In Episode 101, Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger explore the campus of Marlboro College in Vermont in search of the ghost of Emily Mather. They say Emily committed suicide after the man she loved took his own life because her parents forbade their romance. This story of star-crossed lovers still haunts the small campus today with strange paranormal activity and a haunting tale that’s told to students each year. But is it true?
Read the episode transcript.
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Produced and hosted by: Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger
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Howland House at Marlboro College in Vermont.
*A note on the text: Please forgive punctuation, spelling, and grammar mistakes. Like us, the transcripts ain’t perfect.
[MUISIC POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE BAND GRANDUATION MUSIC]
RAY: Marlboro College here in Vermont is mostly empty right now.
JEFF: That makes sense considering it’s the middle of summer break.
RAY: Still it’s pretty. These dorms almost look like ski lodges. The white-painted buildings are like old farm houses. But Jeff, I’m guessing that since it’s pretty empty, that may give us the best chance to look around a little bit for something spooky?
JEFF: That’s the plan, Ray. We’re heading over to the Howland House. Today it’s a dormitory, but they say it’s haunted by the ghost of Emily.
JEFF: I’m Jeff Belanger, and welcome to episode 101 of the New England Legends podcast. If you give us about ten minutes, we’ll give you something strange to talk about today.
RAY: Thanks for joining us on our mission to chronicle every legend in New England one week and one story at a time. We’d like to thank our Patreon Patrons who are sponsoring this week’s episode. If you head over to patreon.com/newenglandlegends, for as little as $3 bucks per month you can help fund our missions, plus get early access to new episodes and bonus episodes that no one else gets to hear.
JEFF: Also, if you enjoy our show each week, please tell a friend or two about us, and consider joining our super-secret Facebook group where we explore even deeper into these legends.
RAY: So we’re looking for the ghost of Emily on the campus of Marlboro College in Vermont?
JEFF: We are.
RAY: This isn’t the first ghost of Emily we’ve searched for in Vermont.
JEFF: No, way back in episode 13 we explored Emily’s Bridge in Stowe, Vermont.
RAY: But this is a different Emily?
JEFF: Right. And her story is one that’s known by all 200 or so students who attend the small school of Marlboro College. It’s practically told during orientation.
RAY: Got it. Then let’s head back and meet Emily of Marlboro College.
JEFF: It’s the latter half of the 1800s. Let’s call it 1880. And we’re walking that grounds of the Mather Family Farm in Marlboro, Vermont.
[SFX MOO OF A COW]
RAY: Life here is what you’d expect for a farm during this post-Civil War time. The family spends all of their free time tending to the cows and crops. Getting milk, churning butter, making cheese, and those kinds of things. Farming isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle.
JEFF: The Mathers have a daughter named Emily. She’s pretty, in her late teens, and as you can imagine, getting pretty restless with farm life.
RAY: There’s not a lot of excitement on a farm in a rural small town. In fact, Emily’s main contact with the outside is the occasional travelling salesman.
[SFX KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK]
RAY: Here’s one now.
[SFX DOOR OPENING]
RAY: Travelling salesmen play a critical role in rural New England life. They’re welcomed because they often bring news of the outside, gossip from nearby, and they can get items your local general store just won’t carry.
JEFF: One of these returning salesman is a dashing young gent, and soon, Emily finds herself smitten with the man. He’s interesting. Articulate. He seems worldly. She counts the days until he comes around again. And pretty soon, the young man finds himself smitten with Emily as well. She’s charming. Her eyes grow wide when he talks to her. The two are falling for each other.
RAY: At first, Emily’s parents think it’s just harmless flirting, but soon, it’s obvious Emily would like to spend a lot more time with this salesman. When the man visits, it’s as if the other members of the Mathers family turn invisible. Emily’s parents do NOT approve.
JEFF: But saying, “don’t see him anymore,” isn’t enough to keep them apart. Emily sneaks out when she knows he’s going to be nearby, and meets him down the road, stealing any precious moments she can. They both know they could be happy with each other for the rest of their lives.
RAY: But when her father figures out what’s happening, he explodes. No daughter of his will be seen with a travelling salesman. The salesman tries to plead his case with Emily’s father, but he won’t hear it. This relationship is doomed.
JEFF: The salesman is so despondent over the rejection of the Mather Family, he throws himself into the nearby Harrisville Brook, cracks his head on a rock, and drowns in the shallow stream.
[SFX STREAM RUNNING WATER]
JEFF: Soon the body is found, and news travels fast. Plus, Emily Mather’s house isn’t far from the scene. When Emily learns of her love’s demise, it’s more than she can take. One day soon after, when the house is empty, Emily carries some rope upstairs to the family attic. She attaches the rope to some cross beams, and hangs herself believing she can never be happy again.
RAY: And yet another story of star-crossed lovers comes to a close… or so it would seem. (PAUSE) Emily’s conservative parents are so ashamed that their daughter committed suicide—after all it is a mortal sin—they decide to bury her in an unmarked grave below their barn. The family is eager to hide away this whole ugly business, and try and move on with their lives.
JEFF: Life does go on. Seasons turn to years, years turn to decades, and pretty soon the whole world forgets about Emily Mather and the travelling salesman. But that changes just after World War II.
RAY: It’s now 1946. A man named Walter Hendricks is founding a college right here on Potash Hill in Marlboro, Vermont. Hendricks purchases the Mathers farm and property as well as two other nearby family farms and opens Marlboro College. Most of those first students are returning soldiers funding their advanced education with the G.I. bill.
JEFF: Colleges need classrooms, dormitories, and administrative buildings. Fortunately, there were farm buildings that could be converted. The Mathers barn became a classroom building called Dalrymple Hall.
RAY: So you’re saying that Emily’s unmarked grave sits under a classroom building in 1946?
JEFF: It does. During these first few years, there are no paranormal problems. But that will change in the 1950s.
[SFX EARTHMOVING CONSTRUCTION EQUIPMENT]
JEFF: As the college breaks ground to construct a dormitory that will later be named Howland House, the earth-movers crack open an unmarked grave revealing the forgotten remains of poor Emily Mather. Since then, Howland House has been the epicenter of the haunting.
RAY: Looking over here, we also find the Mather Building. This was the Mather farmhouse that was first converted to a dormitory in 1947, but will later become the college’s administrative offices and president’s office.
JEFF: There are reminders of the Mathers all over this campus. And it would seem there are also ghostly reminders. There are odd stories that persist in some of the dorm rooms. Stories of strange cold spots, personal items that disappear only to show up later in the strangest places, hearing footsteps, and scary clanking noises in the walls.
[SFX CLANKING PIPE NOISES]
JEFF: Like those. And of course, feeling like you’re not alone even when you know you are.
RAY: There’s enough strange activity that the students pass along these stories each year and the legend continues to grow. And that brings us back to today.
RAY: It seems to me that just about every college campus has a ghost or two, Jeff.
JEFF: It is a common legend at colleges and universities all over the place.
RAY: Like if your roommate commits suicide, you automatically get a 4.0?
JEFF: Right. And colleges are transient places. So many people come and go each year. But Marlboro College is a little different. Because it’s so small, it’s a campus where everyone knows everybody else. It’s impossible for a student not to hear about the ghost of Emily Mather.
RAY: I can see how a story like this would go viral year after year.
JEFF: Word travels fast on a small campus. But the big question is this: Is Emily Mather’s story true?
RAY: So we checked. We checked everywhere we could check from newspaper archives to other records and could find no mention of an Emily Mather. It doesn’t help that there were multiple Mather families living in Marlboro during the 1800s. We also found no mention of a body discovered during construction of any buildings on campus in the 1940s. You’d think something like that would make the news.
JEFF: But we know the Mather Farm is real because their house still stands on campus, though it’s been updated quite a bit. And the story or Emily is reinforced each year as new students have new strange experiences. So even if we have the name wrong and the cause of death wrong, we still have something weird on campus.
RAY: And the backstory of Emily and the traveling salesman. I mean, it’s ripped right out of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
JEFF: So the story sounds familiar. The Mather name stares at you from the administrative building each day, and the students tell the incoming freshman about the ghost of Emily each fall.
RAY: And here we are walking around a haunted campus wondering what ghostly tricks Emily will play on the next crop of Freshman who will arrive here in just about a month.
RAY: As if college isn’t tricky enough with tough courses, navigating new social situations, and things like that, these students also have to deal with a ghost.
JEFF: I kind of like that. It’s another detail that makes this campus a little different than any other.
RAY: If you want to reach out to us with a story idea or feedback, you can call or text our legend line anytime at 617-444-9683. You can also connect with us on our super secret facebook group, and you can find that link from our Web site: ournewenglandlegends.com
JEFF: We do love hearing from you and appreciate those who post a review of our show on itunes. Our theme music is by John Judd.
RAY: Until next time remember… the bizarre is closer than you think.
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