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New Haven legend draws tourists to local cemetery

Published: Oct. 30, 2020 at 8:04 AM EDT
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NEW HAVEN, Vt. (WCAX) - New England cemeteries can come with some pretty interesting stories and legends, but one right in New Haven has a grave unlike any others.

“I’d go by as fast as I could peddle because I was scared to death of the cemetery," said Thomas Boise, a neighbor.

Growing up down the road from Evergreen Cemetery meant bike rides home from Boy Scouts at dusk and raised the hair on the back of Boise’s neck. He grew up in New Haven and never expected to settle so close. Now, he’s a fence away. “I’ve lived right next door there since 1972," he said.

Boise says he has since gotten over his fear of the old graveyard and even has family buried there. But there is one plot that has always piqued his interest. “I’ve noticed a lot of people gravitate to this because it’s probably the most intriguing thing in the cemetery," said Boise.

The plot belongs to Timothy Clark Smith, a doctor born in Monkton, Vermont, in 1821 and a graduate of Middlebury College. He went on to live in Odessa, Russia, as well as Vermont. But as death crept closer, he became increasingly nervous about being buried alive, so naturally, he created himself an escape route. “In his will, to have this constructed, so that he could have an escape," said Boise.

According to Boise, the legend goes he was buried with a hammer, as well as a bell to alert those above the ground. The site is also outfitted with covered stairs and the point of interest -- a window -- something Boise remembers captivating him from the beginning. “At 12-years-old, me and a couple of other boys stopped at high noon one day to see if we could look down in there," said Boise.

The site attracts visitors from all over Vermont and beyond, including some Boise met from Michigan. All are hoping they’ll see what Boise says he is convinced he caught a glimpse of all those years ago. “And we got scared and we thought, we thought we saw him," said Boise.

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