In Episode 178, Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger head to Peck’s Hollow in Franklin, Connecticut, in search of Micah Rood’s former farm and a cursed apple tree that dates back to an alleged murder from the early 1700s. For many decades, folks in eastern Connecticut had to wonder when they bit into a Mike apple if those red specs were just pigmentation, or drops of blood from a murdered French peddler.
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[CRUNCH OF AN APPLE]
RAY: Hey, that looks good. Toss me an apple, will ya, Jeff?
JEFF: You got it.
RAY: What is it about eating an apple outside in New England?
JEFF: They grow so well in our region. And I love how there’s so many incredible local variations on them. They don’t just differ from state to state, but even town to town.
[CRUNCH OF AN APPLE]
RAY: Huh, this apple is a little different than any I’ve seen before.
JEFF: How’s that?
RAY: There’s a little red fleck of color in the flesh of the apple near the core. Is this why we’re in the small town of Franklin, Connecticut? Looking for local apples?
JEFF: Sort of. We’re looking for a specific apple tree in town that they say was witness to a murder. They say this apple tree… is cursed.
JEFF: Hey there, I’m Jeff Belanger.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger, and welcome to Episode 178 of the New England Legends podcast. If you give us about ten minutes, we’ll give you something strange to talk about today.
JEFF: Thank you for joining us on our mission to chronicle every legend in New England one story at a time. We’re more than just a weekly podcast, more than a television series that you can watch right now on Amazon Prime, and more than a super secret Facebook group and free smart phone app. We’re a community of legend seekers who love these strange stories from the past. So many of our story leads come from you legendary listeners, like this one, that came from Lauren Middleton! So please keep them coming.
RAY: Before we get too far into these Connecticut apples, we’d like to take a minute to tell you about our sponsor, Nuwati Herbals. These are folks who know great stories and legends need great companions, like a hot cup of tea.
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RAY: What happened?
JEFF: I was so mad, I actually rolled audio on it. Take a listen…
JEFF: Megan, are you in there?!
MEGAN: Yeah. [TUB RUNNING]
JEFF: I need to use the tub to try out the Wash My Pain Away Bath Salts!
MEGAN: Uhhhmmm, I’m already using them!
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RAY: The struggle is real, Jeff.
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RAY: Okay, Jeff, so apples. We’re in Franklin, Connecticut looking for apples?
JEFF: Did you know it’s estimated that there are over 7,500 varieties of apples in the world?
RAY: You mean like: Red Delicious, Honey Crisp, Granny Smith, Macintosh, Golden Delicious, and things like that?
JEFF: Yup, those are just some of the apples you might find in the grocery store. There are thousands more out there, and countless thousands of varieties that have been lost to time, because these unique varieties of apples were made by humans grafting the branch of one kind of apple tree to the branch of another to create a new variety. Some varieties may have only been one tree in a farmer’s orchard before it died off.
RAY: That’s cool that anyone with an apple tree and a little knowledge of grafting can make a new apple.
[CRUNCH OF APPLE]
RAY: But this local apple is a little different with the red specks inside.
JEFF: Right, it still tastes great, and they say those specs are harmless, it’s just the deep red pigmentation of the skin of the apple bleeding into the flesh… At least that’s ONE thing they say.
RAY: Oh man… there’s more to this, isn’t there…
JEFF: Well, another thing they say is that this old apple tree here in Franklin, was witness to a bloody murder of a man, and those red specs in these apples…
RAY: Oh man… I think I’m gonna be sick.
JEFF: Anyway… they say this apple tree is cursed. And to figure out why, let’s head back to the year 1716, back when Franklin was still part of Norwich, Connecticut, and set this up.
RAY: It’s the fall of 1716 here in the town of Norwich, Connecticut, and we’re standing in the Peck’s Hollow section of town in the farmyard of Micah Rood. In 1699, when Micah 46 years old, he purchased this land and started an orchard and farm. He’s a bachelor, never married, and no children. For the first several years, Micah loved the farming life, but he’s been losing his zest for the work recently. Year after year of toil, and not much profit, is causing Micah to grow tired of his otherwise tranquil life.
JEFF: Though Micah mostly keeps to himself, he does hear scuttlebutt around town. In a rural area like this, news travels. And the most interesting news to come along in a while is that there’s a peddler in town going from house to house.
RAY: A peddler going from home-to-home isn’t exactly newsworthy in 1716. Peddlers is how many people get unique items that their local general stores just doesn’t carry. What makes this peddler stand out?
JEFF: For one, the peddler speaks with a French accent. And this here is British territory. Folks are already suspicious. Then, when people around town see what this peddler has to sell, they suspect the worst of him.
RAY: What’s he selling?
JEFF: Jewelry and other trinkets that no one around here would want. Combine that with his French accent, and now folks suspect he may be a spy who is scoping out how defenseless this region may be. At least, that’s the word going around town.
RAY: This Autumn afternoon, Micah Rood is pruning his favorite apple tree in his orchard. Micah likes this tree because it provides sweet, golden apples, and they’re usually the first to be ready to eat in August. There he is tending to the tree, when a stranger approaches.
RAY: Judging by the man’s pack and case he’s carrying, Micah quickly figures out that this is that French peddler who folks are talking about around town.
JEFF: (WHISPERS) Let’s step back… we don’t want them to see us.
RAY: Okay, I can see the peddler is opening his case. It doesn’t look like there’s much in there…. Wait… something seems weird here.
JEFF: I agree. Micah is looking around like he’s nervous… agitated. Oh my! Micah just stabbed the peddler with his pruning shears!
RAY: I have no idea what happened! He’s stabbing him over and over on the ground. Jeff… let’s get out of here.
JEFF: That was crazy. What do you think happened?
RAY: I’m not sure we’ll ever know. Maybe it was a robbery? Or maybe Micah was feeling overly patriotic and decided to kill a potential French spy? I’m not sure we’re ever going to know.
JEFF: There’s no trace of the peddler after that, which isn’t a surprise to anyone in town. Peddlers move on. It’s what they do. No one seems to miss him here in Norwich. The winter comes then goes here on Micah’s Farm. Then the thaw comes.
JEFF: That spring, all of the apple trees start to blossom.
RAY: What a gorgeous sight, Jeff! The rows of trees with so many white blossoms exploding all over them… huh… except that tree.
JEFF: Which one?
RAY: That one. Those blossoms are red, not white.
JEFF: Oh man… isn’t that the same tree where Micah…
RAY: Where Micah murdered that French peddler last fall.
JEFF: That’s so strange.
RAY: The whole spring and summer, that lone apple tree isn’t the only strange thing going on at the farm. Micah isn’t himself. He’s not tending to the animals. His small house is getting run down. He’s keeping to himself more than usual; he’s not talking to anyone at all. He’s changed, and locals are wondering what happened.
JEFF: It’s late August when the apple tree limbs on Micah’s farm start to hang low with heavy fruit. It’s a good crop this year. And the apples look great despite Micah not giving them much attention this season. But the tree that had the red blossoms… there’s something different about those apples.
RAY: When Micah bites into the apple, he notices a red speck near the center of the flesh. It almost looks like a single drop of blood. Thinking it’s a fluke, he tries a different apple.
RAY: But it’s the same story. Micah’s heart is thumping in his chest. He’s never seen anything like this, and… he knows what he did last fall.
JEFF: Micah is spooked. The apple tree was the only witness, and now he fears the red speck in the apple’s flesh is a drop of blood from the murdered man. As if the apple tree absorbed the blood through the roots and made a deposit in each apple as a testament to the crime that was committed.
RAY: All the while, Micah has given up on his farm. He’s given up on life. His farm haunts him, so he takes a position caring for the meeting house.
JEFF: Ten monotonous years pass like this. Micah sweeps the floors of the meeting house, and slowly wastes away. By 1727, 74-year-old Micah Rood is now a ward of the town. Unable to care for himself, different families receive compensation for caring for him until his death December 17, 1728. And that brings us back to today.
JEFF: This legend has been kicking around Franklin, nearby Norwich, and this part of Connecticut, for almost 200 years now. We checked out a bunch of sources on this, and no two seem to match. For example, a May 7th, 1913 Hartford Courant article claims the Rood family arrived at their farm in 1639. A really colorful retelling of the tale from the February 4th, 1888 New England Farmer publication out of Boston sets the story in the early 1700s. In a different telling, some claim it was later in the 1700s during the French and Indian War. Though the dates and details vary a bit depending on who tells it, it always ends with the cursed apple tree and the apples with the blood-red fleck inside.
RAY: Then you have to talk about them apples. In the early 1800s, the Mike apple was a popular variety of apple in eastern Connecticut. They say the apple was originally called the Micah Rood, after the subject of our story. Some called it the Rood apple. Then they claim Micah became Mike. And the apple was known to have red specs in the flesh, which we know can happen.
JEFF: So you bite into the Mike apple, you see the red specs, and that looks different than most every other apple you’ve ever eaten, then you ask someone about it…
RAY: And that person tells you some version of this story…
JEFF: And the legend continues to spread. This story spreads not just around eastern Connecticut, but variations of it was published in newspapers around the country, especially in the late 1800s. We don’t know if Micah Rood ever murdered anyone. There’s no record of it, and no admission by Micah himself. We do know that he was born in 1653, and when he was in his sixties, he let his farm fall apart until the broken man wandered into town and had to be cared for. Losing his marbles in his later years, it was easy to imagine various backstories. Then you add in the Mike apple.
JEFF: And we find ourselves wondering… is that just a spec of red… or the blood of a murdered man still crying out for justice?
RAY: The crazy thing is, this isn’t our first story of a New England apple tree that may have absorbed the blood and guts of someone buried nearby. If you can get enough of carnivorous fruit trees, then check out Episode 108 of our podcast. It’s called The Man-Eating Apple Tree.
JEFF: If you want early access to new episodes plus bonus episodes and content that no one else gets to hear, and if you want to help us continue to grow this movement and community, please consider becoming one of our patreon patrons! For just $3 bucks per month you get all that, plus we really appreciate the support. Head over to patreon.com/newenglandlegends to sign up.
RAY: We’d like to thank our sponsor, Nuwati Herbals, and our theme music is by John Judd.
JEFF: Until next time remember… the bizarre is closer than you think.