful job, were super friendly and kept smiles on their faces throughout. And to the couple who selfishly gave up their food to two of Greenwich’s finest after they waited online only to find the vendor had run out of food?  Outstanding and really, I couldn’t ask for a better story to come out of this whole day.  The two officers I spoke with were so grateful and touched that anyone would do that.


One thing that really made this day so special is that the Greenwich Wine and Food Festival is also a fundraiser for the Hole in the Wall Camp. Founded in 1988 by Paul Newman, this group is dedicated to giving seriously ill children and their families a ‘different kind of healing.’  For more information on how you can help, volunteer or donate to this awesome cause:

Before I leave, I’d like to say a special thank you to Shelley K. for asking me to attend this event and also, to all those who made the 2015 Greenwich Wine and Food Festival possible thank you as well. It was an incredible day and one that I was so, so happy to be a part of.  Until next year…


Alex Guarnachelli and myself!

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By, Christie Cartolano for What’s on the Menu?

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FYI:  We posted many photos of the event to our Instagram and we will be posting a LOT of them to our new Flickr album as well.


#GWFF2015 #GWFF #serendipity #serendipitysocial #wotm #WOTMNation #keepitlocal #greenwichwineandfood

WOTM at the 2015 Greenwich Wine and Food Festival


Hello WOTM Nation!

The time has come…I will be at the 2015 Greenwich Wine and Food Festival covering the action, the food, the drinks, the happenings and of course…Keeping it Local with the Stamford folks who will be showcasing their talents!

While this event is happening in our neighboring town of Greenwich, I assure you, Stamford is WELL represented each year at this event. Hosted by Serendipity Magazine (located on Canal St.), the Wine and Food Festival has been growing more and more each year.

Celeb chefs from The Food Network and beyond will be on hand to share their secrets, demonstrate their craft and even judge food battles. While representatives of the cocktail elite will be showing us how to pair wine and beer with food, mix the perfect drink and compete in a bartender showdown. It’s a chance not only to eat and drink with some of the best in the business, but also a great chance to learn a few things as well! (And I must say, looks like all diets are off for this event.)

This final day of the festival will be capped off with a performance by headlining CMA & Grammy winning band Little Big Town!

The best part about this whole week of food, drinks and fun is that it benefits the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. Founded in 1988 by Paul Newman, it (in their words): “gives every child, no matter what their illness, a chance to raise a little hell.” This group is dedicated to giving seriously ill children and their families a ‘different kind of healing.’  For more information on how you can help, volunteer or donate to this awesome cause:

The event also raises funds for the Greenwich Parks and Recreation Scholarship Fund. This “scholarship program provides income eligible families exposure to positive experiences, and active lifestyles, as well as opportunities to gain and refine life skills, and to develop positive personal and social assets.” 100% of funds raised goes directly to their programs. How great is that?? To find out how you can help or to donate:!contribute-to-scholarship-fund/cjb5

On a personal note, I’m very excited that What’s on the Menu? has been invited to be a member of the press for this event. It is my pleasure to go and represent WOTM and all that I’ve been working for with this site. I can’t wait to meet everyone, swap some stories and ok, maybe eat a bite or two!  I’ll certainly be doing a full write-up on the site in the days following the event.

To keep up with us socially throughout our time on-site on Twitter and Instagram: &

Have a great Saturday folks and as always, Keep it Local!

–Christie C.

Founder of What’s on the Menu?

#wotm #keepitlocal #WOTMNation #GWFF2015 #serendipitysocial

@onthemenuct <–twitter & instagram


Welcome to Fall Stamford–Let’s Get Movin’!!


So if you are the type to enjoy good weather, run/walk/get the kids outside, there are a lot of events coming this weekend to tell you about.
Starting tomorrow, Thursday 24th: 6th Annual United at the Cove 5k run/walk; NamasDay 5th Annual Yoga Party at Harbor Point (please see Harbor Point FB page for more info on this)
Saturday: St. Jude run/walk at Harbor Point, Stamford CT; Spartan Kids Race at Mill River Collaborative
Sunday: Liver Life Walk at Harbor Point; 3rd Annual One Step Closer to Home Walk-a-Thon; 3rd Annual Miles for a Mission 5k Run/Walk and Dogapalooza
For info on the races both this weekend and beyond, please check outFleet Feet Sports Stamford‘s Local Races page:



Remember to keep up with daily postings on our Facebook and Twitter pages–and follow us on Instagram as well–never know what we’ll post!


‪#‎racelocal‬‪#‎fundraising‬ ‪#‎keepitlocal‬ ‪#‎wotm‬ ‪#‎WOTMNation‬ ‪#‎laceup‬ ‪#‎getmoving‬‪#‎getthekidsoutside‬ ‪#‎greatweather‬ ‪#‎welcometofall‬

Save the Date…Oh and a Little Announcement Too!

Hello Stamford,

Hope everyone had a great Summer and (despite the heat) you are getting ready for Pumpkin-everything season. There is a lot on the horizon as far as happenings around our fair city…football season is here, Arts and Crafts on Bedford is coming up and before you know it, I’ll be posting the annual Halloween Happenings list! Incredible to think that it’s that time of the year already.

All that aside, there is a definite reason for this post. A little unorthodox for this site, but you will see where I’m headed in a moment…

If you know anything about WOTM, you know that for the last few years we have been all about “Keeping it Local”.  We are Stamford proud.  We are also very much about helping publicize local fundraising events. (as you may have noticed on our FB and Twitter pages) We have an event to tell you about now that has become an annual tradition around this area.

The 5th Annual Greenwich Wine and Food Festival will be held this year from Sept 23rd thru the 26th. This event has been growing each year in both popularity and prestige. Celebrity chefs take part in special dinner presentations each evening, tastings will be going on with offerings from 150+ food and beverage vendors from all around our area. There will be food battles, book signings, crafted burgers, taco madness, grill masters doing their thing and so much more! Also, the final evening will culminate in the LIVE music performance of CMA Award Winning band, Little Big Town!!

This Festival, presented by Serendipity Magazine as we mentioned, is also a fundraiser. And this year, the event will be benefiting two wonderful organizations. The first is Paul Newman’s The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.  This group helps sick children and their families as they go through the illnesses together. They provide “a different kind of healing” and if you’d like more information on this organization, please visit their website:  The second is The Greenwich Parks & Recreation Scholarship Fund which (we are taking this right from the GWFF2015 website): provides income eligible families exposure to positive experiences, and active lifestyles, as well as opportunities to gain and refine life skills, and to develop positive personal and social assets. 100% of the donations to this fund go directly to support scholarships for Greenwich’s youth.

So why are we telling you about an event that is happening in Greenwich? Well again, this is a wonderful fundraising event and are more than happy to let you know about it. Also, if you head to the festival’s website, you will see that Stamford is very much represented here! Chefs and vendors from local Stamford restaurants and businesses will be participating and how wonderful that is.

Also, we are very, very proud to announce that yours truly will be a member of the press at this year’s festival!  I cannot tell you what this means to me to be able to be a part of this amazing event and would like to publicly thank the organizers for inviting What’s on the Menu? to be involved in such a gathering.

Without further ado, we give you the 2015 Greenwich Wine and Food Festival (and website!). Hope to see you there…it’s going to be a great time for two great causes. And yes folks, we are certainly Keeping it Local!

2015 Greenwich Wine and Food Festival <–all info, tickets and more can be found here.


#wotm #keepitlocal #wotmnation #greenwichwineandfood #GWFF2015


How’s that Summer Goin’ Stamford??

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted here on the site…but if you follow on our FB/Twitter/Instagram…you know I’ve been posting up a storm on there!!

As for the site,  just updated the Sunday Brunch page. While we’re about to get a heat wave, that doesn’t mean you can’t cool down with some mimosas, fresh food and in some places, BEATS!

Check out the list of restaurants–I’ve added their menu links so you’ll know the best places for you to go. And one spot is even doing Beats and Brunch. ;) Sunday Brunch Stamford-Style

Please be sure to follow us on social media. I post several times a day on FB & Twitter and you don’t want to miss what’s going on: and on Instagram:

Thanks for Keeping it Local Stamford–4 1/2 years and counting!!!!!!!!!!! Love you guys!!!

#WOTMNation #wotm #keepitlocal #loveourfollowers

Looking for something to do tonight?

We’ve been posting what we now call “quick-hit” happenings on our Facebook page nightly.

What do we mean by ‘quick-hit’?

Well, we used to spend HOURS  each night, trying to find what was going on all around Stamford to post a nightly happenings list. Frankly, it got to be a little much.

However, after giving it a break for months and getting feedback from our loyal followers, we did want to start posting something again.  Especially with the busy season ahead.

So now we grab about 5 happenings, in no specific order that we know are going on around town. This way it gives you guys and idea of where to go, maybe inspires you to go out or try a place you’ve never been and also, maybe you didn’t know a place was having live music or a dj!

Be sure to ‘like’ our FB page to get updates on nightly happenings and so much more.

Also, follow us on Twitter and Instagram too!! :D

Keep it Local Stamford!!!

#wotm #keepitlocal #stamfordct #WOTMNation