In Episode 221, Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger explore Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven, Connecticut, in search of the haunted headstone of Midnight Mary. Mary E. Hart died at midnight on October 15, 1872, and her headstone and epitaph have stood behind various legends about being buried alive, a curse, and her wandering ghost being seen on nearby Winthrop Avenue.
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[WALKING THROUGH LEAVES]
RAY: No matter how many cemeteries we explore, I can never shake that feeling of all of those dead bodies underneath our feet.
JEFF: It kind of makes you feel your own mortality, doesn’t it?
RAY: Yeah it does. I see you’re looking at the headstones, are we searching for someone specific?
JEFF: We are, Ray. We’ve come to Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven, Connecticut, searching for the grave of Midnight Mary.
JEFF: I’m Jeff Belanger
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger, and welcome to episode 221 of the New England Legends podcast. If you give us about ten minutes, we’ll give you something strange to talk about.
JEFF: We’re so glad you’ve joined us on our mission to chronicle every legend in New England one story at a time. It takes a village to do this. We get so many story leads from you, so please keep them coming. Whether you reach out to us through our Web site, through our social media, or in our super-secret Facebook group – now more than 6,000 people strong. We love being in this community with you.
RAY: Before we continue on this cemetery safari in New Haven, we want to take just a minute to tell you about our sponsor, Nuwati Herbals!
JEFF: So I happen to know a secret about the Auger house.
RAY: What’s that?
JEFF: The day after Halloween you took down your Halloween decorations.
RAY: We did.
JEFF: And then you immediately put up your Christmas decorations!
RAY: Also true. And since we were already in the spirit, we sipped some hot Christmas tea from Nuwati Herbals while we decked the halls!
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JEFF: Okay, Ray… I think the headstone we’re looking for is right over there.
[WALKING THROUGH LEAVES]
RAY: Okay, I see a rectangular stone. It’s almost pink in color. And… oh man… is that ominous.
JEFF: It is.
RAY: Across the top of the stone it reads: The People Shall Be Troubled at Midnight and Pass Away.
JEFF: Go ahead and read the rest of the epitaph.
RAY: It says, “At high noon, just from, and about to renew her daily work in her full strength of body and mind, Mary E. Hart, having fallen prostrate, remained unconscious until she died at midnight: October 15, 1872. It says she was born December 16, 1824, which would have made her 47 at the time of her death.
JEFF: And today this stone and cemetery is haunted… especially at midnight.
RAY: Yikes… I guess it’s easy to see why.
JEFF: They say if you come into the boneyard at midnight, Mary rises from her grave, you’ll be cursed, and you too will die.
RAY: Then I’m glad we’re only here in the afternoon.
JEFF: And yet, this headstone leaves us with so many questions. The tales told about this grave are even more frightening. So let’s head back to 1872, and meet Mary.
RAY: It’s late morning on October 15th, 1872, and we’re inside the home of Mary Hart on Winthrop Avenue here in New Haven.
RAY: Mary is just finishing up her morning chores when she walks into the kitchen. (BEAT) Suddenly… she gets a far away look in her eye. She grabs her chest.
RAY: And falls face-first to the floor.
JEFF: Mary’s husband, James, hears her fall and comes running.
JEFF: Mary is not responding, but look! She’s still breathing. Her husband lifts her up and carries her to her bed. She’s so pale. Mary doesn’t look good at all. Something is very wrong.
JEFF: Hours go by, but Mary hasn’t made a sound. Her breathing is shallow. The hour is getting late…
[12 BELLS FROM GRANDFATHER CLOCK]
JEFF: Just as the clock strikes midnight, Mary sighs out her last breath.
RAY: Her family is heartbroken. They assume Mary suffered a stroke or heart attack. No matter what, she’s gone. The following day, the undertaker arrives, and takes Mary’s body across the street to Evergreen Cemetery.
[DIG DIG DIG]
RAY: A grave is dug. And Mary’s casket is laid into the ground.
JEFF: It’s a sad day for everyone. Mary died too young. Yet, her aunt seems troubled.
RAY: Well, her niece just died!
JEFF: I realize that, but it’s something more.
JEFF: That night, Mary’s Aunt is tossing and turning in bed for hours until finally she falls asleep…. While asleep, she suffers a horrible nightmare! She sees a horrific vision of her niece inside her coffin frantically trying to get out.
JEFF: In the dream, Mary is gasping for air and desperately trying to get out of her grave.
RAY: When morning comes, Mary’s Aunt jumps out of bed, and alerts her husband, James, that they MUST go back to the cemetery and dig up Mary’s grave.
JEFF: James can’t believe what he’s hearing, but Mary’s aunt seems so sure. So they head back to the cemetery.
[DIG DIG DIG]
JEFF: They dig up Mary’s grave.
JEFF: And when they open the coffin door…
RAY: Dear Lord! It’s horrible! There are scratch marks all over underside of the coffin lid. And Mary’s face!
JEFF: It’s awful!
RAY: Her face is frozen as if in some horrible scream. Her eyes just stare wide-open. Petrified.
JEFF: Mary’s aunt crumbles to the ground. Her dream was more than just a dream. She somehow knew Mary wasn’t dead when they first buried her. She’s inconsolable now that Mary is truly dead. Her final moments must have been true horror. Alone. Dark. Realizing she’s in a coffin buried alive and running out of air.
RAY: Once again, Mary is buried in Evergreen Cemetery, and once again her family mourns. But word spreads about how Mary was buried alive the first time. And soon a monument is erected on top of her grave. A monument to the life of Mary Hart, but a cautionary tale about her death.
JEFF: Then there’s the ghostly tale that follows this gruesome burial gone wrong. They say that Mary’s ghost rises from her grave, especially at midnight, trying to get a ride in a passing coach or buggy back to her home on Winthrop Avenue. Some say she gets into the buggy, they ride along a short distance… and then she disappears leaving the driver shocked. Others see her restless spirit wandering Winthrop Avenue near the cemetery… And that brings us back to today.
JEFF: Okay… here’s the thing…
JEFF: We don’t know if Mary was really buried alive. But it is the most prominent version of the legend.
RAY: Then there’s also the story of Mary being a witch, and cursing anyone who dares to visit her grave at midnight. And while that sounds like an urban legend, there’s the story of some local college kid who tested the legend and was found dead the next morning. But it’s always one of those: it happened to a friend of a friend stories.
JEFF: Here’s what we do know. That Line of text at the top of the stone? The People Shall be Troubled at Midnight and Pass Away?
JEFF: That’s a biblical passage from the book of Job, Chapter 34, verse 20. It’s ominous, sure, but it’s also a Bible verse.
RAY: And then you add in the rest of the epitaph, of how Mary fell at noon and died at midnight, and you’ve got the makings of something extra spooky.
JEFF: We can’t help but imagine the backstory that would lead to a headstone like this. In truth, we know very little about the historical Mary E. Hart. Most of what we know is printed on this stone. But we do know at the time of her death in the 1870s, taphaphobia was a huge fear.
RAY: That’s right! The fear of being buried alive. Way back in Episode 51, we covered the story of Dr. Timothy Smith of New Haven, Vermont! His grave has a window in case he was buried alive.
JEFF: We learned there were a bunch of patents filed for devices designed to keep people from being buried alive. Devices like a string tied to a bell above ground, so if a person wakes up in a coffin, they can pull the string, and someone will come dig you out.
RAY: After embalming became all the fashion in the latter part of the 1800s, people didn’t worry about being buried alive anymore. Once they suck all of the blood out of your body and replace it with a chemical cocktail of preservatives, if you weren’t dead before… you are now.
JEFF: We have a memorable headstone, an ominous Biblical passage, and a strange story etched in stone in the center of a city called New Haven, Connecticut. As it gets darker and later, and when you’ve heard the story, you can’t help but wonder if there’s something more than just a headstone to Midnight Mary.
RAY: If you want to checkout Midnight Mary’s headstone, download the free New England Legends app for your smart phone. The app features an interactive map with pins to every story we’ve ever done. You can hear the episode, AND get driving directions to the location.
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RAY: And guess what?
RAY: We’re now the award-winning New England Legends podcast. Thank you to the Massachusetts Broadcast Association for presenting us with a Sound Bite 2021 Award for “Excellence in Sound.”
JEFF: That’s all you, Ray. You are our sultan of sound. So well done!
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JEFF: We’d like to thank our sponsor, Nuwati Herbals, and our theme music is by John Judd.
VOICEMAIL: Hi, this is Fiona and from Oxford Connecticut until next time remember the bizarre is closer than we think.