Tuesday, October 26, 2010

cooperstown ghost


i'll report more on the convention--and our intrepid ghost-hunting expedition--tomorrow, but for now, i'm turning things over to our pal, adam hutchinson, who was kind enough to hunt down not one, but three, spooky tales for our halloween blogs!
i saw adam at the show the other day--he swung by for a uncustomarily brief visit with our other pal, mike gagnon, as they each had a small human in tow (very cute--one pint-sized captain america, one lovely little supergirl!) i mentioned to adam that i could use another story to fill out the week and he went home and hit me with these right away.

so, here's the first, culled from

The Christ Episcopal Church Graveyard

No account of haunted happenings in a small town would be complete without the inclusion of the local cemetery. At the corner of Church and River streets lies the Christ Episcopal Church cemetery, which houses the remains of many of the famous members of the acclaimed Cooper and Pomeroy families. The historic burial site includes tombs for the two most famed members of the Cooper family—legendary American author James Fenimore Cooper and town founder William Cooper. One of the saddest elements of the graveyard is the presence of a cluster of smaller gravestones; they indicate the burial plots of the Pomeroy children, many of whom who died at young ages. There is also a sinister element to the graveyard. The cemetery features a headstone for the infamous Ann Low Cary Cooper Clarke, who once placed a curse on nearby Hyde Hall.

According to a ghostly story associated with the graveyard, one of the men in the Cooper clan found an eerie way to interact with a 20th century resident of Cooperstown. The incident occurred in the late 1980s, when a young girl and her friends paid a social visit to the Christ Church cemetery. One of the girl’s friends, showing a lack of respect for the sacred nature of the burial ground, decided to lean up against one of the gravestones. Sure enough, the aging, loosened gravestone toppled over, falling directly on top of one of the girl’s legs.

Given the weight of the gravestone, her friends were unable to lift it from her leg and quickly ran to seek help. With extra manpower successfully found, the group finally succeeded in extricating the stone and enabling the girl to sit up. Relieved that the weight had been lifted, the girl took notice of the epitaph etched into the stone. The name featured on the stone was that of a Cooper family member, the oddly named Marmaduke Cooper. The girl then took note of the birth date engraved on the stone. The date startled the girl. It was not only Marmaduke Cooper’s birth date, but hers as well! Was this a case of ghostly intervention or merely an eerie coincidence? Either way, the episode left the girl more than a little chilled.

The strange incident took place in a section of the graveyard that is regarded as the focal point of the Christ Church cemetery. In fact, a metal banister sets the Cooper-Pomeroy tract of the graveyard apart from the rest of the cemetery; all of the graves and above-ground tombs in this parcel belong to members of the two families, with one notable and strange exception.

The deviation in graveyard rules came about, at least indirectly, because of the virtuous life lived by Hannah Cooper. One of the daughters of Judge William Cooper, Hannah was a beloved member of the Cooperstown community. The young Hannah earned a reputation as so innocent and wholesome that she became favored by all generations of Cooperstown’s social hierarchy. Tragically, Hannah did not survive past her early twenties. In 1800, she suffered a severe fall while riding on horseback; the injuries resulted in her death at the age of 23.

Hannah’s many admirers included Richard Cary, a colonel in the United States Army who once served as an aide to George Washington during the Revolutionary War. Despite the difference in their ages, the older Cary became a close friend to Hannah. Several years after her death, Cary himself became seriously ill. On his deathbed, Cary made a special request of the Cooper family. He asked that his burial plot be included in the partitioned segment of the Christ Church graveyard, right next to the tomb that housed Hannah’s remains. A religious man with feelings of guilt, Cary had a very specific reason for the request. By being buried next to someone as pure and exemplary as Hannah, Colonel Cary believed that he could literally ride her spirit’s skirt tails into heaven. "She was the best woman I ever knew," said Cary, according to James Fenimore Cooper’s grandson in his book, Legends and Traditions of a Northern County, "and my only chance of getting into heaven is on her skirts." So impressed by the sincerity of the request and his respect for Hannah, the Cooper family decided to make an exception for a non-family member. They allowed Cary to be buried directly to the right of Hannah, presumably (or at least hopefully) facilitating his entrance into heaven.

Other members of the Cooperstown community were not afforded the same privilege as Colonel Cary. The vast majority of Cooperstown citizens, even those respected as doctors or community leaders, were not permitted inclusion in the specially enclosed section of the cemetery, unless they were born or married into the Cooper and Pomeroy clans. In addition, no black members of local society, whether free or slave, could be included in the preferred burial location. African Americans who had lived in Cooperstown were relegated to the less desirable parcel of ground located in the southeast corner of the graveyard, along with the other "commoners" who once resided in the village.

The exclusion of African Americans from the Cooper-Pomeroy burial lot may account for the ghostly tradition of the Christ Church graveyard. According to the legend, those who find themselves in the graveyard at the midnight hour will encounter the ghosts of one or more of the Cooper family slaves. It may just be that the spirits of the slaves, rejected in death as they were during their human lives by the color of their skin and their lack of social stature, continue to look for a rightful place to call their home in the afterlife.

christ church

cooperstown village

thanks, adam! that was great!
more tomorrow!
smell ya later!

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