Does the ghost of 'Chauffer John' Widders still haunt the Houghton Mansion in North Adams?
This article first appeared in the October issue of The Family Beat magazine
Ghost stories are part of our heritage, part of our belief that the human spirit can survive anything. Every region of the country has its own "haunted" places, and Berkshire County is no exception. Here are five well-known haunted locales, as documented in books and legend.
Enjoy the stories, but a word of caution: Some of these spots, such as the Hoosac Tunnel, are private property and trespassers will be prosecuted.
Hoosac Tunnel - The Bloody Pit
The Hoosac Tunnel is an enduring engineering marvel, a railroad line that plows nearly five miles through a mountain. But engineering feats come with a price, often in terms of human life. Oddly, it's not clear just how many men died constructing the Hoosac Tunnel, though it's certain that many did and most estimates say close to 200 were killed. Soon after construction began, the crew nicknamed the tunnel project "The Bloody Pit."
In 1865, two miners were killed in an explosion at the site. A third worker, Kelly Ringo, the man who had accidentally detonated the blast, walked away unhurt. One year later, Ringo's body was found in the hole; he had been strangled to death. No living person was apprehended for the crime, if there was one. Some locals believe it was the ghosts of the two miners exacting revenge.
There are countless tales of spooky happenings in the Hoosac, where the ghosts of the many men who died there may still haunt the tunnel, lurking in the dim cold and dampness. One thing is clear, grown men have been known to blanch after spending just a few minutes inside the tunnel after dark. Some report seeing swaying lanterns and hearing wails.
Ghost hunter David J. Pitkin reports that he's interviewed several men who maintain the tunnel for the railroad today. They tend to scoff at the ghost stories, he reports, but they admit that they don't like to linger in the tunnel if they can help it.
Mt. Greylock's Bellows Pipe Trail - The Old Coot
As the Civil War began, a North Adams farmer named William Saunders left home in 1861 to fight for the Union. About a year later, his wife, Belle, received a report that her husband had been gravely wounded and was in a military hospital. That was the last she heard of him. Alone and in need of help, she hired a local man to work the farm with her; later she married the man and he adopted her children. In 1865, a bearded, ragged man, wearing a Union blue uniform, stepped off the train in North Adams. You can guess who had finally returned home. Saunders walked to his farm, and while standing outside he saw his wife and happy family, his children calling another man "daddy."
Crushed, he turned on his heels and walked away, heading toward Mt. Greylock, where he built a shack in the remote Bellows Pipe. He lived the rest of his days there, almost a hermit, hiring himself out occasionally to farms, known to locals only as the "Old Coot." War and time had ravaged his appearance and no one recognized him. It's said that he even worked his old spread on occasion, perhaps sitting down to meals with his family, only he knowing the truth. Folks say the Old Coot was insane, but whether it was caused by the horrors of war or grief at losing his family, no one knows. One winter's day, hunters came upon the shack to find the Old Coot cold dead. But they were startled to see his spirit fly from his body and head up the mountain. That was the first sighting of the Ghost of the Old Coot, but certainly not the last.
To this day, his bedraggled spirit is sometimes seen on Mt. Greylock, always heading up the mountain, but never coming down. You might say you don't believe it, but are you brave enough to walk the Bellows Pipe Trail after dark?
The Mount - Edith Wharton Estate
One of the great writers of her time, Edith Wharton penned a number of ghost stories - and gave us a number of haunting characters as well. Can't you just envision a phantom Ethan Frome careening down a snow-covered hill with Mattie Silver clasped to his back on a collision course with a massive Elm?
It's said, though, that the spirit of Wharton herself lingers on at The Mount, the author's beloved Lenox estate, built in 1902. Visitors report hearing Wharton laugh; overnight guests are awakened by strange noises; some say that a hooded figure presses down on them while they sleep.
Founders of Shakespeare & Company, the theatre troupe that called The Mount home for many years, reported strange occurrences - footsteps, laughter and sounds - almost from the start of their tenancy. Some claim that fellow author Henry James joins his friend Wharton in haunting the site (just a couple of ghost writers hanging out?). The pair look imposing, but never harm anyone.
It's hard to imagine the genteel Edith Wharton haunting anyone - or rattling anything but teacups. And pressing down on guests while they sleep? That does not sound quite like the age of innocenceâ€¦Still, one never knows.
Houghton Mansion/Masonic Lodge, North Adams - Chauffer John Widders
"Chauffer John" Widders was a happy man living in North Adams during the early 1900s. He worked for a well-known family, headed by wealthy patriarch Albert C. Houghton - who had served as the city's mayor. Apparently, Widders was treated like a member of the family, doting on the Houghton children, especially the youngest daughter, Mary, whom he had watched grow to womanhood. Through careful investment, Widders had saved a nest egg himself and looked forward to a peaceful old age.
Everything changed, however, on August 1, 1911, when a family motor outing turned deadly. Widders was at the wheel of the big Pierce-Arrow as it slowly climbed the daunting Pownal Center Hill. Workmen in the road forced him to take a wider path and another vehicle provided another obstacle. Suddenly, the gravel shoulder gave out, sending the auto and its passengers plunging down the slope. Sybil Houghton was crushed by the car's roof and killed. Mary Houghton was pronounced dead a few hours later. The other passengers were shaken but not seriously hurt.
As the shocked town grieved, Chauffer John took the blame on himself. Rejecting attempts of comfort from friends, he walked, alone, into a barn behind the mansion. He never walked out. Friends found him later with a bullet in his head. Family patriarch A.C. Houghton never fully recovered, emotionally, from the tragedy. He later had a stroke and was dead within three years after the accident
Folks say that Chauffer John still hasn't forgiven himself. In 1920, the mansion was sold to the Masonic Lodge, which still uses the building as a headquarters. Many times over the years, ghostly footsteps have been heard in the building, but no spirit has been seen.
Reports of unexplained footsteps are most common on the stairs leading to the third floor, where John Widders once slept. People have reported feeling an icy blast of air on the stairs as the unforgiven spirit of Chauffer John Widders passes by, heading up the stairs as he once headed up the fateful hill.
The Eunice Williams Covered Bridge
On February 29, 1704, a band of Mohawk Indians and French savagely attacked the village of Deerfield, killing many citizens and taking more than 100 captive, including the town's minister, Reverend John Williams. The Indians then drove the captives in a death march toward a camp in Canada.
The attackers were brutal, striking down any who could not keep up. Others starved to death. Eunice Williams, wife of the reverend, had given birth just a few hours before the attack. She felt her strength failing and knew she would soon be killed. She said goodbye to her husband, with the wish that he and at least some of their children would survive.
While crossing a river in Greenfield, not far from today's Mohawk Trail, Eunice fell and was instantly struck and killed by a tomahawk blow. Her body, soaked with water and blood, was left behind while the march continued. The surviving captives were held in Canada for nearly two years, until they were finally set free or "redeemed." John Williams and two of the Williams children returned home, but a third, also named Eunice, chose to stay with the Indians. The notorious "Unredeemed Captive" later married one of the tribe, and, despite repeated attempts, mostly rejected the English ways for the rest of her life.
Taken from her home, her newborn child ripped from her arms, driven on a forced march, hacked to death in a cold river and finally scorned by her namesake and daughter, some believe the spirit of Eunice Williams is still not at rest. Legend has it that her ghost can be seen at night in the water or inside the covered bridge that now bears her name. It is said that Eunice can be summoned to appear, perhaps believing that her family has finally returned to her...
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I live in this area and have heard the story. One night as teenagers we did a ouija board on the head stone placed in the area wiht a candle. The candle began to pop up and down immediately and the ouija told us it was a bad spirit and answered hahaha to questions. The long grass near us also had the sounds of being blown or walked on during a clear windless night.
What about the ghost story of Freeways house in Cheverly, Berkshire? That to me is the most haunted Storie/Building of all time. It was in the news in 1983 or 84 about the Whiting Family Susan and Peter and there 3 children and the rest of the vilage. I have now found out that this story has even made its way to the american listeners
I am aslo from pittsfield but live on west Housatonic st and have heard most of the stories including one where the bridge lunch diner used to be on north st. During feb and march 1958 a phantom train was seen speeding by pulling a coal tender and 5 coaches and a baggage car.railroad road officals said there were no trains on the tracks during the sightings.
Is this site just limited to the top five? Although I no longer live in Adams, I've heard the old hospital there is haunted. Also, are there any ghost stories relating to people that have drowned in Cheshire Lake?
i have been to the eunice williams bridge.
we went in the middle of the night, my boyfriend my friend his wife 5 year old son and i.
while there in pitch black we heard indians chanting and walking. we also snapped photos in the dark and came out with a red orb in pitch blackness from the bridge.
i live in adams and right now no more than 700' from the old plunket hill hospital and ive been up there at night and some freeky stuff happens there at night like noises of people crying and all that fun stuff but now the hospital has been converted into condos.
i was on my way home through sonning common at around 12am and as me and a mate crossed the bridge by the hotel we saw a lady in a white night gown and she looked distressed we stoped to see if the lady was ok and she crossed the road and walked strait through the white building across the street!!i have never gone through that way at night again!!!!
Berkshire Place, located on South St. in Pittsfield, is still watched by old nurses and doctors. The building has an amazing history that I would advise anyone to read. I had worked there for a number of years, quiet some time ago. There are residents who had reported "seeing the man with the satchel" and shortly after, welcoming death. If one resident saw the "doctor" others in two specific rooms would see and hear children in their "Sunday dress". One woman was legally blind and deaf and stated the same thing. All the same description and all at the same time. Those are just a few to the MANY ghosts at Berkshire Place.
I live in Adams, and this article forgets to mention the Windego campgrouns in Savoy.
I know that this old boarding-house is now owned by the state and trespassing is forbidden, but some FREAKY stuff goes on up there. I've been exploring there twice, and it seriously is a creepy creepy place. Friends of mine have seen ghostly figures there...and I've even heard strange noises myself.
check it out if you dare. O_O there's a creepy graveyard too
We are a paranormal and spirit rescue group in Berkshire and are always looking for new places to go and visit try the mansion house in Reading thats good to do Roebuck hotel and Tilehurst train station are good ones to check out.
I am very intrested in the Hoosac tunnel and the story of the sonning common lady its not the 1st time if heard that one and finally I would be happy to help anyone with a spirit or spook we do help lots of people If worked with BBC and some local stations and helped with many problems if you just have a story or need help please get in touch we are a FREE SERVICE we do not charge so email me at firstname.lastname@example.org thanks guys and kep the faith.
I have lived by the Eunice Williams Bridge aka the pumping station my whole life and probably have gone down there thousands of times day time and night time by myself and with others and never have experienced anything abnormal nor have i ever heard anyone saying they have experienced anything abnormal either. You should take this off your list.
I think 13 Tyler Street is Haunted. That house is CRAZY. I lived there for 15 years and I'm telling you that place is haunted. I won't get into details, but it's scary. I have moved to 17 Adams street since september, but I am still destined to find out what REALLY happened on 13 Tyler..if anyone has any information, let me know.
I went to the Eunice Williams Covered Bridge and saw quite a few different things, I saw a lady silouhette who "glided" very quickly towards me. I saw a silouhette of a horse. I heard a womans shrill scream continously. I saw dancing lights in the bridge. I heard horses trotting on a dirt road, an indians drum, a low rumble of indians speaking, indian shadows darting in woods behind her gravestone.
My husband lived in maplewood apts. if you wanted haunted... try ghosts of girls. my brother in law woke up tp ghost looking down at him when he was in bed. sounds like a very haunted place.
I hope to see myself
I lived in north adams all my life, and they things on there about the hoosac tunnal. that is not true i campped out there for 2 night in a row when was little and me and the boy i was did not hear anything or see anything, I still take my grangkids there and we never see or hear anything eaither.
I was in the magee unit.when i felt something hold me down ,i told the nurse what happend she told me the mantion was haunted water comes on and the ghost in there were friendly,i was terrified to sleep.i wasnt on drugs i had drinking 25 days before that and was think not good thought when i felt that presence hold me down.i think they were telling me to stop before i was ghonna kill myself.for some reason that night i heard and seen the name elizabeth.i dont know who livesd in that mation but i would like to find out.
Living in Greenfield, i've grown up knowing about Eunice Williams being killed at what we call the "pumping station" which is the Greenfield river where she was killed. One summer night a bunch of friends and I decided to go swimming there at night. Being terrified I didnt jump in immediately but after being pushed in a couple of times I got over being scared; that was until something grabbed my ankle. I screamed and swam as fast as i could to the ledge pulling myself up. At the brink of tears i refused to go back in at night and even as my friends reassured me it was nothing because fish swim through I clearly felt a hand grab my ankle as if trying to pull me down.
Other times friends and i would drive as close as we could to the covered bridge and do the ouija board. We got nothing. We've also waled through te bridge at night and havent heard or see anything but the rushing water.
A friend of mine said his brother camped out on the bridge with a friend in a tent. They said apparently they heard noises and something baging against their tent andran away immediately.
I personally haven't seen anythng but I know many many stoies.
i have gone to the eunice williams bridge many times. we have experienced a few different things every time. we were pushed, we saw little lights zooming by our feet, we heard a girls quiet but very clear scream. we also saw shadows running through the woods behind her grave stone. then, upon returning, the energy felt strong. as though they remembered us and didnt want us there. they were angry and scared. i wouldnt recommend going there.
I've been to the Hoosac Tunnel, and I was completely dissapointed. I walked down the tunnel for a long time from the Noth Adams end, and didn't see anything. Even after my friends got scared and turned around I kept going. I did hear something howling but I assumed it was an animal. It was just dark, wet, and smelly. No Ghosts.
What about Conte Middle School? That place has always had its creepy background in the past and when it was in school. I remember being a student there and the weirdest things would happen. It was always a cold chilling place plus I the elevators in the gym would always open by themselves. The door to the attic shut and open on its own sometimes. I heard alot of old stories from my alumni teachers.
Has anyone ever been to McCann Technical School at night? There has been a lot of stories I can recall. Some I have even experienced personally. Some of the scariest situations I have ever been in. Especially in the "D-wing". As a current student attending that school, I have to say that McCann is 100% haunted. End of story.
I had dated a guy two years ago that claimed to see horrible things. Well I was geocaching this past week and took some pics down at the Pumping Station in Greenfield and the Montague Plains in Montague. I seem to be picking up scarey things on film. Twice. I was wondering if anyone had time to comment. Because I am not sure how this site works yet, here is a link to the pics.
THE PLAINS: 4/24/10
PUMPING STATION (Eunice Williams Covered Bridge): 4/22/10
Hello all i am a member of the masonic lodge in north adams(houghton mansion)& am also very into the unexplained.I can say that I'm a person that also looks for the most resonable explanations(that door closed bc of the wind or that noise was from an animal ect ect)but i have been in the mansion with a few friends of mine at night doing our own investigations & have seen & heard things that I CANNOT EXPLAIN!!! Doors beeing slamed shut with no wind or fish line! Woman moaning or crying when there are no woman present! I do have pictures of orbs(yes some are dust)most are not though you can tell the difference... I'll tell ya what there are things in that building that if you were black(& I DON'T MEAN ANY DISRESPECT)they would turn you white!!!(AGAIN NO DISRESPECT)So... i say this.. Is the mansion hanted??? WITHOUT A DOUBT!!!!
hi my name is joyce and i am in a group called the M.H.P.R.G. Ghost Haunted and would like to know any place in north adams that is haunted for are group to go to and you can find me at facebook and on yahoo as well at email@example.com
I know a lot about this house I can't help but desire to go and do a little investigation myself of the house. Get my own proof. I know alot of stories about the place and the encounters people have had I do believe it's haunted and I have proof it is haunted. Videos, pictures from people. Believe it or not but its true the mansion is 100% haunted by at least 4 ghosts.
Camp Windigo up in Savoy is a very strange place to be. I recommend going to see it for yourself. There is something down in the basement that has a strong presence and check out the barn and the old cabins. Its all really weird, but the cemetery down the road is far worse. There is something truly evil that lurks all the way at the bottom. If you dare to check it out; please say a prayer before you open the gate and do not stay to long!