In Episode 164, Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger head back to 1930 to Bank Street in New Milford, Connecticut, to explore the legend of a haunted stove. For two weeks, the strange phenomenon of the talking stove behind a Bank Street restaurant drew in thousands of witnesses and made international news. Where were those ghostly voices coming from?
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JEFF: You hungry, Ray?
RAY: Yeah, I could go for some dinner.
JEFF: We’re in luck, because right over here across from the New Milford, Connecticut town Green is Bank Street.
RAY: What a cute, downtown street. I can see there’s a bunch of shops, bars, and restaurants on this block. During this time of social distancing and masks, we may have to settle for takeout. But it looks like there’s a lot of options.
JEFF: We’re here in New Milford looking for something more frightening than Covid-19, Ray. Behind one of these restaurants is the story of a haunted kitchen appliance.
RAY: Come on… a haunted kitchen appliance?
JEFF: I know it sounds crazy, but this strange event was witnessed by thousands. Today we’re searching for New Milford’s haunted stove.
JEFF: Hi, I’m Jeff Belanger.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger, and welcome to episode 164 of the New England Legends podcast. If you give us about ten minutes, we’ll give you something strange to talk about today.
JEFF: We appreciate you joining us on our mission to chronicle every legend in New England one story at a time.
RAY: We can’t do what we do without the generous support of our patreon patrons. We have big plans here. We know you listen every week because these stories bring us together and connect us to this weird wonderful place called New England. So we’re asking for you to help out with just $3 bucks per month. And for that you’ll get early access to new episodes plus bonus episodes and content that no one else gets to hear. Just head over to patreon.com/newenglandlegends to sign up.
JEFF: It’s October, which means people are looking for spooky stories and activities. This month we’re thrilled to announce the 2021 Haunted New England calendar by yours truly and featuring the eerie photography of Frank Grace is now available. You can find the link to buy one on our Web site. My fall virtual story tour is going on with story and legend programs almost every night this month—our Web site can also give you links to dates and places. And we’re throwing a virtual Halloween party on October 24th from 7 to 9PM! Tickets are just $5 bucks and all proceeds go to benefit the Old Colony History Museum. We’re going to have trivia, costume contests, games, and more. You can find the link on our Web site, and we’ll also post it in our super secret Facebook group.
RAY: Okay, Jeff, I’m still trying to wrap my head around a haunted stove.
JEFF: Yeah, it’s weird, I know.
RAY: And witnessed by thousands?
JEFF: Thousands over the span of weeks.
RAY: Okay, let’s head back to 1930 and set this up.
JEFF: It’s late September of 1930 and we’re in the kitchen of a small restaurant here on Bank Street in New Milford. It’s just after midnight, when Hawk Palardy heads out to an alley behind the restaurant. He’s walking toward a small shack in the alley.
JEFF: Inside the storage shack there isn’t much light. There are sacks of potatoes, onions, and other food items the kitchen needs regularly. Hawk is scooping up some onions when he hears something…
VOICE: Hey Hawk, can you hear me?
RAY: Hawk spins around to see who’s talking to him. But there’s no one there. He pokes his head outside of the shack thinking maybe someone from the restaurant is calling to him, but the alley is empty. He shakes his head, and goes back to gathering onions. But then he hears the voice again…
VOICE: Hawk! Hawk! Hey, can you hear me?
RAY: Hawk drops the onions, he bolts out the door, and sprints back to the kitchen across the street.
JEFF: Hawk tells his kitchen staff what just happened. And as you might guess if you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, no one believes him. In fact, they laugh and tease him over the silly notion of ghosts in the shack in the alley. Even the restaurant owner, Gus Jones, who Hawk considers a friend, not just his employer, also has a laugh at his expense.
RAY: The following evening, Gus needs someone to head out to the shack and peel some potatoes. As you might guess, Hawk takes a pass. He insists someone else has to do it. So Gus asks a young kitchen helper named Tommy to go take care of the potatoes.
[WALKING ON STREET]
JEFF: Tommy arrives in the shack and starts to peel the potatoes. By the time he’s on his third spud, he hears a voice.
VOICE: Help! Help! I’m buried 40 feet underground. Help Help!
[RUNNING ON STREET]
JEFF: Tommy races back into the kitchen, out of breath and white as a sheet, saying he just heard a child’s voice coming from the old stove in the shed!
RAY: The kitchen staff take a look at Tommy, then at Hawk, and suddenly, it’s not quite so funny. Now, they’re mainly curious. It doesn’t take long for word to spread throughout New Milford about a haunted stove in an alley behind Bank Street.
RAY: A crowd of people gather around the shack. They scoff, almost laugh at themselves, but they also want to experience this strange event. That’s when one New Milford woman bends down near the stove.
VOICE: Hellllp! A young boy is buried in a cellar in Kent!
JEFF: It’s worth noting that the town of Kent is about 14 miles north of here.
RAY: This is really weird. The voice is obviously coming out of the stove! I hear it. All of these people gathered can hear it.
JEFF: Someone else who can hear it, is Harry Worley, he’s the son of the man who owns the New Milford Times newspaper. He races back to his dad’s newspaper office and puts the story of the haunted talking stove out on the wire.
JEFF: Suddenly, the news goes viral. Newspapers all over the world are running with the article. Everyone is captivated. And now those crowds in the alley behind Bank Street… they’re starting to grow.
[CROWD NOISE BIGGER/LOUDER]
RAY: Not only are the crowds growing, but the story is drawing in all kinds of people. Some scientists show up, they’re certain they can explain everything… buuuuuut they can’t.
JEFF: Spiritualists flock here as well. They’ve come to announce this is true spirit contact. This phenomenon validates everything they already believe.
RAY: Police officers and detectives from several states away also show up. They’re sure it’s a hoax, and they can prove it… buuuuuut they can’t.
JEFF: Even a few Catholic priests show up to see and hear the voice for themselves. Some pondered out loud if this could be another Lourdes – referring to Lourdes, France, where pilgrims flock to dip into the miracle water where there was a Virgin Mary sighting in 1858.
[BUSY RESTAURANT SOUNDS]
JEFF: All the while, Gus’s restaurant is making a killing feeding all of these hungry supernatural tourists. And then come the theories…
RAY: Some local radio engineers believe they’ve solved the mystery. They’re convinced that the stove has somehow picked up local radio waves and broadcast the audio.
RAY: They figure the stove is made of metal, and it must be acting like some kind of antennae.
JEFF: Ray, you’re a radio guy. Has your stove ever broadcast your radio show?
RAY: Not once.
JEFF: It’s been a busy and exciting first week of October here in New Milford. And locals are starting to put pressure on the Kent police department.
JEFF: They believe the cries of the buried boy might mean some horrible crime has taken place. Citizens are asking police to conduct a basement-by-basement search of the town. Eventually the Kent police respond by saying they’re not willing to go house-to-house, but they can confirm that all Kent children are accounted for.
RAY: Suddenly, a different voice cries out from the stove.
VOICE: I was murdered here 25 years ago! I demand justice. I demand justice!
RAY: This stove seems to be some kind of portal to the other side. Now different spirits are coming through. The problem with this new voice is that no one can find a record of anyone murdered 25 years ago in this area. But that doesn’t seem to matter. Folks are flocking here daily to witness the voices.
VOICE: Help me! I’m buried in a nearby well. Find me!
JEFF: One night, 40 men show up to huddle around the stove all night if they have to. (PAUSE) It’s close to midnight. It’s quiet. Suddenly all of the lights around the alley dim… and then go out. Then a new voice cries out from the stove.
VOICE: Hellllp meeeeee!
JEFF: The gathered men scatter.
RAY: For the first two weeks in October the stove continues to talk, and the crowds continue to gather. Hucksters and con-men move in. And now fights are breaking out.
RAY: Police are called many times per day to break up the fights. Some folks are arguing about religion and what this means. Some say it’s a message from God, others say it’s from the devil. Meanwhile, the police in this small town are running out of patience with the crowd. At one point it’s estimated 3,000 people gathered on the street and in the alley to try and witness the voices.
JEFF: One reporter tried digging a three-foot ditch around the shack to try and uncover the mystery. He only managed to get himself dirty before Gus, the restaurant owner, stopped him.
RAY: By the second week of October, New Milford police have had enough.
RAY: The police clear out the alley, and hammer the shack shut so no one else can go in. Unable to hear anymore voices, the crowds filter away, and eventually the buzz dies down. And that brings us back to today.
JEFF: Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute!
JEFF: This miracle of miracles that received international attention just went away?
RAY: Folks kind of stopped talking about. It happens. The ghost remained a mystery for almost 40 years. And just when the folks of New Milford had let the paranormal event drift into legend, a magazine dug up the story and uncovered something missed before. Here, take a look.
JEFF: In May of 1970, the Hartford Courant newspaper reported findings. It says: Quote: It was learned that the shed once housed a refrigerator for perishable food from the restaurant. An underground tube and electrical cable had been run from the kitchen to the shed, but when Gus moved the refrigerator to the restaurant, the tube had remained.
The story goes on to say that on the night Hawk went for onions, the chef, a man named Nick, decided he needed more hamburger too. He remembered the old tube that ran to the shack, so he tried using it to call to Hawk from the kitchen.
VOICE: Hey Hawk, can you hear me?
JEFF: The thought being he could ask Hawk to grab hamburger on his way back to the kitchen. But then when Hawn runs in white as a sheet, everyone has a good laugh.
RAY: Hawk Palardy was told pretty soon after that first incident what had happened, and he also had a good laugh. In fact, his old co-workers reported that he soon became the source of most of the ghostly voices that were heard in the following weeks.
JEFF: This prank turned even more elaborate when Hawk had a plumber friend and a telephone worker extend the tube and a cable through three adjacent stores and into a small men’s room in a place called Garcia’s Men’s shop. Keys were given to six friends, including Hawk, who all took turns being the ghost.
RAY: Still, for two solid weeks in October of 1930, the hottest thing cooking in New Milford, Connecticut, was indeed coming from a stove.
JEFF: I get it! We love when you legendary listeners get in touch with us. Share your story leads, get involved in the discussion in our super secret Facebook group, download our free New England Legends app, or call or text our Legend Line anytime at 617-444-9683.
RAY: We also appreciate it when you tell a friend or two about us on your social media, because great things happen when you share these stories.
JEFF: We’d like to thank John Bashford and John Judd for lending their voice acting talents this week.
RAY: Hey, that’s the same John Judd who does our theme music!
VOICEMAIL: Hi, my name is Alejandra from Boston, Massachusetts, and Keene, New Hampshire. And I just wanted to say stay safe, stay healthy, and remember the bizarre is closer than you may think.