Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Lady in Black - Fort Warren, Boston Harbor

In the waters of Boston Harbor, stands Georges Island.  This tiny patch of land is home to Fort Warren, long time protector of Boston since 1850.  It is no longer an active military installation, but legends of the past still linger.

Georges Island and Fort Warren in Boston Harbor
The Lady in Black is said to haunt the grounds of Fort Warren located on Georges Island in Boston Harbor

During the dark days of the American Civil War, a certain Confederate Army Lieutenant Andrew Lanier was captured at Roanoke Island and sent to Fort Warren to wait out the remaining days of the conflict. However, he got word to his wife that he was imprisoned there and his wife was determined to set him free. She headed to Boston and having cut her hair and disguised herself as a man, managed to sneak her way onto Georges Island and into the fortification. Brandishing a pistol, she found her way to her husband's prison cell.  As they attempted to leave through the fort's dark dungeons, legend has it that the commander of the fort got word of their escape and the fleeing couple were soon discovered. Colonel Dimick, commander of the fort, attempted to apprehend them, but Mrs. Lanier did not go to all that effort to get caught.  In the attempt to escape, she fired her old pistol at her Union pursuers and it exploded in her hand, the shards instantly killed her husband standing next to her.

Her husband gone, and having been captured, Mrs. Lanier was sentenced to hang for treason. When the time came for her to meet the gallows, she requested that she be allowed to dress like the lady she was. Having had no woman's clothing of her own, the troops at the garrison found some black robes for her to wear to be put to death in.

Guardhouse (left) and sentry box (right) of Fort Warren circa 1861 - photo found on Public Domain

Fort Warren was an active military installation up until the 1950s. Over the years, soldiers in the fort have claimed to have encounters with a ghostly figure of a woman, dressed in black.  She has been seen roaming about the passageways and parapet where she met her unsung end.  There are documented court martial cases where the soldiers have either deserted their post or fired there weapons at someone or something, claiming it was a female figure dressed in black who would not answer their calls.

Walls Ft warren
The parapet and parade grounds of Fort Warren  - photo credit By Fish Cop (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Location: 42°19'12.84'N 070°55'39.5"W
Latitude: 42.320233  Longitude: -70.927639


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Curse of Charles Island - Milford, Connecticut

Off the coast of Connecticut, there lies Charles Island which is the stuff that fairytales are made of. Native American curses, haunted by spirits, pirates, buried treasure, a pathway that only appears by day so you can walk to the island, but disappears at night, and not to leave out... ghosts!  Except it is not a fairytale, it is all very real.  

Charles Island off the coast of Connecticut has a history of curses, buried pirate treasure, and ghosts
Charles Island off the coast of Connecticut has a history of curses, buried pirate treasure, and ghosts.  Photo: the Wikipedia Commons

The island was acquired by the English in 1639 when they overran the Wepaowag Natives who inhabited the island.  Believing the island to be inhabited by spirits, the Wepoawag Chief cursed the English to be haunted by these entities so that they would not be able to inhabit the island, forever.  To this day, that curse holds true even after many attempts to settle it.

Charles Deal, the island's namesake, bought the island in 1657.  It was previously known as Milford Island.  Charles attempted to start a tobacco plantation on the small patch of land and it failed completely.  He ended up abandoning the island a short while later.  Around the year 1699, famed pirate Captain William Kidd sailed through Long Island Sound on his way to Boston.  It was rumored that he stopped at various islands along the way burying some of his treasure for safe keeping.  It is known that he stopped at Milford and some believe that Charles Island was one of his hiding places as Kidd knew of the curse of the island.  He was later arrested in Boston, never to return to claim his treasure.

It is thought that in 1721, a band of sailors had found Mexican ruler Guatmozin's hidden treasure.  Seeking a place to hide it, many believe they concealed the treasure somewhere on Charles Island.  That treasure too was lost as the sailors never returned for it.

1835, an attempt was made to establish a residence on the island by John Harris.  He died soon after and several people lived on the island in his home after that.  However, their stay was always short and they always found some reason to leave.

In 1850, it is believed that fortune hunters seeking William Kidd's lost treasure actually found something.  However, they claimed that as they were leaving the island, a skeleton like burning specter chased them off the island.

In 1852, the island was acquired by Elizur Pritchard who turned the old Harris home into a summer resort which was eventually known as the Ansantawae House. However, that only lasted for about fifteen years.  For a short while the island was purchased and used as a manufacturing facility for fertilizer made from fish. That too failed and the island sat vacant once again.

Charles Island near the Silver Sands State Park in Connecticut has a unique feature than other islands. At low tide, you can walk to it.  It has been known to trap many visitors who have to spend the night on the haunted and cursed island.
Charles Island near the Silver Sands State Park in Connecticut has a unique feature than other islands. At low tide, you can walk to it.  It has been known to trap many visitors who have to spend the night on the haunted and cursed island.  Photo: the Wikipedia Commons

Around 1930 a group of monks founded the Aquinas Retreat, building a complex of buildings, pathways and shrines throughout the island.  Then towards the end of the decade, the retreat was abandoned.  There definitely seems to be something strange at work here on this island preventing people from inhabiting it. 

Many visitors to the island have reported seeing and hearing strange things while there. Others have visited the island never to return.  If you walk to the island by day over the sand bar land bridge, you just may be trapped there overnight when the high tides comes in.  They say the current over the land bridge at high tide is wicked as well as the currents and surf surrounding the island.  Many lives have been claimed by the island's waters, some bodies never to be found again. 

Today, the island is just off shore from Silver Sands State Park. The only thing that remains of human habitation on the island today are the ruins of the old buildings. There are those who have claimed to hear the sounds of people and moans emanating from the trees and abandoned buildings on Charles Island.  Some have seen eerie lights moving about the island, even in the daylight.  And then there are those who claim they have outright seen human apparitions.  Most say these spirits were dressed in centuries old clothing.  Perhaps the ghosts of those the island has claimed have joined the ancient spirits in upholding the Curse of Charles Island.


Latitude 41.192043  Longitude -73.056486

Silver Sands State Park
41.198416 -73.066190

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Ghosts of the Night Express Train - Hartford, Vermont

On the early morning of February 5, 1887, a Montreal bound Central Railroad train No. 50 known as the "Night Express" was speeding along attempting to make time because it was running late. At some point near Hartford, Vermont as it neared a large wooden railroad bridge, the last sleeper car on the train jumped the track, unknown to anyone on board as the express sped along through the night.  The Night Express crossed the Woodstock Bridge as it was known at the time, and a disaster was about to unfold.

The charred remains of the Woodstock Bridge right after the Night Express train crash of 1887.  Photo courtesy:

As the express steam engine rolled over the bridge and when the last car on the train which had become dislodged from the rail hit the bridge, it began sliding off.  One of the conductors on the train felt that something was not right and signaled the engineer to stop.  Realizing what was happening, the engineer accelerated the train in attempt to get as many cars as possible off of the bridge.  In the end, the derailed car had pulled two other coaches with it as it plunged over the side of the bridge into the icy river below.  Not completely submerged, the smashed rail cars, heated by wood burning stoves and lit by oil lamps, burst into flames immediately setting the wooden bridge on fire in the process.  The survivors worked to save as many as possible, but in the end, twenty-four passengers and five train crewmen were killed either in the crash or by the fire that followed.  Legend has it that a little boy was among the surviving passengers, however, he had watched in horror as one of his relatives died in the flames, helpless to save them.

A new bridge made of steel was constructed on the site of the disaster that same year to span the White River.  However, the original bridge pilings were used so part of the original bridge remained.  Over the years many folks traveling by train over the bridge and by foot along either side of the White River, have seen what appeared to be young boy standing in the water beneath the bridge trusses.  Some say that upon closer inspection, the figure was actually hovering above the river waters only to disappear completely! In most cases, folks report him to be wearing clothing from the late 1800s. Many feel that this is the spirit of the boy who watched his family member die in the railroad bridge disaster of 1887.  The boy seems to linger in the spot perhaps hoping for another chance to save those he loved from the flames. There are some who claim that they have also seen other figures standing around in that same spot who are also dressed in 19th century clothing.  Perhaps these are a few of the victims who perished that terrible night.

An aerial view of the former (Woodstock) rail bridge at Hartford, Vermont as it stands today.

A railroad bridge still stands in that very spot and can be found near the Savage Cemetery, Hartford, VT 05001, just south on Rt 14.  Latitude: 43.682044  Longitude: -72.394966