In Episode 320 Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger head back to 1873 to investigate the haunted Dr. Ticknor house in Salisbury, Connecticut. This house made the news after the Fenn family moved in and began experiencing strange ghostly phenomena. Once the story made the rounds, a reporter from New York City came calling with the intention of spending the night in this alleged haunt.
BECOME A LEGENDARY PATRON:
JOIN OUR SUPER-SECRET:
New England Legends Facebook Group
RAY: We are in the extreme northwest corner of Connecticut this week, Jeff.
JEFF: That we are. If we traveled one town to the west of Salisbury, we’d be in New York, and if we traveled one town north, we’d be in Massachusetts.
RAY: Salisbury, Connecticut, is a rural town here in the foothills of the Berkshires. The town dates back to 1728 when traces of iron were discovered in the hills. Once mining started, a town was born.
JEFF: Driving down Route 44 through the center of town is like a time warp. It’s quaint and small. The leaves are turning now that it’s October, so it’s extra pretty. The population is only about 3,600 people. Salisbury is one of many New England towns that preserve their old buildings and main streets.
RAY: Often when a town preserves its history, it also preserves its ghosts.
JEFF: So very true! And that’s why we’re here Ray. We’re searching for a house so haunted it made the news all the way down to New York City. We’re here searching for Salisbury’s Haunted Ticknor House.
JEFF: I’m Jeff Belanger and welcome to Episode 320 of the New England Legends podcast.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger. Thank you for joining us on our mission to chronicle every legend in New England one story at a time. Most of our story leads come from you, and our audience and resources grow when you subscribe to our podcast, when you share our episodes with your friends, and when you post a review for us.
JEFF: And if you want to find out about all things New England Legends and Jeff and Ray, you can go to our Web site. There’s a calendar to see dates for my fall story tour, to see Ray’s band the Pub Kings, plus links to by my brand new book The Fright Before Christmas, and the new 2024 Haunted New England wall calendar.
RAY: We’ll go searching for the Haunted Ticknor House right after these words from our sponsor.
RAY: Okay, Jeff, so we know from experience that sometimes a haunting will make the local news.
JEFF: It’s been true for centuries.
RAY: But when a haunting makes the news and then the wire service where other newspapers pick it up, something bigger is usually going on.
JEFF: And that’s the case here. This is a haunting story that played out for all to see in the newspapers not just locally. The story began May 23rd, 1873 in the Connecticut Western News. Go ahead and read the lead here, Ray.
RAY: It says, quote “A Haunted House. The House known as the Dr. Ticknor place, and which was bargained for by Mr. Fenn of this village, is said to be haunted, being the scene of various strange and unaccounted for apparitions.” Wow. There it is in black and white.
JEFF: So let’s head back to 1873, and investigate this haunted house.
RAY: It’s May of 1873 here in Salisbury, Connecticut. For more than a century this town has been known for its iron mines. The iron from these hills helped build weapons during the American Revolution a century ago, and more recently it’s been used to make cast iron railroad car wheels used to expand the nation. This is an iron town through and through, but in the past week, it’s getting known for something else…. A haunting.
JEFF: Last week, Mr. Fenn of Salisbury moved his family and belongings into the house. They settled in for their first night. At some point in the middle of the night, his young daughter and a young woman who lived with them, heard the door rattling to her brother, Byron’s room.
JEFF: It was enough to wake her to investigate only to find nothing there. Then about midnight, the family dog who was asleep in the hall, jumped up…
[DOG GROWLING AND BARKING]
JEFF: And went wild with rage at something the family couldn’t see.
RAY: The family is spooked. Mr. Fenn proclaims he doesn’t believe in ghosts, but he has no other explanations either.
[DOORS OPENING AND SLAMMING IN THE DISTANCE]
RAY: Mrs. Fenn hears doors opening and closing in other parts of the house. The whole family is on edge. But it’s 15-year-old Byron who actually sees something.
BYRON: I saw a woman standing in the doorway to my room. She was dressed in white. I thought it was mother dressed in her night clothes. But she said she hadn’t checked on me at all.
[ROOSTER COCK A DOODLE DOO]
JEFF: It’s the next morning, and the Fenn family is too nervous to stay. Considering they’d hardly unpacked their belongings yesterday, they load back up into the family wagon.
[HORSE AND WAGON]
JEFF: And ride back to their former homestead in town.
RAY: The Fenns tell a few friends what happened, who tell a few others, and pretty soon more stories about this house begin to surface. One local drunk claims he slept off a stupor by that house only to wake up and see a woman glowing white staring down at him from the window. Being drunk, no one believed him. But now combined with what the Fenn Family just went through, folks aren’t so sure.
JEFF: I just spoke with someone who heard a story from the family who used to live in the house. They said they heard the family had an overnight guest who slept in the guest room. The same room that served as Byron’s bedroom last night. They said that guest complained he was woken in the night by a woman pacing the floors all night.
RAY: it’s easy to dismiss any one of these claims, but when you add them together, suddenly everyone in town is buzzing about the former home of Dr. Ticknor being haunted.
JEFF: The Connecticut Western News catches wind of the story, and runs a small article laying out the facts. Soon, other papers pick it up, and now the region is buzzing.
[CROWD NOISE MUMBLING AND SLOW FADE]
JEFF: It’s now mid June. Almost a month has passed since the reports of Salisbury’s haunted house began to circulate. And now a reporter from the New York Daily Sun comes strolling into town asking about ghosts.
RAY: The reporter is taken with the beauty of Salisbury. The farms, the rolling hills, and old mines. It’s picture-perfect New England. But once he starts asking about the local haunted house, some Salisbury locals get their hackles up. Ever since it’s been in the papers, people have come around gawking. It’s attention they’d rather not have.
JEFF: Still, this reporter seems determined to find the story and see for himself. He’s heading inside the local tavern. Always a good place to start. Let’s follow him.
RAY: Two beers, please!
RAY: Some of the locals think it’s all made up and scoff at the reporter’s questions.
JEFF: Others believe what they hear. In fact, one local just ran out to the street to drag in a teenaged boy.
RAY: That’s Byron Fenn! The boy who saw the ghost in his room last month.
JEFF: The reporter is intrigued. Byron, tell us about your ghost.
BYRON: Yeah… I seen her.
JEFF: What did she look like?
BYRON: A woman.
RAY: Was she young? Old? What did she look like?
BYRON: Old and dressed in white.
RAY: How were you able to see her in the dark?
BYRON: The moon was shining, and the blind was open.
JEFF: Did she actually come into your room, Byron?
BYRON: No. She came up to the steps and looked in the door, which was open. She stood still for about five minutes, looking around the room, and looking at me in the bed.
JEFF: Did she say anything or move from the door?
BYRON: No. she did not speak, nor move her hands from off her bosom, where they were crossed just so.
JEFF: Byron just crossed his hands across his chest like an X.
WHISPER VOICE: That’s just the way they laid out old Mrs. Ticknor.
RAY: Mrs. Ticknor used to live in that house, but passed away years ago.
JEFF: Byron, were you scared?
BYRON: No. I thought it was my mother. My mother didn’t come up there at all. I asked her the next morning what she came to my room for, and she said she never came at all. I told her she did, and she declared she didn’t, and the was the way we found out it was a spook.
JEFF: And you believe in spooks now, Byron?
BYRON: Yes, and so would you if you had seen what I did.
RAY: The reporter plans to spend the night there tonight to see this ghost for himself.
BYRON: Mister, you’d better not.
RAY: Still, there’s no stopping this reporter. Even when some locals in the tavern claim they think it’s dangerous, the reporter only becomes more intrigued. What do you think, Jeff? You up for a ghost hunt tonight?
JEFF: You bet! Let’s head over there with the reporter.
[DOORS CLOSE / TAVERN SOUNDS FADE OUT]
JEFF: We learned today that the Ticknor property was cheap, which is why the Fenn’s were eager to buy it. But cheap and haunted didn’t sound so good now. The family is nervous. Still, others are curious enough to join us tonight. The Yoricks are accompanying us to the house. Even old Ben Ball, a Civil War vet from town has come out. Let’s go inside.
[DOOR OPENS / CLOSES]
RAY: So we’re standing in Byron’s former bedroom. It’s really damp and cool in here. There’s no fireplace.
JEFF: The reporter decides to light a fire in the fireplace in the room across the hall. From here we can keep warm and watch the haunted bedroom.
RAY: While we wait, those gathered share their own stories of seeing ghosts in other places. So there are believers assembled here. Meanwhile, all eyes stay fixed on the open door and room across the hall.
JEFF: So we wait.
RAY: Annnd wait.
JEFF: Annnnd wait.
[BANG BANG BANG ON A DOOR]
RAY/JEFF: What’s that?!
RAY: Could that be our ghost?
JEFF: Ben Ball is tiptoeing down the hallway.
RAY: Let me look out the window… Ohhhh wait… It’s Henry Ayres from in town.
[BANG BANG BANG ON THE DOOR]
RAY: It looks like he wants to join the ghost hunt.
JEFF: Got it. I guess back to waiting.
[NIGHT CRICKETS SLOW FADE]
[ROOSTER COCK A DOODLE DOO]
JEFF: The sun’s rising. We haven’t seen or heard a thing all night besides a local knocking at the door.
RAY: There’s some debate among the group whether the ghost was in hiding last night, or if she was never here to begin with. And that brings us back to today.
JEFF: To the reporter’s credit, he seemed to understand that spending a single night in an alleged haunt and not seeing anything isn’t proof that the ghost was never there or never will be there again. Eventually the news cycle moves on, and so too does the town of Salisbury.
RAY: That’s how these things go. Enough time passes and something new grabs our attention.
JEFF: Everything we know about this story comes from three different newspaper articles from the Connecticut Western News. One article was in May of 1873, and two were in June. There was no follow up after that, so we don’t know if another family moved in and had no problems, or what.
RAY: It’s interesting that a local drew a connection to Mrs. Ticknor who had been laid out with her arms crossed over her chest.
JEFF: So they believed the ghost was that of Mrs. Ticknor. Dr. Benajah Ticknor was born in Salisbury in 1788. He traveled the world serving as a surgeon in the Navy, and then moved out to Michigan. He was one of Salisbury’s most notable sons.
RAY: So everyone would remember his house in town.
JEFF: Right. But after this article, everyone in town remembered the ghost. Hauntings come and go, sometimes. Enough time passes, we lose any and all connections, and maybe those old ghosts eventually just… move on.
RAY: Ghosts have a way of doing that. But please don’t move on just yet, because we’ve come to After the Legend where we take a deeper dive into this week’s story and sometimes veer off course.
JEFF: After the Legend is brought to you by our patreon patrons. They help us with our hosting, production, marketing, and travel costs. Bringing you two stories each week takes a lot of effort and money, and they know great content isn’t free. We deeply appreciate their support. It’s just $3 bucks per month and for that you get early ad-free 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. You can also find a link in the episode description.
Be sure to check out our Web site where you can contact us anytime, where you can see clips from the New England Legends television series that you can watch on Amazon Prime, you can find our entire archive of podcast episodes, see our interactive map, and find links to join our super secret New England Legends Facebook group. We’d love to have you join us there too. We’re a community of legend seekers, and we’re glad to have you with us.
Thank you to Jack Auger for lending his voice acting talent this week, thank you to our sponsor, our patreon patrons, and our theme music is by John Judd.
Until next time remember… the bizarre is closer than you think.