Few places in the world have as ghostly a reputation as New England. It’s the region that gave us Stephen King and the Cthulhu Mythos. It also has some of the oldest post-colonial settlements in the US, and along with them some of the oldest graveyards.
Half a millennium has been plenty of time for those cemeteries to gather creepy reputations. These weird stories of haunting in New England’s burial grounds could provide plenty of inspiration for any aspiring horror writer.
10. South Street Cemetery
If you’re making an extra special effort to ensure your cemetery ends up haunted, then one way to go about it is to conduct hangings there. If you then combine your graveyard hangings with shocking injustice, you’re almost guaranteed to end up with a restless spirit or two. The people of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, also threw in some axe murder victims for that extra bit of horror, plus the only fatal sword duel in the town’s history. Put all of that together and you get the “of course it’s haunted” South Street Cemetery.
Ghost hunters note a lot of activity around the grave of Ruth Blay, a schoolteacher that fell pregnant outside of marriage in 1768. She was scared to tell anyone, and eventually delivered the baby stillborn. She buried the body beneath her school’s floorboards, but one of her pupils saw her. The child told her parents about it, and Ruth was arrested and sentenced to death for murder.
That’s awful enough by itself. However, this particular cake of systemic injustice comes frosted with an epic level of being the worst person possible, in the form of Sheriff Thomas Packer. On the day Ruth was due to be hanged, word spread that a reprieve was being sought from the governor. Packer, however, wanted to have his lunch at noon and so brought the execution forward by an hour. Despite Ruth’s screams, and protests from the crowd, he looped a noose around her neck and ordered the cart to be drawn from underneath her.
Within minutes, a horse messenger arrived carrying a pardon from the governor. Packer had already left, and Ruth Blay was already dead. Later that day, the townspeople burnt an effigy of Packer outside of his house. Paranormalists claim that cameras stop working around the area where Ruth Blay was buried, and that two nearby graves glow. Some people suggest that both she and her baby haunt the place.
Researchers also claim to have experienced activity around the graves of two young women who were murdered by a German named Luis Wagner. He strangled the women and attacked them with an axe until the handle broke. He was hanged in Maine in 1875. The women became known as the Smuttynose murder victims.