New Hampshire’s Haunted Halloween History

“All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.”

"Marley's Ghost," from page 22 of The Forester (1911), Lake Forest University - from the Internet Archive

“Marley’s Ghost,” from page 22 of The Forester (1911), Lake Forest University – from the Internet Archive

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned these words
by 1867 when the New Hampshire Sentinel newspaper of Keene, New Hampshire shared them in print.   I go one step further and state that all PLACES wherein men and women have died are haunted.  If you peer through the notices of New Hampshire’s past you soon come to realize that if you feel cold fingers running up your spine you might be walking in a spot that is perhaps less hospitable to the living and more auspicious to the spectre.

In 1682 a poltergeist harrassed a New Castle family. As early as 1791 local newspapers were printing stories about haunted houses and “ghostees.”  In 1813 a Portsmouth NH jury awarded a plantiff $10 in compensation on the defense that a house he had rented was haunted by ghosts.  But if the spirits of those who die unexpectedly or from cruel wounds tend to become ghosts, then there must be many  more lurking about.  Between 1844 and 1888 several strange deaths occurred in New Hampshire, as evidenced by the following newspaper reports:

Yesterday morning a Dead Body was discovered floating near the End of the Long-Wharff, it appeared to be the Body of William Coacheran, a Native of Londonderry, in the Province of New-Hampshire, who was impressed from Capt. Hulme’s Ship which arrived here last Week from London, and that he did the preceeding Evening endeavor to make his Escape from the Viper Sloop of War in this Harbour, by Swimming, and was accidentaily Drowned. –Friday, March 3, 1769, New-Hampshire Gazette (Portsmouth NH) Vol XIII, Issue 647, page 2,3 [Editor’s note: yes this occurred in Boston, but the man was from New Hampshire].

DEAD BODY FOUND.–The dead body of a person, whose name, as would appear from papers found with him, was Joseph Tole, was discovered in the woods in Wilton, Oct. 19 –Thursday, October 31, 1844, New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord NH) — Vol XI, Issue 527, page 2

Probable murder — Dead Body found — The body of a dead man was taken from the Merrimack river, between the Boott and Merrimack corporations, about 12 o’clock. The body bears the appearance of having been immersed for several weeks. The skull was broken in two places, which leads to the suspicion that the deceased met a violent death. We learn the clothing of the deceased answers the description of that worn by Mr. Tristram Pillsbury, who is advertised in this paper as having disappeared about the 4th of November. We have been unable to gather further or more definite particulars.–[Lowell Advertiser. –Thursday, February 6, 1845, Farmer’s Cabinet (Amherst NH) Vol 43, Issue 25, page 2

DEAD BODY FOUND.–The body of a man was found among the ice and floodwood near the Concord Bridge, in this town, on Sunday. It was so much decayed that it could not be recognized, but it is supposed to be an Irishman who was drowned near Sewell’s Falls last summer. –Thursday, April 15, 1847, New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord NH), Vol XII, Issue 655, page 2

"Wanderers of the Wold," from The Oracle, Vol VIII published by Senior Class of Southwestern Normal, Weatherford, Oklahoma, 1919

“Wanderers of the Wold,” from The Oracle, Vol VIII published by Senior Class of Southwestern Normal, Weatherford, Oklahoma, 1919, from the Internet Archive

DEAD BODY FOUND.–The body of a female was found in the Connecticut river, at Bellows Falls, on the 2nd inst. She had on a red calico frock, and from the general appearance had been in the water for several weeks, and was apparently about 65 years of age. –Thursday, April 11, 1850, New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene NH), Vol LII, Issue 15, page 3

Dead Body Found. The body of a middle aged man, in a state of perfect nudity, was found on the farm of Mr. James Corliss, last Friday. A porion [portion] of his clothes was found not far off. He was found lying extended across a brook, and was probably insane. [Nashua Gazette. –Thursday, October 17, 1850; Farmer’s Cabinet (Amherst NH), Vol. 49, Issue 10, Page 2

DEAD BODY FOUND.–In Barrington, Oct. 21st, the body of Mr. Joseph Watson was found dead lying beside the fence, in the road. He ate his breakfast as usual, and was found near night, less than a quarter of a mile from his house. He was said to be about 40 years of age.–[Dover Gaz.–Wednesday, November 12, 1851, Farmer’s Cabinet (Amherst NH) Vol 50, Issue 14, page 3

DEAD BODY FOUND–The dead body of a man, supposed to be an Irishman, was found by a son of Mr. Aaron P. Jeffers, at the head Quara Island, in Orford, on Saturday last.–The Coronoer, Col. J. McClary, held an inquest on the body on Sunday last, where it appeared that the deceased had two severe wounds on his head, and one of his ears nearly cut off. It was supposed by medical gentlemen who saw the body that it had been in the water six weeks or more. The Coroners Jury give as their verdict that the deceased came to his death by means of blows inflicted on his head by a person or persons to them unknown — [Haverhill Republican –Wednesday, April 27, 1853, New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord NH)

MAN BURIED ALIVE–In Plaistow, N.H. last Frieday, in the brickyard of Messrs. Cheney & Sleeper, Mr. Alex Caplet was digging down an embankment when it gave way, and he was buried alive, and died before he was reached. It is the second or third fatal accident which has occurred on or near this spot, within three or four years.–[Haverhill Banner.–May 11, 1859, Farmer’s Cabinet (Amherst NH) Vol 57, Issue 41, page 2

DEAD BODY FOUND.–The body of a man dressed in uniform of a marine, was found floating in the Piscataqua, about five miles above Portsmouth. It was much decomposed and the features were beyond recognition. It was not identified by the Navy Yard authorities.–Wednesday, June 17, 1868, New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette, Issue 3100, page 3

 Rhyme? And Reason? by Lewis Carroll, with sixty-five illustrations by Arthur B. Frost and nine by Henry Holiday, published in 1901.  Internet Archive

Rhyme? And Reason? by Lewis Carroll, with sixty-five illustrations by Arthur B. Frost and nine by Henry Holiday, published in 1901. Internet Archive

DEAD BODY FOUND.–Mr. James O. Sherman of Manchester, disappeared about a fortnight ago in a very mysterious manner, and on Sunday last his dead body was found in the Merrimack River, near Nashua. There were certain disfigurements of the body which might have been caused by abrasions of stones in the river bed, but there is a suspicion that he may have been killed and thrown into the river. He had worn a coat and vest on the evening of his disappearance, but had none on when found. No money was found on the body, though he was known to have had some. The deceased formerly lived in Lowell. — Thursday, October 21, 1869, Farmer’s Cabinet (Amherst NH) Vol 68, Issue 14, p.2

DEAD BODY FOUND IN NEW IPSWICH.–Quite a sensation has been created in New Ipswich by the discovery of the dead body of Geo. Cushing, a well known citizen in the town. The body was found on Tuesday the 12th, in a field upon the Chandler farm, in the south part of the town. The deceased had been missing some time, but the cuase of his death, as well as all circumstances connected with the affair, is as yet a mystery.–[Telegraph –Thursday, April 21, 1870, Farmer’s Cabinet (Amherst NH) Vol 68, Issue 40, Page 2

DEAD BODY FOUND.–A despatch from Wentworth, Sept. 7 says: Quite an excitement caused in this place yesterday by the finding of a dead body in the woods by some parties who were out gunning. The body was entirely decomposed. The selectmen went to the place that morning for the purpose of making an examination, and in attempting to remove the skeleton it fell to pieces, showing that many months must have elapsed since death ensued. The body was evidently that of a person of about six feet and one inch in height and of large proportions. His teeth were mostly gone, only three or four remaining. He was evidently dressed in a grey ribbed coat and vest, checked woolen shirt, while his pants were probably Sanbornton tweed, and around his neck was a gingham handkerchief, on his feet thick boots and woolen stockings. There was found upon his person a gingham pocket handkerchief, a pair of spectables in case, pair of scissors, four-blade pocket knife and 14 cents in change. About three feet from the body was found a half-pint flask, corked tight, in which was twenty-six dollars in bills and ninety cents in scrip. About six feet from the body was found a cotton umbrella, and near it was a double trimmed high crowned palm-leaf hat, and upon the hat were spots of different colored paints, while by the side of the hat was a broken porter bottle. Several spruce boughs were under his head, having evidently been cut and placed there for a pillow. Where the body was found was a very retired spoit, being nearly a half mile from any inhabitation. The matter remains a mystery.–Wednesday, September 11, 1872; New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord NH) Issue 3321, page 3

WHO WAS STEPHEN VERVANE! Dead Body Found in the Merrimack at Garvin’s Falls. Sunday morning about 9:45, W.H. Williamson of this city found the body of a man floating in the water at the foot of Garvin’s Falls, on the west side of the river. He immediately communicated by telephone with City Marshal Locke, who, accompanied by Officer Rand, proceeded to the scene of the discovery. They found the body to be that of a man, which had undoubtedly been many weeks in the water. The clothing consisted of pants, vest, shirt and undershirt, red woolen socks and congress shoes; no suspenders or coat. The shirts were pulled up over his head. The body was badly decomposed and hardly more than a superficial examination was made, but it is estimated that the man was about five feet seven inches high and weighted about 140 pounds. The officers think his were knocked out, probably by contact with the rocks and his hair was entirely gone. The pants and vest were gray striped; shirt, blue and white striped the undershit white, of wool. On the Body was found an open face watch in a hunter case, marked with the initials S.V., also with the words, “Burnun, Geneava, cylinder 10 rubies.” It was stopped at 7:15. The case was of very peculiar construction, havong on the outside piece a horn set into it. A comb, found in the pocket, was carved with the name “Stephen Vervane.” A small steel purse contained 75 cents. Mr. Williamson was at the same location fishing last night, but the body was not there then. The body was given in charge of the selectmen of Bow, but the articles found on the person will be at the city marshal’s office here, for the purpose of identification. –Thursday July 5, 1888, New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord NH), page 8


Old Haunted Houses Reported in New Hampshire Newspapers

Bath New Hampshire: The Haunted Hibbard House

A White Mountain Ghost Story | Death on Mt. Washington: A Tale of Lizzie Bourne

Francestown, New Hampshire: Is Haunted Lake Haunted?

The Ghost of Mount Washington Hotel, Bretton Woods NH

The Strange Haunting of Mt. Moosilaukee

A Haunted New Hampshire

The New Hampshire Body Snatching

The Dark Elements of a New Hampshire Halloween

Poem: Ghost House, by Robert Frost (1906)

Poem: The Ghost of Abel Law


The History Channel: The History of Ghost Stories

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