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?
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.
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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