In Episode 334 Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger hunt for ghosts at the haunted Police Academy in Pittsford, Vermont. Built as a tuberculosis hospital in 1907, the facility transformed into the state’s police academy in the mid-1970s. They say the police academy is haunted by a former nurse who caught TB and died at the hospital. She’s been said to wander the halls and grounds.
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[MARCHING BAND MUSIC]
RAY: Looks like it’s graduation day here at the Vermont Police Academy in Pittsford.
JEFF: Yup, a new batch of police officers are getting ready to hit the streets and backroads of the Green Mountain State.
RAY: The Vermont Police Academy Buildings and campus are gorgeous! A three-story building with a brick façade, white pillars out front, and beautiful stonework around the windows. It looks historic. Like it could have been a college or something at one point.
JEFF: It IS gorgeous, and it IS historic. And you’re right, it wasn’t always a police academy. This building was once a hospital for tuberculosis patients.
RAY: Wow… okay I can see that. It must have been a nice hospital here in rural Pittsford.
JEFF: It was in its day. But it WAS a TB hospital. No doubt people died here. And if these new police officers didn’t have to go through rigorous enough training… they also may have had to deal with ghosts. Because today the Vermont Police Academy building… is haunted.
RAY: I’m Ray Auger…
JEFF: And I’m Jeff Belanger. Welcome to Episode 334 of the New England Legends podcast. Thank you for joining us on our mission to chronicle every legend in New England one story at a time. From haunted places to monsters to roadside oddities, cryptids, true crime, and the just plain weird. We love it all. If you want even closer access to the strangeness, be sure to download the free New England Legends app for your smartphone. The app was developed by Lauren Middleton of River Valley Digital. It’s got all of our episodes plus an interactive map with directions to the hundreds of legends we’ve covered.
RAY: Don’t forget our annual Zombie Prom is coming up Saturday, February 17th at 7PM at the Doubletree Hotel in Milford, Massachusetts. Tickets are $25 ahead of time and all profits go to benefit Community Harvest Project—a volunteer farm that donates fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables to area food banks. To find out more click on the link in our episode description or on our Web site.
JEFF: We’ll go searching for the ghosts of the Vermont Police Academy right after this word from our sponsor.
RAY: Okay, Jeff… I promise I’m not going to make 20 Police Academy movie references during this episode.
JEFF: Good luck to both of us! Speaking of those movies, a couple of weeks ago my wife and I went to see Bobcat Goldthwait do standup at Providence Comedy Connection. He was hysterical. What a great set.
RAY: Does he still do the voice?
JEFF: He did it a tiny bit only in reference to someone doing an impression of him to him. It’s way funnier when he did it. Anyway, it was cool to see him in person and it brought me back to all of the Police Academy movies.
RAY: Which we said we wouldn’t reference in this podcast.
JEFF: Right… sorry. Back to the haunted Vermont Police Academy. If you go into the old patient rooms today—rooms now used by the recruits—you can still see the old nurse call buttons on the wall. They say if you press the button… especially at night… you may just get a ghostly visitor. To find out how that came about, let’s head back to 1918 and see this building.
RAY: It’s late May of 1918 here in Pittsford, Vermont. For the last four years the world has been at war. The human and economic toll has been brutal. If the bombs and bullets didn’t kill you, there’s an invisible killer out there stalking all of us. And the death toll is surpassing soldiers killed in the Great War.
JEFF: Tuberculosis or TB, is a horrible illness. Though that’s the formal name, it used to be known as Consumption because it consumes its victims.
RAY: It’s also been called the Wasting Disease because those who catch it often waste away to nothing.
JEFF: Tuberculosis is a germ. A bacteria that infects your lungs. It can kill you in a matter of weeks, sometimes months, sometimes years, and some people just sort of live with it for the rest of their lives. It’s a contagious epidemic that’s wiped out entire families and villages around the world.
RAY: And the Great War in Europe only made things much worse when it comes to TB. You had all of those soldiers from various countries all fighting in Europe in close quarters, dirty places, and breathing all over each other. As soldiers return to their home countries, they’re bringing a deadly illness back with them.
JEFF: Which brings us here to Pittsford, Vermont. This Tuberculosis Sanatorium was built back in 1907. Its first patients arrived in December of that year.
RAY: This hospital was designed for the lighter cases of TB. People who could respond to the fresh air treatment they were offering. Part of the point of bringing patients here is so they can’t infect others. It’s one of the many ways to fight the epidemic.
JEFF: But with a huge influx of soldiers coming home, the TB Hospital in Pittsford is forced to expand. Go ahead and read this from the May 22nd Burlington Free Press.
RAY: Okay, it says, Quote “We have got to be prepared to take care of our soldiers who will come back with tuberculosis, as a great many of them will. The State has made preparations to handle the bad cases and the soldiers thus discharged from military duty will be placed in tents at the tuberculosis hospital at Pittsford for the summer, and winter arrangements will be made later.”
JEFF: So tents and some temporary structures are erected on the grounds of the hospital to take in these worst cases.
JEFF: In the coming months, the hospital and grounds fill up. The staff and nurses are stretched thin as they try to care for the patients in the hospital as well as all of the returning soldiers outside.
RAY: One of those nurses is Mary. A selfless kind soul who stays late doing all she can to help others. She tends to her patients in the main building, she helps outside too.
JEFF: The patients adore Mary, too. She’s so attentive. She offers sunshine and hope in a place that can get pretty bleak, especially when other patients pass away from the illness everyone here is fighting.
RAY: Working at TB facilities like this is dangerous. Tuberculosis is highly contagious. The staff have to be extra careful. They wear masks, they wash their hands, they change their uniforms…
JEFF: But sometimes no matter how careful you are… a germ can slip through. And sadly, that’s what happens to Nurse Mary.
JEFF: It starts as a cough. But in a place like this every time one of the staff coughs their coworkers can’t help but glance with suspicion.
JEFF: Soon it’s clear… Nurse Mary has contracted tuberculosis. The caregiver has become the patient.
RAY: In the coming weeks and months, Mary slowly declines. Wasting away as the TB bacteria eats away at her from her lungs outward.
[WOMAN LAST BREATHS]
JEFF: Eventually, Mary takes her last breath. Like countless millions of others around the world, she succumbs to tuberculosis. And that brings us back to today.
JEFF: Though Nurse Mary died, that’s not the end of her story. She’s said to haunt these grounds to this day.
RAY: The Pittsford Sanatorium for tuberculosis closed in 1970, soon after the buildings and grounds were converted to a police academy, which is what it’s been ever since.
JEFF: Echoes of the past have haunted this building. As we mentioned earlier, they say when a recruit presses the old inactive call buttons on the wall of the rooms—especially late at night—that a ghostly figure of a nurse dressed in white may come calling to check on you. Unlike some Hollywood horror movie, Nurse Mary’s ghost isn’t a threatening or ominous presence, just a friendly one.
RAY: We’ve learned not all ghosts are scary. Sometimes it’s a connection to the past.
JEFF: There’s another ghostly account down near the firing range one rainy foggy day. The instructor and the students could feel the oddness and eeriness of the atmosphere. Suddenly they look over and see the figure of a woman dressed in a white tunic just gliding toward them. The spectral woman glided toward some training trailers and then vanished.
RAY: I can imagine it’s pretty well established on these grounds that it’s not a good idea to wander through the gun range.
JEFF: Unless of course bullets can’t hurt you.
RAY: And that would make sense considering the grounds once had many tents for World War I soldiers who came here sick with TB.
JEFF: I’ve said many times before that a ghost is history demanding to be remembered. These great historic buildings always have many layers of history to them. You walk these grounds and remember a time when an epidemic turned this into a bleak place where the sick and dying came for some comfort. But even in that darkness there was always hope in the form of kind caregivers and staff. Maybe when these police cadets today are going through the roughest parts of the training a little hope from the past in the form of a ghost may be just the thing they need to keep going.
RAY: And you should keep going with this podcast, but we’ve reached After the Legend where we dig deeper into this week’s story and sometimes veer off course.
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