Podcast 339 – Rev. Phelps’ Haunted Mansion

In 1850, the Phelps Mansion in Stratford, Connecticut, was so profoundly haunted that the story made all of the regional newspapers.

In Episode 339 Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger explore a nightmare on Elm Street in Stratford, Connecticut, where in 1850 Rev. Phelps and his family were plagued by poltergeist and haunting activity so profound it made all the newspapers. Though the mansion was torn down in the 1970s, the story lingers.

Read the episode transcript.


Produced and hosted by: Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger
Edited by: Ray Auger
Guest Voice Talent: Jon Bashford and Michael Legge
Theme Music by: John Judd

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The Phelps Mansion in Stratford, Connecticut.

The Phelps Mansion in Stratford, Connecticut.

*A note on the text: Please forgive punctuation, spelling, and grammar mistakes. Like us, the transcripts ain’t perfect.

JEFF: Okay… wait… what road are we on?
RAY: This is Route 130 in Stratford, Connecticut… at least according to the GPS.
JEFF: Right okay. Looks like we’re going to make this next left.
RAY: Up there?
JEFF: Yes, that’s it.
RAY: Okay… we’re turning onto Elm Street.
JEFF: We’re heading up here just a little ways. Less than a quarter of a mile.
RAY: This is a pretty, tree-lined street. We’re a stone’s throw from where the Housatonic River spills into Long Island sound. There are some nice houses here. The lawns are well-kept. It looks like a really nice neighborhood.
JEFF: No doubt it is. Okay… our destination is coming up. Hmmm… I don’t see any place to pull over.
RAY: We can park across the street in that cul de sac.
JEFF: Perfect.
JEFF: Okay, right over there is what we’re looking for.
RAY: Which house?
JEFF: That’s the thing… the houses we’re looking for isn’t here anymore, but that’s where it was. The Phelps Mansion. A home so profoundly haunted… it made the news.
JEFF: I’m Jeff Belanger.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger. Welcome to Episode 339 of the New England Legends podcast. Thanks for joining us on our mission to chronicle every legend in New England one story at a time. We’re always on the hunt for ghosts, monsters, aliens, roadside oddities, and all the other wicked strange things that make New England like no other place. If you’ve got a story lead for us, please reach out to us anytime through our Web site. We get most of our story leads from you.
JEFF: We’ll go searching for the haunted Phelps Mansion right after this quick word from our sponsor.
RAY: Okay, Jeff. I get that the Phelps Mansion isn’t here on Elm Street in Stratford, Connecticut, anymore.
JEFF: No, it was torn down in 1974 to make room for this beautiful neighborhood we see here today. Thankfully we can time travel to get the scoop and see the place.
RAY: Right, time and space are no challenge for us. But first, a little more background on Stratford, Connecticut. This town goes way back. All the way to the year 1639 during the Great Migration when some settlers first put down roots at Mac’s Harbor on the banks of the Housatonic River. The town is named after Stratford-Upon-Avon, in England where Shakespeare is from.
JEFF: I’ve been to the one in England too. You know… Shakespeare was a writer. Just like me!
RAY: Riiiight. Given its coastal location, Stratford’s early industries were farming and fishing, but eventually in 1939, Igor Sikorsky built the first successful commercial helicopter right here in town. Sikorsky is now the town’s biggest employer.
JEFF: Sikorsky’s most famous helicopter is of course, Marine One used by the President of the United States.
RAY: But we’re not here to look for helicopters.
JEFF: No, we’re here to look for ghosts. So let’s head back to the year 1850, and see the Phelps Mansion.
RAY: It’s Sunday, March, 10th 1850 here in Stratford, Connecticut. The Reverend Eliakim Phelps and his family are heading off to church.
JEFF: A little more background on Rev. Phelps. He arrived in Stratford about three years ago. He’s a widower with grown children who recently remarried a younger woman with three of her own children, so he was looking for a home big enough to accommodate his growing family. That’s when he finds this stately mansion on Elm Street.
RAY: The house is big. It’s two-and-a-half stories tall with a fancy portico and columns in the front. It’s painted white and looks every bit the mansion. Rev. Phelps purchased the home from a former sea Captain named George Dowell. This is Phelp’s castle. The 60-year-old is a man of wealth and taste. A retired Presbyterian minister with a fine home with gorgeous views of the water.
JEFF: With church services ended for the day, Rev. Phelps and his family walk back to their home on Elm Street. As Rev. Phelps approaches the door, he notices something peculiar.
RAY: Hmmm look at that… the front door is open a little bit. And there’s a strip of black fabric stuck to the doorknob.
JEFF: The family is concerned. Could a burglar have broken in while everyone was at church?
JEFF: Let’s look inside.
JEFF/RAY: Wow look at that….
RAY: The furniture and everything else seems like it was ransacked. Chairs are toppled over, drawers pulled out of desks. This looks like a robbery for sure.
JEFF: Look at that, though. Rev. Phelps and his wife can’t seem to find anything missing.
RAY: Yeah, it’s a mess, but nothing damaged. And so far… nothing seems stolen.
JEFF: A weird prank, maybe?
RAY: Maybe… let’s check upstairs.
RAY: Everything seems okay in this room.
JEFF: Yeah, this one too. Seems normal to me.
RAY Here too.
JEFF: Maybe whoever did this didn’t come upstairs.
RAY: Oh… my… God…
JEFF: What?!
RAY: Look in here.
JEFF: Oh… my God… I am really freaked out right now.
RAY: I’ve never seen anything like this.
JEFF: Me neither.
RAY: There’s eight small human-like figures in a kneeling position on the floor. The figures are made out of the family’s clothes. There’s pants and shirts and vests and other garments that have been twisted and folded to form the shape of people.
JEFF: And look on the floor… in front of each figure is an open Bible.
RAY: Rev. Phelps and his family looked as stunned as we are.
JEFF: Should we help them take down these figures?
RAY: I don’t think so, Jeff. Rev. Phelps is pointing to the door. I think he wants us to leave.
JEFF: Rev. Phelps just locked the bedroom door and he’s slipping the key in his pocket. Ray, something really weird is going on here.
RAY: I agree. Let’s head downstairs and help them clean up.
JEFF: It’s evening… and everyone in the Phelps family is still a little shaken up. No one seems to be talk… Ray…
RAY: Yeah. I see it. Their 11 year-old son is uhhm…. He’s levitating.
JEFF: He’s floating across the room! It’s like someone lifted him up!
RAY: Okay… He’s down on the floor again.
JEFF: I have no idea what just happened, but something very strange is afoot here in Stratford. And the poor boy is white as a sheet.
RAY: It’s Monday. Rev. Phelps decides to check on the figures locked in the upstairs bedroom.
RAY: Look at that!
JEFF: The figures have been moved a little. There’s some clothes missing from before. But no one has been in here! Rev. Phelps had the key the entire time!
RAY: As each day passes, Dr. Phelps checks on the figures in the locked room, and each day they move slightly. Clothes have been swapped out, or some other nuanced difference. The entire family is on edge. Thankfully, Rev. Mitchell is coming over this evening to talk about his recent trip to Europe. It’s just the thing the family needs to get their mind off of the strange activity in their home.
REV. MITCHELL: The weather in London was rainy, but that’s no surprise. It rains there quite a bit. I was only in town for a day before I began the long journey to Edinburgh in Scotland. I had the opportunity to experience their train system. They’ve built thousands of miles of tracks, so moving about the country is faster than ever before. God has graced us with living in extraordinary times. Scotland, though adjoins England, feels like another world. The church of England doesn’t quite have the influence there…
JEFF: (WHISPERS) Ray, look at that over there….
RAY: (WHISPERS) Yeah, Rev. Phelp’s 11-year-old son is fidgeting in his chair. He was pretty still before…
RAY: It’s happening again! Something is pushing the kid!
JEFF: Look at his pants! They’ve been shredded, almost like with scissors and tied to the chair he was sitting on!
RAY: The chair is being dragged by some invisible force and the kid can’t get up.
JEFF: Why is this kid being targeted? He was just sitting there listening to Rev. Mitchell.
RAY: I’m really uncomfortable in this house.
RAY: What was that?!
JEFF: Look, over by the window. On the floor.
RAY: What is that?
JEFF: It’s… it’s a beet?
RAY: It IS a beet? Why would a vegetable drop from the window?
JEFF: I think this is an apport. A physical object materializing out of nowhere. And look at the beet, Ray.
RAY: There’s some kind of symbols carved into the beet. I don’t recognize it as any kind of writing. It looks almost like hieroglyphics.
RAY: What was that?
JEFF: A shingle – like from the roof – just flew across the room and landed on the floor.
RAY: Check it out! There’s more of these strange symbols drawn on the shingle too.
JEFF: By now, the Rev. Phelps believes either his family or his house is bewitched.
RAY: Maybe it’s both.
JEFF: In the coming days, more strange happenings occur in the mansion. At one point, Rev. Phelps donned his hat and was preparing to walk out the front door when something he couldn’t see whisked the hat from his head and carried it up the stairs to the top floor.
RAY: Then there was the time the family was sitting down in their parlor when something lifted the dining room table and dropped it three times in a row. The fall was loud enough to shake the entire house.
JEFF: Word is spreading about this haunted home. The Phelps family is scared, and others in town are getting curious. It’s Friday, March 16th when the editor of the Derby Journal asks to spend the night to see if he can witness this phenomena for himself. Rev. Phelps agrees. The editor brings three other gentlemen from neighboring towns with him.
JEFF: As the group of visitors are ascending the stairs for the night….
JEFF: They hear strange knocks on the walls. And a bottle appears on the stairs in front of them.
RAY: The men follow the sounds of the knocks to the headboard of in one of the bed chambers. That’s when something odd happens.
RAY: A hairbrush was just thrown at them and landed at their feet!
JEFF: And there’s another one!
RAY: We’ll let the editor describe the rest.
EDITOR: After these brushes had been thrown, and every effort made on our part to detect the source from whence they came, we proposed to our companion to go out of the room, and in our stocking feet to listen at the hall door, and see if we could not hear a rustling of the bed clothes or some trivial circumstance whereby we could fasten the trick on the young lady. Just as we turned our backs, down came another brush: soon after, a large comb fell near the lady’s head; a piece of soap was found on the floor, and loud rappings heard. We picked up the brushes and put them in our pocket, and took our place near the door in the hall—our friend being at this time on the garret stair, with his eye skinned attentively listening to the sounds. The rappings now were very loud and boisterous—so much so, that two gentlemen who came with us, sleeping in a room 30 feet distant, were aroused and came where we were. Here then, were four individuals, with sound minds, listening to the most horrible rappings ever heard, racking their brains to ascertain from whence they emanated.
RAY: Something just slammed against the bedroom door. Let’s get inside quick!
JEFF: The girl is shaken up. She claims something struck her in the face.
RAY: Her cheek looks red too!
JEFF: And on the floor is a broken pitcher. Check that out… It was thrown against the door with enough force to dent the door and break the pitcher.
RAY: The editor of the Derby Journal leaves with his guests, and publishes his findings: in short, he has no idea what to make of what’s happening inside the Phelps Mansion. But he can’t rule out some supernatural force.
JEFF: As you can imagine, the more the word spreads, the more newspapers who print articles like this, the more others want to see this spirit activity for themselves. Many skeptics believe THEY can figure it out if they can just get inside.
RAY: More reporters come, and the Phelps family tells their story again… and again… AND again. It’s getting exhausting.
JEFF: Rev. Phelps is getting tired of proving this high strangeness to everyone who questions him. And of course some people who have never been inside his home are now calling him a liar. They don’t believe in ghosts and therefore, Rev. Phelps MUST be lying.
RAY: That’s hardly fair!
JEFF: It’s not, but that’s how it is. Even when multiple reporters and editors visit the home and write that they see no fraud here… PLUS, Rev. Phelps isn’t profiting from these events in any way… still some people won’t believe it and question the honor and integrity of Rev. Phelps. Pretty soon, the good reverend refuses to talk about the supernatural occurrences any longer, and the press soon moves on. And that brings us back to today.
RAY: Though no cause of the haunting activity was ever discovered, some speculate that maybe the house was haunted by a witch who was hanged nearby the property before the house was built. Or that maybe two of the Phelps children had fallen under some kind of possession.
JEFF: Either way, about nine months after the supernatural events began in their home, the family moved to Philadelphia for the winter. When they returned to their Stratford mansion the following spring, the events allegedly stopped, and they weren’t tormented again. Or at least they never spoke of it again.
RAY: Most of what we know about the details of this story came from the April 27, 1850, Hartford Courant newspaper. The article included the writeups from a few of the local newspapers that initially covered the haunting.
JEFF: I love how the paper covered this story. Just the facts. You can draw your own conclusions. But what isn’t fair is to judge another person or family’s experiences, especially when you weren’t there.
RAY: As we said earlier, the Phelps Mansion was torn down in 1974 to make way for this new neighborhood. And according the Phelps family, they had no problems in the house after 1851.
JEFF: But there were a few months where a family’s nightmare happening here on Elm Street, captivated not just Stratford, but eventually the entire state as word spread. Though the idea of a haunted home scares us, it also has a way of drawing us in in the hopes that we might witness something that validates that primal gut feeling and the sincere hope we have that we somehow go on after death.
RAY: And that takes us to After the Legend where we take a deeper dive into this week’s story and sometimes veer off course.
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To see some historic photos of the Phelps Mansion click on the link in our episode description, or head over to our Web site and click on Episode 339.

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Thank you to Jon Bashford and Michael Legge for lending their voice acting talents this week. We’d like to thank our sponsors and our patreon patrons, and our theme music is by John Judd.
Until next time remember… the bizarre is closer than you think.

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