New Hampshire's Most Haunted Places
Ghost hunters Marianne O'Connor, CC Carole and Lesley Marden
Photo by David Mendelsohn
Inns and hotels that once avoided any mention of unbodied visitors now advertise their spirited goings-on. Restaurants now brag about their ghosts on their menus. So, for this the most spectral of months, our intrepid reporters called upon the state's most accomplished experts and left no gravestone unturned in their quest to determine just how haunted New Hampshire is. We've added a handy guide, ranging from zero to 5, to let you know just how deep in ectoplasm we find ourselves here in the Granite State.
Interviews with the Experts
We asked six intrepid ghost hunters (and one ghost debunker) just how haunted New Hampshire is.
Rev. Michael Kerper, the new pastor of St. Patrick's of Nashua, formerly of Corpus Christi Parish in Portsmouth, addressed the presence of ghosts in a column in a past issue of the Manchester Diocese's Parable Magazine.
He looks to St. Thomas who he says believed the souls of the dead who are in heaven can indeed appear to the living. But he says such sightings are not meant to terrify people but instead "to bring comfort and encouragement, never fear."
Rev. Kerper says St. Thomas believed it "theoretically possible for loved ones, like deceased grandparents or children (even babies), to become sensibly discernible to us." While such occurrences may be rare, he says, there is no reason to rule them out: "In a sense, these spirits are ghosts but they are benign, even loving."
As for malicious ghosts, "the nasty type that pop up in horror movies and novels," Kerper says, "St. Thomas clearly states that the souls of the dead who are not in heaven can never appear to the living without God's consent." But under what circumstances would God ever allow ghosts to appear to people?
Kerper says St. Thomas says "hauntings" could serve as a warning or "to seek spiritual assistance from the living in the form of prayer or good deeds to advance the dead person toward fulfillment in God. The ghosts ... may annoy people but they can never harm them."
How Haunted? 3
The Cable Guys
Paranormal stars Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson know a lot about haunted New Hampshire. They own and run the spookish Spalding Inn in Whitefield while maintaining their television careers as hosts of the über-popular "Ghost Hunters" on the SyFy network.
And, yes, they think New Hampshire is pretty haunted. "That's why Grant and I bought the inn in Whitefield," says Hawes on his way home from filming a "Ghost Hunters" episode on Snug Harbor in New York.
"Honestly, New Hampshire has a lot of great haunted locations. The people who settled here weren't prepared for the long cold winters and the rough terrain. There were a lot of fatalities.There are a lot of old locations with a lot of great activity."
Not coincidently one of those locations was the Spalding Inn.
"Grant and I wanted to buy an inn and we wanted one that was haunted. This place had 80 years of haunting stories," Hawes says.
The TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) duo wasn't disappointed when they investigated the location. Well, actually, they felt they needed an impartial search, and asked their buddies - at Ghost Hunters International - to assess the reports of strange noises, ghostly appearances of men in top hats and figures in the windows of the empty carriage house, and the creepiest of all, cold spots. The reveal: Haunted it was.
In fact, guests of the inn can take a tour of the locations, buy TAPS tchotchkes in the gift shop, stay in the most haunted rooms and, the best ever, read the comments in the guest book.
"Guests write about doors locking and unlocking by themselves, hearing voices and one woman wrote that she woke up one night and saw a man pointing to the door and telling her to leave."
How Haunted? 5
Mark Henn has heard plenty of New Hampshire ghost stories, but none that he believes. "There certainly are a lot of stories out there, aren't there?" asks Henn, who teaches the course "Psychology, Critical Thinking and the Scientific Method - Exploring Paranormal Belief" at the University of New Hampshire.
"Psychology is the perfect tool to investigate these sightings because almost all are based on our perception of events," he says. Henn uses the Carl Sagan Baloney Detection Kit, a series of questions used to dispute spurious claims such as "Is the source of the report credible?" or "Does the claim fit in the way the world works?" or "Does it conform with logic and empirical evidence?"
Henn relishes his role as paranormal straight man and offers a number of buzz killers for the next time someone wants to take you ghost hunting
"Orbs" seen in ghostly photos are simply dust motes, caught in the camera's flash and reflected. "With the camera focused on a more distant object, these dust motes appear as various sizes of translucent spheres," he says. Regarding those eerie EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) he notes, "A disembodied spirit has, by all accounts, no larynx, no physical means to create physical sound waves." Nor is there a known mechanism by which they could electronically affect a recording. "In other words, EVPs are not compatible with physics as we know it. They are, however, perfectly compatible with psychology. We have evolved to be pattern detectors. We see faces in clouds, and we hear words in static. Once we are told what the EVP 'is really saying,' it's very easy to hear."
As part of the course Henn leads a walking tour of UNH's Durham campus to sites said to be haunted (or where deaths occurred) and those without such reports. Students were asked to write down any unusual feelings. When notes were compared, it was clear that without foreknowledge there was no agreement as to which sites had "ghostly" presences.
How haunted is New Hampshire, according to Henn? Not so much. "I can see all kinds of good reasons why people see unusual things," he says, "but none of them have anything to do with ghosts."
How Haunted? 0/-1
How haunted is New Hampshire? "I guess my answer would be, 'How deep do you want to dig?'" says Lesley Marden, author of "Medium, Rare: A First Hand Account of Growing Up Experiencing the Paranormal."
"Although there are many ghostly tales documented all over New Hampshire, there are more stories still that remain uncovered. People in every corner of New Hampshire live with strange phenomena in their homes and never say anything about it. Some pretend it is not happening at all, and some conclude that it had to have been their imagination. It amazes me how many times people will speak up during conversations and admit to some of the ghostly activity that they have experienced. They usually end their story with 'I have never told anyone about that.' As long as there is a stigma attached to admitting to encountering spirit activity, I guess we will never know how haunted the Granite State might be. I think the more you look around New Hampshire, the more you find."
Marden lives in the Lakes Region and calls herself "a regular everyday wife and mother" who recognized at an early age that she was aware of things that other people couldn't see. She is also a certified reiki master practitioner and has worked as a medium on public and private investigations.
What's in her paranormal tool kit? She uses mostly her intuition as well as dowsing rods, EMF meters and a pendulum, which she says she uses in public so people "can witness answers to questions by which way the pendulum swings and not just take my word for it."
How Haunted? 4
Want to get up close and personal with a ghoul or ghostie? Take a hike and let Marianne O'Connor, the author of "Haunted Hikes of New Hampshire," be your guide.
A guidance counselor in the Nashua Public Schools for 18 years, O'Connor's haunted ramblings grew from a family hiking column she wrote for a weekly newspaper. "On my hikes, I met people who claimed to have had ghostly encounters, so I began exploring the history behind the stories I was hearing on the trail," she says.
She says New Hampshire is particularly active with paranormal activity. "We have many haunted hot spots because of the mysterious forests and the mountains" and the rich Native American history.
"Haunted Hikes" is a book you can judge by its cover, a ghostly depiction of a skeleton with a hiking stick eclipsing a map of the Granite State that glows in the dark. The book contains 14 hikes of varying degrees of difficulty, from a short walk in the woods to a ghost town in Milford to climbs of several of the state's highest peaks where the huts are said to be haunted.
The book is laid out like an AMC guide with topographic maps and details the starting points, the distance covered, difficulty and an estimate of the time it will take for each of the trips. (See the story on the next page is an example.)
"I don't use any equipment, but sometimes I bring along people who are psychic," she says.
How Haunted? 4+
How haunted is New Hampshire? "Very," according to CC Carole, who has been chasing down spirits for more than two decades and declares herself to be "the hardest working woman in paranormal."
Carole is the host of "CC the Huntress," an online paranormal show for which she received the Ghost Tale Network Paranormal Emmy Award for Best Show of the Year 2011. She's also the author of "Ghosts and Legends of the Merrimack Valley."
"At one time New Hampshire was the new frontier and there was a lot of strife between the settlers and the Indians. It left behind a lot of spirit energy. Ghosts are just the energy left behind by stress, trauma and anxiety," she says.
Lately she has been conducting séances in a house in Windham built in 1740 and said to be visited by spirits. It is the former home of Chick Austin, the Ringling Museum's first director, who once owned the Windham summer theater and played host to Bob Hope, Bette Davis and the Great Houdini.
Carole uses her own collection of tools to coax spirits into the open. "They don't just come out and say 'Boo' on command," she says. Her tools include dowsing rods, baby powder and an electromagnetic field detector, but she also studies the history of the location. "Electronic equipment only confirms what we already know," she says. She scatters baby powder on a table to come back to see if it has been rearranged. She says it was particularly effective at the Tortilla Flat Restaurant in Merrimack, which she says was the most haunted restaurant she knows.
She says the scariest story she ever heard is an incident she investigated on a walking trail near the railroad tracks in Amherst that involved burned and dismembered small animals impaled on the branches of trees.
How Haunted? 5+
The Paranormal Primer
Optional and very low tech – The Ouija Board
A board marked with the letters of the alphabet, the numbers 0-9, the words "yes," "no," "hello" and "good-bye" and used to facilitate séances. The user slides a wooden planchette across the board to communicate with spirits believed to control the movement. The device has been in use since the late 19th century, when there were plenty of dead Civil War soldiers to summon. Toy company Parker Brothers now holds the patent and trademark.
To see what kind of hardware the TAPS Ghost Hunters use go to video.syfy.com/ghosthunters/steves_gear_guide.
The DIY Ghost Hunter's Kit
- Digital Camera - Captures that ghostly image or orb that you might have missed while stumbling around in the dark.
- Tape Recorder - While trying to communicate with the spirits, ask a question and play back later at top volume, listening for an answer that you might not have heard with the "naked" ear.
- Baby Powder - Aficionados claim if you dust a table with the powder and spirits are about they sometimes communicate through patterns created in the fragrant dust.
- Flashlight - So you don't trip over things and go bump in the night.
- Dowsing Rods - A do-it-yourself aid to ghost hunting in use for hundreds of years. Most commonly, two L-shaped rods that have been made from brass or other lightweight metal. Some dowsers even used metal coat hangers. The rods should be about two feet long and bent into an L-shape. One rod should be held in each hand so loosely that they have room to swing easily back and forth. In the hands of an expert they are reputed to point in the direction of any energy they detect. Once you have discovered the energy source, the rods will cross, signaling that the area in question has been found.
- (EMF) Electromagnetic Field Detector or Compass - Said to spin when energy is detected.
- Infrared Camera - Electronic device that captures heat images invisible to the naked eye.
- Digital Thermometer or Thermal Scanner - Reads ambient and surface temperatures to detect those 20 or 30 degree temp drops that might indicate activity .
Ghostly Guidebooks to Haunted New Hampshire
All of the books below can be found in many New Hampshire bookstores and on Amazon.com.
- "Ghosts and Legends of the Merrimack Valley," CC Carole. Includes stories of entertainment ghosts at Canobie Lake Park.
- "Strange New Hampshire," Renee Mallett. Includes a section on notorious gravesites in the state.
- "Haunted New Hampshire," Thomas D'Agostino. Includes a story about the haunted sports field behind Griffin Memorial School, supposedly visited by the spirit of a young boy who accidentally hanged himself.
- "Haunted Hikes of New Hampshire," Marianne O'Connor. Hikes are rated according to difficulty and spookiness including the story of Temple's Sitting Spirit (the Wapack Trail to Holt Peak) and the Lost Love and Last Journey of Nancy Barton (Crawford Notch).
- "Haunted Portsmouth: Spirits and Shadows of the Past," Roxie J. Zwicker. Includes a description of the sound of phantom footsteps in the Point of Pines Burial Ground and mysterious voices at the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, haunted by the ghost of its former keeper.
- "Ghost Quest in New Hampshire," Beckah Tolley, Raven Duclos and Katie Boyd. Follow a local paranormal investigative group as they search the state for spirits, including the ghosts of Greenfield.
- "Ghosts of Portsmouth, New Hampshire," Rene Mallett. Includes stories of ghost ships, pirates and witches hovering around the Port City.
- "Manchester Ghosts: New Hampshire's Haunted City," Renee Mallett. Includes the tale of the Grandmother's Ghost as well as a primer on how to take pictures of spirits called "Spirit Photography 101."
- "Ghosts of New Hampshire's Lakes Region," Katie Boyd and BeckahTolley. The authors invesitage paranormal hot spots throughout the Lakes Region.
Scariest NH Ghost Story Ever?
Marianne O'Connor, author of "Haunted Hikes in New Hampshire," included this story in her section called "Haunted Huts on the Highest Peaks." She says this is the story that freaks out her audience the most.
An AMC crew member named George was sent up in the spring with a two-way radio to assess the winter damage and report back to the crew below any special equipment that might be needed for opening the Lakes of the Clouds Hut on Mount Washington. As in every winter, with the north winds blowing so fiercely, the windows of the hut are boarded up tight and secure. This was just how George found them that day. By the afternoon the men at the base signaled up to the lone hiker to see that he had made a safe arrival. Strangely, he did not answer. This didn't worry the other members of the crew at first. Maybe he had gone out for a little hike around to check on some other things. By 8:00 that evening, the crew tried again and still there was no radio response from George. Anxiety rose, and the members at the base drew out a plan for an early morning exodus to the hut to check on their friend's safety.
The next morning they made their way, slow and steady, up the snow-packed trail to the hut. From all indications George had arrived safely at the hut: his backpack and gear lay open on the dining room floor. There on a table was his two-way radio, still powered. They called out for him but couldn't find him anywhere. The searchers began looking outside for footprints; they looked in the bunkrooms with their flashlights and headlamps. The hut was eerily dark with the windows still boarded up from the harsh winter. Someone heard a noise - a whimper, coming from below the kitchen sink. At last George was found, shaking horribly and crouched under the sink with the cabinet doors closed. In his white fists he clutched an ax and pleaded with his crew mates: "Just please, get me the hell out of here. Just get me out of here!"
Stunned by this discovery the crew members quickly pulled him out of the cupboard. He was soaked in sweat and trembling in fear. The members begged George to tell them what was wrong, yet he would not answer them. He simply repeated, "Just get me the hell out of here! Please!" Quietly they surrounded their friend in a secure clutch and helped him outside the hut and back onto the trail down the mountain. One crew member radioed back to the Pinkham Notch base for assistance and an ambulance was waiting for them as soon as they reached the bottom.
What terror had taken form at the hut to reduce the bravest of men into this state of unprecedented fear? No one could say. They guessed that he had run into a wild animal, maybe a wolf or bear, and had become fearful for his life. As the weeks passed and George lay recovering in the hospital, he finally opened up to a close confidant and relayed this story:
After his long trek up the trail he was overcome with exhaustion and hunger. He unlocked the heavy padlocks on the hut doors and quickly went inside into the large dining hall. There he sat on the bench by one of the tables and began to take account of his food supplies as he rested. He thought he'd wait just a short while and catch his breath before radioing back to the base. Suddenly he felt as if there were someone else in the dining room with him. He felt a form approach him from behind, as if someone was about to put their hands on his shoulders. He jumped up and quickly turned around to face the back of the dining hall. There, peering in at him from the dining room window, was a face - a distorted, grotesque face pressed to the glass to the dining room window panes, which were entirely boarded up from the outside. George backed up in horror as he then he looked at each window pane covered by the thick boards, and there he saw, one after the other, the same face, in every window, glaring back at him. The face seem to melt through the glass and into the room where he was standing. That was the last thing George remembered. He would never return to the hut or the AMC crew again, and his since lost all memory of the trauma of the summit that changed his life forever.
- Marianne O'Connor