Paranormal new england

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Institutional News, Usdan

Art New England featured Queer Paranormal (an exhibition concerning Shirley Jackson and The Haunting of Hill House), which was on display at Usdan Gallery and across Bennington's campus from October 29 to December 7, 2019.

Photo of a bundle of sage

Queer Paranormal is a Two Chairs project curated by Jillian Brodie, Cindy Smith, and Rachel Stevens, with Anne Thompson, director of Usdan Gallery. 

"In their exhibition Queer Paranormal (an exhibition concerning Shirley Jackson and The Haunting of Hill House), curatorial collective Two Chairs draw a parallel between the spirits that haunt Shirley Jackson’s famed novel and queerness—the unusual, the alternative, the strange," wrote Emily R. Bass in Art New England.

In Queer Paranormalthe implicit themes in Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House are made explicit. 

Art New England

"In their words, 'Asserting that the paranormal is queer opens up a range of possibilities in relation to its routine constituent—the normal.' Stating that the supernatural forces in Hill House are queer provides deeper insight into the role the paranormal plays in the book and in Jackson’s life."

Read more at Art New England


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As one of the oldest sections of the United States, it’s no surprise that New England has its fair share of ghost stories and haunted spots. History abounds in this region, and legends and tales of ghosts have sprung up from Connecticut to Vermont. 

Whether or not these tales are true….well that’s something you might have to decide for yourself. And if you’re brave enough, consider visiting one of these spooky haunted places in New England, whether at night or in the safety of daylight…

Danvers State Hospital – Danvers, MA

When you think of scary places to visit in New England, right away everyone thinks of Salem, MA. However one of the scariest places I have come across is in the neighboring town of Danvers: the Danvers State Hospital, which is also known as the Danvers State Insane Asylum. The hospital opened in 1878 with impressive Gothic architecture which is also chilling and eerie. From an aerial view the building is shaped like a bat with expanded wings. It was made up of more than one building which all were connected by creepy underground tunnels.

The hospital housed more patients than they should have causing poor treatment and overcrowding. The patients were not treated kindly – unfortunately they were exposed to inhumane treatments such as shock therapies, lobotomies, drugs and straitjackets. In fact experts call Danvers State Hospital the birthplace of the prefrontal lobotomy.

The hospital closed in 1985 and was left completely abandoned. People interested in the paranormal would try to enter the building but with no success. According to, “you may not see a patient’s ghost, but the building could manifest your inner fears, doubts and agony.”

Now you can live on this property if you are brave! In 2005 they renovated and tore down some of the dilapidated buildings constructing beautiful apartments and condos. That being said there are still graveyards for patients that passed away with no family or forgotten. if you walk down a hill you will come across many markers, most of them remain nameless.

Danvers State Hospital is an interesting place to visit and read about. I for one don’t know if could walk around there at night not feeling scared by so much haunting history.

-Contributed by Jessica Taylor, Your Dating Stylist

Stratford Shoal (Middle Ground) Lighthouse – CT

You knew there was bound to be at least one haunted lighthouse in New England. Turns out there are several, but this one is especially creepy. 

Known as Middle Ground lighthouse or Middleground Light, this 60-foot granite structure is set on a shoal in Long Island Sound. There are at least two creepy tales attached to this place. The first involves multiple suicide attempts by an assistant lighthouse keeper. The isolation of such a job took its toll on Julius Koster in 1905. After his attempts, he was taken to a sanitarium in New York, where he finally succeeded in killing himself just a few days later. Reports of chaos such as loud grinding and crashing noises, mysteriously slamming doors, and even pots of hot water being tossed onto the floor from the stove make some think that Koster’s spirit is still hanging around Middleground Light. 

The 2nd haunted tale connected with the lighthouse is about the wreck of the ship Trustful, which struck the shoal and sank, killing all onboard. Interestingly, this ship’s cargo was a load of church bells. Today, it is said that you can sometimes hear the sound of mufled church bells in the area when a storm is nigh.  

The Olson House – Cushing, ME


The state of Maine has an eerie feel about it especially in the small towns that dot the Midcoast around Penobscot Bay. The Olson House in Cushing, Maine is such a place. Originally built in the late 18th century, the colonial farmhouse became the home of Christina and Alvaro Olson in 1929.


From 1939 to 1968 the house was also a central theme in the works of American artist Andrew Wyeth, and whose poignant and haunting masterpiece Christina’s Worldwas an homage to his longtime friend Christina, who’d been paralyzed most of her life from a childhood illness.


The house is open to the public and a docent will guide you from room to room bringing to life the stories of the Olsons and their friendship with Wyeth. They’ve even reported hearing footsteps in the rooms above and doors being opened or closed late in the day. Many folks believe their spirits are still around and stay clear of the house once the sun sets.


Alvaro, Christina, and Wyeth are all buried in the family plot just down the hill. Look back toward the house and you can almost see Christina lying in the grass, immortalized forever on the canvas by Andrew Wyeth.


-Contributed by Lori Sorrentino, Travlinmad

Madame Sherri’s Castle –  Chesterfield, NH

In the woods of Chesterfield, NH stands a ghost from a by-gone era.  There, eccentric socialite Madame Antoinette Sherri built a mansion (her “Castle”) where she hosted grand parties during the 1920s.  This magnificent structure featured old-world stonework throughout.

Sadly, after years of neglect Madame Sherri’s castle was destroyed by a fire set by vandals.  All that remains today is the stone foundation and the elegant stone spiral staircase Madam Sherri would descent to greet her visitors.

Approaching the skeleton of the castle, you can’t help feeling the eeriness of the surroundings.  The still standing staircase dubbed “Stairway to Heaven” draws you in.  Many people who have climbed the staircase recall feelings of dread and there have been reports of seeing misty-human figures around the grounds of the castle.  Even skeptics like ourselves immediately felt that feeling of dread.  Only the bravest venture here after sundown.

Check out more haunted New Hampshire hikes!

-Contributed by Frank Parrott, NothingButNewEngland.

Emily’s Bridge – Stowe, VT

Stowe, Vermont is a popular tourist town, but one of its local covered bridges is a place fewer visitors dare to come.

This may look like an ordinary covered bridge, like the many hundreds of others seen all over New England, but a dark legend is attached to the Gold Brook Covered Bridge, most commonly known as “Emily’s Bridge.” 

A brokenhearted girl named Emily had planned to meet her lover at the bridge, where they would then run away together to elope. Apparently, the man never showed, and a heart-stricken Emily hanged herself from the rafters of the bridge.

Visitors today have reported scary happenings such as big, long scratches appearing on the outside of their vehicles after crossing the bridge. Even pedestrians crossing on foot have been said to experience scratches along their skin. 

The Chase House – Portsmouth, NH

The Chase House in Portsmouth, NH is one of the most haunted places in New Hampshire, and has a very creepy story. Tales state that a young girl hung herself years ago in this building, which was a former children’s home. It is said that she may appear late at night in the hallway. Other times, blood-chilling screams are heard coming from the room where she killed herself.

Judge Corwin House – Salem, MA

You can’t have a list of haunted spots in New England without including at least one from the dark town of Salem. While many spots might qualify, including many purportedly haunted hotels, one of the creepiest is the Judge Corwin House.

Also known as The Witch House, this spot, home of Judge Jonathan Corwin, is the only structure still standing in Salem that has direct ties to the Witchcraft Trials of 1692. It’s age may be one of the reasons it is so chilling, but it’s also likely because of Corwin’s role in the trials themselves: he oversaw the execution of 19 accused victims.

Aside from that connection, other tragedy occurred in this house. Corwin and his wife had 5 children, all of which died young. 

Paranormal experiences include visitors feeling cold spots in the house, ghostly touches on the skin, and even the occasional disembodied voice, including one which sounds like a little girl. 

See this and other haunted places in Salem on one of these many Salem ghost tours.

Colby Sawyer College – New London, NH

I went to Colby-Sawyer College in New London, NH which is known for having some haunted places around campus – Susan’s Swamp, the library, the cupola on Colgate Hall, etc.  

One in particular was McKean Hall which was my dorm for three years.  In McKean there was a dumb-waiter elevator for the cleaning lady to send supplies, vacuum, etc from floor to floor when she was cleaning.  It only ran with a key and when she wasn’t using it, it was always locked and off.  However, it would still run randomly in the middle of the night on it’s own.  One year my room was right next to it and it was always spooky to hear it run when no else in the building was awake.  

–Contributed by Sarah Pelletier from Birch Landing Home

Union Cemetery – Easton, CT

Cemeteries have always held a certain eerie fascination for many. This one, in Connecticut, may be creepier than most. It is frequently named one of the most haunted graveyards in America. 

A ghost known as the White Lady is the most often-reported spectral sighting. She may be wearing a wedding dress or white nightgown as she wanders between the gravestones. 

Other visitors have talked about a sensation of “being watched” with some seeing a pair of glowing red eyes gazing at them from a distance. 

There are many other paranormal goings-on in this cemetery. There has even been a book written about the graveyard by well-known demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren.

Battery Steele – Peakes Island, ME


On the southeastern side of Peaks Island sits Battery Steele Military Reserve, the largest gun battery ever built in the United States. The tomb-like structure was originally built in 1942 as part of a coastal defense system meant to defend the mainland against attack during WWII. Its concrete walls are 18 inches thick, blanking out all light and requiring a flashlight to explore the rooms jutting off to the sides of the two tunnels.


The cold, dark corridors are said to be haunted by former soldiers. Many of the island’s 858 permanent inhabitants have stories of ghostly encounters inside Battery Steele and the surrounding marshland.


Visitors have reported their cell phones freezing and batteries suddenly draining upon stepping inside the structure. Many also talk of piercing screams coming from inside the tunnels and visions of soldiers in uniform.


-Contributed by Jenn Lloyd, Sick Girl Travels

Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast – Fall River, MA

Borden House Fall River in 2008

“Lizzie Borden took an ax, And gave her mother forty whacks; When she saw what she had done,She gave her father forty-one.”


Growing up south of Boston in southeastern Massachusetts I heard this rhyme a lot. This was what Lizzie Borden, a young women who was accused of killing both her parents with an ax in 1892, was taunted with her entire life.


The house where Lizzie may or may not have killed her parents (she was never convicted) is in Fall River, Massachusetts. Now a Bed & Breakfast and Museum, it is said the house is haunted. 


Guests lucky enough to get reservations can sleep in John V. Morse room, where Lizzie‘s mother was murdered. Downstairs visitors can see the couch where her father died. Overnight guests get an extensive tour that lasts about an hour and half of the house, full of history and the murder case. This tour includes the basement too!


Can’t get an overnight reservation? No worries, they offer 50 minute tours to non-guests as well. When your tour is over decide for yourself if Lizzie was guilty or not.


-Contributed by Retha Charette, The Roaming Nanny


Captain Lord Mansion – Kennebunkport, ME

I visited Captain Lord Mansion in Kennebunkport Maine for my husbands birthday.

It was a complete surprise and I wanted take him there for the historic antique decor. It was regal, gorgeous and the hotel has won many awards.

They offered bikes for cycling around town and we took countless pictures. It was a picture perfect day until night time came and we both got an uncomfortable creepy vibe. We both couldn’t sleep and when I found the guest book filled with ghost stories. I needed out.

We actually left the hotel. We drove around town and watched the sunrise together. While nothing spooky happened directly, I think you know when something just doesn’t feel right.

-Contributed by Jordana Santos Wilson

PS: Apparently there is some spooky history in this place!

The Bennington Triangle – Bennington and Southwestern VT

Less of a haunted place and more of a mysterious one, the Bennington Triangle is an area in the southwestern corner of Vermont where many people have gone missing. You can read here about a few of these unexplained disappearances.

The term Bennington Triangle was coined by supernatural author Joseph A. Citro. The wilderness area, which comprises a vast area including the ghost town of Glastenbury.

Perhaps the most well-known disappearance in the Triangle is that of Paula Welden, a student at Bennington College. In December of 1946, the 18-year-old Weldon went off to hike a bit of the Long Trail near Glastenbury Mountain. Despite a huge search party, that was the last time she was seen and there are no traces as to what happened to her.

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Amy Hartle

Amy is the founder of New England with love. A proud Vermonter, she hopes to share her love of New England and help you find the best adventures in the region. Amy is also blogger/founder at Two Drifters, where she writes alongside her husband about romantic and couples travel, relationships, honeymoons, and more. When not working on websites, Amy is probably reading, cuddling with her husband and cats, & drinking a maple latte.

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Curious and macabre objects lie all around at the Paquachuck Inn, whispering of extraordinary times. The giant vertebra of a whale awaits on the veranda, a rusted harpoon is strung from the ceiling of the lounge and an oil painting of a mariner seeking rescue from the jaws of a shark crowns a fire that casts long, flickering shadows over the guests within. As a great storm whirls up from the Atlantic, drinks are poured and the tales begin to flow.

Once, magnificent ships were built in the harbour outside. They would venture to distant, mysterious lands such as Easter Island and the Antarctic, crewed by migrants from the Azores, freed slaves, Native Americans and direct descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers. Their voyages would last up to four years, hunting the whales whose oil would be used in lamps and industries now long forgotten.

In Westport Point village, southern Massachusetts, the Paquachuck Inn was originally a ship's chandler known as the Cory Store, built in 1827. 'When the demand for whale oil dried up around 1890, those who ran the store disappeared overnight,' says Brenda Figuerido, the owner of this gloriously characterful guesthouse. 'It sat empty until 1950. Locals can recall their childhood, entering the spooky old building to play and seeing a pot-bellied stove in the middle of this room with opium bottles scattered about. A few dared to try on the sailors' uniforms that had been left behind.'

Tonight's other guests are from nearby Rhode Island, enjoying their once-yearly visit to soak up the atmosphere and share ghost stories of their own. They speak of dogs circling an unseen presence in a bedroom, of chairs moving spontaneously, and of sensing the cold touch of a long-dead hand during that moment between deep sleep and awakening. Brenda remains detached from such excitable talk, only giving an inch to those eager to hear more as the final embers settle. 'At one time the land next to here was a farm for the poor,' she mentions, glancing at the window. 'Some say they still see people there.'

The whalers' shrine
Nearby New Bedford was once home to America's whaling industry and remains the country's busiest fishing port. Here, the families of sailors visit the eerie Seamen's Bethel to pray for those who face daily perils to keep their nation well fed.

The guardian of this chapel is Dermot Duggan, drawn back to New Bedford after a life spent travelling the world in the Marine Corps. Together we take in the view that would have inspired the bethel's most famous visitor, Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick. 'He would have sat on these pews and listened to the lesson from Jonah, given from a lofty pulpit that, as he wrote, "was in the likeness of a ship's bluff bows",' says Dermot.

For those in search of spirits that live on through the folklore they inspire, the Seamen's Bethel must rank as one of Massachusetts' most haunted locations. On the walls hang marble tablets that commemorate moments of great adventure and loss in the times of whaling. They tell of journeys to the South Seas and the frozen north, of 'worthy men' given up to whales, sharks and fever. A typical example records the fate of 'Capt WM Swain of the Christopher Mitchell of Nantucket', who 'after fastning to a whale, was carried overboard, and drowned'.

In 1841, Herman Melville set out to sea from the city on the whaling ship Acushnet, returning after an 18-month voyage to eventually write Moby Dick, the tale of Captain Ahab's obsessive search for the great white whale. Melville reflected on his time here: 'It needs scarcely to be told, with what feelings I regarded those marble tablets, and by the murky light of that darkened, doleful day read the fate of the whalemen who had gone before me.' He described the source of the riches that funded the opulent dwellings of New Bedford, 'these brave houses and flowery gardens that came from the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. One and all, they were harpooned and dragged up hither from the bottom of the sea.'

At home with Lizzie Borden
The ramshackle city of Fall River may well have dropped off the map, were it not for a 19th-century tale of jealousy and murder so famed that it gave birth to a nursery rhyme American schoolchildren still skip to in playgrounds today: 'Lizzie Borden took an axe/And gave her mother 40 whacks/When she saw what she had done/She gave her father 41.'

On 4 August 1892, Lizzie's father Andrew and stepmother Abby were murdered in their home by a hatchet-wielding assailant. The evidence mounted family crest of a lion wielding an axe and books among Lizzie's personal collection, including With Edged Tools and When Ghost Meets Ghost. Other members of today's tour have already shuffled off to the shop, where the souvenirs take a step beyond kitsch; on offer are mugs and a skateboard decorated with photos of Mr Borden's crumpled corpse.

A mischievous ghost
Cape Cod is like a fantasised view of New England, a peninsula covered in trees aflame with colour in the weeks leading up to Halloween, shading perfect lawns and whitewashed fences.

In the village of Barnstable, close to where the Pilgrim Fathers arrived from England in the Mayflower in 1620, the Beechwood Inn has a more inviting ghost story to tell.

'Several villagers can trace their ancestors to the pilgrims,' says Ken Traugot, a former banker who settled here with his wife Debra to raise their daughter, breed retrievers and run a guesthouse.

Some find it impossible to leave. 'Our guests kept saying they'd seen shimmering apparitions,' he says. 'I was gardening and saw a woman sitting on the love seat, then she was gone, then she was standing outside the parlour. A visitor from Augusta in Georgia asked, "Do you have ghosts here?" She'd seen exactly the same woman, in her late 70s with long, white hair and a large dress. 'At Barnstable House near here, there was a major fire. The firemen described seeing a woman drift in front of them. We believe she took flight and found shelter here; she's been here 40 years since.'

The Beechwood Inn was built in 1853, while its sprawling beech tree was planted seven years later by a sea captain who'd brought it from England. The Traugots chose to decorate their home in a style more or less authentic to its Victorian origins, all frills and outsized furniture. 'We believe that against Lizzie, then aged 32: she had fallen out with her wealthy father, had recently tried to buy poison and was seen shortly after the horrific events of that day burning her reportedly blood-stained dress. But in her trial 10 months later, a jury of 12 men decided no woman could be capable of a crime so vicious.

So the legend was sealed. The Bordens' home has since been restored and opened for tours and as a deeply unconventional bed and breakfast. Scones are baked where Lizzie burnt her dress, breakfast is served in the chintzy dining room where the autopsies were carried out and guests are invited to sleep in the bedroom where Abby's butchered body was found, her blood still staining the floorboards.

'Some people sleep right here on the floor, so they can get closer to the spirit of Mrs Borden,' says official guide Will Clawson. 'That's not my thing, but this is our equivalent to the story of Jack the Ripper. It's good to have this well-known mystery.' With visitors looking on agog, Will theatrically describes a recent experience of 'feeling a sudden chill in the house as the lights refused to work', and of the current owner 'walking into the icy basement and feeling a hand running down her back'.

Some guests go out of their way to seek a supernatural encounter, leaving coins about the place with the intention of enraging the ghost of Mr Borden; he went to the greatest pains to keep such temptation from Lizzie, an infamous kleptomaniac.

I take one last perplexed look at the portraits of each of the Bordens scowling malevolently, the because we keep this house so in period,' says Debra, 'the lady's ghost feels comfortable here.'

'We call her a mischievous lady,' says Ken. 'She likes to loosen light bulbs, to lock doors - but nothing harmful. We live in harmony with her.'

I'm shown to my room, already warmed by its log fire. Settling into my four-poster bed, I'm lulled by the sound of the wind spiralling up off the sea, joined by the faint creak of a rocking chair and, just perhaps, the slightest click of a key turning in a lock.

The source of independence
The maple trees are at their best inland, where ripe pumpkins line the porches of the town of Concord. At the reception desk of Concord's Colonial Inn, the greeting is an unusual one: 'You know, we're the seventh most haunted inn in the United States.'

That reputation began with the visit of a newlywed couple in 1966. Afterwards, the bride, Judith Fellenz, sent a letter detailing a disturbance during her honeymoon: 'I have always prided myself on being a fairly sane individual but on the night of June 14, I began to have my doubts. I saw a ghost in your inn. I was awakened in the middle of the night by a presence in the room - a feeling that some unknown being was in the midst. It remained still for a moment, then slowly floated to the foot of the bed. It was a terrifying experience.'

The couple were staying in room 24, in the oldest part of the inn, built in 1716 by a Captain John Minot. Despite many sightings in the intervening years of similar lost souls stalking the corridors and bridal suites, my first night's sleep here is restful. At dawn I set out through nearby Sleepy Hollow cemetery, sadly no relation to the story or the Tim Burton film of the same name. Ahead is the Old North Bridge, where the first full-scale battle of the American War of Independence took place on 19 April 1775. Here, 700 British Army regulars clashed with Patriot militiamen and were forced into retreat. A milestone had been laid in the origins of the USA.

The battle was witnessed by Reverend William Emerson Sr from his handsome clapboard home, the Old Manse, which stands in the field alongside. The events of that day were remembered in a speech given at the 1875 centennial by his grandson, the philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, a quote from which is now etched for eternity into the approach to the bridge: 'The thunderbolt falls on an inch of ground; but the light of it fills the horizon.'

The witch city
Set on the eastern coast of Massachusetts between Boston and the beautiful white-sand beaches of Cape Ann, Salem is famed for its witch trials of 1692 and 1693. Visitors are now lured by the Witch Museum, the Witch History Museum, the Witches Cottage and the Witch Dungeon Museum. Around Halloween they can hop on board the Salem Trolley's Ghosts & Legends tour or take a Haunted Harbor Happenings Cruise. Lizzie Borden even reappears, at the city's 40 Whacks Museum.

The power of the tale of the witch trials risks becoming dimmed in the onslaught. During the crazed events of just over 300 years ago, hundreds were accused of witchcraft, with 19 men and women hanged, and a man in his 80s pressed to death beneath heavy stones for refusing to enter a plea. While puritanical suspicion and personal interests led to a community being ripped apart, lessons were subsequently learnt about the dangers of religious extremism and lapses in justice that have so much relevance today.

Salem's immense Peabody Essex Museum provides an enlightening excuse to stop by. Along with spectacular collections of Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Native American art, America's oldest continuously operating museum also houses many original court documents from the witch trials.

The birth of the Peabody Essex Museum can be traced to the founding of the East India Marine Society in 1799, an organisation of Salem's sea captains and merchants who had sailed beyond either the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn. Today the figureheads of some of their ships look on in the museum's East India Marine Hall: a Scottish highlander, a Western belle and an Indian princess, each representing the names of the vessels they once adorned. In the same grand space are objects Salem's seafarers carried from distant lands to display here, competing to reveal who had savoured the greatest adventure: a coconut basket from the Seychelles, a Chinese drinking goblet made from rhino horn and, poignantly, the wrinkled remains of the first-ever penguin to arrive in North America.

The end of the line
The town of Ashland has a bait shop, a liquor store and, by the railway tracks, a pub with an uncelebrated stake in Massachusetts' history.

Stone's Public House overwhelms you with warmth as you step inside. The place is thronged with regulars as a huddle of musicians skilfully play traditional instruments. Few look round when the occasional freight train rumbles past, horns blaring, visibly shaking the end wall of the building.

'The pub is 175 years old,' says the manager, Ben Stoetzel, adding that the local paranormal society is present this evening, carrying out an investigation. Ben and I join them around a table in an upstairs room originally used by the pub's founder, John Stone, for illicit poker matches. One of these ended in the murder of a man accused of cheating the other players out of $3,000. His ghost is said to haunt this place, along with that of a little girl, Mary J Smith, who was hit by a train near the doorstep in 1862.

'We always get results here,' says the society's leader, Dave Francis, as he sets out ghost-detecting gadgets including a compass and a digital voice recorder. He plays some of the stuttering, fuzzy recordings made on previous visits, revealing voices he says were unheard by members of the society who were present at the time.

In the first, the team are chatting away when, in the background, a ghostly voice murmurs, 'I'm cold.' In another, the voice hisses, 'Watch your head.' And in another, 'Can't get out, let me in!' During the final sequence, the voice simply states, 'You're drunk.' Dave's piercing eyes seek my reaction, as if daring me to break into a nervous smirk. I feel like I'm stuck in a vivid dream, the sort brought on by jetlag, tequila or strong cheese.

'The pub is believed to have been part of the Underground Railroad, the network that existed before Emancipation to help slaves escape the South,' says Ben. Before the American Civil War, many would only have felt truly free once they crossed the border into Canada. 'We've found evidence of a false wall in the basement, behind which they may well have hidden,' Ben continues. Dave eagerly adds that the society's former leader was whacked on the head by a supernatural force during an earlier investigation of the basement. I return to the bar in search of a steadying drink.

The Guinness is still flowing, the fiddles and flutes lifting the souls of all within. People are warming themselves by the open fire, laughing and clinking glasses together as generations have done before, oblivious to the tall tales and hidden histories that swirl about this place. Once again, a train clatters past, and the band plays into the night.

Peter Grunert is the editor of Lonely Planet Magazine.

The article 'The haunted land of New England' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.

Top 10 SCARIEST Haunted Pubs in Britain

By Emily R. Bass


“Queer visuality…We may need to squint, to strain our vision and force it to see otherwise, beyond the limited vista of the here and the now.” – José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia.



In their exhibition Queer Paranormal (an exhibition concerning Shirley Jackson and The Haunting of Hill House), curatorial collective Two Chairs draw a parallel between the spirits that haunt Shirley Jackson’s famed novel and queerness—the unusual, the alternative, the strange. In their words, “Asserting that the paranormal is queer opens up a range of possibilities in relation to its routine constituent—the normal.” Stating that the supernatural forces in Hill House are queer provides deeper insight into the role the paranormal plays in the book and in Jackson’s life.

In The Haunting of Hill House, Dr. Montague, a researcher of the paranormal, rents out Hill House for a summer and invites guests Eleanor and Theodora to stay with him to investigate the house, which is rumored to be haunted. Throughout the novel, it becomes unclear whether the paranormal phenomena is in fact manifested by the house, or if it is a product of the characters’ imaginations, indicative of their own desires.

The Haunting of Hill House was written in 1959 during Jackson’s time living in North Bennington, Vermont, where the exhibition is on view at Bennington College (through December 7). The author’s own life was haunted by an unhappiness with the heterosexual domestic ideology of her time. The stay-at-home mother and faculty wife used her writing, rife with witchcraft and supernatural entities, as a means of escaping the constraints of her everyday. “Just being a writer gives you an unassailable protection against reality,” she wrote.

Despite having two lesbian protagonists, (“emphatically not married”), The Haunting of Hill House is anything but a gay love story. Rather, the house serves as a symbol of queerness, its paranormal forces pulling Eleanor into the realm of abnormality. The exhibition was prompted by a scene in which Eleanor reaches out for Theodora’s hand, only to discover the hand she’s holding belongs to a ghost manifested by Hill House. This anticipatory current of intimacy (and resulting misaligned contact) is described by queer theorist José Esteban Muñoz as “a mode of being and feeling that was then not quite there but nonetheless an opening.” This paranoiac unsureness is all too familiar to those with queer desires—the “Is it really there?” that haunts our interactions.

Queer Paranormal (an exhibition concerning Shirley Jackson and The Haunting of Hill House) is installed throughout Bennington’s campus: in Usdan Gallery, Jennings music building, the Lens at CAPA and outdoors in the field outside Jennings. The ten artists in Queer Paranormal, working in video, sculpture and installation, explore “a range of artistic practices ‘haunted’ by historical, political and sexual difference.” Two Chairs writes, “One of our members was interested in exploring the queer past because so much has been written about queer futurity.”



In Queer Paranormal, the implicit themes in Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House are made explicit. This effort is most clear in Senem Pirler’s sound installation, Unearthly Vibrations. Through speakers installed throughout a corridor, electromagnetic energy is amplified in the form of a buzzing current, causing a vibration reminiscent of the sounds that radiate from the walls of Hill House. Their source? A recording of vibrators in a fish tank. With campy humor and cheeky frankness, Pirler makes visible the sexual undercurrents implied throughout Jackson’s novel, assigning an obvious queer source to the house’s mysterious energy.



An outdoor installation by APRIORI similarly transforms Bennington’s campus into a site for the paranormal, not unlike Hill House. Notes for Haunting Properties consists of a tableau of resources, software, fieldwork findings and landscape intervention—broom-corn, flax, mugwort, rose and hawthorn labeled with stakes planted in the field outside the gallery. Prompted by a belief that plants are in silent communication with AI, the collective highlights the underlying paranormality of Bennington’s terrain, with properties existing outside human control (A poll of Bennington students identified many campus sites they believe to be haunted, including Jennings.)

Works by Sasha Wortzel and Anna Campbell explore the idea of Haunted House, Haunted Past, that is, connecting the forces that haunt Shirley Jackson’s novel to individuals and groups historically marginalized.



Sasha Wortzel’s We Have Always Been on Fire combines archival videos shot by queer nightlife documentarian Nelson Sullivan in 1967 before the AIDS crisis with contemporary footage depicting a popular queer gathering space on Fire Island. Her title is loaded with positive and negative connotations of queer life: David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire In My Belly, fire as a symbol of persecution tied to witchcraft, and the idea of being “on fire” when you’re dancing and full of life. The video serves as both a celebration—of safe spaces, of queer joy—and an elegy to the lives lost during the AIDS crisis. Wortzel juxtaposes these two pillars of queer history as a reminder that, yes, LGBTQ people are able to found communal spaces where they can be free, but those spaces are sadly necessitated by society’s constant relegation of queer people to the margins.



Anna Campbell, too, connects contemporary freedoms to past hardships in You know it pisses you off…, a wall installation of wooden panels covered with excerpts from Monique Wittig’s The Lesbian Body. The book’s title character, Sandy, expresses her inability to celebrate today’s welcoming LGBTQ-friendly society due to her damaging memories of less accepting times. Sandy calls to mind a period when her only safe space was the bar bathroom (a queer hookup space) where the only representation she was granted was her name “scratched on a shit-house wall.” Campbell’s wooden dividers look like bathroom stalls—a memoriam of gay bars past.

The eclectic works in Queer Paranormal embody an idea described by Olu Jenzen and Sally Munt in Paranormal and Social Change:

“It is in perception that social change begins. Being able to think or to see “otherwise” proffers imaginative forms…Because we are always other to ourselves, the paranormal pushes out what can be seen or known, and hence dynamics of alterity can take hold. Take Possession of us. Make manifest the strange. Mobilize affect and collective embodiment. Embody the spirit of change.”

By embracing the paranormal and letting it take over, these artists were able to “make manifest the strange,” to make visible the underlying currents (of race, gender, sexuality and difference) that haunt our everyday.



New england paranormal

Do you dare step inside? 7 supposedly haunted spots in New England

New England is laden with haunted tales and supposedly haunted places — from private residences, to city halls, to buildings people refuse to occupy as a result of sinister energy. 

Many of these places have hosted ghost hunters and paranormal investigators over the years who have documented hair-raising noises, inexplainable orbs of light and human touches with no human to be seen. 

We're highlighting seven supposedly haunted spots around New England as we enter October and the season of Halloween. At one house, a detailed injury waiver is required to enter. At another, it wouldn't be out of the ordinary to see a samurai and monk congregating in a French gothic ballroom. And driving under one particular covered bridge could end in a real fright for the driver.

While some of these places are open to the public, others are private residences. 

House of Horrors: 4 seriously haunted houses in New England

S.K. Pierce Victorian Mansion - Gardner, MA

Mediums and paranormal researchers have pronounced this Victorian mansion as “certified haunted.” Built by wealthy South Gardner chair manufacturer Sylvester K. Pierce in the late 1880s, the Sci-Fi Channel series “Ghost Hunters” filmed an episode there.

"This attraction is not for the faint of heart," the mansion's website says. "There is a good possibility that you will witness paranormal activity. The entities in this mansion are extremely advanced and have demonstrated a unique ability to impose their will 'physically' on guests."

Visitors to the S.K. Pierce Victorian Mansion in South Gardner, Mass., must sign an injury waiver before entering.

For this reason, a detailed injury waiver must be signed before guests enter the mansion, which has seen many different owners. The mansion is currently undergoing renovations before it reopens for tours and overnight stays. 

Many ghostly residents have been reported, including S.K. Pierce himself, his family members, a nanny named Mattie Cornwell, a murdered prostitute, a young boy, and several others, the website says.

More:Brothel? Spontaneous human combustion? Debunking rumors about the S.K. Pierce Mansion

John Paul Jones House - Portsmouth, NH

This historic pre-Revolutionary War-era house is a staple stop on guided haunted walking tours in downtown Portsmouth. 

The house was built in 1758 as a wedding present from sea captain Gregory Purcell to his wife, Sarah Wentworth Purcell. John Paul Jones, a Naval commander on the USS Ranger, rented a room twice at the house from Sarah throughout his lifetime, after her husband died, before he left Portsmouth forever in 1782.

Some say the famed Navy commander still occupies the John Paul Jones House in Portsmouth, N.H.

Several manifestations reportedly exist in the house, including a white, pale female apparition looking out the windows of the home, thought to be Sarah Purcell. And though he died in Paris, John Paul Jones himself has been seen wandering the halls.

Many staff members and visitors have reported haunted experiences over the years since the home opened as a museum, owned by the Portsmouth Historical Society and open for tours. 

See something spooky:10 historic cemeteries to visit around New England this spooky season

Captain Lord Mansion - Kennebunkport, ME

This federal-style 1812 home, built by a wealthy shipbuilder, has been made into a romantic and elegant seaside inn with antique accents at every turn. But guests, staff and owners alike have had personal experiences with a resident female spirit, Phoebe Lord, according to

The Captain Lord Mansion located in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Phoebe was the lady of the house, married to Captain Nathaniel Lord, with whom she  had eight children. The captain died not long after moving into the home, and Phoebe raised their family there after he died. The mansion stayed in the family for generations after.  

Phoebe is often seen floating around the mansion, sometimes transcending the spiral staircase or passing through the present-day Lincoln Bedroom Suite.

Belcourt Castle - Newport, RI

A former resident of Belcourt Castle wrote a book about all of the paranormal experiences that have occurred at the grand 60-room mansion over the years. 

Construction on the mansion began in 1891, built for Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont, a wealthy banker, publisher and politician. Other residents have included 1950s Newport socialites Louis and Elaine Lorillard, who hosted the Newport Jazz Festival there in 1955 and 1956. Ruth and Harold Tinney bought the mansion in 1956 as a private residence and home for their exotic furnishings.

Harle Tinney, who married their son and lived in the home, believes the antique furnishings brought paranormal energy with them, she has said. says 15 spirits have been identified at Belcourt Castle in Newport. says 15 known spirits have been identified at Belcourt Castle – including a monk, knight, Samurai warrior, dancing girls and a French queen and king. The most haunted room seems to be the French Gothic Ballroom.

USA Today Readers Choice Awards:Vote now for the best fall activities and Halloween haunts

Emily's Bridge - Stowe, VT

Perhaps different from the others on this list, this haunted attraction in Vermont is an 1844 covered bridge. A broken-hearted girl is said to have hanged herself there, and she now haunts it, according to Atlas Obscura. 

Legend has it that in the mid-1800s, a girl named Emily was supposed to meet the man of her affection at the bridge to elope, but he never showed up. She allegedly hanged herself from the rafters of the covered bridge, and is today said to be an angry specter that terrorizes drivers and pedestrians. 

Want to take a drive?Haunted New England roads

Providence City Hall - Providence, RI

"Ghost Hunters" visited Providence City Hall in 2012 after an employee called on them to check out the 1875 building. The episode was called "City Hell."

Employees have alleged it's haunted by a spirit who rides the elevator, moves chairs, creates breezes, whispers, touches people, slams doors, opens drawers and smokes cigars, according to Some have speculated it's the ghost of former mayor Thomas Doyle, who served the city starting in 1864 and ultimately died while in office.

Providence, Rhode Island City Hall.

Sun Tavern - Duxbury, MA

This Duxbury restaurant, operated out of a colonial home,is said to be haunted by three friendly spirits.

According to the Tavern’s current owner, the ghosts are Lysander Walker, a recluse who shot himself in the sitting room on Oct. 3, 1928, and Mary and Elizabeth Williamson, two little girls who died of scarlet fever in the house in the 1700s. Walker's death certificate hangs in the restaurant today. 

They say these ghosts are friendly:Hunt for spirits in Duxbury at Alden House haunted tour

More:Spooky South Shore - Haunted lighthouses

The Sun Tavern in Duxbury is said to be the home of three friendly ghosts.

Restaurant staff says they've had quite a few creepy encounters – including lights going out unexpectedly, hearing voices of little girls, and even a choking diner getting a helping hand from an apparition. Diners should never worry, staff say, as the spirits appear to be friendly. 

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Ryan's visit to the New England Paranormal Research Center: Part Two

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