Because the United States is such a historically rich and expansive land, one is never hard-pressed to find a cemetery with a spooky reputation or a colorful long-time legend.
Burlington, Connecticut is one such place. Formerly called “West Woods” or “West Britain”, this is where the “Green Lady” rules the roost.
But along with the spine-chilling buzz of this uncanny folk tale comes the stark reality of a nationwide problem that sorrowfully plagues these forms of haunted backdrops, vandalism.
Nestled in the backwoods on a long-stretching dirt road called Upson Road, is an 18th century boneyard known as the Seventh Day Baptist Cemetery. About a half acre in size, the vintage graveyard is completely encased, minus a small entrance, by an old New England fieldstone wall that runs its perimeter.
The site became the official burial ground for the Seventh Day Baptist members beginning in 1796. The first person to be placed there was John Davis in 1780 and the last was Charlotte Spencer on October 14, 1881.
The Seventh Day Baptists were a religious group that saw 19 families move from Rhode Island into the area in the late 1700s. Strange mishaps and tragic accidental deaths mysteriously plagued the group from 1810 to 1820.
Whether it was the bad luck, religious reasons or the evil doings of religious intolerant locals, the group soon uprooted and moved their sect to Brookfield, New York.
Throughout the years, many have claimed to have glimpsed the ghostly apparition of a beautiful woman, in and around the cemetery.
Typical reports describe her as a smiling female surrounded by a green mist but with a well defined body and facial features. Considered benign and non-threatening, she appears and disappears without rhyme or reason.
Who this specter is and why she haunts the grounds still remains a head-scratcher today, although some people think they have the answer.
Elisabeth Palmiter, considered the Green Lady by many, was a Seventh Day Baptist member who lived near the cemetery. Her untimely demise came at the young age of 30 on April 12, 1800. Her death is fraught with speculation leading to varying accounts of her legend.
The heart of the story centers around a freakish snowstorm that hit the town unexpectedly, in April of 1800. Her husband, Benjamin Palmiter, earlier had gone to town for food and supplies. Caught in the now raging blizzard, he decided to remain in town to wait it out.
Elisabeth, worried that her lover had not returned by now, decided to venture out into the whiteout in search of him. She soon became disoriented and lost in the snow-bitten woods and either drowned in a nearby swamp or froze to death.
The divergence in the tragic account is mostly the result of Benjamin’s involvement.
Some say Benjamin returned home to find Elisabeth missing. He performed an extensive search of the area until ultimately finding her frozen, or drowned, dead body wearing a green dress.
Others believe he was somehow involved.
One version has him happening upon her as she was drowning but refusing to assist her. He just watched with indifference as his crying wife sank beneath the cold murky swamp waters.
Another version has him altogether murdering her and tossing her body into the snowy water grave, fabricating the story to conceal his crime.
But even the legend itself has been called into question.
Town historian, Len Alderman, believes it is just a ghost story. He thinks it may have been birthed by a child attendee or a camp counselor at the old New Britain Fresh Air Camp that was located next to the cemetery on Upson road.
Alderman was once quoted as saying, “I consider myself to be an open-minded person when it comes to ghosts, but I think the legend of the Green Lady is just a ghost story, nothing more.”
Investigated by the infamous Warrens, paranormal groups and curious folk alike, the Green Lady legend is still alive and well today, but the cemetery is not.
Today, headstones are almost nonexistent with just some nubs poking up out of the ground. Extreme vandalism dating back to the 1970s has disgustingly desecrated the site by razing it into a green-grass stonewall surrounded enclosure.
The town cleaned up the cemetery sometime later in the 70s, removing the original grave stones that were vandalized. They also replaced the headstone of Elisabeth Palmiter with a 200 pound replica of the original. With her replacement headstone then stolen in July of 2010, the town had had enough.
The area is now private property, fenced off and littered with plenty of “No Trespassing” signs. Police routinely patrol the area and being caught there without permission is a “go directly to jail, don’t pass go, do not collect $200” card.
Whether the legend is true or not matters least. Its haunted fabric is intricately woven into the history of Burlington, Connecticut and its proud residents who live there. Its timeless ghostly lore should be celebrated and enjoyed by all, while at the same time, the site and its residents respected.
Many feel that today’s mainstream exposure of ghost hunting, in television, radio and books, has led to the destruction of these paranormal treasures, as far more people than ever before are drawn to them.
But the professional ghost hunter, a relative term, is not part of the problem, but part of the solution.
They can help caretakers and authorities by entering sites legally, respecting the area and its inhabitants, leaving the site no worse off than how they found it, donating to help restore or maintain them and reporting any damage or suspicious activity to the police.
Las Vegas Paranormal Authority team member, Carrie Luna, also believes paranormal investigators can get the word out to the public.
“They can make others aware of a site’s historical value through research that can be passed on to the public. Hopefully, that will create an atmosphere of respect for the site,” said Luna.
What matters the most is that people respect and protect our nations fragile historical locations. This way others may have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the vibrant supernatural web of our nation’s incredible preternatural legends, such as the Legend of the Green Lady in Burlington, Connecticut.