Five years ago to the day, a dozen radio contest winners and a team of ghost hunters packed up their sleeping bags and spent a night in the banquet hall of The Whately Inn on Chestnut Plain Road in Whately.
Although owner Stephen “Chip” Kloc wasn’t there himself that Halloween weekend, he said spirits or ghosts were supposedly found in a corner room upstairs. A dozen or so more were aparently discovered just inside the inn’s front foyer.
“I personally know of one person who passed away falling down the stairs (of the foyer), when I was a kid,” Kloc said. “But I’m not a big believer.”
In the 40 years since the Kloc family took over the historic inn, Kloc says he has only witnessed one “weird” thing he couldn’t quite make sense of.
“One time, a waitress — we were the only two in the building — she was cleaning up after her last table and she felt somebody grab her sides. I watched her, from the other side of the room, jump and scream,” he said. “It was the closest we’ve come to something that happened that I can’t explain.”
At another notable logding in southern Franklin County, ghosts are also rumored to be guests at the Deerfield Inn on Old Main Street in Deerfield.
In a post on the inn’s website, the author writes that the building is actively haunted by not one, but two cheeky ghosts — one who is bossy and inquisitive, the other who is mischievous “and gets excited when children are staying. They say we have had a passel of ghosts here at the Deerfield Inn for hundreds of years. At least two of them are pretty active still,” the article reads.
The post continues, “We do have people who stay here, people who work here, who are very sensitive to energy and auras, and the same activities keep repeating themselves from time to time — tissues on the floor, pinch on the bottom, tug on the pillows, things being moved from one spot to another, a knock on the door late at night. … Things that have been in one place one minute have gone the next. We wait a bit and that object is suddenly back again.”
Recounting stories she’s learned over the years from various innkeepers of the Deerfield Inn, Claire Carlson, education program coordinator for Historic Deerfield, said the two ghosts believed to still be occupying the inn are Cora Carlyle, the innkeeper when the inn was built in 1884, and a young boy named Hershel.
“It’s a boy who guests have reported … they’ve heard footsteps in the hallway,” she said.
There are also stories of chairs mysteriously rocking on the front porch, magazines falling off tables and blankets being discreetly moved from their original place.
front desk, for example, there’s a little owl sculpture with an inscription that reads, “Owl by right back.” The owl hangs on a hook and is placed on the desk whenever the attendant steps away. One night, the post relates, the attendant received a call about a television problem in one of the rooms. The owl was placed on the table when the desk was vacated and returned to its hook when the attendant returned.
But when a second call came later in the night, the attendant “reached out for the sign — it was gone. When she came back — bingo, there it was hanging where it should have been. This little tease has been going on for a fortnight now.”
In his book “Haunted Massachusetts,” Thomas D’Agostino writes that the ghosts at The Deerfield Inn are “presumably those of John and Cora Carlisle who owned the inn just before his death in 1932. After John passed away, Cora held séances in room 148 in an effort to contact her deceased husband. She may have succeeded for that room is now the center of all spirit activity. Voices are heard coming from the room when it is empty and all the doors will not stay closed at once within the room. There was a fire in the room in 1979. A strange force that pushed them out of their bed, roused guests who were staying there at the time of the fire.”
D’Agostino, a New England-based paranormal investigator of 38 years, has completed 1,500 investigations, many of which have brought him to the Western Massachusetts region.
“I grew up in a haunted house and while I was in college I stayed in one for six days,” he said. “It was so haunted that I had to leave — I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t study. I turned some of my studies to the sciences — esoteric sciences, social sciences, … to try and figure out what it was all about. I did that for a couple years before even attempting to investigate someone’s house.”
He’s investigated places such as the Hoosac Tunnel and the Houghton Mansion in North Adams and the Charlemont Inn.
Elsewhere in Deerfield, Carlson recounted tales she’s heard from students of Deerfield Academy who have heard strange noises — the sound of scratching or crying — at or around their dormitories on campus.
According to an article published in the school’s student newspaper, the Deerfield Scroll, one popular ghost of the Pocumtuck dormitory, Violet, is named for the color she dyes students’ sheets.
“Every old colonial town has the story of a woman in white ghost … who’s been haunting the village,” Carlson added. “And people, whoever they are, have reported seeing it on the town common, near the Deerfield Academy campus down Albany Road, and also just floating around town.”
Deerfield is old, she said, and it’s full of history — which may account for the anecdotes of ghosts so often shared around town. The town was founded in 1677 and played a role in the era of fighting between settlers and Native Americans.
“Are these (stories) based on historical events? Nobody really knows,” Carlson said. “The history of Deerfield is really long. Deerfield has stories of lots of interesting things.”
For instance, the Old Deerfield Burying Ground has gravestones that date to the early 1600s, she said.
“It’s just a neat place to go and walk around and learn about the town’s history after it was settled by the English,” Carlson said, noting walking tours are available to guests on Saturday as a way of celebrating Halloween. “Everybody who died in Deerfield was buried there in the settler times.”
The Old Burying Ground is another place were D’Agostino and his wife, Arleen Nicholson, have spent a lot of time.
“It’s just a very interesting place as far as who is buried there,” he said.
In his paranormal book, D’Agostino writes that in the 1704 Raid on Deerfield during Queen Anne’s War, French and Native American forces attacked before dawn, killing nearly 50 villagers. Among them, D’Agostino writes, was “a housemaid that was fleeing through a hidden tunnel that ran from the house to the Deerfield River. The pregnant woman was scalped and hacked to death with a tomahawk. Her presence is seen and heard every leap year on Feb. 29 as the sounds of her mourning are said to emanate from the old cemetery where she is buried.”
The Eunice Williams Covered Bridge in Greenfield is another purportedly haunted local space with ties to the raid. The bridge’s namesake, Eunice Williams, was executed at the river during a forced march after being captured. A marker at the bridge notes that “Eunice Williams, wife of the rev. John Williams ‘The Redeemed Captive,’ was killed at this place on March 1, 1704.”
“The interesting thing is people have reported seeing her ghost in the area, reported seeing … a woman on the other side of the bank,” said D’Agostino.
It’s not just Deerfield and Whately that reportedly feature spooky aberrations. Across the region’s gothic landscape there are other haunts — the Clapp Memorial Library in Belchertown was notably featured in 2008 on the television program “Ghost Hunters.”
Whether or not she believes in the ghosts she’s heard about, she won’t say — but Carlson does view the stories shared year after year as an interesting way to connect with the past.
“I think it’s good for people to be excited about things that happened long ago,” she said. “It’s really interesting. (And) if there is some scientific evidence that there are ghosts in the inn, I think that’s pretty neat.”
Mary Byrne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne
How to connect
Historic Deerfield will be hosting two gravestone art tours through Old Deerfield’s Burying Ground on Saturday. The first will take place from 11 a.m. to noon and the second will start at 2 p.m. and end at 3. Tickets, which are included with museum admission, can be be purchased by visiting historic-deerfield.org. Advance registration is not required.
Those who wish to attend should meet at the Old Burying Ground on Albany Road at the scheduled time.
A description of the event notes the guide will cover the life of Solomon Ashley, “one of the gravestone carvers who worked in Deerfield in the late 18th century. The tour will feature biographical information about Ashley and details about some of the unique and beautiful gravestones that he carved that are in the Old Burying Ground.”