Cotton Mather and the Connecticut Triton
New England Folklore
by Peter Muise
1M ago
Many of you are probably familiar with Cotton Mather, the 17th century Puritan minister. Mather was born in Boston in 1663, and was the son of Increase Mather, the city’s leading minister. Cotton attended Harvard, entering at age eleven and a half, making him the youngest person to attend the university. (Thanks for that tidbit, Wikipedia!) Clearly, he was a smart person. After graduating, he followed in his father’s footsteps and became a minister, serving with him as co-pastor of Boston’s most prominent church.  During the 1692 Salem witch trials, the colony’s politi ..read more
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Spooky Holiday Reading: Merry Christmas, or Scary Christmas?
New England Folklore
by Peter Muise
4M ago
I'm sure you've heard the 1963 song, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." Andy Williams croons in his soothing voice,"...there'll be scary ghost stories, and tales of the glory of Christmases long, long ago." Although modern Americans tend to associate ghosts with Halloween, in Victorian England ghosts were associated with Christmas. I suppose this makes sense in some ways. After all, Christmas occurs at the darkest point of the year, which seems like a good time for ghosts to be out haunting.  In the spirit of a spooky Christmas, here are four things you can read to get you i ..read more
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Haunted by the Nantucket Mermaid
New England Folklore
by Peter Muise
4M ago
This post is about a mermaid who has fascinated, and possibly haunted, people for centuries. But I want to start by talking about a human man: Ichabod Paddock.  Ichabod Paddock was born around 1661 in Yarmouth, Massachusetts, and died around 1750. He's buried in Middleborough, Massachusetts. Paddock is remembered today for two things: his pioneering role in the Nantucket whaling industry, and his alleged extramarital affair with a mermaid. As a whaling pioneer, Ichabod came with his two brothers to Nantucket in 1690 and taught the islanders how to hunt whales. Their actions  ..read more
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Fowl or Fair: Thanksgiving Weather Magic
New England Folklore
by Peter Muise
5M ago
Thanksgiving is fast approaching. It's the holiday most closely associated with New England, having its origin in the old Puritan tradition of celebrating thanksgiving days. Many of the foods we associate with the holiday, like cranberries, pumpkins, and turkey, are also foods indigenous to New England.  This is a New England-centric blog, and I like to post something about Thanksgiving each year. So here, from 19th century Massachusetts, are some ways to predict on Thanksgiving what the weather will be during the upcoming winter: Method #1 - Examine the feathers of yo ..read more
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Black Agnes: Montpelier's Death-Cursed Statue
New England Folklore
by Peter Muise
6M ago
As I mentioned before, Tony and I recently traveled up to Montpelier, Vermont to see our old friend Brian. He showed us around Vermont's charming capital, and also showed us some of its spooky sights, including the infamous Black Agnes statue.  When we reached Montpelier, Brian immediately took us on a tour of Green Mount Cemetery. He is a Montpelier native, and had a lot of gossip and stories about the different folks buried in Green Mount. For example, he showed us a funerary statue of a young girl called "Little Margaret." Little Margaret's family commissioned a local sculpto ..read more
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The Devil's Washbowl: Home of the Pigman?
New England Folklore
by Peter Muise
6M ago
Tony and I recently took a weekend trip up to Vermont. Our final destination was Montpelier to see an old friend, but we made a few stops along the way. Some people visit Vermont to see fall foliage and quaint towns. We wanted to see the Pigman! The Pigman is the resident monster of Northfield, Vermont, a cute little town best known as the home of Norwich University, the oldest private military college in the United States. But if you journey outside the charming downtown and into the dense woods, according to legend you might encounter the half-human, h ..read more
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The Haunted Charlesgate: Ghosts, College Students, and Weird Engimas
New England Folklore
by Peter Muise
7M ago
Living someplace old and historic, like the Boston area, brings both perils and joys. Among its current perils is the decaying subway system, which has been well-documented elsewhere. To avoid the most hellish parts of the MBTA, lately my commute home from work has involved more walking. Which brings me to one of the joys of living in the Boston area: beautiful old architecture.  Most nights, I walk through parts of Back Bay on my way home. Among all the beautiful old brownstones and apartment buildings, one in particular stands out: the former Charlesgate Ho ..read more
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A Nantucket Ghost Story: The Man with the Long Chin
New England Folklore
by Peter Muise
9M ago
Nantucket is a playground for the very wealthy these days, but that has not always been the case. In the past, the island has been home to Native Americans, Puritans, Quakers, whalers, and an assortment of artists and eccentrics. Nantucket has a very long history, and a long history usually means ghost stories.  After the whaling industry collapsed in the mid-19th century, Nantucket became sparsely populated. There wasn't a lot of economic development on the island, which meant that very few of the old historic houses were torn down to make room for new ones. Those old houses are no ..read more
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The Glocester Ghoul: A Monster and A Pirate in Rhode Island
New England Folklore
by Peter Muise
10M ago
A while ago I was poking around on the Internet and saw articles about a monster called the Glocester Ghoul. I had never heard of this terrifying creature before, and of course wanted to find out more. This is what I learned... The monster supposedly lurks in the woods and swamps of Glocester, Rhode Island, a small town in the northwestern part of the state. Here's a fun fact about Glocester. Its name used to be spelled "Gloucester," like the town in Massachusetts, but in 1806 its citizens decided to change the spelling to "Glocester" to avoid confusion with the M ..read more
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Strange and Stranger: Some American Fairy Encounters
New England Folklore
by Peter Muise
11M ago
I had the day off today, and spent some time organizing my books. As I was moving my musty tomes around I picked up Fairies: Real Encounters with Little People by Janet Bord, something I haven't looked at in a few years. Published in 1997, Fairies gives a nice overview of fairy lore and encounters from around the world.  Although much of the book deals with the Ireland and Great Britain, Bord does devote a chapter to fairies from other places. The chapter is evocatively titled "Dwarfs, mummies, and little green men: Little People around the world." Bord discusses some interesting fai ..read more
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