CONNECTIONS: Strange Sightings – The Berkshire Edge

On Connections: Love it or hate it, history is a map. Those who hate history think it’s irrelevant; many who love the story think it’s about escapism. In truth, history is the clearest roadmap for how we got here: America in the 21st century.

There is no shortage of haunted places in Berkshire County, quite the contrary, this county is downright spooky. There are disembodied voices, echoing footsteps, and mysterious dark figures signaled from the county from north to south. The ghosts show no preference.

In South County, ghosts are seen everywhere. Here’s the weird part: While some of the presence of ghosts, no one is certain of the identity of the ghosts. In North County, strange voices were reported in a tunnel and strange lights in a house. On Mount Greylock, a glowing ghost appeared and caused hikers to lose their footing. Here is an overview of the observations.

South County


Highwood, on the grounds of Tanglewood in Lenox. Photo courtesy BSO

AT Highwoodon the grounds of Tanglewood in Stockbridge there is a dining room on the ground floor and offices on the upper floors. Dining at Highwood is delicious and no restaurants have reported seeing any ghosts. However, on the upper floors, workers reported slamming doors, creaking floorboards, and lights turning on and off by themselves.

Additionally, there was a sighting of a semi-transparent man, flamboyantly dressed in a cape and hat placed at a slender angle. Many have reported seeing this ghost; some observers reported that he looked like Leonard Bernstein, while others claimed it was Serge Koussevitzky. Everyone was sure they had seen the ghost, but unsure who it was.

Prospect Hill

This business of swearing on the presence of a ghost, but without knowing who it is, is more common than one might think. Just down the road from Tanglewood, the owner of one of Stockbridge’s oldest houses insists her home is haunted. She saw the ghost.

It is a woman in what appears to be early 18th century clothing, but the figure is indistinct. Maybe it’s a man in loose clothes. Either way, the figure rises from the basement, groans, and trudges up the stairs. Appearing discouraged (no pun intended), the ghost then limits itself to pacing the hallway upstairs.

In the 18th century, this building was a “fortified house”, that is to say a strong house with thicker walls, a fence, a cistern in the basement to supply water, and gardens and food stores behind a fence. Stockbridge built two strongholds, preparing for the French Indian War.

Fortunately, the house was never raided. However, one summer Sunday in 1755, when most of the town was at church, Indians burst into the neighbor’s yard. The Chandlers – father, son, mother, young daughter and baby – lived there. The family was home, as was a servant named Owen.

When the Indians entered the house, the father and the son escaped through a window and ran towards the strong house, leaving alone the mother, the daughter, the child and the servant. The infant was killed immediately. Then the mother was attacked, but Owen intervened. They released the mother and brutally attacked Owen. They grabbed the 3 year old girl and ran away.

Mrs. Chandler struggled with Owen’s limp body. She dragged him to a pony cart and picked him up. She took him to the fortified house. He was treated by the doctor who lived across the house, but unfortunately Owen passed away.

Maybe Mrs. Chandler or Owen still haunts this house. Rising from the basement, where the cistern still stands, and surveying the upper floor.

Stockbridge main street

At the end of the 18th century there was a spinster in Stockbridge who outlived all the other members of her family. She inherited the family home and was proud and happy to live there, until she came to believe the house was haunted. Fear grew but she couldn’t bring herself to sell the house. Insomniac and torn between fear of ghosts and love of her home, she struggled to find a solution. Finally, she got it!

She felt that the ghost would only come out at night. She went “on the road” and made a deal with her neighbor. At night, she slept in the neighbour’s house; by day she would live in hers. The plan worked to everyone’s satisfaction.

Over the years, this Main Street house was a B&B, and perhaps the spinster could be considered her first guest at the Berkshire B&B some say they see her at night, still walking towards the bedroom.

North County

Houghton Manor

Houghton Manor
Houghton Mansion in North Adams. Photo: Wikipedia

In North Adams, Albert Charles Houghton, businessman and the city’s first mayor, build his mansion in 1890. Mr Houghton lived in the house with his wife Cordelia and their youngest daughter Mary. Their other children, already married, had moved away.

In 1905, at age 61, Houghton’s health began to decline and Mary decided she would never marry, but instead devote her life to caring for her father.

On August 1, 1914, with their driver John Widders and two friends, Houghton and Mary set off for a ride in their Pierce-Arrow. There was an accident and only Widders survived. Widders blamed himself for the deaths of Mary and Houghton, and the next day, in the basement of the house, Widders committed suicide.

Everyone agrees that the house is haunted. TV shows record phenomena and paranormal investigators swear to authenticity. The problem is that no one knows who he is haunted by. Logic dictates a remorseful Widders, an angry Houghton, or even Mary, keeping her vow never to leave the house. Here’s the problem: the observations are those of a child. Who could it be?

True believers point out that there was a house there before the Houghton Manor, and that the child may have been a resident of the former house. But we still don’t know why this child is sticking around.

The tunnel

The Hoosac Tunnel is 4¾ miles long. It was hewn out of solid rock with pickaxes, machines and explosives. Construction began in 1851. Twenty-four years, 21 million dollars, hundreds of thousands of labor hours and 200 lives later, it was finished. When they got to the other side, it was in 1875.

In 1865, Ringo Kelley and two colleagues, Ned Brinkman and Billy Nash, entered the tunnel. Kelley had explosives. The explosives detonated prematurely; Brinkman and Nash were crushed under tons of rock. Miraculously, Kelley was unhurt.

Immediately, men reported seeing, smelling, or hearing the spirits of Brinkman and Nash wandering the tunnel, waiting to even the score. A year to the day later, Kelley’s body was found – strangled. No weapons, footprints or signs of a struggle were found. It was proof positive that the ghosts of Brinkman and Nash had their revenge…except the hauntings didn’t stop.

Mount Greylock

Many hikers claim, while turning a bend in the trail or just over a cliff, that they have stumbled upon a ghost. This one is a cunning ghost, or maybe a prankster. The result can and has been a trip and a fall.

It really seems to those who have seen it, that the ghost Greylock wants something. It is polite to answer them; it can also be safer. Some report if the ghost Greylock, by pantomime or direct speech, invites you to jump, to come down from his mountain. Defend your territory. If the ghost can’t articulate its wishes clearly – if all the rattles, bumps, howls and zephyrs of cold air mean nothing – you can politely ignore the aberration altogether. But it may be better, with dignity, to move on.

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