The Ghosts of Pachaug State ForestFeb 09, 2021 10:42AM ● By Thomas D’Agostino
Maud Reynolds’ grave marker.
The ghosts of Pachaug are well documented and have attracted the curious and paranormal enthusiasts for years.
As the shadows grow long and darkness envelopes the terrain around Pachaug State Forest in Voluntown, Connecticut, unearthly shrieks permeate the wooded domain. They are the shrieks of an Indian girl who was killed by British soldiers over three centuries ago. The once flourishing village that is now deserted thicket is host to several creepy entities from colonial soldiers to the wraith of a little girl. There is even a black misty figure that stalks those who hike the trails and roads of the forest.
Hell Hollow Road.
The ghosts seem to fall neatly into the history of the region. Pachaug is Indian for “bend in the river.” The Narragansett, Mohegan, and Pequot tribes inhabited the area. Towards the end of the 17th century, the colonists began to settle there and convinced the Mohegan tribe to rid the others from the land. After they had gained the help of the Mohegans in successfully removing the other two tribes, the colonists then turned and pushed them out as well.
Around 1700, a six-square- mile expanse of land was given to veterans of the Indian Wars. They named the new settlement Volunteer Town due to the fact that they had been volunteer soldiers during the conflict. In 1721, they shortened the moniker to Voluntown. A community was quick to spring up along the fast flow of the Pachaug River. This tributary runs through the forest from Beach Pond to the Quinebaug River. Mills began to dot the river as early as 1711. Nearly every brook has some remnant of the many mill ruins in the forest preserve.
Like many other small New England farming and mill communities, progress and technology became their enemy and soon the small village of Pachaug was on the downward slide. By the Great Depression of the early 20th century, the village was nothing but overgrown roads and crumbling homes. The mills, long dormant had also fallen into disrepair and were soon consumed by the ravages of time and nature. All that remained among the forest were the ghosts that still hold their vigil to this day amid the ruins of what was once their home.
There is a section of the forest called Hell Hollow along a road and pond of the same name. The name is not necessarily derived from the demonic forces that thrive in the area. The settlers named many parts of Connecticut with prefixes like “devil” or “demon,” as the area gave them the feeling that there were supernatural forces at work. In the case of Hell Hollow, the land was rocky and poor. Farming was brutal and the area was prone to flooding. Such names have carried on through history. If they are haunted at present, it only adds to the mystery of the locale. A rock formation known as “Devil’s Den” can be seen northeast of Hell Hollow Pond, on the southwest side of Flat Rock Road along the Quinebaug Trail. This may not be of ghostly significance but tends to reiterate the fact that the settlers were probably a bit superstitious.
Visitors to this patch of the forest have witnessed a dark entity that rushes out of the woods directly in front of them. The strange mist is reported to be about fifteen feet long and hovers a few feet off of the ground as it makes its way across the road. Hikers and hunters alike have given testimony to the strange fiend that lurks in the dark bowers of the forest. Many also get a fearful feeling of being watched while traversing the trails of the Hell Hollow section of the forest.
Another haunting in the Hell Hollow area is that of an Indian girl. In the late 1600s, an Indian woman was slain by English soldiers near the present Hell Hollow Road. Since then her vengeful screams of murder and brutality have saturated the air in a tormenting aria that eerily replays over and over. The screams send even the bravest hunter on his heels for more hallowed ground. The local hunters will not venture far into that area according to the few I have talked to. They wished to remain anonymous for fear of ridicule but as one said, “When you hear that piercing scream come out of the woods, no one cares what anyone might think. Your hair stands up on the back of your neck and you are out of there!”
The ghost of a colonial soldier still makes his rounds at a section along Breakneck Hill Road. Locals have encountered the vigilant spirit many times over the years as it marches back and forth along the side of the road. Some have actually almost hit the wraith as it crosses the road, still on eternal duty.
Author David Trifilo encountered the ghostly soldier once while traveling along the thoroughfare. He wrote of his experience in his book entitled, “The Hauntings of Pachaug Forest.” The author was rounding a sharp bend of the road when he encountered a threadbare colonial soldier carrying a long musket over his shoulder. The entity marched into the road directly in front of Trifilo. When he hit the brakes, the ghost vanished into the void. The sightings of the soldier have been frequent over the years. Paranormal investigator and writer Lauren Neslusen has heard of others who have been startled by the ghostly guard as it crossed the road in front of them. Motorists have actually driven through the specter. Some have stopped for a moment to reflect on what they had just encountered while others do not stick around for a second meeting.
The ghost of this soldier has been witnessed for centuries. The first sighting recorded goes as far back as 1742. The description is the same as the present day witnesses accounts. The spirit is dressed in a tattered uniform holding a long musket slung over the right shoulder. He marches silent and dusty along the bend in the road, sometimes crossing as if looking for something on the other side. The date of the first sighting definitely places him well before the American Revolution. Perhaps he is a remnant of King Philips War (1675 to 1676) or Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713), which was the second inter-colonial war between France and England. Some claim he is from the French and Indian War, yet that conflict took place from 1754 to 1763, several years after the initial sighting of Pachaug’s sentinel ghost.
Another spot of spectral relevance is an area of the forest called Maud’s Grave. The original site of her burial was on a rise next to the remains of the Reynolds home at the Sterling/Voluntown border.
Maud was the daughter of Gilbert and Lucy Reynolds. She died just before her third birthday after choking on an apple from complications due to diphtheria. The parents found her on the morning of October 12, 1886 with the apple by her side. They preserved the apple in alcohol because it had the impressions of her baby teeth in it.
She was the third child of the Reynolds to die within a few years, but she was not buried in the family cemetery. Mrs. Reynolds was so taken aback by the death of her daughter, that she buried her close to the home where she could see the cross that marked the grave. It is in this spot that her ghost is seen, perhaps trying to find her family or wondering why she is not at rest with her brothers. No one has an answer, as she has never spoken. Even after she was laid to rest in the family plot, her ghost has continued to wander the grounds which were once her home.
In 1965, a relative moved the remains of Maud to the family burying ground on the top of Bare Hill. A cross was fashioned from bricks over her grave and her original marker was taken to the church the family once attended and put in a closet. It remains there to this day as a reminder of one of Hell Hollow’s most famous ghosts.