The Vermont Ghost Town of Glastenbury
October 23, 2014
-Photo by Andy Arthur
Mysterious disappearances. UFOs. A cursed forest. Paranormal activity. In Glastenbury, the legendary stories seem to outnumber the town’s tiny population.
Glastenbury is an unincorporated, mountainous town in Bennington County with only eight residents. But it wasn’t always this small. A small charcoal-making industry and a logging railroad operation were a boon to Glastenbury for a brief time after the Civil War. The town included a post office, small houses and school, and its population peaked at 241 in 1880.
Two murders in Glastenbury – one in the settlement of Fayville in 1892 and the other in Glastenbury’s Bickford Hollow in 1897 – was the start of Glastenbury’s long decline and the beginning of its lasting reputation as a mysterious, remote and haunted place.
Glastonbury has had its share of bad luck, too. After its logging and mining days, South Glastenbury was briefly transformed into a trolley-equipped summer resort, with the old loggers’ boarding house becoming a hotel, and apartments being renovated into a casino.
But after being open for just one season, flooding in 1898 washed out the railroad tracks beyond repair, and the resort was abandoned for good. Three decades later in 1937, the state disincorporated Glastenbury and nearby Somerset because of their extremely small populations.
Disappearances in Glastenbury
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, mysterious disappearances were reported in the area. Middie Rivers was a hunting and fishing guide who disappeared in 1945 and was never found. A year later, Bennington College student Paula Weldon vanished after planning to hike the Long Trail. She too, was never found (but it’s worth noting she was last seen in Woodford, not Glastenbury).
Other disappearances and strange stories were reported over the years, and there have been theories that Glastenbury Mountain acts as an energy vortex or exists in an alternate dimension. There’s also a story about a cursed boulder that swallows hikers into a bottomless pit, and a tale about a monster who lives in the woods. The area has been dubbed “The Bennington Triangle.”
But historian and author Tyler Resch of Shaftsbury doesn’t believe all the spooky stories about Glastenbury. Resch, who published “Glastenbury: The History of a Vermont Ghost Town” in 2008, first hiked in Glastenbury in 1962. He’s been intrigued ever since.
“People do inquire about Glastenbury often, largely based on the disappearance of Middie Rivers in 1945 — which I say is the only documented missing person in the town — plus the disappearance nearby of Paula Welden in 1946,” he wrote in an email. “I think that people’s imaginations are encouraged by the disappearances — plus the fact that two former communities are abandoned and thus called ghost towns, plus existence of a very large uninhabited territory, if you include Glastenbury as well as portions of nearby Somerset, Sunderland, and Woodford. It’s surprising that more people haven’t been lost in that vast space.”
Uninhabited, Wild and Vast
Glastenbury is about 27,000 acres – more than 36 square miles — and is now mostly owned by the U.S. National Forest Service. Glastenbury Mountain is one of the highest peaks in Vermont with an elevation of 3,748 feet.
Hiking the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail in this area is challenging but incredibly rewarding. Glastenbury Mountain includes an observation tower, which provides beautiful views of vast wilderness.
The size and remoteness of Glastenbury is what fascinates Resch the most.
“What I find most interesting is that such a huge territory exists near civilization,” Resch says. “And I find it intriguing that there are abandoned settlements (Fayville and South Glastenbury), plus interesting details about the decision to disincorporate two small towns in a state that’s full of small towns.”
While Resch downplays all of the paranormal stories about Glastenbury, he wonders about the large stone cairn near the summit to guide hikers above treeline during foggy weather. Since the summit is completey forested with no other rocks, Resch says there is no rational explanation for why the rocks are there.
“There are no rocks on the mountaintop, which means that humans must have hauled rocks up to build the mysterious cairn,” he says.
Maybe. Or was it something else?
**If You Go: Hiking to Glastonbury is a 22.3-mile, two-day hike. Follow Route 9 east to Woodford for 4 miles, then bear left on Harbour Road. Travel 5 miles to a parking lot entrance on the left, which brings you to the crossing point of the Long and Appalachian Trails. For more information about hiking in this area, check out “Haunted Hikes of Vermont” by Tim Simard.