The DEATHS at Dudleytown?

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Lets examine the deaths at Dudleytown one-by-one.

Let's see. First, if you add up all the deaths and unusual happenings (there were only 7--and about 12 deaths which include the 5 Carter's) and divide it by the years the town existed, you will find that there was only (about) 1 death every seven years. Not bad, considering the times. (note: this does NOT take into account those who died by obvious natural causes) People were always disappearing (and some still are!) during this time. If one walks into deep woods (as was--and IS-- around Dudleytown and many areas of New England) you can get lost easy. It would be months--sometimes years--before you are found! Being struck by lightning (as one was) was considered very bad, and taken superstitiously during this time. So was insanity--some believed demons caused it!

BUT---we are stalling, ON to the DEATHS!!

"Marsella Falls" on Dark Entry Road--an approved hiking trail
This is known as "Witches Dam" by some Paranormal Groups

THE ORIGINAL DUDLEY'S. They where Abiel and Barzallai, and Gideon. They arrive in this historical order: Gideon in 1748, Barzillai in 1750, and Abiel in 1754. Who Abijah was, we have already explained as bad story telling. Martin has also been explained. Three of them left Dudleytown. Historically and genealogically, they all seemed to have died natural deaths. In ALL readings of the "curse", they are never mentioned again. Strange. If either Dudleytown or their line was cursed, it would seem to me they ALL would have died under unusual circumstances--but such is not the case.

Now, Abiel is always called the first unusual death there--in fact, the first instance of the "curse."(NOTE: he actually isn't, that dubious honor goes to Gershon Hollister, below) He died a pauper, and was said to be mad. Folks--the man was 90 years old when he died. NINETY. Even by todays standards, that is a long life! Back then, it was almost unheard of! Now, back in 1799 (the year that he died) there was no Social Security, no medicare--nothing! The children took care of their parents. Unfortunately for "Old Biel", he had none. So who took care of him? NO ONE. And when he could no longer afford to pay his debts, the town took his property and sold it, and then put him as a CHARGE of the town. All standard operating procedure at that time. Nothing at all unusual! But didn't he go mad? Well, at a time when the average life expectancy was 40-50 years, what would senility look like? Read the case again, it sure looks like senility to me. He was forgetful, couldn't handle his debts.....think about it.

1792--THE HOLLISTER MURDER. According to most of the stories, Gershon Hollister was "murdered" at the home of William Tanner. Then, depending on whom you read, Tanner started talking about wild animals and demons, and then went totally insane!

Gershon Hollister WAS killed--during a barn raising when he fell from an uncompleted structure! There is no indication that there was an investigation, as this sort of thing, while unfortunate, was not unheard of. William Tanner was NEVER charged with, or convicted of anything. What happened to Tanner? He lived to be 104! That's right, 104! (I am not sure, but could he have been the oldest person in the U.S. at that time?) He did NOT go mad! The records indicated "slightly demented" or "feeble minded." Feeble Minded was a common phrase used in association with elderly people, and physicians will readily tell you that it meant senility. Again, we MUST remember the time we are dealing with. Here is an excellent example of how the "curse" has changed facts to fit in with a story.

William Tanner's gravestone at Cornwall Cemetery

THE CARTER FAMILIES. Nathaniel Carter supposedly set the "curse" in motion by buying Abiel Dudley's house when Old Biel became a charge of the town. They lived in Dudleytown four years when they decided to move in 1763. We all have the read what happened to them, but was it the "curse?". Well folks, first of all the tragedy happened a LONG way from Dudleytown, so if Dudleytown were cursed, this should NOT be connected. However, some insist that it is. In that case, let's use common sense. The Carters moved near Binghamton, New York, and built a house "at the Forks of the Delaware wilderness." SMACK in the middle of Indian country. What did he expect?

What happened to the three children that were taken? The two girls were later ransomed by the British, but the son decided to stay. He later attended the Missionary school in Cornwall, and went on to edit the "Cherokee Advocate" newspaper and became a Justice of the Supreme Court.

And, who bought the Abiel/Carter house afterwards? We are not told......why? Nothing happened to the people that lived there!! I hate to say this, but it sure is not much of a curse yet. But the OTHER Carters.....didn't THEY die strangely? No. They died in the plague of 1774--along with half of Dudleytown and nearby Cornwall.

Folks, this is just easy-to-obtain history, check any of it you wish.

Another unidentified foundation

GENERAL SWIFT'S WIFE. OK, his wife was struck and killed by lightning in April, 1804, RIGHT ON HER FRONT PORCH! Then, HE went mad!! Well, this may sound strange----except for one thing. The Good General did NOT live in Dudleytown. His house is still on directly across from Bald Mountain road--at the bottom of the hill, right were it was then. (Its a historical landmark, look it up if you are ever there--but be careful, somebody LIVES in it! As for the General going mad, well, again this didn't happen till he was very old......poor elderly people of Dudleytown just can't get old without going mad!! (at least, according to the "curse") What is it? Do the "curse" extends the boundaries of town's? Additionally, the General was NOT out helping George Washington. Our first President DIED in 1799.

HORACE GREELEY'S WIFE. The "curse" of Dudleytown followed Mary Cheney from Dudleytown, and she committed suicide! Right? Well, no.

Mary Young Cheney was born October 20, 1811 in LITCHFIELD, Ct. (Litchfield Vital Records, Volume 2, page 12). (yes, it IS the name of the COUNTY that Cornwall/Dudleytown is in, but it is ALSO the name of a nearby town!) Her father's name was Silas, her mothers' Polly. Did the "story tellers" get confused? It wouldn't be the first time! Was she raised in Dudleytown? No--she never even STEPPED into Dudleytown IN HER LIFE! There are absolutely NO records of her OR her family being there during this time! Mary left Litchfield (this IS confirmed) about 1833, and went to live at a vegetarian boarding house owned by Dr. Graham–of "Graham Cracker" fame. (apparently, she was involved with the whole "wellness" movement that was catching on throughout the country). While there, she met and married Horace "go west young man, go west!" Greeley on July 5, 1836, and like a dutiful wife, followed him. He ran for president against General U.S. Grant in what most would say was a election of foregone conclusion–no one could win against a Civil War hero. His party was the newly formed "Liberal Republicans", and Grant waged one of the most vicious campaigns imaginable. Greeley once said during this time: "I don't know if I am running for the Presidency or the Penitentiary!" The stress had to have been terrible, as not only was he fighting a malicious campaign, but his wife Mary was sick. (you see the following coming, don't you?)

To see her obituary, click here! To return to this page, click "back" on your browser.

History records the outcome of the campaign. Just before the election, Mary suffered from a severe attack of "lung disease", (she had it for 20 years) and died 30 October 1872. Her daughters Ida and Gabrielle were in attendance, as her death had been anticipated. She died in New York City, and is buried in Green Wood Cemetery. Her husband Horace died one month later (November 29th ), and the 40 electoral votes he received were distributed to minor candidates. Here again we face the "curse" totally changing historical facts. If only someone had checked the facts....

JOHN PATRICK BROPHY. Ah, here is a REALLY strange one--right? Now, depending on who is telling the story, his children disappeared and his wife died "mysteriously". Here are the FACTS: his children started stealing "sleigh robes", and the law was after them! What did they do? They LEFT to escape prison! (what a curse!). His wife died of "consumption"--she caught tuberculosis. The house burned in 1901--he turned up missing right after that.

Ok, so we don't know what happened to him. What would YOU do? Your sons are running from the law, your wife is dead, and your house just burnt down. Would you sick around and build another house? Or leave? You decide.

Dr. WILLIAM COGSWELL CLARKE. (yes, according to daughters and granddaughters, its spelled with an "e") Here is an interesting and unfortunate story. What all the legend tellers fail to remember is that this happening is so recent that it is probably the most documented of the events in Dudleytown. Dr. Clarke was born in 1877 and grew up on a farm in Tenafly, New Jersey. He became a professor of Surgery and taught at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City (yes, this FAR different than the "city boy" we've been told about in some of the "legend stories") He bought his property, not in 1920 as the storytellers cite, but 1900. He traveled to Dudleytown on some weekends, and during the summers until its completion. He and his wife Harriet Banks Clarke then visited it only on Thanksgivings (it was a holiday house).

Then came the unfortunate occurrence. Or not...let's see. (you see it coming again, don't you?)

Harriet, according to daughters and granddaughters, had a "chronic illness." (it is not known of what) She had it for years, and was in New York City between 1917-1918, when she DID commit suicide. Apparently, the pain became to much for her. There is NO mention of madness, or insanity, from ANY of the offspring from either Harriet or Carita (his new wife).

Here's an oddity--the Doctor continued to visit that house and finally settled in Cornwall. He continued to return there, bringing other Doctors and Nurses there, and on December 24, 1924 they incorporated Dark Entry Forest, Inc. (DEF) which OWNS Dudleytown today. The stated purpose of the organization declares that it exists to keep the "naturalness" of the area "in perpetuity." He also married a fine woman named Carita, and on February 1, 1926 DEF had its first meeting with 41 members. William and Carita are listed. He continued to live in the little house off and on (it was called "crooked house") until his "Big House" (on Rt 45) was finished, and he moved into it in 1930. They had children (a number of his offspring still reside in the area, and are members of the DEF). He died in Cornwall Bridge on Valentine's day, February 14, 1943. Carita died of Cancer in 1948 in nearby Sharon Hospital.

Now think about that for a moment. IF his wife went mad from supernatural means, or any other way that might tip the good Doctor off that something was amiss, why then did he help to found an organization that would BUY the area, then move there himself, and die there?

Dr. Clarke's occurrence at Dudleytown is where most of the "Curse" stories end. With the explanation (verified BY HIS CHILDREN), we now know the EVERY ONE of the "odd" occurrences were COMPLETELY FALSE.

So there are all the deaths at Dudleytown. As you can see, every one of them were recorded by town records (when they occurred in Cornwall/Dudleytown) or by history (when not). For references, see below.

I hate to say this, but its not much of a "curse", is it?

The OTHER paranormal happenings
Now we come to a very sore subject with some people.....what about those that see things there today? Well, from the shear number, I am tempted to believe some of them. But, however, I am afraid that most are probably no more than wishful thinking run amok! For instance:

THE TV STATION CREW. This one is reported by our old friends Ed and Lorraine Warren. The crew went up to film a story, and their equipment would not work. Read about it in Ghost Hunters. Here are the facts: the crew worked for COMCAST, the local cable access station. NOT a big station---a small, underpaid crew that, if you are familiar with public access stations, are equipped with cameras and things that the OTHER stations no longer want! The fact is, they DID get footage there--before their equipment BROKE! When they got back, they joked: "Its the curse of Dudleytown again!" That's it--only a joke. However, some people took it seriously! Most of the crew still live and work in the area!

OTHER SIGHTINGS. Dudleytown has vortex's, UFO sightings, ball lightning, "globulars", bigfoots, etc. etc. etc.--Can you see how one or two strange instances in a town no longer in existence can turn into a legend?

The ruins of Dudleytown are not so much the legacy of disaster as the foundations of our country. Let us remember that. And then YOU decide.

All that really remains, then, are the stories. And the hooting of those owls--those cursed owls!

Now click below to see the DEATH OF DUDLEYTOWN, and the birth of a legend.


Chamberlain, Paul H. Dudleytown, 1966, The Cornwall Historical Society.

Clark, Harriet Lydia, True Facts About Dudleytown, 1989, The Cornwall Historical Society.

Dudley, Dean, The History of the Dudley Family, 1884-1900, Dean Dudley, publisher. Now available through Higgenson Books, Salem Massachusetts

Cornwall Vital Records, available through the Cornwall Historical Society

Vital Records of the First Congregational Church, Cornwall, Ct.

Sedgwick, Charles F. General History of the Town of Sharon, Amenia, N.Y. Charles Walsh, printer. 1877

Starr, Rev Edward C. History of Cornwall, 1928

The New York Times, Oct 31, 1872

The Charter of Dark Entry Forest, Inc. 1924

Correspondence from Lydia C. Herkimer, daughter of William Cogswell Clarke

The Barbour Collection of Ct. Vital Records. Available at any large library with a genealogy department.

The Death of Dudleytown
The birth of a legend