Weird Chittenden

If you asked a Vermonter where the town of Chittenden was, a lot of people would probably be confused. Some would ask if you meant Chittenden County instead, and others would probably just shrug apologetically. If you do happen to know about this off beat community, chances are you know about the storied Eddy Brothers, who over a century ago vexed the world by conjuring shapeless entities and communicating with the unknown within their ramshackle farmhouse. Or perhaps you have stayed at the scenic Mountain Top Inn, a luxury Bed and Breakfast overlooking the icy waters of the Chittenden Reservoir, nestled within a remote mountain wilderness that is unbroken for miles.

But other than these two images, the town of Chittenden is little known to most, and I suppose that’s not a huge surprise. Chittenden is actually the largest town in the state, at around 74 square miles. But despite it’s vast size, the land remains divided by dense mountains, making the town largely unsettled with only a few dirt roads leading in and out.

But Chittenden is a curious place, its abundant wilderness holds and protects much of the town’s secrets and history in its own sense of time.

In the past few months, I had began to hear a lot of strange accounts and unusual tales about this small community, which sparked my curiosity. Chittenden had never struck me as one of Vermont’s weird locales, so this intrigued me, and I began my attempts at finding out more.

I began hearing vague accounts of unsettling happenings and arcane events in an area of town that locals call “New Boston”. Stories of witch hunts, secular rituals and sinister things like bodies being dumped under the shelter of the shadowy woodlands, the evidence feeding the hungry roots of the forest. For those who had visited, they explain that the feeling is off and heavy, a presence that unnerves you mentally and leaves you trying to re-familiarize yourself with your surroundings. I was told that a few paranormal groups from Rutland once claimed to capture a few EVPs of disembodied voices from a largely forgotten cemetery in the woods nearby.

To add to this growing mystery, it has been said that Chittenden is where Vermont’s only photographic evidence of an elusive cryptid was taken, something so infamous that it has long captured the minds of Vermonters and people from around the world for centuries; bigfoot.

Vermonter’s have claimed to see monsters and abnormally large animals in the woods for years, but it wasn’t until 1977 that a photograph was taken that may have offered definitive proof to the long debated mystery. Deep within the Green Mountain National Forest, a large stocky creature covered with silvery hair and had the head of a gorilla had been captured on film near a logging road. It had been standing behind the safety of some thick scrub, as if this creature had been watching the photographer. When news of it was unveiled, the picture was met with harsh speculation and curiosity. Many tried to not only debunk it, but cover up its existence while others hailed it as legitimate proof. Today, this mysterious photograph has not only largely been forgotten, but it has yet to be proved or disproved. As a matter of fact, it is theorized that the late Dr. Warren Cook from Castleton state College became interested in the photograph, only later to attempt to cover it up and dismiss its existence. Is it possible he was threatened by an activist group or some secret branch of the government? Or is it just a rumor that has found its way around successfully?

Despite all of this great information, I had reached a roadblock. My research however proved that the area’s existence seemed to be as mysterious as the stories surrounding it. I found an area of the Green Mountain National Forest by the same name, with a few hiking trails leading off into the silent woods. Apart from finding a future location for me to hike, it didn’t really answer my burning questions. So I emailed the Chittenden Historical society and waited for a reply.

Within a few days, I received an email from karen, who began to add some factual detail to this story.

Chittenden was named after Thomas Chittenden, Vermont’s first governor, and who Chittenden County to the north was named after. But despite the honorable gesture, the govenor had little to do with the town.

New Boston was the first actual settlement in Chittenden. Around 1813 economic hardships and slow settlement led to the area’s demise. Most families moved away and the town eventually became the property of mother nature again. A large area of town to the north was also settled and called “Philadelphia”, but with the harsh rocky terrain and slow settlement, the town was eventually disorganized and much of the land was granted to neighboring towns, the majority was annexed to Chittenden.

Later, the tiny village of South Chittenden would gain nationwide popularity due to a pair of sullen and simpleminded brothers; The Eddy Brothers. Spiritualism got its humble start in the small village of Hydesville, New York in 1848, when local residents Kate and Margaret Fox claimed that they had the ability to communicate with the dead in their sordid farmhouse. Bemused onlookers were treated to quite the show; The Fox sisters speaking with the unknown, and the spirits giving answers by using audible rapping sounds that everyone could hear!  Soon, their showmanship gained the attention of an ever growing leader of followers, and the nation began engrossed and captivated at the idea of talking to the dead. If spiritualism wasn’t a hoax, could this be proof that there was in-fact ghosts, and an afterlife?

By 1870, Chittenden, Vermont jumped on the spiritualism bandwagon when William and Horatio Eddy moved into the family farmhouse after their father had passed on, and treated the invited public to seances. This wasn’t a business ploy; the Eddy brothers claimed to have connections with things on the other side of the seance table from their youth, when they played with ghostly children, went into prolonged trances, allowed willing spirits to speak through their own vocals, and were eventually expelled from school for levitating desks and making books fly through the air. Their father Zepaniah, who was not only tired of the paranormal shenanigans his offspring were becoming intimate with, but he figured out that he could exploit their purported abilities, and sold them to a traveling side show. 14 years later, they returned after their fathers death and set up a show of their own in the dingy parlor of their farmhouse, and whatever things manifested themselves under the slow candles burning, attracted people from around the world. However, not everyone was convinced, and the Eddy’s were also met with lots of skepticism.

In 1874, Henry S. Olcott, a journalist from New York, visited the Eddy Brothers several times in hopes of proving them to be frauds. He eventually and maybe a bit begrudgingly wrote a book, “People From The Other World,” which was a journal of his experiences at their seances. However, he was never able to successfully debunk the Eddy Brothers, and his book remains as the best existing account of them today.

The Eddy Brothers, though an fascinating and important part of Vermont history, have already been talked about far too many times, in pain painstakingly researched detail by numerous Vermont Eddy enthusiasts, so I won’t jump into it any further when I feel that there is far better material existing that you could seek out. However, a few months ago, a friend of mine told me that he had met someone who had recently stayed in the Eddy Brother’s farmhouse. Though she had no knowledge of its history, she claimed that “weird stuff happens there”. But as luck would have it, as I was driving by, a member of the ski club who now owns the property was kind enough to introduce himself and give me a tour. How could I say no?

The Eddy Brothers Farmhouse Today, now the private High Life Ski Club

The Eddy Brothers Farmhouse Today, now the private High Life Ski Club

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The old farmhouse was beautifully restored, and was a place I could easily see myself enjoying on Fall or Winter days (if I had the money) But one question was on my mind; if the room where the original seances were held still existed. The gentleman rolled his eyes and gave me a good hearted laugh. “That’s the thing, we don’t really know which room they they happened in” he said. “It honestly could have been any room in the house” He explained that he wasn’t on board the Eddy bandwagon, and had no idea of the house’s history until the club purchased it and he became a member afterwards. “Most everyone still refers to this place as the Eddy House” he stated “We’ll never live that one down”

The old farmhouse was beautifully restored, and was a place I could easily see myself enjoying on Fall or Winter days (if I had the money) But one question was on my mind; if the room where the original seances were held still existed. The gentleman rolled his eyes and gave me a good hearted laugh. “That’s the thing, we don’t really know which room they they happened in” he said. “It honestly could have been any room in the house” He explained that he wasn’t on board the Eddy bandwagon, and had no idea of the house’s history until the club purchased it and he became a member afterwards. “Most everyone still refers to this place as the Eddy House” he stated “We’ll never live that one down”

Though the club wasn’t all that thrilled about the house’s occult reputation attached to it, they approached it humorously and kept accounts and information about The Eddy Brothers around the house.

Though the club wasn’t all that thrilled about the house’s occult reputation attached to it, they approached it humorously and kept accounts and information about The Eddy Brothers around the house.

An original picture of the Eddy Brothers Farmhouse. (I think circa 1920-1930). Notice the name “Lake View” above the porch? The Eddy Brothers Farmhouse used to be surrounded by a beautiful pond, the house sitting on a peninsula in the middle. Older photos of the farm show the barns sitting across the bays of the pond with the house in the foreground. However, In the early 1900s, the beaver dam burst, and within hours, the pond had drained. Today, the ravine where the former pond was can still be traced, now filled in with younger growth trees and countless berry bushes.

An original picture of the Eddy Brothers Farmhouse. (circa 1920-1930). Notice the name “Lake View” above the porch? The Eddy Brothers Farmhouse used to be surrounded by a beautiful pond, the house sitting on a peninsula in the middle. Older photos of the farm show the barns sitting across the bays of the pond with the house in the foreground. However, In the early 1900s, the beaver dam burst, and within hours, the pond had drained. Today, the ravine where the former pond was can still be traced, now filled in with younger growth trees and countless berry bushes.

When I asked Karen about the strange paranormal occurrences in the area, she was quick to assure me that they were all myths. Although, she did recall something strange happening there. There was a murder that took place around the New Boston area in the 1970s, in which a boot containing a foot was found. As far as I know, it was a cold case. “No body was ever found to go with the foot”. said Karen.

Today, there are grave sites, stonewalls and old foundations that are reminders of the vanished village. The name “New Boston” has been reused to designate the forest region around that area, which is scattered with hiking trials, snow mobile trails and old roads. Local youth also frequent the region for late night drives, with the purpose of getting creeped out.

Another interesting point of information was behind the strange names around town. I had been wondering why certain areas of Chittenden, and in other parts of the state were named after cities and areas in other states – Settlements with significantly larger populations that in a lot of cases, Vermont seems to shun. The answer was a comic one. Areas like Boston, Philadelphia, Michigan etc all received their names over a century ago, when these remote places were more remote then, and were considered so far out there that they might have been as far as Boston, or any other large American city at the time to most Vermonters. So in a quirky sense of Vermont humor laced with sarcasm, any remote and challenging region to travel too was often given the name “New Boston”.

The small town of Chittenden is saturated in local lore and fascinating history, weighted down by the heavy snowfalls that blanket the desolate mountain tops. But is there a reason behind all of the unusual phenomenon within the town lines ? Could the legendary Eddy Brothers have accidentally opened some sort of door into another world, allowing spirits to pass through at will? Or does the rocky soil beneath the town harbor some sort of ancient trouble? Or maybe, it’s just all coincidence.

Whether these amusing stories are real or just passed down by others who have the same interest, I suppose will never be known for sure. But perhaps the mystery is more exciting than the explanation.

Visiting New Boston

Pictured below are a few remaining foundations and gravestones of the settlement of New Boston. There probably is more, but it’s a question of where. The woods around Chittenden are vast and are good at holding their secrets. A few people reminisced with me earlier, and told me they remembered New Boston and the nice place it was. Some used to party out in the abandoned houses when they were in high school, and recall there being some remains. But if this is the case, we couldn’t find them on that brisk summer afternoon.

The forest road to New Boston, closed due to a very rainy summer and flash flooding.

The forest road to New Boston, closed due to a very rainy summer and flash flooding.

The deep woods of New Boston

The deep woods of New Boston

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 A Lost Door

This last bit of Chittenden weirdness may be the most obscure. Sometime around the 1970s, a local woman had claimed that one day while out for a walk, she found a mysterious doorway leading into a hillside, deep within the woods of Chittenden. Deciding to investigate, she gave the door a good pull, and it opened, revealing a stone spiral staircase that allegedly wound its way down far below the ground, fading into black shadow. The woman decided to make the run back home and grab a flashlight, and then come back. But she was never able to find the door again, leaving this fascinating story a lost one. Could this woman have in fact found a doorway leading deep into the Vermont mountains? What would she have found if she followed that staircase? It makes you wonder. Surely the construction of a spiral stone staircase leading to the subterranean world below Chittenden’s mountains would surely lead to something important, right?

Though this story is intriguing, others question whether it was just a yarn well spun. According to those I spoke with, her alibi just didn’t add up. She reportedly claimed she had been back a few times alone, but when she was asked to show someone else, she suddenly couldn’t recall where the door was… But in the end, I’ll suppose we’ll never know. After hiking the woods of New Boston, I recognized just how easy it could be for someone to get lost up there.

Another interesting footnote to this story; this isn’t the first time a mysterious door was found in a Vermont hillside. Years ago, another such door was supposedly found in the small town of Ryegate. However, when the family came back to investigate, the door had vanished completely.

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21 Comments on “Weird Chittenden

  1. what a great post! I love these haunted tales of old villages and mysterious happenings…does the photo of the mysterious animal still exist? There seems to be ‘pockets’ or areas where strange or unexplained things happen – there is one near us in some woods where a ‘time trap’ is said to exist, if you go there at the wrong time you will be transported back in time 200 years. How this legend started or how anyone knows that you will be transported back 200 years is anyone’s guess, but we avoided it as kids and even as an adult I get a strange feeling if I go there. But then again it is a great way for a farmer to keep you off his land…

    • As far as I know, this photo does still exist, but it’s sadly private property. I share your interest, out of all folklore, I think these mysterious areas of land and villages that are troubled by these unknown things are by far the most interesting. In New England, these areas are called “window areas”, which I think was originally dubbed by HP Lovecraft. What I find the most fascinating about these so called window areas is that each one is unique, and easily identifiable by their stories. Vermont only has one area that has been dubbed a window area – Glastenbury. But it’s so remote that it’s largely undisturbed, apart from hikers and hunters. You’re right though – there is no better way of keeping people off your land then a curse haha

  2. Nicely done Chad…you captured a long forgotten history of the area that I knew so little about!

  3. Thanks for posting on Chittenden! I grew up there, much of my family is still there, and my grandfather was President of the Historical Society before Karen. There are a number of old roads and a lot of old foundations in New Boston if you know where to look, but hard to find if you don’t – pretty amazing to think a town once existed where there are only now woods. The town is full of so much history, you’ve just scratched the surface. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for your kind words Brett! I’m glad you enjoyed my post. Chittenden was an enjoyable town to research and write about, and the drive up was beautiful. I figured New Boston would be just the thing to focus on – something that really wasn’t the Eddy Brothers farmhouse. I’ve heard many interesting stories of old farmhouses and teens taking road trips up to New Boston and partying, but sadly I have no idea where many of the remnants are. Any information I tried to find was very vague. If you have anything you’d like to share about New Boston or Chittenden itself, I’d love to talk to you!

      • I attended a seance at the Eddie house (early 80’s) I would have to investigate my old pictures to be exact about it. The Warrens of (Amityville fame) were there. Mrs. Warren conducted the seance and there were associates there with monitoring equipment. Perhaps this is the time of the readings you mentioned in your article? A Rutland native, I was visiting my Mother at the time and she had been invited to the event by Tom Fagan(sp?) and long time friend of her’s. We all met early afternoon first touring and old Indian site, then the cemetery. The house was a ski/hunting lodge at the time also. The funny thing was, of the 10-15 people involved, I was the only one who didn’t claim to have a psychic experience of any type. For example my Mother experienced a brief but overwhelming feeling of sadness and tears began to flow at one point during the seance. After the seance we listened to the recordings.
        It was a interesting day to say the least. Tina Murphy Vladyka

  4. Nice story! We have owned a house on the reservoir for nearly 100 years and have some interesting pics of people in the 1920’s out on the lake in their long dresses and homemade sailboats! We used to hike to New Boston every year and take pictures in the old houses there before they fell down completely. I remember my brother and I standing on the floors that were tilted 45 degrees. Everyone who came to visit us got a trip to New Boston! Thanks for bringing back memories!

    • Wow, that’s very cool! Thanks for sharing!. I’m glad you liked my post, Chittenden was an enjoyable town to write about. I started with one topic that I was interested in researching, and before I knew it, more and more suddenly came out of the ether. The reservoir is a beautiful place, I can only imagine how nice it must be in the summer and early fall. Those pictures from the 1920s sound fantastic haha. My grandfather, who owns a boathouse at the mouth of the Winooski River in Burlington, remembers when people used to go boating on the lake and dress up in dresses and suit and ties, he even had a few pictures to show me.

      I wish I could have seen more of New Boston, the information given to me was sadly pretty vague. I came with greater expectations than when I left. Do you know if anything still remains? Do you have any photos, or perhaps any good stories of you partying there? This is definitely peaking my curiosity haha. Thank you for your kind words again.

    • Wow, that’s very cool! Thanks for sharing!. I’m glad you liked my post, Chittenden was an enjoyable town to write about. I started with one topic that I was interested in researching, and before I knew it, more and more suddenly came out of the ether. The reservoir is a beautiful place, I can only imagine how nice it must be in the summer and early fall. Those pictures from the 1920s sound fantastic haha. My grandfather, who owns a boathouse at the mouth of the Winooski River in Burlington, remembers when people used to go boating on the lake and dress up in dresses and suit and ties, he even had a few pictures to show me.

      I wish I could have seen more of New Boston, the information given to me was sadly pretty vague. I came with greater expectations than when I left. Do you know if anything still remains? Do you have any photos, or perhaps any good stories of you partying there? This is definitely peaking my curiosity haha. Thank you for your kind words again.

      • I can’t find any of the pictures unfortunately- I will ask my brother! We never partied there, just walked around and took pics in the houses- it was really a cool place back then- about three or four houses still standing in a cluster plus a few walls and the graveyard. We have a boathouse too! It was built in 1917 I think– we have some pictures of it being built as well.

  5. I frequently hike, sometimes with snowshoes, in the New Boston area. There are many good trails, forest roads, paths etc., although some of them fade into the forest and simply disappear. There are also numerous foundations, with no sign of wood left as of this date. I suspect the forest, except for a few fields that are still recognizable, has nearly returned to the state it enjoyed prior to settling. There is a great path from the New Boston trail, to a short section of the Long Trail, and finally up Mt. Carmel that is well worth the effort. Probably an hour’s walk from the New Boston trailhead. There is enough space, trails, and “poking around” in the area to amuse me for years. I did enjoy your article, and would like to find out sometime when the first settlers occupied the land. I’d guess in the mid to late 18th century. Any info on that?

  6. The Chittenden Historical Society published a great book titled “Chittenden, Vermont – A Town History” in 2008. It talks a lot about New Boston, Michigan, Philadelphia and the families that founded the different areas. There are a great stories about the families, industries, etc and “now and then” photos of the old farms, schools and life in general. I’m sure there are still copies available somewhere.

    Chad, by the way, the book also covers the boot and bones found in the woods and the trial that came from it – supposedly a hunter from Rutland went hunting in 1975 and was never heard from again. The boot and bones were found in New Boston in August 1977 after an anonymous tip. There was a trial and a fellow hunter was sent to jail for over 9 yrs for the murder.

    • Thanks for this information Sue! I’m going to look into this book. A lot of people have asked me about Chittenden in the past few months, it seems like whatever mystery is here is deepening as more questions and stories come in. I’ve had to take notes lol. I hope to plan a return trip down there this summer, if all works out.

  7. A Vermonter not knowing where Chittenden is? I don’t know a single Vermonter who doesn’t know where both the town and county are and I’ve been here for near 4 decades. Other than your weird choice of intros, an otherwise great post.

    • Brian,

      In my intro, I said that if anything – Vermonters would most likely know where Chittenden County is, seeing how that’s where Burlington is. But I’ve spoken with plenty of Vermonters over the years who had no idea that Chittenden was also a town. We’ve apparently been speaking to different people lol. Glad you enjoyed the post otherwise.

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