Ghosts of Bolton Past and Present

by Hans DePold, town historian
(Published in the Bolton Community News, February & June, 2003)

A few years ago I was telling a Hartford Courant writer about a Bolton Quarryville ghost story. I told her we had left out stories about the ghosts of Bolton for fear they could affect the Bolton real estate market. She explained that ghosts are no problem. Her house in Mansfield was haunted until she told the ghost he frightened her and she wished he would stop appearing. He never appeared again! Ghosts are described as being in a state of denial, unable to accept the fact that they have died and should move on. You'd think they would notice their clothing was very much out of fashion.

If you encounter a ghost or a ghostly phenomenon in Bolton, keep your wits about you. But before you read further, are your doors and windows locked? Are all the lights on? Are you sitting in the middle of your bed with your feet off the floor so that if something is below the bed it can't pull you under?

The Gay City ghost town rested at the south side of Bolton. It was begun about 1796 by a religious order whose members believed in serving the male members whiskey before their two weekly services. This promoted good attendance and tended to enliven the meetings. Their preacher did not preach Puritan hell and brimstone; no, he was always in good spirits. The religious order built a channel where water is said to have flowed uphill from a pond to a waterwheel that powered their mills. That frightened some workers away. Many strange things occurred in Gay City, where they made such good fun of Puritan preaching that the regular Bolton folk generally stayed away. Abandoned by the religious order shortly after the War of 1812, the mills continued to be operated until fires mysteriously burned everything to the ground. Today, Gay City State Park has one of Bolton's favorite swimming holes at the site of the pond built to collect the water that flowed uphill.

Now to the ghosts of Notch Hollow... What causes the seeming rapid weather changes that occur just at the Notch? Drivers have reported their car windows misting over and sometimes freezing solid white as they pass over the abandoned railroad line in the deepest part of the Notch. I know that to be a fact for it has happened more than once to my family. Who watches over the painted rock? Who painted the flag there after 9-11? Who puts the Christmas tree and flag up on the rock? Whose eerie voice is heard singing up on the rocks when the moon moves across the sky on some lonely summer nights? There are ghostly stories of quarrymen, the Dutchman, and Chief Miantinomah, all of whom died untimely deaths in Notch Hollow.

Former Bolton historian Larry Larned showed me that of the 26 Notch Hollow buildings that still existed as late as 1913 only one remains today. Notch Hollow is now a specter of the past, a part of old Quarryville that no longer exists. Most people now call it Bolton Notch from the deep trench left by more than 200 years of quarrying. But in the 1600s the Mohegan Indians knew the area to be the highest land in the region, dominated by an enormous sacred flat rock, Wiashguagwumsuck, at the northwestern border of their territory.

Intermarriage in the Massachusetts Bay colony was illegal. The first recorded untimely death at Wiashguagwumsuck was that of Peter Hager, a young Dutchman who lived there with his Podunk Indian wife Wunnee in a cave on the southwest side. Peter was fatally wounded at Wiashguagwumsuck but his body has never been found. Later, in 1643, at the conclusion of the Pequot war with the British, Mohegan Chieftain Uncas had his prisoner, the Pequot Chief Miantinomah, executed as they passed sacred Wiashguagwumsuck. Miantinomah's body, with a tomahawk protruding out the back of its skull, also has never been found. Quarrying also claimed several lives over the years. These are all possible suspects in the old Notch ghost tales.

The railroad executives built a clubhouse for themselves and their influential friends at the west end of Notch Hollow. The trains would stop there when signaled, as well as at the usual stop at the station in the Notch. Steam from the train would condense and in the winter sometimes frosted over nearby windows. The story goes that four lawyers who were wheeling and dealing in the booming thread mill industry had met at the clubhouse to strategize. A big hulking man entered from the howling snowstorm and silently stood before the fire rubbing his enormous hands, trying to warm himself. They could not see his face but worried that the stranger may have heard some of their schemes and wondering if he was from Willimantic, they demanded, "Where are you from, sir?" Suddenly the room was as cold as all outdoors. The man spun around, and with eyes like burning coals he snarled, "From Hell, where you four are going." Then he threw open the door and disappeared back into the swirling snow and was never seen again.

The ghost train has been reported in many places along both abandoned and operating rail lines. The legend says that the ghost train's steam, wheels, and carriages make not a single sound as they sweep along on invisible rails. Sometimes people in Bolton have seen a white steamy mist sweep down the greenway trail as though it was from an old ghostly steam train. Could the sudden condensation on car windows in the summer, and the sudden winter frosting over of car windows as they cross the abandoned rail line at the Notch, be caused by the steam of Bolton's passing ghost train?

Martin Luther, the Catholic priest who started the Reformation, one night threw a bottle of ink at a ghost. Today you can visit his room and still see the ink splatter on the wall. But today, seeing ghosts doesn't look good on your job resume, unless perhaps your name is Ed or Lorraine Warren. This husband and wife team of ghost hunters, most associated with the Amityville horrors, has recently visited Bolton.

The January 2001 meeting of the Bolton Historical Society brought out spontaneous discussion of the past and present ghosts of Bolton. One house in town boasts of a ghost who is dressed as a soldier who sometimes descends the staircase on moonlit nights. Residents of another house have seen a Civil War-era woman wearing an outfit complete with hoop skirt and bonnet. Still another house has unexplained old gravestones in the walkway around the house.

But the most recent story is that of recent Bolton homebuyers who purchased a historic home and decided to have it checked out by the well-known ghost hunters, Ed and Lorraine Warren. The jaw of the real estate agent dropped when she met them. The Warrens walked all around the house, and then suddenly Lorraine stopped and said she felt something strange in the sitting room. She told everyone to wait outside and she went in and closed the door behind her. The hair on the back of the homebuyer's neck stood up. Lorraine then emerged from the room and said there was no ghost but a presence. The owners later learned that the previous owner, an elderly woman, spent much of her time in that room before she died.

Perhaps these stories have unsettled you or perhaps one of them seems close to home and you suddenly noticed your clothing is very much out of fashion. For those Bolton ghosts reading this over your shoulder right now, I leave this Irish blessing, "May you be three days in heaven before the devil knows you're dead!"

Ghosts of Bolton, Part 2

(Published in the Bolton Community News, April 2003)

After reading my article on the ghosts of Bolton in the last issue of the Bolton Community News, Sue Gorton sent me a poem she wrote long ago which suggests that the American Indian maiden Wunnee could be behind many unexplained pranks and other happenings in Bolton. Sue and Bob Gorton lived on Brandy Street, and for many years Bob was the chairman of the Bolton Planning Commission. Although Sue now lives in Bloomfield, she still attends St. George Episcopal Church on Boston Turnpike, and maintains many ties with Bolton. In her clever poem she mentions some familiar names: Doc Olmsted, Kris Pelletier, Grant Davis, Tom and Marilee Manning, Ray Halsted, and Phil and Pat Dooley. BOMARCO stands for Bolton Married Couples, a social club in town. Thank you, Sue, for allowing me to use your poem.

A little background information first for those unfamiliar with this famous Bolton legend: Wunnee and the young Dutchman Peter Hager were married in an Indian ceremony but became outcasts because intermarriage was not accepted in the Massachusetts Colony. Connecticut and Bolton did not exist when they settled in what became Bolton. Colonists fatally wounded Peter but he made it back to Wunnee to die in the cave that was their home at Bolton Notch.

The Ghost of Bolton Notch

by Sue Gorton

An Indian maiden named Wunnee
Was in love with a Bolton man.
Folks cried "Miscegenation!"
And said "Your wedding is banned!"

So maid and lover ran away
Pursued by the biased lot.
They fled to the east and lived in a cave
In the hills at Bolton Notch.

The man was wounded by the crowd
(I think that he was shot.)
She nursed him with skill but still he died
In the cave at Bolton Notch.

The maiden was never seen again
Though long the crowd did watch.
They say she's still there to this day
In the cave at Bolton Notch.

She does come out from time to time
With revenge for the wedding they botched.
She isn't mean, just troublesome.
That Ghost of Bolton Notch.

The ghost is seen on Hallowe'en
In the graveyard on the hill.
Doc Olmsted across the road just might
Draw shades and write his will.

Kris was working on a quilt
With her fabrics divided by swatch.
All her blues were turned to pinks
By the Ghost of Bolton Notch.

She took Grant's hammer up a tree
And hid it in a crotch.
This is the sort of mischief done
By the Ghost of Bolton Notch.

The Mannings we know are singers,
Both Tom and Marilee.
The Ghost has been known to hide their books.
They must sing from memory.

Ray Halsted disassembled
A precious antique watch.
One of the gears just disappeared
With the Ghost of Bolton Notch.

Sue was doing calligraphy when
The ink fell out in a blotch!
This catastrophe could only be
By the Ghost of Bolton Notch.

She went to a party at the Dooleys'.
Changed all the wine to scotch.
BOMARCO then was plastered by
The Ghost of Bolton Notch.