Haunted New Hampshire
The Shining was a Disco-era bestseller from Maine's Master of Macabre, Stephen King, but it was the foreboding grandeur of the Overlook Hotel and Jack Nicholson's portrayal of dangerous dull-boy Jack Torrance that made The Shining a part of modern culture. While it was the Stanley Hotel in Colorado that reportedly inspired King, the author could have looked a lot closer to home for his supernatural stimulation.
New Hampshire's own Mount Washington Hotel is first among the state's ghoulish attractions. It has the right combination of splendor and specters to terrify. Its splendor can be traced to its construction, as it was erected during the heyday of the grand hotels. In July of 1902, its doors were opened and guests were treated to ornate granite and stucco masonry, private baths, and electric lights, all of which contributed to its nearly two million dollar cost. The proud owner, Joseph Stickney, would barely get to enjoy his creation. Less than a year after the opening, the 64-year-old former coal magnate dropped dead. Perhaps it was a premonition of a monstrous government bringing forth an income tax, war, prohibition, and a Great Depression that did him in … we'll never know. Stickney's unexpected demise, however, did seem to act as an advertisement for otherworldly guests because the hotel began to spawn stories of an ethereal woman passing through walls, paranormal pranksters disfiguring photographs, and the sound of crying babies disrupting the ambiance of the ballroom. The hotel's reputation for hauntings even enticed the Ghost Hunters to brave the grounds for an evening. For those seeking a chance encounter of the spooky kind, the Mount Washington Hotel should be on your list of destinations.
Epsom is home to another diaphanous spot along the Plutonian shores. There you'll find a small, blood-red schoolhouse, which is rumored to have a grisly past. The stories claim husband-and-wife teachers kept six of the school's 12 students after hours each day for extracurricular activities that included various levels of abuse. Had the story ended there, it would have been bad enough, but soon the couple began to fear discovery. It was then that they stooped to educational execution, dispatching the juvenile sextet and trapping the spirits in public school prison permanently.
Cemeteries are said to be haunts of the netherworld and New Hampshire's graveyards are no exception. Pine Hill Cemetery in Hollis and Gilson Road Cemetery in Nashua are two of the state's most notorious places of unrest.
Pine Hill opened for business in 1769. Almost 300 bodies bathe in its rocky soil, but its most famous occupants are bathed in blood. According to local lore, Abel and Betsy Blood got an early admission to Pine Hill, courtesy of being murdered. Though the pair were buried in adjoining plots, Abel roams the grounds to this day. Some say he's searching for his wife. Others claim he longs to be home. Yet if you visit Pine Hill, or Blood Cemetery, as it is often called, take heed of Abel's presence, for he might just be seeking revenge.
Though Gilson Road Cemetery also dates back to Colonial days, its history as a place of death goes back much further. The land was host to a Native American battle filled with a decidedly excessive level of butchery. When non-native corpses began sharing the somber plot, the native spirits became restless. A Native American necromancer is the source of another tale. The depraved medicine man would lure young braves to the area with promises of power and wisdom. What he delivered instead was death in the form of human sacrifice, as he hoped to make a Faustian bargain for immortality. Notwithstanding the sanguinolent slaughter, the pale rider kept his appointment with the sorcerer, and the latter now stalks the grounds in search of new victims. Gilson Road Cemetery is an unforgiving garden of ghouls and any who enter unguarded may never return.
The vignettes above are merely a glimpse into a liberating-ly lethal aspect of New Hampshire. For fun and fright, the Granite State is hard to beat. You don't have to wait upon a midnight dreary to wearily ponder freedom squandered. As Halloween nears, there's naught more to fear - The Free State is here.
Photo by Dennis Wilkinson