In Episode 215, Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger drive to the Buckingham Village shopping plaza in Glastonbury, Connecticut, in search of a bolder where a man believed there was buried treasure because of a dream he had, and because a psychic told him so. In 1921, that man lost his life trying to get the loot. Today that rock still stands as an obscure memorial to long-shot hope and a dream of a better life.
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Produced and hosted by: Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger
Edited by: Ray Auger
Guest: Stephanie Reitz
Theme Music by: John Judd
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*A note on the text: Please forgive punctuation, spelling, and grammar mistakes. Like us, the transcripts ain’t perfect.
JEFF: Okay, Ray, we’re going to make a left onto Route 83 here in Glastonbury, and then our destination should be coming up on the right.
RAY: Okay… I see a big shopping plaza on our right.
JEFF: Yup. That’s where we’re going. Go ahead and pull in there.
RAY: Okay, the plaza is called Buckingham Village. The Highland Park Market grocery store is in here, a drug store, a package store… maybe we can grab some beer while we’re here. This place looks like any number of shopping plazas I’ve seen anywhere in New England.
JEFF: I agree, it’s pretty non-descript. But there’s a giant rock near the eastern edge of the parking lot where at least one man believes there’s buried treasure. And that man lost his life trying to get to it. We’re in Glastonbury, Connecticut, searching for Buried Treasure Bolder.
JEFF: I’m Jeff Belanger and welcome to episode 215 of the New England Legends podcast. If you give us about 15 minutes, we’ll give you something strange to talk about today.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger. Thanks for joining us on our mission to chronicle every legend in New England one story at a time. We’re always on the lookout for strange tales of monsters, ghosts, aliens, roadside oddities, and weird history throughout our region.
JEFF: Let’s park right over here, Ray.
[CAR STOPS, DOORS SHUT]
JEFF: So many of our story leads come from you. Just like this one! Ray, we’re here to meet someone who not only tipped us off on this strange tale, but is going to help us with this story this week. Hello!
RAY: Hi there, nice to meet you!
STEPHANIE: My name is Stephanie Reitz and back in 1998 I was a reporter for the Hartford Courant covering the town of Glastonbury.
RAY: Very cool! Stephanie is the reporter who broke the story we’re chasing this week. Now, before we get into the explosive tale of buried treasure and a dying treasure hunter, we want to take just a minute to tell you about our sponsor, Nuwati Herbals! It turns out some of the ingredients in Nuwati Herbals teas have their own legends. Founder Rod Jackson explains.
ROD: With this being a podcast about legends, there are many legends surrounding the use of plants and herbs that go back through history. At Nuwati Herbals, we use many herbs in our blends that have interesting legends to them. For instance, the fennel that’s in our teas: Calming the Storm, Toxaway, Bear in the Woods, and four others, was thought to keep ghosts from entering houses if placed in keyholes. It was believed that if you carried fennel, others would find you to be a trustworthy person. The lavender that we use in numerous products is generally thought to be for relaxation and love, but many a commoner hung lavender above the door to protect against evil spirits and ghosts. They would even add it to the bath water to drive evil spirits and demons from cranky children. And of course, anyone who watches movies knows what garlic is used for. The oregano that we use in Nuwati’s Sundance balm was placed by ancient Greeks on graves to bring the deceased joy in the afterlife. It brings me joy on my pizza in this life too. So you see, legends of plants and spirits remain intertwined even into modern times.
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RAY: Okay, so we’re standing in this shopping plaza parking lot looking for a rock that may STILL have buried treasure underneath?
JEFF: We are. Stephanie, how did you first find out about this strange story of treasure and a lethal explosion?
STEPHANIE: In this case it was a zoning board decision on whether to expand the grocery store. You know, when you’re a reporter, that’s the kind of thing you cover. It’s interesting and you go to the meetings and you take it from there. In this particular case, I got a strange phone call from a woman who lived nearby. And our assistant in our office left me her message and it basically said, “Please call this woman back, her uncle blew up at that site, She wants to talk to you.” So that did get my attention. Anytime anyone’s uncle has blown up anywhere I do want to follow that up.
RAY: I would think you would!
JEFF: So Stephanie speaks to this woman, she hears the story, then she goes digging through the newspaper archives and finds out this story is even stranger than it sounds on the surface, if that’s even possible.
RAY: We’re going to head back to 1921 and find out what happened.
RAY: It’s October of 1921, Halloween is approaching. But if there’s anything more frightening than ghosts roaming free, it’s trying to make ends meet when your job pays less than your bills. That’s the story of Egidio Marinelli.
JEFF: Marinelli is an Italian immigrant who works in a quarry. He’s chasing the American dream of owning his own home and land, and making a better life for his wife and children. His wife and children, by the way, are still living in Italy. Marinelli is trying to save up enough to bring them over to America.
RAY: Working in a quarry doesn’t pay much, and the land he’s purchased in the Buckingham section of Glastonbury, is costing him plenty. He can barely keep his head above water. Marinelli dreams of a better life for himself… but mostly he dreams of riches… riches in the form of buried treasure.
JEFF: He knows there’s buried treasure nearby. He feels it in his bones. The treasure haunts his dreams. Each night he can picture gold just below the surface of the earth… somewhere on his land… but where?
RAY: In the coming days and weeks, Marinelli’s dreams seem to center on a rock as the marker for where to dig for treasure. The rock in his dreams seems familiar. Like he’s seen it before… he just can’t remember where.
JEFF: Of course, Marinelli IS a quarryman. He’s around rocks all day. Plus, in his free time he’s clearing his land. There’s rocks a-plenty in New England. It’s not a shock that they seep into his dreams as he ponders what’s under them or in them.
RAY: Then one day, Egidio is walking around his property when he stops dead in his track. Jeff, take a look at the rock he’s looking at.
JEFF: Hmmmm it’s a big boulder. About as tall as him. I can see different striations in it…. Of yeah. Look at that… Egidio is touching part of the rock. It almost looks like a Christian cross. It’s slightly red in color.
RAY: And THAT looks like a sign to Marinelli. Still, he needs to be sure… so he seeks out the services of a clairvoyant. A psychic. Marinelli is from the old country. It’s not uncommon to ask the advice of some sage when it comes to risky endeavors. He’s got a gut feeling about this rock and treasure. He’s seen this place in his dreams. So he visits a local sage.
[KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK]
RAY: The old woman concentrates. She looks off in the distance. Then nods her head. For Marinelli, his suspicions of buried treasure are now confirmed. He races back to his house to fetch a shovel…
RAY: And he starts digging near the rock.
JEFF: Pretty soon he has some friends helping. He’s convinced them that there’s something here.
RAY: Does anyone ask what kind of treasure? Who would have put it there? I mean, if you reached out to me and said,” Ray, I need your help digging,” I’d at least ask what for.
JEFF: What if I told you we were digging for buried treasure?
RAY: Yeah… that would probably be enough for me to get some beer and a shovel and come over.
JEFF: The best guess is pirate treasure. Pirates were no strangers to the Connecticut coast.
RAY: That’s true, but Glastonbury is pretty far inland near the central part of the state.
JEFF: It is. It’s right near Hartford. But the town IS bordered by the Connecticut River to the west, so maybe they figured a ship sailed up the river, then traveled to this part of Glastonbury to hide the treasure. It’s a stretch, but these are financially desperate times for Marinelli. The thought that the answer to all of his problems could be just a few feet below a rock on his property starts to consume him.
RAY: Marinelli and his friends are digging, but the soil is so sandy and silty, that as soon as they dig down a foot or two, the sand fills in the holes. He has to give up the dig… at least for today.
JEFF: October turns to November, and now the buried treasure is the only thing Marinelli can think about. If he can find the gold, he can pay off his land, he can send for his family in Italy. He can provide the kind of life he’s dreamed of providing for himself and those he loves. But he’s got to get to that gold…
RAY: Marinelli works at a quarry. He’s got access to shovels, picks, and other rock-breaking implements. And that’s when he spots a simple solution to his buried treasure problem…
JEFF: What solution is that?
RAY: Dynamite. A few sticks of dynamite could make quick work of that boulder.
JEFF: That’s true….
RAY: It’s Wednesday… November 2nd… and Marinelli is home early in the afternoon from the quarry. With dynamite in hand, he approaches the boulder with the curious red mark that looks like a cross.
JEFF: If you turn your head slightly, I guess X marks the spot, right?
RAY: Yeah, I could see that. Anyway, Marinelli is excited. He knows he’s minutes away from solving this mystery. He’s digging a space under the rock…
RAY: He’s placing the dynamite right up against the bolder. He’s a man possessed at this point. He’s sure he’s moments away from getting rich.
JEFF: He looks like he’s really in a hurry! I can see he’s attaching the charges right now…
JEFF/RAY: Ohhh no!
RAY: Marinelli was just caught in the middle of the explosion!
JEFF: Something just went horribly wrong!
RAY: This is awful! His legs are gone. They’ve been blown off in the explosion. Egidio Marinelli will not survive.
JEFF: And though the explosion clearly took out a portion of the giant bolder… most of it is still there. And gazing down into the crater in the ground, I don’t see any treasure. Just blackened dirt, some rocks… and Marinelli’s blood spilling over the ground… And that brings us back to today.
JEFF: After Marinelli’s death, his brother Giuseppe Marinelli and his wife left their home in Manchester, Connecticut, and took over Egidio’s land and mortgage. They raised their children on this land in sight of the rock where Egidio died searching for gold. Those kids grew up hearing the story.
RAY: I’m struggling with something here.
JEFF: I get it. There’s a lot to unpack.
RAY: Egidio didn’t get a tip about buried treasure. This all came to him in a dream, right?
RAY: Then he found this rock with a cross marking on it, and took that as a sign.
RAY: Then a psychic verified for him that the treasure was there.
JEFF: That’s the story.
RAY: Wouldn’t it cross someone’s mind that if pirates, or really anyone else buried treasure there, they would have had no way to lift that giant bolder, bury the treasure, then put the bolder back on top of it?
JEFF: Good point.
RAY: Bury it near the bolder, or in front of the bolder, sure. But they never would have been able to get UNDER it.
JEFF: All logical arguments, Ray. But this guy became obsessed with the idea that the gold was really there.
RAY: It just seems like such a long shot to me.
JEFF: Me too. But have you ever bought a lottery ticket?
JEFF: That’s a long shot too. But SOMEONE wins, right? It could be you. So you buy another ticket. I think something similar happened here in Glastonbury with Marinelli. But first, back to Stephanie Reitz, who by the way, now lives in Glastonbury.
RAY: Right. Stephanie, I’d love to hear more about how this story unfolded for you when you first got the call about an exploding uncle back in 1998.
STEPHANIE: I called this woman back, her name is Esther Derench, she unfortunately passed away over the last year, and she had quite a story to tell. I went to her house and we walked over to this rock, and she pointed it out to me and said, “I wouldn’t be here if this rock had not been on this site and my uncle had not been trying to blow it up.”
JEFF: Marinelli was trying to clear his land of all the rocks. This one caught his eye. And the obsession grew from there.
RAY: But the rock remains. Stephanie, is this something locals talk about?
STEPHANIE: That rock stayed there for the longest time and people certainly forgot about it over time. It’s of importance to the Marinelli family, definitely, but to the rest of the world it’s just another New England rock. Eventually a plaza was built, this beautiful little market, Highland Park Market, was there, it’s still very very popular. There’s also a restaurant, the Birch Hill Tavern, people go into for Happy Hour, and right next door to it, there’s a dry cleaner. So it’s just another part of suburban life right now to everyone except those who know the story.
RAY: And the development plan brought to the Zoning board back in 1998, brought that story to light. The development expansion never did happen, otherwise that bolder turned obscure monument to Egidio Marinelli, would be gone forever.
JEFF: And today it’s a pretty obscure legend unless you go digging through newspaper archives… which we do… or unless you’re the reporter who broke the story back in 1998 for the Hartford Courant.
STEPHANIE: I actually get sort of a strange thrill out of showing people when I’m at that plaza, that rock. Again, it’s a great store, and they have the baggers take the stuff out to your car for you. So they will be putting your groceries in your car, and I’m a chatty person so I strike up conversation, and lately it’s been pointing to the rock and saying, “Hey, did you know some guy died over there?” A lot of them are teenagers, I think they think I’m just a strange old lady who wants to strike up strange conversation. But when I tell them the story, they are fascinated. There are so many people who have no idea. They did not know in ’98 when it came up during the development proposal. They certainly don’t know now so many years later. But the rock is still there. It looks largely the same. You can see where small pieces did fall off during the dynamite, so the dynamite had some effect, not a great one, apparently. Whether there’s actually any treasure below it? People have asked me, and my guess is that the only treasure below that rock are a lot of other rocks. But it is an interesting bit of history that’s literally right in the middle of our community that a lot of people don’t know about.
JEFF: And now we’re coming up on the 100-year anniversary of this tragic event that left a big mark on the Marinelli family, and a more obscure scar on a community in a non-descript shopping plaza where people walk or drive right by without even realizing someone lost their life hoping to get rich on a long shot.
RAY: Next to a grocery store that does indeed sell lottery tickets. What do you think, Jeff? Should we go in and buy a ticket for tonight’s drawing?
JEFF: Sure, why not! We can dream, right? Besides, all we stand to lose is a dollar or two. Egidio Marinelli came here also hoping to strike it rich… but he lost his life.
RAY: I love these legends that hide in plain sight right under our noses. And I also love our patreon patrons! These folks kick in just $3 bucks per month and get early access to new episodes plus bonus episodes and content that no one else gets to hear. If you want to help us with our production, hosting, and promotion costs, head over to patreon.com/newenglandlegends to sign up.
JEFF: If you don’t subscribe to our podcast, please do because it’s free. You can get it wherever you get your podcasts. And we always appreciate it when you post a review. It goes a long way in helping others find us. Be sure to tell a friend or two about our show, join our super secret Facebook group where thousands of people are sharing strange New England tales, and download our free New England Legends app for your smart phone.
RAY: Be sure to check out the 2022 Haunted New England calendar with stories by Jeff Belanger and photography by Frank Grace. You can find a link to buy this limited edition calendar on our Web site. I got mine!
JEFF: We’d like to thank Stephanie Reitz for spending some time with us this week, we’d like to thank our sponsor Nuwati Herbals, and our theme music is by John Judd.
RAY: Until next time remember… the bizarre is closer than you think.