By Thomas D’Agostino
Not too long ago sat in a lonely field, a decrepit barn: roof timbers sagging with age and neglect, the grass growing tall around its rotting frame, and on many occasions, the ethereal visage of four men hanging from its center beam.
The story starts in the 1820s when four men, Terrence Blunt, Andrew Marr, Calvin Longstreet and Frank “Fat Frank” Ballard all met in the small Vermont town of Waterford. Each was in his own right a dirty scoundrel. Blunt and Ballard were thieves, Marr was not much better, mostly a swindler, but Longstreet was driven by the desire to kill beautiful woman by strangling them with a silk scarf.
All four made their way across the country, leaving their form of destruction in their wake. It was the St. Johnsbury fair, a national attraction of the times, that attracted the group. Ballard met Marr while attending the event, for no good reason obviously. They struck up a friendship and by the winter the two had pulled off a number of robberies in the area of the wealthy farming region. The pair posed as government surveyors so no one paid particular notice of the two as many strangers traveled and sojourned in the region while en route to Canada or south of Vermont.
In the spring, Longstreet headed for Vermont where he was sure he would find some buxom beauty to unleash his wrath upon. On the way, he met Blunt who was headed toward the fair as well. The festivities drew many diverse personalities and it was assured there were always con games and gambling, a perfect match for all four.
The people of Vermont never forgot the lethal weeks that followed the opening of the fair as a rash of brutal crimes seized the region, sending people into a fearful frenzy. Windows were shuttered and doors bolted after dark. No stranger was given quarter as was the usual Vermont way. The robberies and attacks on the citizens of the close-knit towns were frequent and daring. Three women were found brutally raped and murdered, each one with a silk scarf tied around their neck. Among the three was young Tessie Bowden.
Fate begin to weave its own web of justice when one stormy night, the four men showed up at the Uriah Washburn farm in Waterford. Uriah was an extremely pious man, known to hold sermons in the cupola of his old barn. His son, Dabby dabbled into herbal medicines, brewing concoctions for the locals and his own family.
The men asked if they could stable the horses and they themselves be furnished a dry bed and food for the night. Uriah was about to turn them away when one of them pulled a small sack of coins from his coat. Uriah agreed to stable the horses and put them up in the barn but there was no food to be had.
Once settled, Dabby asked if they would like some root beer. The men were used to stronger drink but anything was better than nothing. Dabby brought them blankets and four mugs of the refreshing drink. They wrapped themselves in the blankets and quaffed
the homemade drink.
The storm grew more and more intense as the wind howled through the cracks in the barn. The rain came down in sheets, making it impossible to see past the windows of the cupola. The men fell into a deep sleep but it was not long before the strange brew began to take its toll upon the four rogues. Fat Frank gave a few screeches before his heart gave out. Blunt began grasping for breath before “vomiting his life away.”
Marr, in anguish lay where he slept unable to rise. There he passed groaning and clutching his abdomen. Longstreet, who had drank only half his lot of the poison staggered toward Dabby and in a painful whimper asked, “Why did you poison us?”
Dabby answered with cool character, “Because I know who you are. I saw what you done. You killed Tessie Bowden. She was always kind to me and I loved her a lot. None of you are any good. God will reward me for this.”
Dabby then went to work stringing up the four men from the crossbeam of the barn. When the storm subsided, Uriah came to the barn and saw the four scoundrels hanging from the beam. There was a reward for the perpetrators of the crime spree that had seized the region. The authorities were more than happy to shell out the cash to the Washburns for catching the four criminals.
The old farmhouse has long fallen but the barn stood well into this century. The high grass of the abandoned farm could not cover the timbers that became exposed with years of neglect. On moonlit nights one could look into the high doors of the barn and see the shadowed figures of the four men hanging from the center beam, swinging to and fro in the pale moonlight.
Tom D’Agostino is a paranormal investigator and author of Haunted Vermont, Haunted Massachusetts, and many other books exploring paranormal activity in New England. He lives in Connecticut.