Strange New England BurialsJan 30, 2024 09:11AM ● By Thomas D’Agostino
This next entry into Tales From Beyond concerns a few very interesting burials in New England. The first one was not so strange for the times. There were many such attempts to prevent premature burial in New England. Taphophobia, the fear of being buried alive, led Dr. Timothy Clark Smith to design the construction of a special burial vault—a tomb with a view.
Smith was born on June 14, 1821, in Monkton, Vermont, and received his bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College in 1842 and a medical degree from the University of the City of New York in 1855.
Dr. Clark married Catherine Jane Prout, and they had four children together, all living well into adulthood. Smith died on February 25, 1893, in Middlebury, Vermont, but before he passed, he had prepared the peculiar crypt for himself and his wife.
The special grave was designed below a mound that contained a crypt for Smith with another chamber below for his wife. A cement tube led from where his face would be positioned to the surface of the mound. A fourteen-by-fourteen-inch window was placed at the top of the tube so the doctor could see above if he woke. He was also buried with a special bell in his hand so he could signal for help. As far as anyone knows, the good doctor never awoke from his eternal slumber. The window is still there, but moss and condensation have made it almost impossible to see into the crypt. It is more than likely that the doctor cannot see out as well. This next story ends in pieces, literally.
Captain Samuel Jones was born in Hillsboro, New Hampshire, on September 30, 1777. Samuel married Deborah Bradford, and in 1800, the couple moved to Washington, New Hampshire.
While assisting in the moving of a building in 1804, the captain’s left leg was caught and trapped between the foundation of the building and a fence. Unfortunately, the leg was so badly injured that it had to be amputated. There was a belief at the time that if one lost a part of their body and buried it in the proper position in a coffin that would someday tenant the rest of the person, they would be reunited in death.
Captain Jones’s leg was buried with military honors in the village cemetery on Faxon Hill Road, just below the town common. A proper stone was set in place with the epitaph “Capt. Samuel Jones's Leg, which was amputated July 7, 1804.”
Whether Captain Jones was reunited with his leg after death may never be known, for some time after, he moved to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York. His whereabouts are mostly unknown to this day. Some accounts claim he is buried in Boston, and some say Rhode Island. Research by the author came across a grave in Schenectady, New York, with the name Samuel Jones, who was born in 1777 and died February 13, 1849, aged seventy-one years, eight months, and three days. If this is the captain, then he and his leg are among the only Americans buried in two different states.
This next story is quite an out-of-the-ordinary little tale. It has been told throughout the ages, and not a word has been changed, as there is not much to add. It stands by itself as one of those narratives that is a true Vermont legend.
St. Michael’s Church in downtown Brattleboro had an organist who was not only a talented musician but also very affable with the parishioners. They liked him so much that when he died, they built a mausoleum for him, where they then propped him up with his favorite organ.
It was not long after that they began to hear strange sounds emanating from the churchyard. Low musical utterances that sounded much like the baffled notes of a church organ. The sounds continued until someone discovered that it was coming from the former organist's burial chamber. This would have pleased the parishioners very much that their favorite organist was in death, what he loved in life, but there was one problem. He seemed to have lost his touch with the instrument, as instead of flowing graceful tones, harsh, dissonant notes echoed through the air creating much disdain for the listeners of the euphony.