Officially known as the “Constitution State”, Connecticut derives its name from the river that intersects the state. The third smallest state by area, Connecticut is located in the north-eastern region of the United States of America.
Although a part of the New England region, Connecticut is often considered as one of the three states that form the “Tri-state” area (the other two are New York and New Jersey). Neighbored by Massachusetts in the north, Rhode Island in the east, Long Island Sound in the South, and New York in the west, the “Nutmeg State” is home to one of the most respected universities in America and in the world – the Yale University.
Among the many inventions that the state can be accredited with are the telephone book (1878), hamburger (1895), the Polaroid camera (1934), helicopter (1939), color TV (1948), and the first nuclear-powered submarine (1954).
More interestingly, Connecticut is home to the oldest running newspaper in the United States, The Hartford Courant (1764). It was also the first state to issue car license plates.
Needless to say, the state of Connecticut has a lot to offer in terms of maritime history, landscape, and culture. However, it is also home to a great many secret spots which are waiting to be discovered by the common man. Let us take a look at some of the hidden gems in Connecticut and know the state better.
1. Judges Cave, New Haven
In 1649, 59 British Judges sentenced King Charles I to death. This resulted in the dissolution of the monarchy and led Oliver Cromwell into power. In 1660, Charles II, the son of King Charles I, regained the power of the throne and issued an order to kill every remaining soul responsible for his father’s death. Among them were John Dixwell, William Goffe, and Edward Whalley.
The three judges thought it best to flee to North America and avoid being executed. While Dixwell went to Connecticut, Goffe and Whalley made their way to Boston. However, a warrant against them made Goffe and Whalley move to Connecticut as well.
Cromwell supporters offered food and shelter to the duo as best as they could. When staying with the locals didn’t prove to be safe enough, Goffe and Whalley decided to hide by a large rock within the woods of what is now known as West Rock Ridge State Park.
While Dixwell remained in Connecticut under a new identity, Goffe and Whaley spent their final days in Massachusetts.
The town residents named the rock as the “Judges Cave” as an ode to the infamous judges who sealed the fate of King Charles I.
2. Statue of Rover, Hartford
What Hachiko is to Japan, Rover is to Connecticut. While the former has a more dignified and factual story, Rover’s is actually a bit unclear. Nonetheless, the story entails a man’s best friend’s undying love for his human.
As the most popular version of the story goes, Rover accompanied his master to the Hartford Hospital, where the dog owner admitted himself after an episode of a heart attack. Before walking in, the owner asked Rover to “stay”, and so, he did.
The man eventually passed away in the hospital but Rover, the ever-loving, extremely faithful dog, awaited his master’s return at the same spot until his last breath. Reportedly, several hospital staffs tried to take him home or bring him to a place where he could stay away from heat or rain but Rover didn’t budge.
Regardless of the story’s legitimacy, the hospital erected a statue of Rover at the spot where he allegedly sat. It now serves the hospital staff as a constant reminder of love, dedication, and commitment.
3. The Warren’s Occult Museum, Monroe
If you have watched “The Conjuring”, “Annabelle”, and “The Amityville Horror,” then you perhaps already know who and what are we talking about. If not, you must watch them before you pay a visit.
Ed and Lorraine Warren, one of the most famous paranormal investigators in the United States of America, worked as ghost hunters for the better part of their lives. The couple established the New England Society for Psychic Research in 1952 and used it to display their vast collection of artifacts and totems, which they claimed were all touched by evil.
Among other paranormal things in the collection are an alleged vampire’s coffin, demon masks, several psychic photographs, trinkets and totems locked away from the touch of humans, and of course, the infamously famous doll, Annabelle.
Unfortunately, Ed Warren died in 2006, however, the basement museum is still owned and managed by Lorraine and their son.
4. P.T. Barnum Museum, Bridgeport
Phineas Taylor Barnum, an American politician best known for his celebrated hoaxes, was born in 1810 in Bethel, Connecticut. A former showman and the founder of Barnum and Bailey Circus, Barnum served as the Mayor of Bridgeport from 1865 to 1869. During his time in the city, Barnum funded and designed what is now known as the P.T. Barnum Museum.
The construction of the museum finished in 1893, two years after Barnum passed away. Initially meant to serve as a science and history research institute, the building was transformed into a museum dedicated to him years after his death.
Today, the collection includes several items dedicated to the great showman including a 1,000-square-feet miniature circus and a facsimile of Barnum’s original Feejee mermaid. A preserved elephant and an unwrapped mummy called Pa-Ib can also be found within the museum.
Mountain Grove Cemetery, located within a short distance from the Museum, is the final resting place of P.T. Barnum.
5. Crypt at Center Church-on-the-Green, New Haven
Center Church in New Haven, Connecticut is a one-of-kind establishment and a true hidden gem located in the heart of the Elm City. What’s so extraordinary about this church, you ask?
The Center Church was established in 1813 over a piece of land where the oldest settlers of New Haven rest. In fact, 137 gravestones dating from 1687 till 1812 that holds the remains of the city’s earliest residents including Reverend James Pierpont (one of the founders of Yale) and Margaret Mansfield (first wife of Benedict Arnold) rest underneath the structure.
Speculations have been made that there may be thousands of unmarked human remains under the surface of the Church and its surrounding area.
Free tours of the crypt and the church are easily available and tour guides, who are mainly members of the church, are glad to talk about the history of the place.
6. Glass House, New Canaan
Philip Johnson was one of the most distinguished architects of the 20th century. A celebrated designer and an art collector, Johnson was among some of the most influential personalities in the country at the time. One of the greatest examples of his exemplary creativity is the house he built on his 47-acre property in New Canaan.
At 2,000 square feet, the construction’s exterior is entirely made of floor-to-ceiling glass (except a bit of steel around the edges). Finished in 1949, the Glass House comprises a single room with designated sections to serve as kitchen, living space, and bedroom area. The only enclosed area within the structure is the bathroom that is located in the middle of the house.
Johnson used the Glass House mostly for entertainment purposes and claimed that he has the best and the most expensive wallpaper in the world!
7. Witch’s Dungeon, Bristol
Established in 1966 by a 13-year-old boy named Cortlandt Hull, Witch’s Dungeon is regarded as America’s longest running classic horror movie attraction. Hull is the great-nephew of Henry Watterson Hull, the classic actor who played the “werewolf” in the 1935 classic movie, Werewolf of London.
Highly inspired by his great-uncle, Hull began compiling his collection of famous classic horror movie artifacts and related items at a very tender age. He mastered his skills under personalities such as Dick Smith and John Chambers.
Expanded to thrice as big as the original collection, the Witch’s dungeon features several life-like replicas of famous characters such as Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, and Lon Chaney in an elaborate scene based on their respective horror movies.
During the museum tour, costumed guides take you through the various attractions at the site and educate you about the movies and movie-related items on display. Stay back and enjoy a horror classic at the museum’s auditorium.
8. Traveler Restaurant, Union
Where do famished bookworms go for their dose of food and books? Obviously, they go to the Traveler Restaurant at Union, Connecticut where a huge glow sign, “Food and Books,” welcomes them with open arms.
Though the restaurant has been in business for several years, former owner Marty Doyle started bringing books to the store in the 1980s. An avid reader, Mart decided to store some of the books at the restaurant to cut down on the oversized collection he had at his home.
Now, the walls of Traveler Restaurant are covered in books of all kinds – cookbooks, paperbacks, classic novels, romantic novels, children’s books, westerns. It is estimated that the diner gives away at least a couple of thousand books every week.
9. The Abandoned Village of Bara-Hack, Pomfret
Amidst the jagged hills of Pomfret lay the remnants of Bara-Hack, a small community which was created in 1790 by two Welsh men, Johnathan Randall and Obadiah Higginbotham. The community name was inspired by their shared Welsh legacy.
Together, the duo established Higginbotham Linen Wheels, a flax-spinning company. Eventually, the village comprised many family homes, slave quarters, a waterwheel, a mill, and a graveyard. However, it wasn’t long before paranormal stories about a ghost baby being spotted hanging from a nearby tree started making the rounds. The fear led the community members to flee.
It is assumed that the town has laid abandoned for over 125 years. Though “no trespassing” warnings have been put around the property, the abandoned Bara-Hack village remains of much interest to paranormal investigators and urbexers.
10. Holy Land, U.S.A., Waterbury
Holy Land USA may have been a man’s dedication to God, but, the murder of a young woman in 2010 at the site has left it with a reputation for anything but holy.
John Baptist Greco had a dream – a roadside amusement park dedicated to Jesus Christ. Following his vision, he created the Holy Land USA in Waterbury, Connecticut. The park was a replica of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. Among other attractions in the park were a replica of the Garden of Eden, several murals and statues depicting the life of Jesus, and a 56-foot-tall steel cross that ensured that the park could be seen from a distance.
In 1984, Greco closed the park for renovation as he had hoped to expand the site, however, he passed away in 1986 and Holy Land was passed over to a group of nuns. Though the nuns tried to care for the theme park for some time, it was never opened to the public again.
Vandalisms took over and most of the objects in the park were left broken or destroyed.
The park is closed for general public now and there is nothing much left of the original site to see, but, if you like exploring places with strange history, you can take a chance.
11. Skull and Bones Tomb, New Haven
It is not uncommon for Ivy League universities such as Princeton, UPenn, and Harvard to have secretive members-only tomb societies. In fact, these traditions have been adhered to for over centuries.
Once such famous society is the Skull and Bones secret society at Yale University, which was founded in 1832 by William Huntington Russell and Alphonso Taft as “the order of the Scull (sic) and Bones.”
The oldest of its kind at the university, Skull and Bones have been served by several notable personalities from the history of America including many eminent congressmen, media leaders, Supreme Court Judges, and three U.S. Presidents, William Howard Taft (son of Alphonso Taft and 27th U.S. President), George H. W. Bush (41st U.S. President), and George W. Bush (43rd U.S. President).
The Skull and Bones Tomb at New Haven is a symmetrical, windowless, imposing sandstone building that was first constructed in 1856 and has been expanded a few times ever since.
Aside from all the secrets it holds, the Tomb houses many skulls (no surprise for guessing!), gloomy photographs and drawings, coffins and other grim artworks.
12. Jewett City Vampires, Griswold
Henry and Lucy Ray lived in the borough of Jewett City in Griswold, Connecticut during the beginning of the 19th century. The couple, along with their five children lived in the town happily, despite the many hurdles and natural perils that surrounded the nation at the time. However, the family could not escape the wrath of “alleged” vampires!
Between the late 1840s and early 1850s, Henry and two of his sons, Lemuel and Elisha, died of a strange wasting syndrome. A few years later, Henry Nelson Ray, the couple’s third son, was taken by another unusual ailment. This led the towners to believe that the family was plagued by vampires (it was tuberculosis, by the way).
All the corpses were burned and buried in a small corner of the Jewett City Cemetery and the family was coined by the media as the “Jewett City Vampires.”
13. Fairfield Hills Hospital, Newtown
Standing unremarkably in the heart of Newtown are the remnants of one of the largest psychiatric facilities of New England, Fairfield Hills Hospital.
The old colonial style building went from treating 500 to over four thousand patients during its long run from the 1930s till 1995. A system of tunnels underneath the main building leads to psychosurgery labs, operating theatres, confinement rooms, and even a morgue.
Though the facility was created to ease the burden on two other similar facilities in the state, the ratio of medical staffs as compared to patients were always a major challenge. Finally, the last lot of patients and medical staffs left the hospital in 1995, and it has been sitting abandoned ever since.
14. Charles Island, Milford
Charles Island in Milford, Connecticut may be a State Park and home to the state’s largest breeding colonies of egrets and herons, but, there is no room for human settlement here, for the island has been cursed – THRICE!
As the story goes, the island was first cursed in 1639 by the then local Paugusset Chief who, with some ill-intentions, traded the land to European settlers at the time.
Then, in 1699, Scottish pirate Captain William Kidd stumbled upon the island on his final voyage. He was tricked and executed at the site but that wasn’t before he buried a part of his last loot in the area and cursed the surrounding land.
Finally, in 1727, a group of Connecticut sailors discovered a treasure which allegedly belonged to a 16th century Mexican Emperor who died keeping it a secret from Spanish soldiers. The five sailors decided to bring home the loot, but, four of them died shortly after. Scared, the fifth sailor returned to the island with the treasure and buried it back to where it belonged.
15. Snedeker House, Southington
Allen and Carmen Snedeker, along with their three sons, one daughter, and two nieces came to live in the Snedeker House in 1986. And, in 2009, they inspired the horror movie, “The Haunting in Connecticut.”
The Snedeker house was a simple duplex rental which once had been a funeral home. Predictably, the basement of the structure had several funeralia such as toe tags, a medical gurney, a hoisting device for coffins, and blood drains. But, what the family didn’t foresee were the many paranormal experiences that they were to soon undergo.
The eldest son, who was being treated for Hodgkin’s disease, became violent. Sexual attacks and apparitions became normal. Despaired, the couple asked Ed and Lorraine Warren to help.
While several accusations have been made about the stories being falsified and staged, the Snedeker House became one of the stars in the paranormal world.
16. A. Everett Austin Facade House, Hartford
At first glance, the home of Arthur Everett “Chick” Austin looks like the most extravagant Italian-style mansion in the state of Connecticut, but, look closer and you will soon realize that it is, in fact, an illusionary structure which is only 18-feet wide and is constructed out of pine board.
Austin commissioned the peculiar faux-mance in 1930. The detailed specification was to make it 86-feet-long, 18-feet-wide, one-room-deep home. Known as “The Façade House,” the mansion has an impressive columned style with opulent European interior decoration.
Locals, unimpressed by the reality, named the edifice the “pasteboard palace,” but, Austin turned his home into a hotspot by inviting eminent socialites such as Salvador Dali and Gertrude Stein.
The Façade House is considered as one of Austin’s most spectacular works and is listed as a National Historic Landmark.
17. Dinosaur State Park, Rocky Hill
The tiny town of Rocky Hill was an unremarkable dot in the map of Connecticut for a long time until one day, in 1966, a group of bulldozer operators accidentally stumbled upon a huge field of calcified dinosaur tracks!
Comprising hundreds and thousands of average-sized, three-toed footprints of dinosaurs, possibly a type of Dilophosaurus, the area is perhaps one of the largest of its kind in the United States of America. Researchers discovered that the footprints were so precise that one could see skin patterns on them.
In order to preserve the area from destruction, an enormous geodesic dome was created over a set of 500 prints. This enabled visitors to conveniently locate and observe the site. Approximately 1,500 tracks that were left out were reburied so they could be preserved and observed by our future generations.
18. Hospital Rock, Farmington
In 1791, Dr. Eli Todd and Dr. Theodore Wadsworth obtained a city permit to build a smallpox quarantine facility and hospital to treat patients suffering from the disease. The “Hospital Rock” was the patient drop-off point at the time.
It was also used for exchanging letters and receiving food and clothing items for the patients.
The patients at the hospital had to remain isolated from their family members for a three-week period so they could recover under the supreme care of the hospital staff. It was during this three-week period that the patients carved their names on the rock. As many as three young patients met their partners at the hospital and later married.
The hospital closed its doors in 1794. And, shortly after, in 1796, the smallpox vaccine was discovered by Edward Jenner.
The Hospital Rock bears the inscriptions of 66 names, all patients at the hospital between 1792 and 1794.
19. Gungywamp, Groton
Gungywamp is often regarded as a place which can drive archaeologists to insanity and it won’t be entirely wrong to believe it!
Located amidst the woods in Groton, Connecticut, the site is filled with stone chambers, rock piles, Native American artifacts, Lithic relics, mysterious carvings, objects from the Colonial era, and a history that goes back in time to hundreds and thousands of years!
Researchers have been losing their sleep for years figuring who came after who, and the theories keep multiplying by the hour. One of the theories claims that the region was first established in the 6th Century by Celtic Christians who fled Ireland to avoid Vikings.
Like the dubious history of this place weren’t enough, strong electromagnetic signals at the site have led tourist guides to promote UFO stories related to the area and claim that the area may be an “energy vortex.”
While the origin and timeline of Gungywamp are highly debatable, the multiple stone chambers in the area are undeniably the most attracting feature at the park.
20. Coltsville, Hartford
Samuel Colt was a kind, thoughtful employer who patented the revolver in 1836. A bright blue, onion-shaped dome with a few golden stars and a horse sits over Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company, a factory building which was once used by Colt for manufacturing of the firearms.
Colt wanted to ensure that the employees working at the factory were well-cared for, and so, he created Coltsville – a utopian village which included workers’ housing, a church, a giant park where deer and peacocks roamed freely, a sculpture garden, and a social hall.
Coltsville, now known as the Coltsville Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and named a National Historic Landmark in 2008.
21. The Grave of XYZ, Deep River
On December 13th, 1899, a group of four robbers set out to mug the Deep River Savings Bank. Surprisingly, the bank had known of the planned robbery a year before it happened. So, when the gang struck the bank, a hired guard and Harry Tyler, a local vigilante good with guns, were ready for them. Tyler aimed a shot at one of the groupies and with one shot, he had ended the life of the lead man.
Nobody came forward to identify or claim the body, so, the town decided to bury the deceased in a donated land at the Fountain Hill Cemetery.
Soon after the funeral service, Tyler received an anonymous letter, apparently written by a woman, requesting that the gravesite is marked as XYZ. The cemetery obliged and put a small tombstone with the three letters etched on them.
It is believed that for 40 years, a mysterious woman dressed in black visited the burial site every December and left a small flower at the grave. She walked to the grave from the station and never said a word to anyone.
Spoiler alert: A look back at the newspapers revealed that the unknown man underneath XYZ is Frank Howard, a professional criminal with many names.
22. Demon Murder Trial Sites, Brookfield
With the reputation that precedes the state of New Orleans, one would believe that all significant paranormal stories of America would have taken place there, but, Connecticut seems to beat all possible contenders in the “paranormal” world.
In 1981, Arne Johnson, a 19-year-old boy, was charged with first-degree manslaughter after he stabbed his landlord, Alan Bono. It was reported that Johnson had been drinking and partying on the day. His lawyer, Martin Minella, entered a plea of not-guilty on the basis of demonic possession.
Minella, with the support of Ed and Lorraine Warren, presented to the court that Johnson’s fiancé’s 11-year-old brother, who was treated by the Warrens and several other priests for a demonic position, was present when the murder took place. The lawyer further argued that Johnson was present during the kid’s exorcism and was affected due to it.
The court rejected the plea and Johnson served a five-year sentence.
23. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New Haven
The globally recognized Yale University is the third oldest university in the United States of America. It is also home to the Beinecke Library which is most famous for its collection of rare books and manuscripts. In fact, it is the largest of its kind in the whole world.
Hundreds and thousands of prehistoric books line the glass walls on a 6-story, architecturally stunning book stack. The collection includes Yale’s compilation of prehistoric manuscripts, rare maps, books, historical pamphlets and tracts as well as several exclusive limited editions.
Constructed in 1962, Beinecke holds one of the only 48 Gutenberg Bible ever published. Though this masterpiece from 1454 is the oldest printed material at the library, the most outstanding piece at display here is the Voynich Manuscript.
Added to the library collection in 1969, the Voynich Manuscript, named so after the dealer who bought it in 1912, stands apart due to its inexplicable origin and the mysterious language that it’s written in. Code-breakers are still trying to figure it out!
24. Connecticut’s Severed Arm of Saint Edmund, Stonington
Once a scholar student at Oxford and the University of Paris, Edmund soon took to God’s calling when a child Christ started appearing to him every now and then. Following his visions and beliefs, Edmund became a clergyman and took a strong vow of chastity. He quickly jumped the ranks and became Archbishop of Canterbury.
St. Edmund lived his last days in France and after he passed away, his tomb became a site of religious significance.
It wasn’t until the Society of the Fathers and Brothers of Saint Edmund was founded by Reverend Jean Baptiste Muard in the 19th century that it was discovered that St. Edmund’s body was without an arm. The Edmundites of France were pushed out of their country in 1903 and they roamed around England before relocating to Connecticut in 2002, hence, bringing along the lost arm with them.
25. The Blue Lady of Yantic Cemetery, Norwich
Charles Osgood served as a Mayor of Norwich when the town was at its prosperous best. Yantic Cemetery in Norwich, Connecticut houses the remains of the former elite family of Osgood. Though the enormous and strikingly imposing obelisk is an impressive construction in itself, what steals your attention is the life-like statue of a woman, allegedly Virgin Mary, that sits in a crouching position atop the grave of Sarah Larned Osgood.
Appropriately called the “Blue Lady,” the bronze structure has been wearing a blue gown and sitting at the same place for 119 years, except for a brief period of time between 2010 and 2011 when the statue was stolen and dismantled by a few thieves.
The warmth in the eyes of the Blue Lady seems to make everybody believe that they are real. Apart from just one uncanny story where the statue holds a rosary, a bible, or a rode depending on when you visit, the statue is just an amazing piece of artwork to see and appreciate.
26. Zaffis Museum of the Paranormal, Stratford
Ed and Lorraine Warren may have been the most famous paranormal investigators that the world has seen, but, they are not the only ones in their family to have walked the path.
John Zaffis, the nephew of Ed and Lorraine, wasn’t always a believer, but, one day, he saw an apparition standing next to his bed and shaking his head. After discussing it with his mother, John discovered that his late grandfather shook his head whenever he was upset about something. A few days later, John’s grandmother died. And, he spent the next few years training under his uncle and aunt.
Zaffis Museum of the Paranormal displays an elaborate collection of paranormal objects that John had gathered during his three decades of working as an investigator all over the world. The items in the museum, as is claimed, are “cleansed” before they are put on display.
Though all items are equally intriguing, a small, handless Virgin Mary statue from the “Snedeker case” that John had worked on with Ed and Lorraine Warren grabs a lot of attention. For those of you who aren’t aware, the case was the inspiration behind “The Haunting in Connecticut.”
27. South Slope of Mount Frissell, Salisbury
Connecticut’s highest point is the Bear Mountain, or that’s what we are led to believe because of the official plaque installed at the location!
In 1885, a group of surveyors discovered Bear Mountain as the highest point in the state. They were so certain about their calculations that an official plaque and tower were erected on the site to commemorate the area’s significance and stature in the State.
However, later research around Mount Frissell revealed a site just two miles away from the marked region which was 57 feet higher than the former site.
While the official plaque rests at the Bear Mountain, the “actual” highest point in the state is manifested by “The Green Stake.”
28. Cushing Brain Collection, New Haven
What’s more nauseating than a jarred, tumor-ridden human brain? 400 jarred, tumor-ridden human brains!
Within the grounds of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut lies the Cushing Brain Collection, compiled in the 20th century by Harvey Cushing, a stupendous neurosurgeon of the time, who dedicated every minute of his professional and academic life observing the human brain.
A WWI veteran, a celebrated artist, and a Pulitzer winner, Dr. Cushing worked tirelessly on treating patients with brain tumors, sometimes even fatal ones.
Yale acquired the collection in 1939 after Cushing’s death, but, the compilation wasn’t put on display until 2010. In fact, about 150 or more jars of human brain still await their turn.
29. Abbey of Regina Laudis, Bethlehem
Mother Noella started making cheese after the Abbey of Regina Laudis bought their first cow in the 1970s. Named as the “Cheese Nun”, she led the sisters at the abbey to learn the skill and produce signature Bethlehem Cheese. Mother Noella and her efforts earned the Abbey its reputation as one of the oldest dairies that are licensed to create and sell raw milk products.
Mother Noella earned a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Connecticut and a Fulbright Scholarship that took her to France. She spent her time in the country studying cheese caves and learning how to use fungus to create various kinds of cheese.
The Abbey of Regina Laudis still creates their signature Bethlehem cheese but they also offer more varieties now like cheddar, mozzarella, and ricotta. You can buy their produce at the gift shop.