While some people might visit Union Cemetery in hopes of spying paranormal activity, they would have more luck witnessing Easton’s patriotism. Established sometime in the late 1600s, the cemetery shelters the graves of veterans from most of our nation’s wars including the American Revolution and the War of 1812.
“A lot of people are there,” Lisa Burghardt, head of Easton’s Historical Society, said. “If you dig deep you’ll find people who were running our town, our churches, our schools. Union is very important.”
The nearly 400-year-old graveyard, which is still an active burial site, lies off Stepney Road, near the Easton Baptist Church. The church itself was built in the 1840s. The older section sits near the church.
In the recent decades the cemetery gained a reputation as the most haunted spot in the Nutmeg State. Ed and Lorraine Warren, who make a living searching for evidence of the supernatural, wrote about the graveyard in a book called “Graveyard: True Hauntings from an Old New England Cemetery.”
The book, first published in 1992, chronicles the lives of those associated with the cemetery, including its effect on those who live, according to the Warrens, within a 6-mile radius of the undead.
Dozens of witnesses have reported seeing a ghostly “White Lady” who glides between the Union and Stepney cemeteries, in addition to “Red Eyes,” an apparent apparition with – you guessed it – red eyes.
Also seen are ghostly mists, “globules” and light rods, many of which have been reported and photographed.
The supernatural — that’s the kind of activity that frustrates both the caretaker and members of Union Cemetery’s Burial Society, Burghardt said.
“The caretaker gets fed up with ghost hunters, and people trying to solicit the spirits,” Burghardt said.
Recently candle wax was found on the obelisk marking Nathanial Lyon’s grave. Wax damages stones, and the abrasiveness of cleaning it can also damage the stone.
Newer graves are kept trim and clean with perpetual care funds, but the older section will stay weathered, and the stones will eventually erode, Burghardt said. The only way to clean stones in that section is with volunteers and through fundraising.
Today freshly mown grass scents the summer afternoon and the melody of birds belie the cemetery’s haunted reputation.
Here in the quiet, the history of Easton’s earliest settlers comes to life. One only need look at the names to see how connected Easton is to surrounding towns such as Weston and Redding. Seeley, Sturges, Lyon, Sherwood, Silliman, and Coley are but a few of the names borne on the granite.
The grave of Samuel Seeley tells of sacrifice made during the American Revolution. Seeley died during the Battle of Ridgefield in 1777. He was brought back and buried in Easton, Burghardt said.
Many of the older stones bear carvings of skulls and death heads.
“Occasionally you get lucky and get an angel that smiles,” Burghardt said.
Time has scrubbed some stones clean of names and dates. Only their telltale shape gives away the purpose of these moss-covered markers. Other stones lean gracefully into each other, as if conversing about time’s certain march.
More on ghosts and ghouls
The White Lady has captured the imaginations of those who have visited Union Cemetery with the hope of seeing her hit by their cars. The most popular legend tells of The White Lady’s ghostly wanderings on Route 59, where she suddenly appears in the middle of the road. When the driver emerges after the collision, shaken and concerned, she disappears. On only one occasion has a driver reported vehicle damage, an off-duty fireman in 1993.
The White Lady also haunts nearby Stepney Cemetery, 10 miles away. Investigators speculate that she walks back and forth between the two cemeteries, accounting for her presence on the road. As one might expect, she wears a white gown and bonnet, and has long, dark hair.
According to Donna Kent of the Cosmic Society, no one has ever figured out the identity of the ghostly White Lady. Some say she is a pregnant woman who died in childbirth long ago and is searching for her baby; others say she is Ellen Smathers, whose murdered husband’s body was found in a sinkhole behind the church, iron weights in his pockets. Still others say she is Mrs. Knott, also murdered and left by the sinkhole, killed by her adulterous lover, Elwood Wade.
The Red Eyes legend began when a man passing the cemetery observed a pair of red eyes, glaring at him through the darkness. Panicked, the passerby bolted, only to hear footsteps following in his wake. Indeed, many visitors have reported hearing — and observing in the snow — strange footsteps.
Kent speculates that Red Eyes is either the ghost of Earle Kellog, who died after being set on fire across the street, or a man who was killed by a drunk driver but who still managed to provide a profanity-laced tirade to a group of college students who were attempting to capture paranormal activity on tape at the cemetery one evening.
Ghost hunters and psychics have long been interested in the cemetery, many of whom have set up shop after dark with the hope of capturing the paranormal activity on film; would-be paranormal activity enthusiasts should be aware that the Easton Police take trespassers very seriously, and the cemetery closes at sunset every night due to the number of visitors interested in the dark and ghoulish.
This reporter visited the site on a hot and sunny afternoon, camera in tow, and children anxious to spy the mysterious white lady and red-eyed menace.
The site itself was well-maintained, with several new grave markers, indicating that Union Cemetery's business is alive and well.
"It doesn't look haunted," one said, visibly disappointed. "It looks peaceful," he added thoughtfully, kicking a pile of dirt and squinting into the dust.
"Let's play tag," the other said, already forgetting about the legends and ready to get on with the business of living.
Partial list of Union Cemetery Revolutionary War Veterans
Lt. Isaac Bennett
Deacon Ebenezer Seeley
Capt. Nathaniel Seeley (this is the one with the wax on it)