“Ghosts are history demanding to be remembered.” — Jeff Belanger
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Whether skeptic or true believer, all ghosts, legends and tales have to come from somewhere and most times, they come from our past. Founded only 21 years after the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, Stamford has a storied history and with it comes a whole lot of stories just waiting to be told.
A few years back around Halloween, I decided to write a post about some locals legends that may or may not have been widely known. From ghosts at Fort Stamford to the creature in the Noroton River to Stamford’s own Witch Trials, it was possibly the most popular post I’ve ever done and I swore to do it again. Which brings me to today…
Halloween 2018 is once again upon us and there are still so many tales to be told. And while my intention was still to tie these stories in with our history, this year I put the call out to Stamford residents asking them to give me some direction and send me their own story ideas: Were they told not to go near a certain house as a kid? Is there an ‘unwanted’ guest in their home? Or maybe they heard a local park had some extra visitors, among others. While it got off to a slow start, in the end the response was overwhelming! I was sent so many messages, emails and comments that it was truly hard to narrow it down to just a few for this piece. But rest assured, the rest will NOT go to waste and it seems that because of the response, a new project may be in the works (stay tuned!).
In the meantime, let’s get to why we’re here now. If you are a regular follower of WOTM either here on the site or on social media, you know that I am passionate about our local history. So why not have fun learning more about it while celebrating that which is Halloween?
Now remember, these are but snippets. It took a lot of willpower not to add more stories and include more details for the stories I chose to include here. Hopefully you will enjoy this piece and maybe get you excited for more!
Now, let’s get to it as we begin with the obvious for this holiday…
Halloween and Shippan: This is interesting as there are a couple of stories about how a park was formed: One reads that on Halloween night in 1906, Stamford Mayor Homer Cummings cast the deciding vote to allow 95 acres of Shippan to be bought and turned into a public beach after there had been interest in having a local public park. Halloween Park as it was known included a 9 hole golf course and a big, beautiful pavillion. Halloween Yacht Club was formed later in 1926 and is still in operation today on the park’s west side. The other story reads that the City of Stamford took title to the Cummings property on Halloween Eve of 1926 (not 1906 in a vote) and the name stuck. Either way, we now know it as Cummings Park and we have it today to enjoy because of our late former Mayor.
To learn more, check out: A Maritime History of the Stamford Waterfront
(Postcard image courtesy of Stamford History Center)
Dantown: When you think of a ghost town, you normally think of someplace out west where there were gunfights in saloons over shots of whiskey and dancing girls. But did you know that there is a ‘ghost’ town that lives below the surface of the Laurel Reservoir? Dantown, once located in the North Stamford area where Stamford, Pound Ridge (think Scot’s Corner) and New Canaan meet was once a bustling community of basket weavers. The heavy duty baskets were used in for oyster and clamming gathering in local waters, for picking fruit in the local orchards as well as coal and more. There were many families involved in the business and handcrafting of each piece and the baskets were well known even in New York City. They also produced shoes, cider and potatoes and there was even a school for the town’s children Named after Francis Dan who settled in the area in 1684, those who lived there harnessed the power of the Rippowam to use for their mills. They flourished until around the early 1900’s when it went into full decline. In 1923, the local water company dammed up the river, flooding and submerging the town creating the 256 acre reservoir we still have today. When there is a drought, you may be able to see some of the remains of the once thriving town but other than that, the only reminder of what was still there are now just the street signs that bear its name. Dantown; Stamford’s own Atlantis.
Rezo Waters with son Ernest c.1900
(photo credit Stamford History Center)
The House of Stamford Hill: On a corner of Cascade Road there lies a beautiful home that dates back to Revolutionary times. The 1780 House or Woodpecker Ridge Farm as it’s sometimes known was built by the Augustus Weed Family in the area that was once Chief Ponus’ private hunting ground. The house stayed in the Weed family until 1927 and then changed hands a few more times over the years. But in 1955 a couple purchased the house and noticed they weren’t alone. It is said that there were sightings of a figure of a Native American in the kitchen, unexplainable music coming from an upstairs bedroom and moving shadows in the parlor area among other things. In 1964, the couple was getting ready to sell the house and called in legendary paranormal investigator and author Hans Holzer to investigate. They stated that they never felt threatened but rather wondering more what the visitors wanted. Mr. Holzer brought a psychic medium with him and during the time(s) they spent at the house they had quite a number of experiences there themselves. They were able to contact quite a few spirits including a Revolutionary War soldier as well as several entities who came through the medium. What I personally found interesting about this story is that this one was submitted to me by quite a few! So apparently the legend continues. To read more about Hans Holzer’s investigation you can find it in his book: Ghosts: True Encounters from the World Beyond
(photo credit: mysticartdesign pixabay)
Just a side note: Also on Cascade Road lies the home of baseball legend Jackie Robinson. I’ve been curious if anyone has had any experiences in his home. While the house looks like an old farmhouse type, the original #42 had it built for his family in 1955 and he lived there until he passed in his home in 1972.
Stamford Town Center: Yes, you read that right. There have been many stories over the years from directories being upset in their holders when no one was there, voices in the elevators and even the vision of a lady in red running. No one knows exactly who (or what?) is doing all of this. The mall has somewhat of a tortured history that sadly, includes a few folks taking their lives there. But as we all know, the mall, no matter how ugly, was not always there and like any area, has a history. The streets were not the bustling and congested nightmare they are today. Horse and buggy was the way to travel for many years and an investigation done and found that a woman had been hit by one in the area back in the day. Some of the activity did begin after some mall renovation happened and it’s known that happens many times in places where renovations have taken place; it tends to stir the pot. As someone who years ago experienced the rattling of closed store gates there myself, I have to admit, that mall can be one creepy place.
Dr. Francis Rogers in front of his home, depicting carriage life downtown on the corners of Cottage & Atlantic Streets.
(Photo credit: Stamford History Center)
Cove Island Park: Originally called “Bishop’s Cove” this is quite simply my favorite spot in Stamford. If you follow WOTM on Instagram and go through the pics, you will find dozens taken down there. But like all of Stamford, it’s roots can be traced back for hundreds of years. The island and the surrounding water, including Holly Pond has gone through several incarnations. One of which was the now legendary, Cove Mills. The mills along the water there began in 1792 as a tidewater gristmill. They evolved over the years changing with the times and growing to its peak in 1890 when it grew to 70 acres with 500 employees and became a textile dye company. On February 19, 1919, a great fire took out the entire factory after a small fire started in the acid storage room. The irony of this was the fact that they claimed that the 25 building complex was ‘fireproof’. It was said that 100 employees were still inside the building when the fire took place. Now having stated that, it does not say if they got out or became casualties of this tragedy. You can still see remnants of the factory today if you look carefully. The old ice house is near the playground. There are bricks that can be found in the dirt and of course there is the iconic old bridge foundation as you come in from the parking lot. There is also incredibly large, rusted pipe segments that become visible at low tide and have become a reminder of how massive the structure once was. It is said that to this day, there are reports that the smell of smoke from the fire with a distinct scent can still come to life now and then. There have also been shadow figures seen walking around the park grounds and beach area. Are these folks who perished in the fire? Maybe. But again, so much history has happened there, anything is possible.
Large pipe structure seen at low tide at Cove.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these new Twisted Tales of Stamford. Honestly, this is just the tip of the iceberg! There are so many more to tell and my goal is to be able to bring them all to life for you in one way or another.
I would very much like thank all of you who sent me your stories and requests and allowed me to interview you. This has been a long time coming and I’m so grateful for the outpouring of support this idea has gotten.
If you like this piece and know of more stories of Stamford you’d like to see in a future piece, please feel free to let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Twisted Tales
Connecting the past with the present is so important; and the past, needs to be remembered.
Keep Halloween Local Stamford!
Dedicated to Dantown
(photo courtesy of Tom Ryan and Stamford History Center)
#wotm #keepitlocal #knowwheretogo
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