Ghost tour a spirited evening in Guilford
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
GUILFORD – A heavy mist drizzled down from the night sky as two “ghosts” stood outside a house on Whitfield Street telling their story to a group of visitors.
“I’m a great practical joker,” one said. “I like to tie things into figure-eight knots, figure eight meaning eternity or the symbol for infinity.”
The two characters, dressed in Victorian-era costume, were presented by Guilford High School students Catherine Santini, 15, and Sammie Brechlin, 17, as part of a downtown ghost story tour. The girls embodied two spirits thought to have inhabited a yellow 1844 house, now conveniently for sale – price reduced.
On Friday night, the Guilford Fund for Education held its first Ghost Walk at locations around the Green. The tour of several historic houses featured “true” ghost stories from some of the town’s reportedly haunted environs.
At 1 Park St., which now houses the Guilford Savings Bank, Guilford Fund for Education President Dan Smith played David Naughty, a former resident of the site who Smith said had “been dead for 200 years.”
Smith said that Naughty, who lived up to his last name, was sued by his neighbor and lost his house at the corner of Park and Boston streets. The neighbor razed the house and built the current structure in its place. In retaliation, Naughty stipulated in his will that he be buried on the Green with his head above the ground, looking at his neighbor’s house, but his wishes were not followed.
Lorrie Shaw, the coordinator of the Ghost Walk, said she spent several months talking with residents and reading through old newspaper articles and town archives to research local ghost stories. The tour came out of the preparation for another event the Fund for Education held last weekend that was going to include a trivia contest based on town history.
“It started to evolve because I actually started to talk to somebody who had a spirit in their house and I would hear all these stories,” Shaw said. “I thought, ‘Well, there must be a number of people – Guilford has many historic homes.”
Organizers put up fliers on the Green looking for stories to include in the tour. They decided to only use older houses with ghost stories from the past.
“They’re not grisly or gruesome. … These ghosts, the ones that we have, seem to be there because they really like the home for whatever reason,” Shaw said. “Maybe because we focused on historic homes, most of our spirits seem to be from the 1700s and 1800s.”
During the opening slide show, John Otto discussed a number of houses whose owners have seen ghosts or felt a supernatural presence. He also documented some of the attitudes about death and illness in Colonial and Victorian times.
At the Toll House in Sachem’s Head, Otto said, residents would often see a ball bouncing down the stairs and hear a child crying. They called in psychics to try to rid the house of the spirit.
“Unfortunately, their attempts were unsuccessful, and they eventually found it necessary to leave,” Otto said. “We don’t know if the hauntings have continued.”
In fact, the name Sachem’s Head, which is an area along the shore, has its own ghost story. After a battle between the Pequot tribe and some Colonial settlers allied with Mohicans, a Pequot chief, or sachem, was decapitated and his head was placed on a tree.
“Guilford folklore has it that every 100 years, the tree comes alive, the branches become arms and a Pequot sachem can be seen walking around,” Otto said.
Tickets for the event, which attracted several hundred people, were $20. The money benefited the Guilford Fund for Education, which provides grants for teachers, students and non-profit organizations with innovative educational ideas.
The crowd was split into several groups with individual guides, and some attendees stayed behind to watch a second slide-show presentation. The groups walked on one of two different routes, each of which included six or seven houses. After the tour, a dowser and psychics were on hand to answer people’s questions.
Shaw said she is hoping to make the Ghost Walk an annual event. “We know there are more out there,” she said. “We’re hoping that people come forward for next year.”