In Episode 144, Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger are back with an all-new episode! The guys hike to the waterfalls of Bristol, Vermont, in search of Hell’s Half Acre, a place said to contain buried treasure guarded by the ghost of a little boy, and a ferocious Hell Hound.
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[DOG BARKING IN THE DISTANCE]
JEFF: Ray, when I heard this area was called “Hell’s Half Acre,” I knew we had to make our way to Bristol, Vermont, as soon as we could.
RAY: Yeah, it’s tough to resist something like that? How did this place get that name?
JEFF: The plan is to find that out.
RAY: I can tell we’re getting close. There’s the waterfalls on the South Bristol cliffs.
JEFF: Okay, keep your eyes peeled, Ray. We have to be on the lookout for the ghost of a young boy, but also a hell-hound—this ghostly mutt is said to guard a buried treasure.
JEFF: Hi, I’m Jeff Belanger. And it feels great to be back with you on an all-new adventure!
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger, we’re back, six feet apart, to bring you Episode 144 of the New England Legends podcast. If you give us about ten minutes, we’ll give you something strange to talk about today.
JEFF: In this adventure, we may also give you a tip on where you can find some buried treasure! And if you DO find the treasure… and frankly, even if you don’t, we hope you’ll consider sharing just $3 bucks per month with us and become a Patreon patron. These folks sponsor our show each week and keep us going. Plus they get early access to new episodes and bonus episodes that no one else gets to hear. Just head over to Patreon.com/NewEnglandLegends to sign up and help us out. We appreciate it.
RAY: We also appreciate when you tell others about our show. Share our episodes on social media, or post a review on Apple Podcasts. Those reviews really go a long way in helping others find our show.
JEFF: Ray, this story has it all. Buried treasure, ghosts, and a hellhound guarding the loot somewhere near these waterfalls.
RAY: Was that a dog we heard before?
JEFF: Maybe… First, a little more about these waterfalls. They’re hundreds of feet tall as they stair-step down the cliffs on the south side of Bristol, but the east side of the Bristol Cliffs wilderness area. It’s about a quarter mile from Lower Notch Road. It’s had several informal names over the centuries. The earliest was: Deer Leap because the Abenaki people would sometimes try to wrangle the deer above the cliffs and scare them into jumping to their deaths so they could gather the meat below.
RAY: That’s a pretty ominous beginning—a place to scare animals to their deaths?
JEFF: This place is not only known as Hell’s Half Acre, it’s also been called the Money Diggings because so many have come here looking for treasure. To find out the rest, let’s grab our shovels and head back to the mid-1700s, back when this town was called Pocock to find out what happened.
JEFF: It’s 1750, and a Spaniard named DeGrau and a group of pirates including their dog and cabin boy are carting their plundered treasure toward Canada, when suddenly… they’re attacked by an Abenaki war party.
[MUSKET FIRE, SHOUTS]
RAY: The group of pirates are in trouble. They’re loaded down with treasure, and trying to fight for their lives. Slowly, the men are getting picked off by the Abenaki. They make it to within sight of a large waterfall before they form a line of defense. While some of the pirates shoot their muskets back at the Abenkai…
RAY: Others are desperately digging a hole to bury the loot.
JEFF: By the time the treasure is buried, most of the pirates are dead. Their only hope is to make a run for it, and return later for their treasure. But before they go, there’s two orders of diabolical business to attend to. First…
[DOG YIP, THEN SILENCE]
JEFF: They kill the dog to silence the mutt so he won’t give away their position.
RAY: That’s terrible!
JEFF: Next, one of the men holds the cabin boy down right above the buried treasure. The pirate pulls a knife from his boot, and slits the boy’s throat. The boy is sacrificed so that his spirit may guard the treasure. What the buccaneers don’t realize, is that they’ve unleashed a mighty curse. The dog, killed in such an evil way, transforms into an angry hell hound, and the boy’s spirit is trapped. All of this is more than DaGrau can take. He runs for it, leaving the others behind to be slaughter by the Abenaki, the hell hound, or something worse. DeGrau will never see the other pirates again.
RAY: Once DeGrau makes it back to safety, he takes up with another ship, but vows to return one days for the treasure.
JEFF: Decades go by, but DeGrau never stops thinking about all of the treasure somewhere by the waterfall in Vermont. Growing tired of his life at sea and the dangers of piracy, DeGrau sets his sites on retirement. All he has to do is make his way back to Pocock, dig up his buried treasure, and he’s set for life.
RAY: Buuuuut there’s a problem.
JEFF: What’s that?
RAY: When DeGrau returns to Pocock, he can’t seem to find exactly where they buried the treasure.
JEFF: You’re kidding.
RAY: It’s been years. I mean, he finds the waterfall, and he digs in various spots, but he can’t find the loot. They never did have time to draw a map. And even worse, DeGrau is distracted by the faint sounds he hears in the distance.
[DOG GROWL, DOG BARK]
RAY: Could that hell hound still be nearby? Then there’s the ghostly figure he catches out of the corner of his eye. (PAUSE) Could that be the ghostly boy still keeping watch? That shade still remembers what happened. It’s making DeGrau crazy.
JEFF: Frustrated and scared, DeGrau spends a lot of time in Pocock talking about his days as a pirate and of the lost treasure.
RAY: For a guy with a secret to keep, he’s definitely running his mouth quite a bit.
JEFF: I think he hopes some locals will help him look for the loot in exchange for a cut. But it doesn’t work. Many think he’s crazy with talk of ghosts and hell hounds. And pretty soon, DeGrau fades away.
RAY: But folks in the region never stop talking about the pirate treasure by the waterfall. I mean, what if it’s true? What if there’s a fortune right out there in the woods? Pretty soon, people get curious enough to go try their luck.
RAY: They dig here. They dig over there. But find nothing except… a single Spanish doubloon.
JEFF: (INTERRUPTING) Ah but one doubloon is all you need, Ray! If there’s one doubloon, maybe there’s more. MUCH more. The legend of buried treasure gets a shot in the arm. And people are coming to the place locals call the Money Diggings in search of their fortune.
RAY: Fast forward to the mid-1800s, and that’s when a group of Canadian prospectors arrive in search of the treasure. Unlike the local weekend warriors who came before them, this is a proper expedition with the right equipment, tools, and manpower. But they also have something else.
JEFF: What’s that?
RAY: They’ve brought a spiritualist medium with them. Guided by the spirits of the dead pirates, the medium directs the men where to dig. So they dig.
JEFF: And dig.
RAY: And dig. And even tunnel their way underground.
JEFF: Not only are they not finding anything, the men are getting spooked. They hear these monster growls, and there’s talk of ghosts. After weeks of digging various holes all over the place, the men leave behind a dangerous landscape filled with pits.
RAY: And filled with legends of a hell hound and a ghost.
JEFF: And Hell’s Half Acre is born. And that brings us back to today.
RAY: So do you think there’s really treasure out here, Jeff? Or did we carry in the shovels for nothing?
JEFF: We’ve said before where there’s smoke, there’s sometimes fire. This is one of those stories that’s hung around a long time. Check out this article from the August 12th, 1936 Bennington Banner.
RAY: Okay, the headline says: Treasure Myth Near Bristol Again Revives: Students at Summer School to Visit Money Diggings. (LAUGHING) The next line in the headline literary says: Weird Story
JEFF: That it is. This article describes a different version of the backstory than we told. The article describes a half acre of rock with dozens of holes from a few inches to a few feet in depth where people mined for silver. In this version of the story, DeGrau was part of a silver mining expedition that found so much silver, they couldn’t carry it all with them, so they buried it in a pit, then forgot where it was buried. DeGrau would tell later miners that there’s still rich veins of silver to be found.
RAY: But what about the story of the hell hound and ghost of the little boy?
JEFF: Some claim a skeleton of a dog was discovered by a hiker next to one of the dug-out pits. When the hiker gazed into the pit, he saw the skeleton of a young boy who must have fallen in to his death and the loyal dog never left the pit and that gave rise to the ghostly part of this legend.
RAY: Okay, I saw another version online that said DeGrau and his crew stole pirate treasure from a ship called the San Jose in a warehouse, then tried to make it to Canada before the Abenaki Indians caught them.
JEFF: So many different versions, but in every version of the story there’s a Spaniard named DeGrau who knew about buried treasure somewhere near the waterfall in a place locals once called The Money Diggings, but now it’s Hell’s Half Acre, and that treasure has never been found after two centuries of people looking for it.
RAY: So you’re saying we got a chance to find it?
JEFF: Yes, Ray. There’s at least a chance.
RAY: Then I’m digging. After being cooped up for two months, and all the horrible things that have happened so far in 2020, I’m thinking our luck is bound to change.
JEFF: That’s a good point. Move over, I’ll help.
RAY: Hey all you legendary listeners, we appreciate all of you hanging in there with us through the quarantine. We hope you enjoyed revisiting some of our many stories from the vault while we were gone.
JEFF: It’s been tough on all of us, but we’re back, and ready to safely explore legends again and bring you a new story each week. Also, be sure to visit our Web site at ournewenglandlegends.com. We’ve made some cool updates including a fancy new interactive map with pins linking to all of the legends we’ve covered so far.
RAY: If you haven’t already joined our super secret facebook group you should! You can find a link on our Web site. And you can also reach out to us anytime on our Legend Line at 617-444-9683 where you can leave our show closing on there for us.
JEFF: So good to be back, Ray. And of course our theme music is by John Judd.
VOICEMAIL_144: This is Garret and Jaden Olsen from Pembroke, Mass. And until next time remember… the bizarre is closer than you think. Bwahahahahaha.
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