By Thea Lewis
Illustrations By Leonard Kenyon
When the late, great, Hollywood director, Alfred Hitchcock chose Vermont as the setting for his 1955 mystery comedy, The Trouble With Harry, he hoped the idyllic town of Craftsbury with its panorama of rich autumn foliage would provide the perfect backdrop. Unfortunately, by the time the movie crew got to The Green Mountain State, most of Craftsbury’s leaves had given up the ghost and the team had no recourse but to paint and glue some last minute extras onto the trees to make up the deficit.
I can’t blame Hitchcock for going the extra mile. Vermont is an iconic New England destination, especially in fall. The air is deliciously crisp, porches are decked out with fat pumpkins, and the trees are ablaze with shades of crimson and tangerine that would rival any sunset. For locals and visitors, it’s a time to bask around wood fires, eat cider doughnuts, and sip some of the best micro-brews the country has to offer. And, if you happen to be looking for a spooky place to rest your bones after a day of exploring, we’ve got that, too.
As a ghost tour guide and writer of haunted history, I’ve never really met a spirit I didn’t like. Still, like the living, some are more interesting than others. What follows are five of my favorite haunted places to stay the night, for those who don’t mind sharing a room with someone supernatural.
Stowe’s spectacular scenery has made it a vacation destination since the mid 1800s. The town’s local lore is as colorful as its foliage. If you are a lover of the paranormal, you’ll definitely want to visit the site of Emily’s Bridge, located in the Stowe Hollow area. Tales vary, but most agree that Emily was a woman scorned, whose life ended in a ghastly fashion on what is formally named the Gold Brook Covered Bridge, resulting in years of comeuppance for some of the curious who venture there. Stories that have been passed down include hearing the sounds of ropes tightening and stretching, having scratched and bloodied cars, and seeing floating apparitions.
After you’ve taken your chances with Emily, why not spend the night under the watchful eye of a long dead horseman named Boots Berry, at the popular Green Mountain Inn?
Legend says Boots was born in room 302 of the inn, to a chambermaid, back in 1840. His first claim to fame was rescuing passengers in a coach whose horses had bolted. Unfortunately, the notoriety went to his head, and he turned to drink, losing his position at the inn. He wandered the country, ending up in jail in New Orleans, where a fellow inmate taught him to tap dance. Released from prison, he returned home to Stowe and the inn. One snowy night in 1902, in the middle of a raging snowstorm, Boots saw a small child climb from a guest room window and out onto the roof. Racing up a secret passageway he remembered from his childhood, Boots grabbed the girl and returned her to safety, but slipped on the icy roof and plunged to his death. Since then, guests in room 302 have told tales of their personal items randomly going missing, and of hearing the sound of tap-dancing on the roof during snowstorms.
Green Mountain Inn,
18 Main Street, Stowe
Home to The Whip Bar & Grill, and their decadent
signature dessert ‘Sac de Bon Bon’ .
If you’re looking for a ghost who might pull out all the stops to get a rise out of you, look no further than The Inns at The Equinox, in Manchester, Vermont.
The complex has a history that dates back to 1769 and our American Revolution. Called Marsh Tavern in those days, it was the place where Ira Allen proposed taking property that belonged to the Tories in order to raise money to buy weapons for his brother Ethan’s militia. The infamous, ‘Green Mountain Boys’ spent a fair amount of time strategizing and drinking in Marsh Tavern, and it’s speculated some of those hard-partying spirits might still be kicking around.
The passing of years at the Equinox saw it filled with a more genteel class of guests. In the mid 1800s, Mary Todd Lincoln summered at the Equinox with her sons in tow, and some believe she’s still there. Is her spirit the one responsible for chairs that playfully rock themselves, and belongings that vanish into thin air, only to reappear in the strangest places? Could be. But, I’m not willing to blame her for what occurred one evening in room 329, when an entire family was terrified by a bed that lurched, one leg at a time, across the floor all by itself. During the incident, Robert Cullinan, a security guard who’d been called to the scene, was pushed so hard by an invisible entity that he nearly fell to the floor. My tour guide’s intuition tells me this couldn’t have been the work of our one-time FLOTUS. Mary Todd Lincoln was a lady, and a lady has limits, after all.
Dine in the Chop House, located in the “club quarters” of the Marsh Tavern to experience the Orvis stone hearth, the same fireplace the Green Mountain Boys used as a meeting spot long ago.
The Inns At The Equinox
3567 Main Street,
I just told you a lady has limits, except, that is, when it comes to personal grooming, Then, we pull out all the stops.
When I was a girl, popular wisdom dictated that brushing one’s hair a hundred strokes each night was the right thing to do. So, apparently, believes the female apparition seen to be constantly brushing her hair at The Golden Stage Inn Bed and Breakfast in Proctorsville. Built in 1788, the Inn was originally a stagecoach stop. It had two guest rooms, one for gentlemen and one for ladies, (that unfortunately shared one humble, common chamber pot situated behind a privacy screen).
In the mid-eighteen hundreds, the place was purchased as a private residence by the Reverend Warren Skinner, a Unitarian, and offered into service as a stop on the Underground Railroad. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the inn reverted back to lodging, and became the subject of ghostly tales. If you’re very lucky, your stay at the Golden Stage might make you feel you’ve had a brush with celebrity.
In the inn’s new wing, a ghost sporting an old fashioned traveling cloak has been spotted.
The staff affectionately call him George, even though witnesses say he bears an uncanny resemblance to Hollywood legend Robert Redford.
The second Saturday in September brings the inn’s Vermont Golden Honey Festival. Part Farmers Market, part craft fair, it’s been voted one of the “Top 10 Fall Events” by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce every year since 2014.
Golden Stage Inn
399 Depot Street, Proctorsville, Vermont
Vermont is a place with so many breweries, we’re often called, “The Beer Capital of the United States”. I know of one ghost who would approve. Mary “Ma” Walker, whose spirit is said to linger at the historic Norwich Inn. When Mary and her husband, Charles, purchased the Victorian-style inn in 1920, they immediately found themselves going head to head with Prohibition. To stay afloat, “Ma” as patrons called her, began selling beer on the sly, from the inn’s cellar.
Years later, it seems she still believes she’s got a stake in the place. Lodgers staying on the Inn’s third floor have told staff they had a hard time nodding off to dreamland, and many believe it’s because of the unsettling energy of the building’s former female owner. I’ve heard she delights in hanging out in room 20, frightening guests with her hijinks. She doesn’t restrict her appearances to the Inn’s upper levels, though. Her apparition, in a long black dress, has been spotted gliding about the parlor, the dining room, and even the library. It’s the opinion of many that she’s there to make sure there’s always something flowing at the Norwich Inn, even if it’s just a shower seems to have turned on by itself. It’s thought she’s the one tinkering with the sinks and toilets, too. I wonder whether Ma may be getting a hand with her watery mischief. In 1889, before she ever set foot in the place, a devastating fire destroyed the original hotel, the town’s Union Hall, and several neighboring structures. Enough reason, in my book, for any spirit at the inn to want to keep something wet at the ready. The inn has its own hop garden, and their superb craft beer is sold only at the Inn. You can enjoy one while relaxing on their historic front porch.
The Norwich Inn
325 Main Street, Norwich Vermont
Travel to Springfield Vermont, just a stone’s throw from the New Hampshire border, and you’ll find the fascinating Hartness House Inn. Built as a private home for James Hartness, a prominent Vermont manufacturer and one term, (1921 to 1923) Governor of Vermont, the inn is a reflection of its creator. Hartness, who also wore the hats of inventor, pilot and amateur astronomer, designed the Springfield residence with a network of underground tunnels where he could work in private. His subterranean quarters included a studio, a library, and a bar stocked with liquor, comfy digs for a curious mind set on burning the midnight oil. Above ground, rooms are graciously appointed, with furnishings that harken back to a bygone era. It’s easy to see why former inhabitants, (including Charles Lindbergh) thoroughly enjoyed their time at the Hartness House, and why they, along with the governor himself, have elected to stay long after they’ve passed on.
Visitors have reported strange electrical events, incidents of having their belongings rearranged, or even packed away in their suitcases by an unseen hand. Closet doors open on their own, and a few guests have awakened in the night to hear static voices coming from their mobile phones. Ghost aficionado or not, you’ll look forward to the inn’s farm to table dining, picturesque setting and special features that include hiking trails, a tavern with live music, a telescope observatory and an astronomy museum.
Hartness House Inn
30 Orchard Street, Springfield, Vermont
For a place that was built as a summer home, the White House Inn has a lot of fireplaces. Fourteen, to be exact. The Victorian mansion also has a secret staircase, a haunted bank vault, and a resident ghost that isn’t keen on sharing her space, or her name.
Built in 1915 for lumber baron Martin Brown and his wife, Clara, the White House Inn boasts many authentic touches, like original wallpaper hand-printed by French artist Zuber. It’s the kind favored by Marie Antionette, and also by Jacqueline Kennedy, who purchased Zubers’ historic scenes of America when she restored the White House in Washington, D.C. Wilmington’s White House is long on charm. If you’re not easily spooked, you may be able to overlook the unexplainable cold spots, doors that open by themselves, and visible apparitions. But, if you happen to be traveling with a ‘Nervous Nellie’ you might want to keep mum about the man Mrs. Brown caught stealing, locked up in the basement vault and left to die.
According to staff , Clara Brown’s people skills have not improved with time. One guest, also with the surname Brown, booked room number 9, the room Clara moved into after her husband died, that remained her private quarters until she died. The woman reported that during her stay at the White House Inn she was visited in the middle of the night by a well-dressed dowager. She said the apparition sat in a chair next to her bed and announced, “One Mrs. Brown in this room is quite enough!” Testy, long dead owners aside, The Boston Herald has called the inn, with its oversized feather beds, sweeping views, and formal gardens, “One of the ten most romantic places in the world”.
The White House Inn. 178 VT-9, Wilmington, Vermont
Author and historian Thea Lewis is a Vermont
native and the creator of Queen City Ghostwalk.
Called Vermont’s Queen of Halloween, she’s been
scaring up history in Burlington and beyond since 2002, with
her tours, special events and books for adults and children.
Her titles with the History Press/Arcadia include
Haunted Burlington: Spirits of Vermont’s Queen City,
Ghosts and Legends of Lake Champlain,
Haunted Inns and
Ghostly Getaways of Vermont, and her latest offering,
(May 2018) Wicked Vermont.