By Joshua Palmes
Connecticut celebrates Halloween each year with a number of commercial haunted houses and hayrides. However, if you want a more authentic spooky experience, the state is home to several landmarks said to be haunted by tormented souls. Some of these places are hard to get up close to, but if you manage to, don’t be surprised if you see or hear things you can’t explain.
Fairfield Hills State Hospital
3 Primrose St.
Newtown, CT 06470
Opening in the 1930s, Fairfield Hills operated as a hospital for the mentally ill for over six decades. In 1995 the state transferred the hospital’s remaining patients to Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown and shut down Fairfield Hills. The hospital staff is known to have engaged in harsh treatment of patients in Fairfield Hills’ unenlightened earliest days: electroshock therapy, hydrotherapy, frontal lobotomies, and torture. It is no wonder then, that some people who have explored the hospital’s grounds in the past twenty years have claimed to have heard screams and strange noises coming from the building. Due to all the curiosity, though, the state now has troopers stationed around the property to discourage trespassers, something to be mindful of if you plan to explore Fairfield Hills yourself.
Sterling Opera House
104 Elizabeth St.
Derby, CT 06418
The Sterling Opera House was the first Connecticut landmark that was added to the National Register of Historic Places, three years after it closed in 1965. In its early-20th Century heyday it hosted some of the most captivating cultural figures of the era – everyone from Enrico Caruso and Harry Houdini to Lionel Barrymore and Amelia Earhart. No performances have taken place in the opera house for over fifty years, but that doesn’t mean it is unoccupied. While some visitors claim to have seen or heard the ghost of the building’s namesake Charles Sterling, the most prominent spirit is that of a little boy named Andy. Some caretakers say they have hear him speaking, singing, and bouncing soccer balls in the balcony. These reports inspired the producers of SyFy’s “Ghost Hunters” to feature the Sterling Opera House in a 2011 episode.
Route 59 and 136
Easton, CT 06612
Union Cemetery is frequently called one of the most haunted graveyards in the U.S., a judgement that was confirmed by Connecticut paranormal investigator Lorraine Warren and her late husband Ed. Ghost hunters that patrol the cemetery, located next to Easton Baptist Church, have been known to spot mysterious orbs appearing in their photos. However, most visitors to Union Cemetery keep their eyes out for the White Lady. A female spirit dressed in a white gown first sighted in the 1940s, she is said to wander the property at night and sometimes even show up in the middle of Route 59. Although no one can agree on when exactly the White Lady died and how, the Warrens claimed to have captured video footage of her.
Mansfield Training School and Hospital
CT 32 and US 44
Mansfield, CT 06268
Another Connecticut entry on the National Register of Historic Places, the Mansfield Training School and Hospital began in 1860 as the “Connecticut School For Imbeciles.” The 350-acre hospital for the mentally ill finally ditched the insensitive name in 1915, but still remained an unwelcome place for some of its patients. Allegations of mistreatment by the staff as well as deteriorating conditions led to its eventual closure in 1993. Although some of its buildings have since become incorporated into the UConn campus, others, such as the Knight Hospital, have been neglected and have become covered with weeds and ivy, while visitors have heard disembodied voices crying out from inside. Another building that housed the hospital supervisor was featured on an episode of SyFy’s “Paranormal Witness”.
150 Bank St.
New London, CT 06320
Of the many lighthouses found in the seaport town of New London, the Ledge Lighthouse (built in 1909) stands out. It isn’t just because of its unique square red design, but because it is said to be haunted by a former caretaker named Ernie. The story says that around the 1930s Ernie discovered his wife’s infidelity and was so distraught he jumped to his death from the lighthouse roof. In the ensuing decades there have been reports from Coast Guard crew members of bizarre happenings: doors opening and closing and appliances turning on and off by themselves, objects moving or disappearing on their own, all presumably the doings of Ernie. There are now public tours of the lighthouse available summer afternoons, but if you sail near it at night you may just hear signs of Ernie yourself.