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A Curious Trial

By Thomas D’Agostino

In typical New England fashion, the story you are about to read seems beyond that of plain fact, but such events are common in the strange and wonderful place we call New England. This account was reported in the Connecticut Courant, August 31, 1813. New England is famous for such incredible news and the most astonishing part is that it actually happened. The court heard the case of Simers vs. Woolbridge and a jury was selected to decide the case.

The plaintiff, a certain landlord named Mr. Simers, claimed a quarter amount of rent for a house on Cherry Street was due by Mr. Woolbridge for the first of the month equaling about forty-two dollars. Mr. Woolbridge, the tenant, refused to pay the amount based on his defense that the house was haunted by several unseen inhabitants and therefore, "uninhabitable by man." The defense testified he took possession of the home on May 1, 1813, unaware that it was haunted.

Shortly after moving in, unexplainable incidences began to transpire. A candle on the parlor fireplace mantle blew out with no human assistance or other rational explanation. The defendant attempted to relight the candle but again, it snuffed itself out. When the defendant made a third attempt to light the candle, it not only blew out, but the lighter's arm was seized by an invisible hand and turned completely around.

 This incident was overshadowed by the family's alleged discovery of "dead men's bones" in closets and other places about the house. The family soon learned that the house had a reputation of being haunted long before they took up residence, and that many supernatural events had previously transpired.

Woolbridge and his family deserted the house because he feared for their lives, and his family, "not fond of having co-tenants of such a description, could not live in it in peace and without fear." The plaintiff was fully aware of the home's reputation for being haunted. Many in the court may have deduced this by simple virtue of it being constantly void of human tenants.

Other witnesses came forward testifying that while the home was unoccupied, they observed a blue flame emanating from the same parlor mantle, yet the light of the flame did not extend any illumination about the room. This event created a spectacle within the neighborhood, giving rise to the house being haunted. The evidence was overwhelming in favor of the defendant as many who have either passed the house or lived within the vicinity of the structure claimed they had experienced something in regard to the ghosts still residing in the otherwise empty home.

That being recorded, the judge ordered the jury to their chamber to decide the case. The jury, after a short deliberation, returned with a verdict of ten dollars to be paid to the plaintiff as fair compensation for the time the defendant and his family occupied the house before they were "routed" by the unseen residents in the home.

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