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Episode 13: The Village of the Damned

The Mountain Mysteries

Episode 13

The Village of the Damned

The Mountain Mystery of Dudleytown Connecticut

Are you scared of the dark? Well, to be honest, the dark would be the least of your concerns when it comes to what we’re about to share with you. It was almost like any number of small towns across the USA you might have seen back when it was thriving. All except for one thing, a curse. A curse that dates back to the fifteen-hundreds the story goes, and it’s made the local population want to stray as far away from the place as they can. Some consider this is the evilest place on Earth, and many paranormal investigators have left this place in a sprint.

Located in northwestern Connecticut within the town of Cornwall. Many unexplained events, mysterious disappearances and ghost sightings have been reported in this small town. According to local legend, the founders were descended from Edmund Dudley, an English nobleman who was beheaded for treason during the reign of Henry VII. From that moment on, the Dudley family was placed under a curse, which followed them across the Atlantic to America.

These are The Mountain Mysteries, and this is episode 13, the Mountain Mystery of Dudleytown, Connecticut, The village of the damned.

We begin where it all began, of course. Connecticut is a beautiful state with its fair share of hauntings, we’ve heard about a lot of them, such as the Snedegar family, from A Haunting in Connecticut. That’s one of several. But our story on this episode takes us to what, on the map, looks like a seemingly undisturbed dot on the blacktop, a small place called Dudley town, located with the city of Cornwall. Now, it should be noted that Cornwall doesn’t have its own police force, instead…the residents of the small New England community depend on the State Police force for services.

The name of Dudleytown was given at an unspecified date to a portion of Cornwall that were comprised of several members of the Dudley family. Most all of them can trace their heritage back to a Saxon named Dudd, who was titled Duke of Mercia and died in 725 A.D. It was Dudd’s land that would ultimately become the site of the Dudley castle.

The story about the curse has been traced to an English nobleman, ancestor of the Dudley brothers who settled the town. Back in England, old Edmund Dudley got his head chopped off for plotting against King Henry VII. Someone... or something put a curse on Edmund that followed his family to the New World and took root in Dudleytown.

In what is often cited as the first sign of the curse, is when one of the Dudley brothers went insane. Other strange incidents included the fact that at a barn raising, a man fell to his death, then lightning struck and killed a Dudleytown woman, right on her porch. She was the wife of a prominent man in the town who had served under General George Washington himself.

Several citizens of Dudleytown are also said to have gone insane, and two local women, Mrs. Greeley, better known as Mary Cheney and Harriet Clarke, is said to have hanged themselves in the small community in 1872, the later having reported visions of demons prior to her death.

Following the Civil War’s end in 1865, Dudleytown slowly became a ghost town. Residents of the town left for better places where they had access to more things. But there was one family that decided to stay, John Brophy decided to keep his family there, even though everyone else had left. This would turn out to be a fatal decision. Brophy saw his entire life change within just a few short months. His wife died, and immediately after the funeral, his only two children walked into the woods and seemingly disappeared. His house then caught fire mysteriously and Brophy finally disappeared himself.

According to the chroniclers of Dudleytown, New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley should have followed his own advice (“Go West, young man”), and taken his wife. They claim that Mrs. Greeley, better known as Mary Cheney, hanged herself in Dudleytown in 1872.

It should be noted that Rev. Gary P. Dudley, a Texas resident, and the author of The Legend of Dudleytown: Solving Legends through Genealogical and Historical Research (Heritage Books, 2001), disputes the foregoing. In tracing the genealogy of his name, he found virtually no historical basis for Dudleytown’ s cursed reputation—no genealogical link to Edmund Dudley, no mysterious illnesses or deaths. As for Mary Cheney, he says she never set foot in Dudleytown.

By most accounts, including Rev. Dudley’s, the final resident of Dudleytown seems to have been Dr. William Clarke, a New York City physician. Dr. Clarke built a vacation home in Dudleytown in the early 1900s; Mrs. Clarke was yet another wife visited by tragedy. The traditional story places her in Dudleytown at the time. While her husband attended to an emergency in the city, leaving her alone overnight, she descended into madness. But as Rev. Dudley’s tells it, Mrs. Clarke committed suicide—in New York, not in Dudleytown.

Following the last resident’s death, Dr. Clarke purchased a large plot of land in the area and officially became the owner of Dudleytown, or at least what was left of Dudleytown. Legend claims that the man left his wife there for a few days and returned to find her completely insane. After screaming about the creatures in the woods, she killed herself in their house.

A few years later the man remarried and built a new house for his bride. Together with a group of their friends, the couple formed the Dark Entry Forest Association. With trees and forests being destroyed across the country, they hoped to preserve the land here. Clarke and his second wife died during the 1940’s, but their descendants still live nearby.

Now the Dark Entry Forest Association owns the land, and entry is no longer permitted. There is a warning note from the Connecticut State Police: Those who go or attempt to go to Dudleytown will be arrested for trespassing and/or parking. The fines start at $75.00 per person and rapidly increase.

Living in Dudleytown was never easy. Many things went poorly for the people and for the land. Were all of the events inexplicable? Was there a high lead content in the drinking water? Did Native Americans sneak into the hollow and wreak havoc? Or did the Dudley’s lug a centuries-old curse into the village? The rocks in and around Dudleytown do contain a high level of iron and other metals. It is possible there was some lead in the drinking water on the hillside. This theory could explain some of the dementia that area residents experienced, but continued lead poisoning is always fatal and for more than a century people lived in Dudleytown. If the water were bad, residents would have moved away sooner.

It is also true that there were many Native American tribes who lived in the general vicinity of Dudleytown, including the Mohawk nation. Some battles of the French Indian War (1755 – 1763) also took place within 100 miles of Dudleytown. There was fallout from the Native Americans for several years after the war, and one set of Dudleytown residents met their fate at the hands of angered Indians. In August of 1774, an unidentified epidemic struck the Adoniram Carter household in Dudleytown and killed the entire family. A second Dudleytown Carter family, The Nathaniel Carters, distraught from the loss, moved near Binghamton, New York where Indians took the life of Nathaniel, his wife, and their infant by tomahawk. The Carters’ other three children were kidnapped to Canada where two daughters were ransomed. The son, David Carter, remained with his captors, married an Indian girl, and eventually returned to the United States for formal education. David escaped the curse of Dudleytown and eventually went on to become a Supreme Court judge. One of the more bizarre tragedies occurred to one of Cornwall's more famous residents, General Heman Swift. General Swift served in the Revolutionary War under General George Washington. In April of 1804 his wife, Sarah Faye, was struck by lightning on their front porch and killed instantly. Shortly after his wife’s death, General Swift was reported to have gone "slightly demented." Horace Greeley, editor, and founder of the New York Tribune and most famous for his quote, "Go West, young man," married Mary Cheney, who was born in Dudleytown. The two met in a vegetarian boarding house, and their union ended when Mary Cheney took her own life in 1872, one week before Horace Greeley lost his bid for the presidency of the United States. The next tragedy occurred near the very end of the 1800s to one of Dudleytown’ s last residents, John Patrick Brophy. John Brophy's wife died of consumption, and shortly after his two children mysteriously disappeared in the woods. The children vanishing could have been attributed to the fact that they were accused of stealing sleigh robes and wanted to run from the law. After losing his entire family, the Brophy home burned to the ground. Some have speculated that it was John Brophy who set the blaze. Regardless of how the fire started, John Brophy walked away from Dudleytown never to be seen again. By 1899 Dudleytown was completely deserted. Children who grew up there married and moved away. The forest began to reclaim the land. In 1920 Dr. William Clark, a cancer specialist from New York City, came to Cornwall for the quiet that the woods could provide. Dr. Clark fell in love with the surroundings and built a summer house there. In 1924, together with some of his friends and colleagues, Dr. Clark formed the Dark Entry Forest Association (DEF). “The Dark Entry Forest Association was formed as a nature preserve,” explains Dr. John F. Leich, former president and current shareholder of the DEF. “Dr. Clark wanted a place where he could bring his children and grandchildren in the summers.” The original charter stated the land would remain "forever wild," a nature preserve for its members to enjoy. During a summer in the mid-1920s, Dr. William Clark was called away to an emergency in New York City. His wife stayed behind and when he returned a few days later, she was alleged to have gone mad. Sources said something from the forest attacked her and left her completely insane. She lived out the remainder of her days in a mental hospital.

Theories Behind the Curse Dr. John F. Leich, a resident of the Dark Entry Forest since 1952, claims that in his almost 50 years of experience in and around Dudleytown, there is absolutely nothing odd or paranormal about the place. “My wife and I have been spending summers here since 1952,” Dr. Leich said. “There are approximately 50 shareholders in the Dark Entry Forest Association and about 20 houses, and none of us have seen anything strange or supernatural.” Reverend Gary Dudley, a Dudley family genealogist, believes there is no family connection between Joseph Dudley of Saybrook, Connecticut, and the cursed Edmund Dudley. “Edmund Dudley’s son, Robert, Earl of Leicester had two sons, and one was illegitimate,” Rev. Dudley said. “The legitimate son of Robert died too young to marry, and the other moved to Italy where he and his three children remained—there is no lineage between Robert and the Dudley’s who eventually settled in Cornwall.” Rev. Dudley believes Dudleytown’ s “ghosts” may have been the work of human error: “The town produced a little flax and some rye, which is interesting because if rye is left to decay, the resulting mold is a hallucinogen. This makes me wonder if the ‘demons’ were the result of bad bread as opposed to actually being the devil’s work.” “Dudleytown became a town that was just trying to survive as opposed to grow and thrive,” Rev. Dudley concluded. Ed Warren, who was a noted demonologist and ghost hunter, believes Dudleytown was definitely cursed. He said, “The Dudley’s had an ancestor in England who was a judge and condemned many people to death for witchcraft,” Mr. Warren continued to state “The curse in Dudleytown started after the village became a thriving town. People went mad and reported seeing monstrosities in the forest—things that were unnatural.” “Curse? What is a curse? Dudleytown is cursed in that it is a tract of land with an aura of disaster. Everyone left the town,” Ed Warren concluded.

It wasn’t long after these comments from the Warren’s that activity in the abandoned town began to swell, not paranormal, but from vandals. We theorize that this is why the state police and law enforcement agencies as a whole begin to crack down on trespassers, they were tired of the defacement. Nancy Zeigler, co-author of the forthcoming book, Dudleytown, said, “The people living in the Dark Entry Forest have a vested interest in saying there is nothing up there. Well, if there’s nothing up there, then why do we get strange things on our photographs? I’ve been slapped across the face and scratched with no one standing there.”

The legends of the ghost stories seem to have started in the late 1940s. American men were returning from World War II, and everyone was doing pretty well financially. One theory is the legends were made up by young men who wanted to drive up Dark Entry Road with their girlfriends in the car and tell them a scary story.

The following are PERSONAL ACCOUNTS:

Shannon from Manchester, CT (whose last name has been withheld upon request): “My boyfriend's family moved to Sharon, CT in early 1998. His mother's fiancé has lived in that area all his life and they had been telling me a little something about Dudleytown. I was kind of skeptical so I decided to check into it. “Ever since I was little, I have had this ‘feeling’ if you will. Many people don't believe this, but I can tell if someplace is ‘haunted’. There is a house in Manchester, CT where I live, that is supposedly haunted by the spirit of a little girl. She was tortured and handcuffed in a crawl space of the house and left there for dead. And I walked into the house and instantly got cold chills and my whole-body temperature dropped. I could feel her there. She was following me around in the house. “So when my boyfriend’s family told me about Dudleytown, I had a natural curiosity to find out if it was true or not. So the next time I went out to Sharon, I asked them to show me where it was. They had told me stories about Dark Entry Road. My boyfriend's mother, like myself, can feel the presence of a spirit. So she and I drove to the beginning of Dark Entry Road and got out of the car to see if we could feel anything. Sure enough the second I stepped out of the car I got the coldest chill and my body temp. just dropped. I could definitely feel something. “There have been quite a few people I have talked to out in that area that have told me that the town doesn't like you to get too familiar with it. And that if you do it will change on you. I have heard several people tell me a story about how they were driving through or walking through there, having made it a daily route to or from work, and they have seen this ‘mass’, this black-as-black-can-be mass that just follows you.” Sarah, a Connecticut resident (whose last name was also withheld upon request):

“I have had some strange experiences there. In July of 1998, my fiancé and I, as well as two other friends went up there to check out the so-called ‘curse’. “Problems started as we pulled up Bald Mountain Road--we all felt this feeling -- it was different for all of us. My friend, Jenn, felt stabbing pains in her stomach and my back got really tense, and the two others got a creepy feeling. “Around 11:30 PM we parked our car next to the entrance to one of the trails leading into Dudleytown. We all got out of the car, grabbed the flashlights and cameras, and started walking down the trail. We heard nothing. Dead silence. No wind, no animals...nothing. We walked only a few feet and we heard this noise. The sound is difficult to describe, but it sounded like a huge metal dumpster dragging against asphalt. At this point we were freaking out, but we kept going. “When we got to the entrance, Jenn started reading the sign and all of a sudden I took the flashlight and shined it at the ground where we just walked and we sa w the words in huge letters ‘NEVER RETURN...SATAN’. “What really freaked us out was that, first off, the writing was fresh, like it was done about two minutes before we got there. Secondly, we drove over that spot but there were no tire tracks, and when we walked over it there were no footprints. “We're like, okay, this isn’t good, let’s we left. There is definitely something there.” Dudleytown Today The Dark Entry Forest Association still owns most of the land that Dudleytown once stood on. There is a group of homes on Bald Mountain Road that are very secluded from main roads and the rest of civilization. Regardless of whether there was ever a curse or not, Satanists and black witches are performing rituals in the area that was Dudleytown. Robin “Boston” Barron, a ghost hunter and Dudleytown historian, said, “I once saw the bloody spine of a cow lying in one of the cellar holes in Dudleytown. It was definitely part of some ritual.” Some rocks lying along the trails have been painted or carved with symbols, and several people have been arrested for lighting fires or trespassing in the area. Recently, this past October, the DEF announced they would no longer allow hikers to go onto their land. The area that was Dudleytown is quiet again for the third time in its historic and colorful life.

Many of the deceased people are long gone and have no relatives. This makes investigations even harder, if not impossible. Whether you believe in the power of curses or not, there is something special about Dudleytown.

No matter how much historians dismiss the curse, many people cannot get rid of the feeling there is something strange about such a small area with so many disappearances, unusual deaths, suicides, and cases of insanity.

Those who plan to visit Dudleytown should think twice before making the journey. The land is owned by the Dark Forest Entry Association. Trespassing on their property is strictly forbidden, and as far as we know, State police and other law enforcement agencies take any kind of trespassing seriously, this is not only worth jail time, but fines that begin at seventy-five dollars and rapidly increase.

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