Podcast 345 – The Cobbler’s Ghost Has No Shoes

In 1914, the brutal unsolved axe murder of a Newtown, Connecticut, cobbler led to a haunting that still echoes today.

In Episode 345 Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger visit the Newtown Bee parking lot in Newtown, Connecticut, to experience the site of a brutal unsolved axe murder of a local cobbler and the profound haunting that followed soon after. Managing Editor Shannon Hicks from The Bee joins us for this one.

Read the episode transcript.


Produced and hosted by: Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger
Edited by: Ray Auger
Guest: Shannon Hicks, Managing Editor, The Newtown Bee
Theme Music by: John Judd

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The Newtown Bee building and parking lot on Church Hill Road in Newtown, Connecticut.

The Newtown Bee building and parking lot on Church Hill Road in Newtown, Connecticut.

The Newtown Bee building and parking lot on Church Hill Road in Newtown, Connecticut.

The Newtown Bee building and parking lot on Church Hill Road in Newtown, Connecticut.

A haunted headline from the January 5, 1915 The Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer newspaper.

A haunted headline from the January 5, 1915 The Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer newspaper.

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

JEFF: Ray, it’s so nice to be back in my old hometown of Newtown, Connecticut.
RAY: That’s right! You grew up in the Sandy Hook part of town.
JEFF: I did! I have plenty of memories from here, plus I still have family in town, so maybe my sister can rustle up a couple of cold ones for us after we find what we’re looking for today.
RAY: We’re walking up Church Hill Road, pretty close to the center of town.
JEFF: Yup. Newtown’s iconic giant flagpole is just up ahead of us at the top of the hill in the intersection of Church Hill and Main Street…
RAY: I see why it’s called Church Hill. I can see two different churches right by the flagpole.
JEFF: The closer one to us is Trinity Episcopal, and the white one is actually the Newtown Meeting House. My sister got married there.
RAY: Right now we’re standing next to a red building with a sign over the door that says The Newtown Bee.
JEFF: And this is our destination, Ray. The Newtown Bee building and parking lot. The Newtown Bee is the town weekly newspaper and has been since 1877. It was the first newspaper to ever do a story on me – it was for flying model rockets at Treadwell Park when I was eleven years old—it even pictured a goofy photo of me. And the Newtown Bee is the first newspaper I ever wrote for—I wrote an article about attending the Woodstock Two music festival.
RAY: That’s awesome! So is your past haunting you, Jeff? Are we here to destroy that old goofy photo or something?
JEFF: Ha! No, nothing like that, but we are here to explore a haunt. Because right over there… there was once a cobbler shop. The cobbler was brutally murdered with an axe, which was frontpage news of course. But a year later the shop made the front page again for being profoundly… haunted.
JEFF: I’m Jeff Belanger.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger, and welcome to episode 345 of the New England Legends podcast. We’re on a mission to chronicle every legend in New England one story at a time. From ghosts to monsters to aliens, to roadside oddities, true crime, and the just plain weird, we cover all of it. You can subscribe for free wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss a thing. And tell a friend or two about our show because most of our story leads come from you.
JEFF: We’ll explore the haunting of the Newtown Bee property right after this quick word from our sponsor.
RAY: This may be our first haunted newspaper story.
JEFF: Ha! I think you’re right. Though it’s not exactly the Newtown Bee building that’s haunted… the cobbler shop would have been right over here where the parking lot is today.
RAY: Thankfully we can time travel so see it won’t be a problem.
JEFF: This is just one of many haunted locations in Newtown. Newtown is where I fell in love with ghosts and history as a kid. Rochambeau’s army camped on Ram’s Pasture on Main Street during the American Revolution. I had multiple friends who lived in old historic houses that they said were haunted. I remember having sleepovers and looking for the ghosts with my friends. And of course, Ed and Lorraine Warren lived in Monroe, which is the next town over from Newtown. So I’ve known them since I was 13 year old.
RAY: I guess this was the perfect backdrop for someone who does what you do.
JEFF: It was. And still is! Okay, as we said earlier, this haunt in particular has got a brutal backstory that made all the area newspapers, but so did the haunt. And maybe… there’s still a few echoes of that haunt here today. We’ll have to check in with The Bee and ask. But first, let’s head back to the year 1914.
RAY: It’s August of 1914 here in Newtown, Connecticut. Woodrow Wilson is President of the United States. Archduke, and heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Franz Ferdinand was assassinated a little over a month ago, and now a Great War has begun in Europe. But here in Newtown, Connecticut, things are much more quiet and peaceful. Newtown is very much small-town New England. And folks here like it that way.
JEFF: It’s the kind of town where people know each other. There’s very little crime or trouble.
JEFF: It’s Sunday morning, August 30th around 9AM. Newtown resident Charles Cavanaugh is walking down Church Hill when he stops by the cobbler’s shop. Newtown’s cobbler is John Green, an elderly man of German heritage. He’s run this little cobbler shop for ten years now. Last week Cavanaugh had dropped off a pair of shoes for repair. He noticed the door to the cobbler shop was open slightly this morning, so he figures he’ll stop in to check and see if his shoes are ready. Besides, everyone knows Green doesn’t just work here, he lives in the apartment in the back.
RAY: Cavanaugh looks around the shop but doesn’t see anyone.
CAVANAUGH: Hello? John?
RAY: He calls out but gets no answer. Cavanaugh checks around the shelves of the shop for his shoes, but they aren’t there. He peaks over the counter to the workshop in the back and that’s when he notices what looks like a pair of legs lying on the floor, but he can’t make it out because there’s something covering the legs and there’s not much light.
JEFF: Ray… Look over there…
RAY: That looks like blood on the walls.
RAY: Cavanaugh quickly leaves the shop and heads further down Church Hill. That’s when he passes Dan Altman and Dr. Uniker who are both walking to Sunday church services.
CAVANAUGH: There’s something wrong at the shoemakers.
RAY: Both men are curious, but afraid they may be late to church, so they keep walking.
JEFF: It’s about 1PM when church lets out.
JEFF: Altman and Uniker decide maybe it’s best if they stop by the cobbler shop and check on old John Green.
RAY: It’s really quiet in here… Too quiet.
JEFF: The two men are walking back toward the workshop area behind the counter.
RAY: Jeff, those do look like legs under there. I also see a mattress and some bedsheets thrown in a heap in the middle of the floor.
JEFF: Something is clearly wrong here. Okay, Mr. Altman is lifting up the corner of the mattress.
JEFF/RAY: OHH NO! That’s awful!
RAY: John Green’s head has been crushed in!
RAY: The men are dashing across the street to P.H. Gannon’s home. Gannon owns this property and was renting it to Green.
JEFF: Within minutes a crowd is gathering. Church just let out and a lot of people are crowding around now. Sheriff Blakeman soon arrives as well as medical examiner Klernan. It’s clear this is a murder scene. They quickly find a bloody hatchet near the body. Klernan telephones state officials to come in and assist with the investigation.
RAY: Citizens and local law enforcement soon organize and begin looking for clues. Everyone is asking around town who last saw John Green alive.
JEFF: Just a couple of miles down the road in Sandy Hook, a state road worker named Edward Collins who had been in town drinking for a few days was seen with blood on some of his clothes. He’s quickly detained.
RAY: Some speculate that maybe because John Green is of German decent, perhaps some customer…maybe this Edward Collins fellow…started arguing with him about the big war that’s just starting in Europe and killed him over that.
JEFF: The only problem is Edward Collins has an alibi for the previous night. And the blood on his clothes came from getting in a bit of a drunken brawl last evening. There were witnesses to the fight.
RAY: It’s Monday, August 31st, and newspapers everywhere are carrying the story of the murder of the old cobbler, John Green, in quiet little Newtown. The best estimate is that the murder took place sometime between 9PM the previous evening, and the morning.
JEFF: And that’s when the case takes a strange turn of events. A man named Theodore Gorr of Fairfield, Connecticut, reads the news article about the murder. He reads the description of the victim, and starts to wonder. He had a brother named William who was a cobbler in Bridgeport. But William sort of vanished about a decade earlier. So Theodore Gorr makes the 25 mile trip north to Newtown. When he sees the body of the victim, he knows immediately it’s his lost brother, William.
RAY: So John Green was actually William Gorr?
JEFF: That’s what it looks like. Theodore claims his brother may have gotten mixed up with some shady characters years ago in Bridgeport so he left town, changed his name, and lived a quiet life in Newtown. Maybe one of his old associates finally caught up with him?
RAY: As days turns to weeks the case goes cold. And the cobbler shop in Newtown? It’s been locked up tight by order of the coroner since the murder.
JEFF: After a month, the seal order is lifted on the cobbler shop. Landlord, P.H. Gannon fixes the places up, he paints over all of the gruesome stains, and pretty soon he’s able to woo a new cobbler tenant with the first month of rent for free.
RAY: I can imagine it would be tough to be a cobbler and move into a shop where the last cobbler was brutally murdered.
JEFF: No doubt. But H.A. Mooers considers himself not the most superstitious of cobblers. So he moves in and opens shop. Mooers also moves his belongings into the small apartment within the shop.
RAY: It’s the evening of his third night in the shop and apartment when Mooers settles himself down for the night. He’s lying in his bed reading when he hears something…
JEFF: Those are footsteps. There’s no question. Are they in the basement? Mooers is certain he’s the only one in the building. There’s no question about that either.
RAY: What was that?
JEFF: It sounded like some pots knocking around.
RAY: Is that sound coming up from the basement?
JEFF: Whatever it is, it’s moving up to the shop.
JEFF: Look! There’s a shadowy specter in the workshop hammering on a shoe!
RAY: And just like that… the ghost is gone.
JEFF: Cobbler Mooers figures he must be over-tired settling in to a new place.
RAY: It’s the following night. About 9:15 in the evening.
RAY: And once again, Mooers is visited by the cobbler’s ghost.
JEFF: By the third night, Mooers demands his landlord either provide him with some kind companion or roommate, or find him a room somewhere else so he can sleep.
RAY: Landlord Gannon arranges to have someone stay with Mooers in the shack until midnight. But it would seem when there’s another witness present, things are quiet.
JEFF: Still, folks around Newtown are intrigued, and soon the cobbler shop is in all the newspapers again, but this time for being haunted. Some are prone to believe in ghosts and have no doubt that the murdered spirit of William Gorr is crying out for justice inside his haunted cobbler shop. Others think maybe the new cobbler’s imagination is getting the better of him. Still, the murder is never solved, and that brings us back to today.
RAY: The days of cobbler shops eventually dried up in Newtown, and really most of the world. Plus, the Newtown Bee offices needed to expand. So the cobbler shop was torn down, the land was graded level, the cobbler’s basement was filled in, and eventually a parking lot was installed for employees and visitors to the Newtown Bee offices.
JEFF: But still when you know the history and the story… can you imagine parking your car over this spot every day?
RAY: No I can’t.
JEFF: Let’s talk with a Newtown Been insider…
SHANNON: My name is Shannon Hicks and I’m the Managing Editor of the Newtown Bee.
JEFF: Full disclosure here. I’ve known Shannon for about 30 years. She was the editor who ran my first article way back in the mid 1990s.
RAY: Shannon, when did you first hear about this story?
SHANNON: That’s a hard question to answer because I’ve been at the paper for over 30 years, but I’m going to say easily within the first decade of being with the newspaper company.
RAY: What did you hear?
SHANNON: I had been told that there was a murder in the building that used to be housed on part of our property. That it was a cobbler. It happened during an overnight and it was never properly solved.
JEFF: That is basically the long and short of it. And not just the building was haunted but now maybe the parking lot?
SHANNON: It’s funny because it seems like every generation or so we have people who rediscover that story about The Bee, so that’s how it stays alive in the office. There has been talk over the years, although I think people forget that the cobbler shop was actually where the parking lot is. So our basement is not haunted, but we joke about it. If you go downstairs after a certain hour or if you stay late you might want to keep your ears open because the cobbler might start rattling things downstairs. Because the old section of our building is a cement section of the building, so that part of the building dates to probably the early-to mid-twentieth century. It’s the oldest section of the building.
RAY: So do you ever get the creeps walking out into the parking lot late at night?
SHANNON: Oh my gosh yes! Yes! Because depending on the time of day and the time of the year, the lighting is such that the street lights don’t reach part of the parking lot and the building lights don’t always cover the entire parking lot. There’s actually a section where if you walk out the front door and go down the sidewalk, so east from our front door—the first part of our parking lot goes over the old cobbler shop basement. And to the immediate west of where that is is the dark scary part of the parking lot. So I find myself kind of clutching keys ready – if anybody ever moves toward me trying to say hello, I’ll be like, “Get back!” It can be spooky. It can be a little bit spooky.
JEFF: Have you ever experienced anything unexplained in the building or parking lot?
SHANNON: I haven’t experienced anything. There were years when I’d be working until eight or nine o’clock at night and I would occasionally think about the fact that there’s this story attached to the building and just think: Okay, maybe it’s time to go home. Plus, it’s nine o’clock, it’s time to go home.
JEFF: We’ve said before that history leaves a mark… if the history if particularly gruesome, it leaves a scar. Unsolved murders are the worst. As a society we loathe when someone gets away with a crime, but especially a murder. Though it’s been more than a century, it’s easy to imagine that old cobbler’s ghost standing right about here where we’re standing right now… right where he was murdered… still crying out for justice.
RAY: We weren’t the first to say it: No case is closed to an open mind. And that brings us to After the Legend.
JEFF: After the Legends is brought to you by our Patreon Patrons! We have a special gift for every one of you. Ray recently got to interview Paul Giamatti – yes, THAT Paul Giamatti from movies like Sideways, Straight Outta Compton, Howard Stern’s Private Parts, and The Holdovers where he received an Academy award nomination. It turns out Paul loves weird legends almost as much as we do. Paul, along with his cohost, philosopher Stephen Asma host a podcast called Chinwag. Ray got to chat with Paul and Stephen and you can hear the whole thing for free at patreon.com/newenglandlegends. Where we hope you’ll stick around and consider becoming a patron. 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. Content like Ray’s interview. Head over to patreon.com/newenglandlegends to sign up.
To see some photos of the Newtown Bee parking lot and property, and some old headlines, click on the link in our episode description or go to our Web site and click on Episode 345.

Every Monday we bring you a From the Vault where we re-explore an older legend and add some new commentary, and each Thursday we come to you with a brand new story like this one! So subscribe for free so you don’t miss a thing. You can also download our free New England Legends app where you’ll find an interactive map including driving directions to all of the legends we’ve covered, and you should join our New England Legends Facebook group where you can keep sharing the weirdness anytime. Please also check out our Web site to see dates to see my band the Pub Kings, and dates for Jeff’s on-going story tour.
We’d like to thank Shannon Hicks from the Newtown Bee for joining us today, we’d like to thank our sponsors, than you so much to our patreon patrons, and speaking of Newtown… our music is by John Judd.
Until next time remember… the bizarre is closer than you think.

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