Tag Archives: halloween

Legends and Lore of Stamford

Stamford, CT. Founded in 1641 this city is worthy of the legends that came from its historic past. Like most stories, they were born out of fact and have only grown into folklore as the years have rolled by. Whether they lead to hauntings or spooktacular events is clearly beside the point. It’s the story that gets me interested in learning the history behind the legend and I hope that it will for you as well!

I’ve done two of these “twisted tales” pieces in the past and have had so much fun with them, I wanted to do more! This year proved to be difficult in that I had accumulated so many different stories that I had a hard time trying to narrow down what I would actually post here and what I would save for another time. I wanted to not only tell the stories, but try to add some life back into them as well. We need to remember our past so we can preserve what’s left of it and this is one way I’m hoping, we can do just that.

Just as I’ve said in previous posts, these are but snippets. Edited down from a tremendous amount of hours of research that will hopefully get you excited to Learn Where You Live!

So let’s get to it…Happy Halloween Stamford!!!

-Thomas Reed-

1776 – Age 78

Though Death be potent as a king

And wounds with his envenomed sting

Yet Faith fresh vigor will impart

To rob the tyrant of his dart.

Stamford Harbor Ledge Lighthouse: There is something about this lighthouse that just speaks to me. It has an air of mystery and solitude to it that is quite different from other lighthouses. While Stamford Harbor has seen a great deal pass over its waters through the years, from Privateers in the Revolutionary War to ships built for military use in our now lost boatyard, it wasn’t until February 10, 1882 that our Harbor was graced with its own lighthouse. The Stamford Harbor Ledge Lighthouse was commissioned for $30,000 in 1881…put into service on Chatham Rocks in 1882…and decommissioned in 1985 just over 100 years later. In its time there were 22 light keepers and two assistants. 

One of the 22, Keeper John J Cook (k.1907-1909) loved spending Christmas at the light saying, “what more soul-stirring music could there be than that of wind and wave as they whistle and roar or moan and swish past our little home?”

As is almost a tradition of old lighthouses, the Stamford Ledge is said to be haunted by one of the old keepers. Which exact one is a mystery, but I would like to offer my  own theory. There are stories of Keeper Raymond F Bliven (k.1930-31) who never made it back to the lighthouse one night after having dinner with a friend on shore. Though separated from his wife, the keeper left the mainland for the lighthouse on August 13, 1931 to go back on duty and was found two days later by the crew of The Spruce about ¼ mile away from the lighthouse but ½ mile away from where his boat was found. His body was badly bruised including a major head injury. 

There are two versions of this story that I was able to find: 1) that it was ruled an accidental drowning after slipping off the ladder to the lighthouse and back into the boat which then capsized or 2) that it was foul play as speculated by the head trauma. Bliven was an accomplished swimmer so it was never thought that his swimming abilities could be at fault for his drowning.

However he passed, it makes it all the more curious if he is in fact the lost soul who haunts the house now? That he felt so compelled to make sure he finished his duty that he never left the area? If it is Keeper Bliven, I’m sure he, like many of us are hoping that the lighthouse gets a much needed face lift and is saved for all to see it light up our harbor once again!

-Thankful Weed-

1757-Age 15

Her blooming youth and lovely form

Could not impede the fateful storm.

The Forgotten: Deep in a wooded area of North a Stamford there lies a place, approximately 225ft by 225ft that is thought to house HUNDREDS of former Stamford residents. Known by several names in the town’s death records: Town Farm Cemetery, Town Poor Farm, Sunset Home Cemetery and Sunset Farm. But to many who live in the city, it is simply…Potter’s Field.

While the dedication stone stated it dates from 1870-1970, that is the only marker that indicates just what lies behind it, or rather, who lies behind it. 

Having stumbled upon this sacred place with a friend a number of years ago, I had no idea it was there. It lies in the woods at the edge of Bartlett Arboretum and when we were there it was overgrown with brush, trees and the like. Deciding to look further, it wasn’t until I tripped on one of the numbered marker stones that it truly hit us what this place was. Sure dedication plaques are everywhere, but when you begin to see the markers and then more, and then take note of their rising numbers well, it is both eerie and incredibly sad at the same time. The woods suddenly took on a heavy air quality, there was incredible stillness and yet you could hear every leaf that fell around us. We tried to clear as many markers we could of debris but had no idea just how large the area was and much of it (again at the time) was inaccessible.

I was so moved by this place I wanted to learn more. I wanted to know their names and give them some dignity and what I’ve learned is tragic. While there are records with some named individuals, right now, there are no complete records of all of the burials in this lot. It is also believed that some were piled on top of one another and just wrapped in a cloth or blanket as was the case with many infant deaths of the times.

When going through the causes of death of those recorded, you will find victims of accidents, “exhaustion” (perhaps an early name for heart ailments?), influenza and even a murder or two. Some were folks who had no family to care for them and no money for a proper burial and so would end up in the Field. And of course the saddest of them all, the little ones. So many babies and children now lost under the numbers.

An unsolved murder from 1976 also plagues the land adding to its mystery and unsettled feeling in those deeply rooted vines. And most unfortunate, many of the markers are now lost due to those looking for souvenirs found in the woods by those not understanding what it was that they took.

Are these lands haunted by those looking for recognition? Are their souls resting or waiting for their time to sleep in peace? All I can say is that while I was there, there was an uneasiness to the air, a silent scream of many underneath my feet that seemed to pierce the quiet air with “please don’t forget us.”

During my research for this piece I was so happy to find that this year, some folks began a project to bring closure to the lost and discarded souls. To clean up the area and give them proper stones and put names to all the numbers…as much as is humanly possible. How wonderful it is that after all these years there are those who still care to help those they never even knew?

Maybe when it has been completed, those ‘forgotten’ can finally rest easy knowing that they are now being remembered.

Personal Photo

-Sarah M. Bishop – William H. Bishop-

1853 – Ages 33 & 42

Wrapt in the shades of death

No more that friendly face I see

Empty, ah empty every place

Once filled so well by thee

The Clawman of Stamford: On August 28, 1933, Army Air Corps Pilot Captain Ernest Emery Harmon took off from Washington D.C. headed for Long Island. Due to heavy fog in the area, he was set off course and wound up in coastal Connecticut over Stamford. He was last seen circling low over Turn of River area before the aircraft went down in a group of trees. Captain Harmon was thought to have been thrown from the plane as his body was found ⅛ of a mile from the wreck which was about 300 ft from Long Ridge Road. Captain Harmon was 40 years old.

A seemingly straightforward obituary of a soldier, yes? An accomplished pilot who passed away too young due to the weather and instruments of the time. But the story takes on a stranger turn…

Just like in the movies, urban legends live and breathe and become great tales to tell at sleepover and around fire pits. And this one is no exception! Hooked yet? You will be!

For out of this plane crash was born the legend of…The Clawman. This story made its way to Stamford decades ago and from what I understand, the crash aspect was thought to be fiction. The story goes that a plane had crashed in the 1930’s and a possible survivor was never found. However there were rumors of sightings of a man walking along the streets in the area who had a makeshift hook for a hand who would go around and claw at doors at night. This story has a second version in that if young couples went up to the reservoir to make out, they were targets for the clawman. There were reports of the sound of scratching on car doors during make out sessions and one couple took off so quickly after hearing it that when they got home, they found a claw stuck in the door handle having ripped off the offending arm in their haste!

Being me, I had to look this up and that was when I found the actual crash story. The true urban legend born out of a factual story is itself part of the folklore that makes us who we are.

Now I’m not saying there is or isn’t a Clawman…who am I to judge? But maybe, just maybe the next time you decide to go up towards the reservoir or the dark North Stamford roads at night for a drive with your best girl, you stop. Turn around. And  maybe hit a movie at the Avon or show at the Palace instead. Because they are not spooky places…or ARE they???

1950’s Postcard

Those are stories for another time kids! Thank you so much for reading and please see the links below for some extras you might be interested in.

Special note: The epitaphs I’ve included between stories are genuine poems taken off of the stones of those buried here in a few of Stamford’s 47 cemeteries!

My thanks especially to the residents of Stamford who once again gave me enough story ideas to last through the next decade and to Ignacio Laguarda for including WOTM in his own Halloween piece for CT Insider!

Until next year…Keep it Spooky Stamford! 

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Bonus Story Links for you:

Twisted Tales of Stamford (WOTM Halloween 2018)

The Stranger Side of Stamford (WOTM first in series 2015)

Unearthing the Mysteries at the Hoyt-Barnum House  (WOTM archaeological dig of the oldest house in Stamford 2016)

Want to learn more? Need a gift idea? Help support WOTM?

Clark’s Hill Cat

Stamford Sports (Images of Sports)

Stamford ’76: A True Story of Murder, Corruption, Race, and Feminism in the 1970s (referred to in Potter’s Field segment above)

A Maritime History of the Stamford Waterfront: Cove Island, Shippan Point and the Stamford Harbor Shoreline (American Chronicles)

Story of the Early Settlers of Stamford, Connecticut, 1641-1700, including Genealogies of Principal Families

#wotm #keepitlocal #learnwhereyoulive #halloween2019

#stamfordct #stamfordlighthouse #pottersfield #clawman

Hauntings and History at Hoyt-Barnum is Back!

Get in the Halloween Spirit and “Learn Where You Live” Stamford by heading to the Hoyt-Barnum House for the annual  Hauntings and History event!

Tonight and tomorrow with three opportunities each evening, you can learn more about the house, Stamford’s past and the former residence who may still linger within its walls. (Man I love this stuff!)

Space is limited, so head to the Stamford History Center’s site for tickets and info: http://stamfordhistory.org/event/hauntings-and-history-at-hoyt-barnum/

Keep it Spooky a Stamford!

#wotm #keepitlocal #learnwhereyoulive

#stamfordct #stamfordhistory #hauntings

 

Twisted Tales of Stamford

“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…

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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)

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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)

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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.

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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)

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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.

(Personal photo.)

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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: onthmenuct@yahoo.com  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)

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#wotm #keepitlocal #knowwheretogo

#twistedtales #learnwhereyoulive

#stamfordhistory #happyhalloween

 

Let’s Get Spooky Stamford!

It’s that glorious time of the year again Stamford when ones thoughts go to ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night. Oh and Pumpkin Spice Lattes too!

No? Just me? I didn’t think so! Now, let me get to it…

If you follow WOTM, especially on social, you know that I have a deep love for the history of this city. I’ve written pieces on it here for the site and have posted MANY Stamford history trivia bits as well as worked with the Stamford History Center on occasion. (Check out: Unearthing the Mysteries of the Hoyt-Barnum House)

A few years ago I wrote a story for WOTM called, The Stranger Side of Stamford. I collected some stories that links the history of the city and those who came before us with tales of the strange, the creepy and the ones who still haunt us now.

So what’s with the post here? Well I’m here to put out a call to Stamford folks far and wide for stories of the paranormal around our fair city. What have you heard? Are there legends you know of that can be told around firepits? Do you have an experience you’d like to share???

I’d like to do a compilation story or two that do another tie in with the history. I already have a few more lined up for a new piece, but let’s face it, personal stories make the paranormal that much more interesting.

Email me your stories at: onthemenuct@yahoo.com Subject: “Stamford Ghosts” by Monday 10/22 and I may add your story to the future piece(s). Make sure to let me know if you’d like to remain anonymous;I was planning to just post initials to hide identities but I can certainly keep them off the stories if you would like.

Something of note: if you are looking to get in the Halloween spirit, the Stamford History Center is once again doing their Hauntings & History at Hoyt-Barnum nights on Oct. 25th & 26th. (Click link for info)

So what do you Say Stamford? We have a whole lot of history here and as New England author Jeff Belanger once said: Ghosts are history demanding to be remembered.

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#wotm #keepitlocal #knowwheretogo #learnwhereyoulive

Experience Colonial Stamford at the Hoyt-Barnum House!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tom Zoubek, 203-246-6941

EXPERIENCE COLONIAL STAMFORD AT THE HOYT-BARNUM HOUSE

The Stamford History Center invites everyone to come and visit Stamford’s oldest dwelling, the Hoyt-Barnum House. Recently restored in its new location, the siding on the house now brings us back in time to how it originally looked when it was built in 1699.

While many may be familiar with the red paint that graced the house after a 1960s restoration, the History Center did tremendous research and work in making sure the house would look very much as it did when it was originally constructed. Of course, any home that survives for more than 300 years will experience cosmetic and structural changes influenced by fashion and maintenance needs.

When you take a tour of the house, you will get to view rarely seen artifacts plus 18th and 19th century pieces of furniture from the Center’s vast collection. You’ll see your old favorites as well as items that can now be touched and handled. An advantage of taking the self-guided audio tour is that you can control just how much or how little detail you’d like to learn about the property. And don’t miss out on the introductory video which was produced by Stamford’s own David Klein of DEK Creative (with help from CT Humanities Council funding). Such a proud collective of Stamford folks helping to preserve Stamford’s history!

Tour days and times for the Hoyt-Barnum House, now located at the Stamford History Center at 1508 High Ridge Road, are Thursdays and Fridays at 12:30pm, 1:30pm & 2:30pm and Saturdays at 11am, 12pm, 1:30pm & 2:30pm. Be sure to visit: http://stamfordhistory.org for more details.

SHC is also happy to announce the return of “Tales of Horror and Death” just in time for Halloween! Taking place on October 26th and 27th, there will be 3 tours each evening at 7pm, 8pm and 9pm. Come and hear interpreters tell the tales of what horrors our City’s founders faced in the 17th & 18th centuries in their day to day lives. You will also hear about the story of Stamford “witch” Elizabeth Clawson, who was the subject of Stamford’s own Witch Trials in 1692!

Space is limited so get your tickets early and please note, this graphic program is intended for ages 12 and up. Tickets are $15 a person and $10 for members. Please see the SHC website’s event calendar to reserve your place for this awesome spooky event.

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About the Stamford History Center

The Stamford History Center, the municipal historian of Stamford, is an educational and research institution whose primary functions are to collect, conserve, interpret, and share artifacts and information relating to greater Stamford, to engage citizens in the telling of their stories. The organization, located at 1508 High Ridge Road, is dedicated to preserving regional history and our varied cultural heritage. We provide opportunities for our community to understand and experience the past through our library, the presentation of exhibits and displays, lectures, demonstrations, special events, participatory programs, and tours of the unique Hoyt-Barnum House, built in 1699

For more information, call us at 203-329-1183, “Like” us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/StamfordHistoricalSociety or visit our website at www.stamfordhistory.org.

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#wotm #keepitlocal #stamfordhistorycenter #stamfordct #stamfordhistoricalsociety

#hoytbarnumhouse #halloween #colonialstamford #keepitspooky #learnwhereyoulive