A Beautiful and Haunted Museum

A beautiful and haunted museum sits next to the Connecticut River in rural Hadley, MA.  Situated on acres, amongst farmland, this c. 1752 Colonial-style house has been home to many of the same-family members over the course of a couple hundred years.  In 1949, Dr. James Huntington opened the home to the public and the Porter, Phelps, Huntington House Museum was born.

After such a long history, it isn’t too surprising that the house seems to be home to more than one family member who just didn’t want to leave.  Phenomena associated with the house are doors that open and shut on their own, footfalls walking the halls and rooms,  disembodied voices, and encounters with someone that quickly moves past visitors.  It seems that most of the activity is from a woman or two, and possibly a child who seems to like the staircases best.

Moses Porter constructed the house outside the Hadley village stockade on about 600 acres of fertile land and created a home for his wife Elizabeth and their young daughter Betty.  Things went well until the French and Indian War broke out and Moses was called to duty.  He was deployed to the Lake George area in 1755.  Capt. Porter was killed in battle and buried in New York.  One night, one of the Porter’s servants handed Elizabeth her husband’s sword from battle.  She knew then, he’d never be home again.  Elizabeth never got over the death of her husband.  The house experienced a long period of sadness and emotional distress that continued in a downward spin.

Eventually, the house was passed along to Elizabeth Porter’s daughter Elizabeth. Betty lived in the mansion with her husband Charles Phelps, Jr. and their several children.  After Charles died, Elizabeth hoped her son, Charles, would bring his family and come to the house to live with her.  He never did.  After Betty’s death, the house went to her daughter, Elizabeth Whiting Phelps,  who had married Dan Huntington, the parents of Dr. James Huntington.  The House is now managed by the Porter Phelps Huntington Foundation.

It has been purported that an impression in the bed can be seen in the front bedroom that belonged to Elizabeth and Moses….the place where Mrs. Porter got the devastating news her husband was dead.   We’ve toured the property on several occasions and on one of them a definite shape could be seen in the bed.  We’ve heard knockings, and there are definite shadows that can been seen out of the corner of one’s eyes.   I understand that the family themselves, and only among themselves, knew some of their relatives never left the property.

Who is the woman there?  It’s up for grabs.  It could be either Elizabeth Porter or Elizabeth Phelps.  They both seemed to have reason enough to stay on.  Maybe if you go and visit you can determine the source of activity…..and experience it for yourself.  There’s a prominent feeling of being both watched and followed.   I don’t think you could ever feel like you were alone in the place.  And the child?  Maybe one of the children who never reached adulthood and left this world at a very young age.

It’s worth a visit to this museum for it’s historical, architectural, and aesthetic value alone.  But, if you’re fortunate enough to have a family member visit you while you’re there – it’s an extra treat.

–  ashanta

ashantaofthelema@gmail.com

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An Historical Haunting

Cemeteries are interesting places. They all have an history to relate, but do it in different ways.  Some are beautiful, garden-like areas, some are plain and barren.  Some feel serene and others are a bit spooky.  Age doesn’t seem to matter as much as the pasts of those that now reside inside the spot.  Not all the residents are a peace and some do not rest.  The Old Burying Ground in historic Deerfield Village dates back to colonial times.  It isn’t scary,  but it isn’t at rest, either.  Sometimes things happen to people that takes more than one span of life to get over.

Back in the late 1600’s, Deerfield Village stood as a British settlement on their most northern frontier in Massachusetts.  It was home to about 200 +/- people who settled in the fertile land between the Connecticut and Deerfield rivers. Deerfield Village was incorporated in 1677. The area was prone to Indian attacks…..or Native American attacks for those more politically correct…  but during the winter of 1703/1704 an offshoot of the French & Indian War – Queen Anne’s War – the colonial settlement was ravaged by invaders.  About a quarter of the villagers were brutally massacred including women and children.  112 people were captured, taken prisoner, and marched to Canada.  Many died along the way.  On their way out of town, the raiders burned the village.  Almost half the houses were left in ashes

This gruesome incident left the remaining 112 settlers to pick up the carnage and carry on with life as it now was.  The 56 dead were taken to the burying ground where they were interred into a common mass grave.  The mound sits to the left rear of the cemetery and is marked by a single stele on top of the rise.  Many years ago when we visited that spot a friend took a picture.  When it was developed it showed a grey mist resembling a woman standing at the bottom.  Nothing showed on the negative, but it was clear on the print.  Wish I knew what happened to that shot so I could share it.The small cemetery is located on Albany Road just off of Old Main Street in the town’s center. It’s a pretty spot and its age shows.

On a more recent visit we spent some time reading all the headstones and marveling at the many intricately designed markers which depict the funerary artwork of the day. If you stay awhile, walk around, and read the stones in stone, a lot can be learned about some of the inhabitants and their families that lie close.  You also get the feeling you aren’t alone.  Twigs crack as if someone was stepping on them.  Shadows move through the markers.  And, the place has an energy of its own.  It’s a palpable energy.  It tells its own story.  If you go, how did it make you feel?

 

–   ashanta