The Oldest Ghost Town in America
Blood Spilled is Forever in Deerfield Mass
By Jamie Kimmel
Massachusetts, the birthplace of America, is home to some of the most fascinating haunts in the world. Colonial ghosts still watch over their ancient inns in Concord and Charlemont. A railroad tunnel under the Mohawk Trail is doomed by the spirits of those who perished while digging it. The unearthly shrieks of a banshee in Marblehead chills the very marrow of those who must endure its curse. And phantom trawlers ply the waters near Gloucester. You will also experience tales of reincarnated souls, haunted lighthouses, mythical creatures, and remains of ancient civilizations.
Investigations into haunted mansions and taverns reveal that the people of the past still reside with those of the present. Glowing gravestones, witches, ghost towns and haunted quarries are among the encounters that will bring you to the edge of alarm. Forty-one towns and cities hold legends and mysteries that stretch beyond the imagination into the chilling realm of the macabre. Follow, if you dare. Haunted Massachusetts provides a wealth of information on the state's scariest sites.
Excerpt from the book
Historic Deerfield sits in the Northwestern portion of Massachusetts. The little village is literally a museum of American history. Main Street is lined with colonial-era houses where visitors can spend days rambling through the tours and antiques that are available in this quaint little hamlet. Even most of them are born of tragic incidents that took place in the taming of our country during the early pioneer days.
Fear of Indian attacks during the French and Indian Wars caused British settlers to band together and form close knit settlements. This “safety in numbers” was effective in many cases. The early dawn hours of February 29, 1704, proved little use of that theory as three hundred Abenaki and Kanien ‘kenaka (Mohawk) warriors led by some fifty French military officers raided the little hamlet of Deerfield. Forty-eight villagers were brutally slaughtered, buildings were burned, and one hundred and eleven survivors were forced to march three hundred miles north into Canada.
The Reverend John Williams was one of the survivors forced to make the winter march. Three Indians rushed into his bedroom during the dawn hours and attacked him. He was able to grab his pistol but it misfired and he was taken captive. Had the pistol gone off, the remaining two Indians would have surely killed him. He not only made it through the walk to Canada, he returned two years later to Deerfield when Governor Dudley in Boston on November 21, 1706, including two of his children. In his book, The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion (published in 1707), he depicts the horrors of those who were dispatched mercilessly for lagging behind or becoming a burden due to illness and hunger.
One of those who was killed early in the trek was his wife, Eunice Williams, who had just given birth and was still recovering from her ordeal. As she began to show signs of failing health she knew her fate was sealed.
When she fell while wading across the Deerfield River, an Indian finished her off with a single swing of his tomahawk. A bridge now sits over the river in the spot where she died. It is named after her and has a plaque on it commemorating the tragic event. This tribulation has her left her spirit to roam the area of the viaduct ever since. Her ghost is frequently seen standing near the bank of the river looking out at the road. Many have seen her on the bridge as they attempted to cross the narrow covered span. She is also seen in the water by passing motorists who sometimes stop and ask if she is all right.
You can imagine the look on their faces as she looks up and vanishes in front of them. A fisherman once got the scare of his life when he noticed a woman standing near the opposite bank of the river as he walked by the bridge to cast his line into the water. He then noticed she was gone and in an instant, she was right next to him. The startled angler jumped but then noticed something very eerie about the woman. She was almost transparent. Trying to catch his breath, he went to run but she faded away in the morning mist right in front of him.
The covered bridge mysteriously burned in 1969 but was rebuilt in 1972 into the ninety-five foot long, thirteen and one half foot Howe truss overpass that extends over the site where Eunice William’s spirit is to forever roam looking for redemption for her untimely death.
Another spot that is haunted is the Old Deerfield Burying Ground itself. During the raid, the French and Indians killed two of John William’s children and a housemaid that was fleeing through a hidden tunnel that ran from the house to the Deerfield River. The pregnant woman was scalped and hacked to death with a tomahawk. Her presence is seen and heard every leap year on February 29th as the sounds of her mourning are said to emanate from the old cemetery where she is buried.
The Hinsdale-Anna Williams House is another site of a reputed ghost. People who visit the house-turned-museum have seen the ghost of a woman in colonial attire wisp by doors and windows while touring the building when no one else is present in the rooms.
As for John Williams, he married a cousin of his wife, Abigail Allen, and had five more children. He died on June 11, 1729 at the age of sixty-five. In a strange epilogue of the Williams story, his daughter, Eunice, who was taken in the raid when she was seven, stayed behind and became an Indian herself. She conformed to full Indian dress and customs. She married a Mohawk named Aronson and changed her name to Kanenstehawi. She died in 1786 at the age of ninety, an Indian in custom and habit.
If the ghosts of Deerfield entice you to visit the historic rural community then you will want to stay at the Deerfield Inn. And, yes, the inn is also haunted. The inn opened in July of 1884. J. M. Bradley and his brother had another hotel in the center of the village but that burned down forcing them to relocate and start over.
George Arms, a local builder, helped expand the inn to the size of a hotel in 1885. It was the finest lodging in the area. Guests flocked to the inn by stagecoach, carriage, on foot, and horseback just to soak in the atmosphere of the hotel. Trolley lines leading right up to the front door were added and business was booming. In the 1920s, a double room could be secured for three dollars a night. That included running water.
Current innkeepers, Jane Howard and Karl Sabo realize times have changed since then but they still keep the in looking like it did when it first graced the landscape over one hundred and twenty years ago. They mix the old atmosphere and charm with more modern conveniences. That is why the ghosts of the inn probably linger as well.
The spirits are presumably those of John and Cora Carlisle who owned the inn just before his death in 1932. After John passed away, Cora held séances in room 148 in an effort to contact her deceased husband. She may have succeeded for that room is now the center of all spirit activity. Voices are heard coming from the room when it is empty and all the doors will not stay closed at once within the room. There was a fire in the room in 1979. A strange force that pushed them out of their bed, roused guests who were staying there at the time of the fire.
Some seem to think that the spirit of Eloise Southard, a former housekeeper of the hotel for many years, is responsible for the haunting of the Deerfield Inn. Either way, if you spend a night in Room 148 of the twenty-three room inn, be sure to listen carefully. It might be Cora still trying to conjure up her husband. Or, it might be Eloise trying to clean the room for the next guests that might also have an encounter with the ghosts of historic Deerfield.
Buy this book on Amazon. Haunted Massachusetts
Thomas D’Agostino has authored several books on the subject of the paranormal throughout New England including, Haunted Rhode Island, Haunted New Hampshire, Haunted Massachusetts, Pirate Ghosts and Phantom Ships, and Abandoned Villages and Ghost Towns of New England. Tom has been a paranormal investigator for over 29 years, having been on over 1,000 investigations, many written about in his books.
Jamie Kimmel is currently an anthropology major at UMass Amherst. As a very active member of the belly dance club and SPIRALS, she loves all things magickal and artistic. She writes about both of these things in more detail on her blog IamWiccanHearMeRoar.