Monday, October 31, 2016

Vampires, Ghosts, and Witches

It's Halloween, so what better time to look for stories of ghosts, goblins, and haunted houses in Waterbury? Here's what I've been able to find so far.

Baby Vampire?

The New-York Gazette reported a bizarre story on September 10, 1770: "We hear from Waterbury, that a Woman of that Town, who in the fourth or fifth Month of her Pregnancy, was taken with a most violent Longing to eat the Flesh from her husband's Arms---he indulged her in making several Attempts, but her Teeth were not sufficient for her Purpose;---and her accountable Longing continued until her Deliver, which was about three Weeks ago. The infant refusing the Breast, or any other Sustenance usually given to Infants, it was offered the raw Flesh of a Fowl, cut fine and dipt in the Fowl's Blood; on which it has fed heartily every Day since its Birth, and is the only Food the Child has taken, till a few Days since, when it eat a little Milk mixt with Blood."

The Haunting of Rose Hill 

Rose Hill, formerly the home of Carrie Welton, was allegedly haunted.

In 1884, only a couple of weeks after Carrie Welton perished on Longs Peak in Colorado, the Waterbury and Hartford newspapers began circulating a story that the Welton house in Waterbury, Rose Hill, was haunted. The ghosts arrived soon after Carrie and her mother had a falling out, when Carrie's mother tried to force her into an insane asylum, some time after Carrie's father had died.

"One of the many freaks of the spirits is the besmirching of the door knob of the best chamber with a substance like coagulated blood, which appears every morning after being wiped off. ... All sorts of stories are in circulation about the old mansion, one of which was that the daughter had been seen in the yard on horseback at midnight. Although the property was put in the market at a low figure, it is impossible to sell it, as it is firmly believed that a curse rests upon it." (Hartford Courant, 1 Oct 1884)

The house was eventually bought by the Chase family, who lived in it for many decades without being disturbed by ghosts.

On a side note, regarding the popular belief that Carrie's favorite horse, Knight, killed her father, Joseph Welton, the haunted house article reports the following: "One night on returning from New York, Mr. Welton heard a commotion in the barn. Going thither, he found two of his own horses loose and he went into the stall to separate them. His favorite horse kicked him in the breast, inflicting wounds form which he soon died, leaving no will." News reports printed after the incident, and before his death, were slightly more specific: "Hearing a noise in his stable, he went out to see what as the matter, and found two of his horses in one stall. In attempting to separate them, he was severely kicked by an old and favorite horse, having three ribs broken, and otherwise injured, so fears are entertained that he may not recover." (Columbian Register, 28 March 1874)

While the story of Rose Hill being haunted was soon forgotten, the dramatic death of Joseph Welton lived on, modified slightly to connect the story to the fountain on the Green and Carrie's favorite horse, Knight.

Witchcraft in Waterbury

The Bridgeport Telegram, 1 July 1927

Waterbury's immigrant population brought their superstitions and traditions with them. In 1927, an Italian woman, Nunciata Ziatapaglianzi, who lived on North Elm Street, claimed to have paid close to $1,000 to have a fatura, or curse, removed. The money was paid to Peter DeGrado of 12 Hopkins Street. DeGrado's stepdaughter corroborated the account, which led to City Court Judge John P. McGrath ordering a round-up of all practitioners of witchcraft in Waterbury.

Haunted House

According to a story published in The New England Ghost Files by Charles Turek Robinson, a husband-and-wife pair of professional pilots purchased a Waterbury Victorian home in 1990, ignoring the seller's warning about a "disturbing presence" in the attic. After moving into their new home, the couple experienced a series of unsettling encounters, which they eventually attributed to the ghost of one of the home's original owners, a Mrs. Bouchard (presumably not her real name) who starved herself to death in 1878 or 1879. The couple sold the house in 1992.

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