In Episode 158, Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger drive by the Seventh Day Baptist Cemetery in Burlington, Connecticut, searching for a ghost they call the Green Lady. For more than 50 years, locals have been talking about this glowing apparition, but who is she? Or rather, who was she? A murder victim? A victim of circumstance? Listen to find out!
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RAY: This is a pretty rural part of Burlington, Connecticut. What are we looking for?
JEFF: Ray, we’re searching for a cemetery.
RAY: Okay, we’ve explored a cemetery or two before. This shouldn’t be hard to find.
JEFF: Usually no, cemeteries are often easy to spot with acres of manicured grass, well-kept headstones, and things like that, but this one may not be so easy to locate. (PAUSE) We should turn left on Upson Road over there.
RAY: Got it.
JEFF: The cemetery we’re looking for is just a small patch of land; most of the headstones are long gone.
RAY: Okay, wait. There’s a clearing there on our right. It’s enclosed by a colonial stone wall. I see a few rocks sticking out of the ground. Could those be broken off headstones?
JEFF: This is it, Ray, the Seventh Day Baptist Cemetery. Keep your eyes peeled. Because we’re searching for a ghost they call The Green Lady.
JEFF: I’m Jeff Belanger, and welcome to Episode 158 of the New England Legends podcast. If you give us about ten minutes, we’ll give you something strange to talk about today.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger. Thanks for riding along with us as we chronicle every legend in New England one story at a time. This is way more than just a podcast, or even a television series you can watch right now on Amazon Prime. New England Legends is a huge community of legend seekers who are sharing stories that connect us with our communities, with our history, and with each other. And to help you connect with the stories and locations, be sure to download our brand-new mobile app developed by Lauren Middleton at Forest City Marketing! It’s free, and you can get it right now in the Google Play or Apple App stores.
JEFF: The app has this fancy map of New England with pins linking you to every story we’ve covered so far, so you can listen to our podcast while you drive to check out these locations for yourself. Many of them are remote, which means you can socially distance AND get out of the house.
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RAY: Okay, Jeff, I’ve heard of this place. But I think I’ve only ever heard it called “Green Lady Cemetery.”
JEFF: That may very well be the name most people know best for this place, but officially it’s called the Seventh Day Baptist Cemetery.
RAY: Seventh Day BAPTIST? I’ve heard of Seventh Day Adventists. In fact, looking at our GPS, it says right now we’re next to the Seventh Day Adventists Cemetery in Burlington, Connecticut.
JEFF: Yeah, it does say that. But the GPS is wrong. This is the Seventh Day Baptist Cemetery. And I admit, I had to look them up as well.
RAY: I’m glad I’m not the only one.
JEFF: Seventh Day Baptists are a very small denomination of Baptists—about 5,000 members in the United States—who observe the Sabbath on Saturday, which is the Biblical seventh day of the week.
RAY: That’s it?! Saturday instead of Sunday?
JEFF: That’s pretty much it.
RAY: Got it. So they were never a large group in the United States?
JEFF: No, they weren’t. We’ll get into them a little bit more in a minute. Right now, we’re here for the ghost of the Green Lady.
RAY: Right. This cemetery isn’t very large. It’s maybe a quarter of an acre in size. And it’s surrounded by those colonial stone walls that are so familiar all over the New England landscape. There are a bunch of stone stumps sticking out of the ground in rows. They look almost like headstones that’ve been broken off at the base. I’m guessing this ghost is attached to one of these graves?
JEFF: She’s a ghost who’s been sighted here for centuries, depending on who you ask, but spoken of and written about more extensively for the last fifty years. But who is she? Or rather, who was she? And could her mortal remains still be here beneath the ground?
RAY: To figure that out, we’re going to head back to the year 1800 and set this up.
[SPRING SOUNDS BIRDS]
RAY: It’s mid-April of 1800 here in Burlington, Connecticut. It’s a time for winter to fade into the background. A time for warmer weather, and a time for hope.
JEFF: But it’s not a time of hope for everyone. Something is wrong at the home of 30 year old, Elisabeth Palmiter.
JEFF: She’s sick. And the prognosis isn’t good.
RAY: Here’s a little more on Elisabeth. She’s a member of the Seventh Day Baptist Church here in Burlington. The group are also known as Sabbatarians.
JEFF: The Sabbatarians can trace their roots to 1650 in England. They arrived in America via Rhode Island, not long after that in 1665, with their first established church popping up in Newport six years later. Over time, the church splits and expands as members move away from Newport. In 1780, twenty Seventh Day Baptist families from Westerly, Rhode Island, make the move northwest to Burlington, Connecticut, and setup a church right across the street from a small pond where they can conduct baptisms.
RAY: The church is fairly large, considering only twenty families are here to launch it. It’s built in a Puritanical style with large pillars in the front, it has a low steeple, and it’s painted white all over. Let’s go inside.
[DOOR OPEN/CLOSES FOOTSTEPS]
RAY: Inside, there are box pews with small doors allowing members to sit with their families, and over the minister’s head is a sounding board—it’s a plank of wood set at an angle above his head so when he speaks, the sound is naturally projected out to the congregation.
JEFF: In addition to a building like this, church’s also need a place to bury their dead. The Seventh Day Baptists of Burlington set up a small piece of land just an eighth of a mile up the road. Let’s take a walk over there.
[WALKING ON GRAVEL]
JEFF: The first burial is back here in the corner. The grave belongs to a man names Davis who was buried here less than a month after the church opened.
RAY: Check out this one nearby. It reads: Here lies Rev. Mr. John Davis…
JEFF: Same family as the other nearby grave, I’m sure.
RAY: the first pastor of ye Sabbatarian Church… who departed this life in peace August 29th A.D. 1792, in the 69th year of his age. Remember all both great and small; Whose souls have been my care; All wealth receive all terror leave; And thus for Death Prepare.
JEFF: That’s profound.
JEFF: Ohhh I don’t like the sound of that. It looks like they’re digging a new grave near the middle of this small boneyard. I think we should go back into town and check on Elisabeth Palmiter.
[HORSE TROTTING THEN STOPS]
RAY: It seems as though we’re just in time for a funeral. Elisabeth just passed.
JEFF: Elisabeth’s husband, Benjamin, makes all of the arrangements, and meets with mourners from his church.
[HORSE TROTTING THEN STOPS]
JEFF: Back at the cemetery, a stone is placed on her grave. It reads: Elisabeth, wife of Benjamin Palmiter, Died April 12, 1800. Age 30.
RAY: More years pass, and of course, more folks in this church community die and are buried nearby Rev. John Davis and Elisabeth Palmiter. People like Mr. Jared Covey, who died February 21, 1804, age 50. Jeff, check out his grave inscription.
JEFF: Okay, it reads: Stop, look at me as you pass by,
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, so you must be.
Prepare for death, and follow me.
Man, could these folks write an epitaph!
RAY: Throughout the 1800s, membership in the Seventh Day Baptist Church of Burlington dwindles. Members move away, some pass away, and others leave for new churches and religions. The last burial at this little cemetery occurs in 1887, and that closes the chapter of Seventh Day Baptists in Burlington. All told, there are 75 monuments in this boneyard.
JEFF: The strange thing about cemeteries is that once a few decades have gone by since the last burial, people really don’t visit anymore. There’s just not enough connection.
RAY: From here we’re going to move ahead to 1915, because something significant is about to happen.
RAY: It’s May of 1915, and this part of central Connecticut is growing. More people, more houses, and that means more demands on natural resources like water. That’s when the nearby New Britain water board purchases a bunch of land, including the cemetery, to make way for a dam and reservoir that will provide drinking water to the surrounding towns. According to the water authority, this cemetery will have to go.
JEFF: At least, that’s what the Hartford Courant newspaper is telling us. That everything and everyone in this cemetery must go. But cemeteries don’t die easily.
RAY: Which is ironic.
JEFF: It is. Folks in town view this as part of their earliest history. Fortunately, the cemetery is ultimately spared, but the land remains under the ownership of town of Burlington and the water authority.
RAY: More years pass, and soon, a ghostly legend drifts out of the ground like a luminescent fog. It’s the story of a green lady said to haunt these grounds searching for something… or someone. (DRAMATIC PAUSE) Especially on warm, summer nights.
[CRICKETS OWLS NIGHT SOUNDS]
RAY: (They say a green fogs leaks out of the ground and takes a feminine shape… you can’t quite make out specific features, but it’s clearly a woman rising from somewhere near the middle of the graves. She’s said to be searching for her lost husband who didn’t return home when she expected him to. A bad storm hit, and when she went searching for him, she drowned in a nearby swamp. Though some suggest maybe her husband murdered her. Over time, people start to connect that ghostly apparition and story to Elisabeth Palmiter. And that brings us back to today.
JEFF: You got a love a spooky graveyard tale, Ray.
RAY: You do. So many cemeteries seem to have a ghost attached to them.
JEFF: I think part of it is because we all feel our own mortality in a cemetery. We know this is our final destination. What did Jared Covey’s headstone say? As I am now, so you must be. Prepare for death, and follow me. That’s the thing. We’re ALL going to follow him. We have no choice.
RAY: Looking around this clearing today, I don’t see any standing headstones anymore. There’s some broken stumps of stones here and there, and stones knocked over. What happened to all of the headstones?
JEFF: That’s something we can blame squarely on the glowing ghostly shoulders of the green lady.
RAY: How so?
JEFF: I dug up this newspaper article from the November 1st, 1989 Hartford Courant, where a local historian discusses all of the cemetery vandalism that’s been happening. It’s claimed so many people come looking for the ghost, which is harmless, until people started stealing and breaking headstones.
RAY: That’s terrible.
JEFF: It is. And it’s not fair. It ruins great locations and history for everyone. And for that, I have no patience.
RAY: One question we always try to answer with any legend, is WHEN did it begin? If we can find the moment of birth, maybe we have a chance to figure the whole thing out. Do we have a birthdate on this one?
JEFF: The town historian quoted in the 1989 Hartford Courant article blames it on a summer camp called Camp Schade which was located within a few hundred feet of the cemetery. Starting in the 1960s, the camp served city kids. Some believe the Green Lady legend was just made up to scare the kids. No matter the origin, the story has been told enough times that people all over Connecticut refer to this place as Green Lady Cemetery.
RAY: Why do people think the ghost was Elisabeth Palmiter?
JEFF: Though we’re not sure, we do know that many of these headstones were broken or stolen over time. It would seem all of those spooky epitaphs drew too much attention. One of the last graves left standing…
RAY: Lemme guess: Elisabeth Palmiter?
JEFF: Elisabeth Palmiter. She died too young. Age 30. And her headstone wasn’t as interesting as some of the others, so it would be one of the last to stand. By the 1980s, her headstone stood alone and lonely in a field of the dead. And that, it seems, is what haunts us.
RAY: There is a little more to this story. By the 1970s, after Elisabeth was identified as the ghost, even her stone was vandalized. But unlike the others, it was replaced. And here it stood for 40 years until the summer of 2010, when someone… though likely several someones… came to the cemetery and stole the 200-pound headstone, leaving us with nothing but a story and a ghost.
JEFF: Today there’s not much to see at the Seventh Day Baptist Cemetery in Burlington. And whatever there is to see, you’ll need to do it from the roadside, because it’s been marked no trespassing. Please do respect that, because this site has already been ruined by people who came to destroy and not observe.
RAY: Right, take only pictures, leave only footprints.
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VOICEMAIL: Hi, this is Liz Rotondo from Albany, New York. Until next time remember the bizarre is closer than you think.