Ghosts In Connecticut

(N.Y. _Sun_, Sept. 1, 1885)

"There is as much superstition in New-England to-day as there was in

those old times when they slashed Quakers and built bonfires for

witches." It was a New York man who gave expression to this rather

startling statement. He has been summering in Connecticut, and he avers

that his talk about native superstition is founded on close observation.

Perhaps it is; anyhow he regaled the _Times's_ correspondent with some

entertaining incidents which he claims establish the truth of his

somewhat astonishing theories.

Old Stratford, the whitewashed town between this place and Bridgeport,

made famous by mysterious "rappings" many years ago, and more recently

celebrated as the scene of poor Rose Clark Ambler's strange murder, is

much concerned over a house which the almost universal verdict

pronounces "haunted." The family of Elihu Osborn lives in this house,

and ghosts have been clambering through it lately in a wonderfully

promiscuous fashion. Two or three families were compelled to vacate the

premises before the Osborns, proud and skeptical, took possession of

them. Now the Osborns are hunting for a new home. Children of the family

have been awakened at midnight by visitors which persisted in shaking

them out of bed; Mrs. Osborn has been confronted with ghostly

spectacles, and through the halls and vacant rooms strange footsteps are

frequently heard when all the family are trying to sleep; sounds loud

enough to arouse every member of the household. Then the manifestations

sometimes change to moanings and groanings sufficiently vehement and

pitiful to distract all who hear them. Once upon a time, perhaps a dozen

years ago, Jonathan Riggs lived in this house, and as the local gossips

assert, Riggs caused the death of his wife by his brutal conduct and

then swallowed poison to end his own life. The anniversary of the

murderous month in the Riggs family has arrived and the manifestations

are so frequent and so lively that "the like has never been seen

before," as is affirmed by a veteran Stratford citizen. There is no

shadow of doubt in Stratford that the spirits of the Riggses are spryly

cavorting around their former abode.

Over at the Thimble Islands, off Stony Creek, is an acre or two of soil

piled high on a lot of rocks. The natives call it Frisbie Island. Not

more than a hundred yards off shore it contains a big bleak looking

house which was built about twenty years ago to serve as a Summer hotel

when Connecticut capitalists were deep in schemes to tempt New Yorkers

to this part of the Sound shore to spend their Summers. New Yorkers

declined to be tempted, and the old house is rapidly approaching decay.

It has recently assumed a peculiar interest for the residents of Stony

Creek. Midnight lights have suddenly appeared in all its windows at

frequent intervals, fitfully flashing up and down like the blaze in the

Long Island lighthouses. Ghosts! This is the universal verdict. Nobody

disputes it. Once or twice a hardy crew of local sailors have

volunteered to go out and investigate the mystery, but when the time for

the test has arrived, there somehow have always been reasons for

postponing the excursion. Cynical people profess to believe that

practical jokers are at the root of the manifestations, but such a

profane view is not widely entertained among the good people who have

their homes at Stony Creek.

Over near Middletown is a farmer named Edgar G. Stokes, a gentleman who

is said to have graduated with honor in a New England college more than

a quarter of a century ago. He enjoys, perhaps, the most notable bit of

superstition to be found anywhere in this country, in or out of

Connecticut. He owns the farm on which he lives, and it is valuable; not

quite so valuable though as it once was, for Mr. Stokes's eccentric

disposition has somewhat changed the usual tactics that farmers pursue

when they own fertile acres. The average man clears his soil of stones;

Mr. Stokes has been piling rocks all over his land. Little by little the

weakness--or philosophy--has grown upon him; and not only from every

part of Middlesex County, but from every part of this State he has been

accumulating wagonloads of pebbles and rocks. He seeks for no peculiar

stone either in shape, color, or quality. If they are stones that is

sufficient. And his theory is that stones have souls--souls, too, that

are not so sordid and earthly as the souls that animate humanity. They

are souls purified and exalted. In the rocks are the spirits of the

greatest men who have lived in past ages, developed by some divinity

until they have become worthy of their new abode. Napoleon Bonaparte's

soul inhabits a stone, so does Hannibal's, so does Caesar's, but poor

plebeian John Smith and William Jenkins, they never attained such


Farmer Stokes has dumped his rocks with more or less reverence all along

his fields, and this by one name and that by another he knows and hails

them all. A choice galaxy of the distinguished lights of the old days

are in his possession, and just between the burly bits of granite at

the very threshold of his home is a smooth-faced crystal from the Rocky

Mountains. This stone has no soul yet. The rough, jagged rock on its

left is George Washington. The granite spar on the right is glorified

with the spirit of good Queen Bess. The smooth-faced crystal one of

these days is to know the bliss of swallowing up the spirit of good

Farmer Edgar Garton Stokes. It was not until recently that mystified

neighbors obtained the secret of the vast accumulation of rough stones

on the Stokes farm. Mr. Stokes has a family. They all seem to be

intelligent, practical business people. There may be a will contested in

Middletown one of these days.

Footnote: Gisli Olafsson facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail