A "ghost town
" in northwestern Connecticut
) settled in 1747 by a farmer
named Thomas Griffis
(alternatively known as Thomas Griffin
(actually more or less a district of the town of Cornwall
) seems to have become completely desert
ed by 1899, and fell off the maps about 1920.
The area settled is on a relatively high plateau in northwestern Connecticut, about 1,500 feet above sea level. But the area is also surrounded by (what pass in Connecticut for) mountains, and receives very little sun. Agriculture was a problem from the start there, as the land first had to be cleared—today, pine trees grow densely there—and the rocky soil plowed. But this area also gets the worst of the Connecticut winters, which was a problem for the orchards Griffis and those who followed tried to plant.
Among those who followed were a throng of folks from the Dudley family, who came from nearby Cornwall and Guilford, Connecticut. Thanks to their numbers and their family reputation (it is said they descended from English royal stock), the town soon took its fateful name. I say "fateful" because things did not go well, as tends to happen with places later called ghost towns. It is said, after all, that the Dudley family was put under a curse for their participation in a plot to overthrow Henry VIII of England.
The town did not prosper as Griffis had planned. The townspeople farmed reasonably well, but were never blessed with bumper crops; they dammed rivers and built three mills, but were generally dependent on nearby Cornwall for most of their needs.
But the big thing was that strange things seemed to happen to the residents of Dudleytown. An early epidemic wiped out two of the town's families. Attacks by local tribes of Native Americans took the lives of some. The wife of a former aide to George Washington was killed by lightning on her home porch, and thereafter her husband went a little crazy. Mary Cheney, born in Dudleytown and later the wife of famed newspaperman and Presidential hopeful Horace Greeley, hanged herself. The town's last resident family, the Brophys, saw the mother die of consumption, the two children disappear into the woods, and the father—the sole survivor—torch their family home and vanish.
One of the major legends, and certainly one of the most well documented, concerns the wife of Dr. William Clark, a New York oncologist. Enamored of the area, he and some friends in 1924 formed the Dark Entry Forest Association (DEF) to buy the Dudleytown land for preservation purposes. Dr. Clark built a summer cabin there and brought his wife up one weekend. He was urgently summoned back to New York City and left his wife alone. Upon his return, she was found rocking and mumbling incoherently. She spent the rest of her life in a mental institution, and no satisfactory explanation for her illness was ever reached.
The DEF still owns the land, but recently closed the area to visitors. Apparently there had been much interest from aficionados of the occult, and the straw that broke the camel's back was the discovery of a bloody cow's spine. It is assumed the cow was slaughtered and used for some sort of dark ceremony.
There are a lot of less credible stories about Dudleytown, which is now really just a series of building foundations and a haphazardly built and supposedly cursed stone dam (called "Witches' Dam"). The foundation of the Clark house is still visible. I have been there twice, and while some odd things happened on the trips, I can't say anything supernatural happened to me. A guy I knew took a stone as a souvenir from the Witches' Dam and was arrested soon after for drug possession, but I don't think this can be attributed to ghosts. Both times I camped there (separated by about three years) there was a campfire in the same place which could not be put out. And I know how to put a damn fire out. At the time of my first trip, I imagined I saw a ghost dog, of all things, but I was also sitting on a building foundation in the middle of the night—to tempt the spirits—and the power of suggestion is very strong.
If you know someone from the area, you will hear similar stories, some historical: such as the late 19th-century witch trial which resulted in the accused woman's head being blown up by a torrent of water, or perhaps the murder mystery involving brothers who made charcoal. Or maybe even the bit about how hallucinogenic mold caused a frenzy among the townspeople.
It's too bad you can't go there yourself anymore, because it's actually a beautiful piece of land. You'll just have to take others' word for it that Dudleytown is or is not haunted. I vote no, but that doesn't mean it ain't weird.