HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — On Oct. 15, 1872, 48-year-old Mary Hart collapsed at noon in her New Haven home and died exactly 12 hours later, at midnight. She was buried in the city's Evergreen Cemetery.
The next night her aunt had a vivid dream that Mary had been buried alive. The coffin was dug up and reopened. The corpse's fingernails were bloody and the inside of the coffin was shredded from Mary's trying to scratch her way out.
At least that's the legend. There are others: That she wanders the neighborhood around the cemetery at night, that she is a witch and that a midnight visit to her grave will doom the visitor to a horrible death.
Maybe they're all true. Hart's pink granite gravestone reads, "The people shall be troubled at midnight and pass away." Spooky.
Evergreen is still an operating cemetery, all 85 acres open to mourners from dawn to dusk. People are discouraged from wandering around in the dark. But that restriction hasn't stopped "Midnight Mary" from wandering through the imaginations of ghost-hunters when the witching hour approaches. It hasn't stopped visitors, either, who want to see if Evergreen's resident ghost makes an appearance at midnight.
The season of Halloween is prime ghost-hunting time, when spook seekers head to Connecticut places rumored to be haunted. Graveyards, which would seem haunted by definition, are popular destinations, and a few in the state are legendary for their eerie atmospheres and ghost sightings. But beware before venturing out: Some of these spots are closed after dark, and at least one is on private property.
Evergreen general manager Dale Fiore isn't a superstitious man, but even he had a Mary experience one blustery night years ago.
"An alarm was going off one winter night. ... I went by the garage, the crematory office. There was no police presence. That was strange. The clock on my radio said 11:59. I heard a sound. I said, 'Let me get the hell out of here.' A branch fell near my car. I hit the gas. My wheels were spinning on the ice. I got out of the gate exactly at midnight." The gate he drove out of was on Winthrop Avenue, near Mary's grave.
The cemetery is on Ella Grasso Boulevard, near Exit 45 off I-95. Mary's grave is in the back, in the historic section of the cemetery, near the Winthrop Avenue fence. People who visit the graveyard during the day can get a map. Those who skulk about at night are on their own.
Little Peoples Village is a crumbling, vandalized collection of little buildings just over the Middlebury town line in Waterbury. Local fright lore tells a variety of crazy stories: an unbalanced man built tiny dwellings to house the tiny voices in his head, a woman who saw fairies demanded that they be housed, and other spooky urban legends.
Middlebury Municipal Historian Robert Rafford says the site's real story is "much more mundane than folklore would have us believe." Little Peoples Village was built in the 1930s by a bored gas-station owner on Middlebury Road, he says. That road, which used to be one of the major roads between Waterbury and Middlebury, was bypassed starting in 1928 by the construction of other, busier roads. With all the traffic he used to depend upon diverted away from his station, he had little else to do but build a tiny village - houses, churches, a lighthouse, some with electric lighting -- complete with landscaping.
During World War II, our little home builder abandoned the village and his forsaken gas station because he got a better job. As the tiny village fell into disrepair and the locals forgot about the gas-station man and his quirky hobby, stories of hauntings and spooky auras became commonplace. "Over the years ... fantasies about the village have become magnified, and, who knows, perhaps there is some truth to its haunting," Rafford says.
The land is privately owned. Those who visit the site are trespassing, and Rafford said the owner cites safety concerns.
Information from: Hartford Courant, http://www.courant.com