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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! 

~~~

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

 

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.

~~~

 

#wotm #keepitlocal #knowwheretogo #learnwhereyoulive

Fall Festival + Pop-Up Shop Bonus!!!

Hi guys, long time no post, eh? Well I’m here with something special to tell you today…there’s a new pop-up shop coming to Stamford and it’s coming just in time for holiday shopping!!

Coinciding with the annual Fall Festival at Designs by Lee, the new shop, Handmade at Designs by Lee will be opening up on Sunday, October 14th and running weekends through the holidays.

The Festival is a great family friendly event taking place two Sundays  October 14th & 21st and runs from 12pm-4pm. There will be hayrides to the pumpkin patch, pumpkin painting, face painting, bounce house, entertainment, food trucks and more! (See link below article for more info.)

(The stage is set!)

The shop is the vision of Drinkable Arts Connecticut (and semi-newbie to Stamford), Heather Patterson.

An artist herself, Heather has a history of gathering creative types together to form such ideas as the music and crafts festival that ran at the Playland boardwalk. When she came here to our fair city, she realized (as many of us living here do) that there really is not a lot of options for local crafters and artists to sell their wares.

The two local crafts fests we have here: Arts and Crafts on Bedford and the Harbor Point Crafts Festival, while excellent, are only a weekend a piece out of a whole year and frankly from the crafter point of view, pretty pricey to get into unless you do your work on a larger scale. There are a couple of galleries of course, but the competition is fierce. For others, we end up looking for smaller shows at schools, churches, wherever we can to sell our handcrafted items. Of course the other alternative is online, but especially at this time of the year, we like to get our pieces out there for folks to see in person.

(Wood, glass, fabric…great mix of handcrafted goodies!)

Heather and I met through WOTM. I was promoting her Drinkable Arts (DA) gigs around Stamford (link will be below for you to check out) and she was helping spread the word about WOTM for me. Needless to say, we were a good fit and soon became online friends. That’s when she found out that I also create jewelry on the side. I’d been upping the game on it lately as Itook a hiatus from WOTM and she helped me spread the word about that as well.

Then one day she messaged me and said that inspiration struck after doing a DA gig at Designs by Lee. She was going to go and ask if they would be interested in a pop-up shop for local crafts artists to run for the holiday season. In less than 24 hours, it went from an idea to a reality!

We now have a designated space, the artwork has been hung and there is a great variety of artists selling our one of a kind pieces for you to come and buy as gifts for family, friends or to just treat yourself.

There are plans being discussed to bring in some music on some days and getting ideas for more as the weeks go on and we get closer to the holidays so be sure to like the FB page below to keep up with updates and happenings.

 (Some of my own work available)

A few things to note:

  1. Remember, one of a kind MEANS one of a kind. What you see one day may not be there the next time you come to visit, so be sure to visit often!
  2. If you have kids with you, they are of course welcome, just be aware of the glass works that are out on the tables please.

I’m personally hoping that this becomes a stepping stone for more of these to open up in our area. It would also be great if folks from local shops, salons, etc come and see what we have to offer and maybe put some of our work in their retail establishments.

I’d also like to thank Heather for coming up with this idea and putting all the work into it that she has and will continue to do. It’s because of her this is all happening and I’m both grateful and excited to be a part of it!

Local work by local artists…isn’t that a great way to Keep it Local Stamford?!

~~~

Related links:

Our FB page, be sure to ‘like’ it for updates on happenings at the shop and more: Handmade at Designs by Lee

Designs by Lee Fall Festival Info

Happylife Studio & Drinkable Arts CT

Goblet Designs Jewelry (that’s me!)

 

Special Post from WOTM…

Hello WOTM followers, this is going to be a rather unusual post…

This week, due to health reasons, I’m going to be taking a little break from the weekly, weekend and nightly happenings. (note: some random posts may still pop up on social, but the big lists will be on hiatus) I understand the timing of this is strange after having such an amazing few weeks of gaining even more followers, but this is something that I need to do to heal up a bit.
When I started WOTM in 2011, I never dreamed it would become as big as it has and for that I am truly grateful. The past few weeks you may have noticed that I’ve been putting even more time into the site and social posts. There’s been a whole lot going on! (YAY!) But many do not know is that two years ago (next week) I became very ill and it has been life altering. No worries, I’m still here and still fighting, but every now and then, it takes a toll and sometimes I need to step back a bit. So this week will be a ‘pull back’ week. It will help as well as Fall/Winter time there is a whole lot going on, so taking this break will be a good time to regroup.
While I do this, I’ll also be reevaluating some of how WOTM is done. Currently we do not have any advertisers. This needs to end. Frankly, doing a site for almost 8 years without any revenue gets old and when it becomes an almost full-time venture, it’s really time to think things over. I’d love to keep this site up as a resource for Stamford folks to continue to come and find out all the exciting things that go on in our city, but it’s getting tougher to do this without ads. It’s especially tough now that I’m unable to attend any of the events that I’m helping to promote, so I hope you’ll understand my going public about this.
It’s a deep love of Stamford that started this site and we support it fully…it’s why we’re still here, and why we’d like to continue on. We hope you would like us to continue on as well!
I personally would like to thank all of you. For your support, your follows, your shares and your messages over the years. I keep saying how we wouldn’t be here without our followers and it really is the truth! It seems unreal to me that we’ve been doing this site for as long as we have and I thank each and every one of you.
If you are interested in advertising here on WOTM, please drop me a line at: onthemenuct@yahoo.com
One more thing…we will be adding product to our online WOTM shop so be on the lookout for the links! 🙂
Thanks for Keeping it Local Stamford!
#wotm #keeptilocal #knowwheretogo