Spooky Stroll Chills Participants
with Local Legends
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield Citizen News)
Fairfield, CT – The falling temperatures weren’t the only thing giving Spooky Stroll participants the chills as they were led from site to site and regaled with mysterious local tales.
Guided by docent Jill Littig, the annual walk set off early Friday evening from Fairfield Museum & History Center, where ghoulish treats like candy lady fingers and eyeballs had been placed in bowls on a candlelit table.
Two dozen children and their parents, many dressed in costumes, participated in the tour. Annmarie Fetcho and her 10-year-old daughter Raeann, of Fairfield, were among them. “When Raeann came home from school, she said she wanted a Halloween weekend,” Fetcho said. “We looked online and found the Stroll. It sounded cool.”
The first stop was the Town Hall Green, established in 1639 amid the four original square blocks of Fairfield. “People came here to practice, see friends and gossip,” said Littig, who then led them to adjacent St. Paul’s Church. As she explained that there had been an old jail on the site until 1850, when it burned down, there was a “klunk klunk” sound on the underside of a pair of steel Bilko doors. Emerging from below was a neglected prisoner, played by Fairfielder Christine Sander, who joked about being fatigued from being down there for the past 200 years.
Over at the Sun Tavern, Fairfield Museum’s Walt Matis greeted strollers in the guise of Sam Penfield and related the story of Penfield Reef Lighthouse keeper Fred Jordan, who perished in the choppy waters near the light in December 1916, while rowing ashore to see his family. Jordan’s successor was said to have seen Jordan’s ghost in the lighthouse just a few days later, and reported finding a logbook opened to an entry that described Jordan’s passing. While Matis told the tale, lights flickered and screams were heard from within the Tavern behind him.
From there, the group walked to the lip of a large depression in the ground that was once Edward’s Pond. In the late 1600s, women suspected of being witches were tested here. The suspect’s hands and feet were tied and they were tossed into the water. If they sank, they were pure and not a witch. If they floated, they were impure and a witch. Of course, the catch with that logic was that a non-witch would likely drown while proving their innocence, said Littig.
Along Beach Road, the tour stopped across from the Isaac Tucker House, which, during the Revolutionary War, was occupied by patriot Jonathan Maltbie. When British troops came ashore to burn the town, they tossed a lighted torch into the home. Mysteriously, it went out. They tried a second time and, getting the same result, decided the house was haunted. In reality, a servant girl had been hiding in the structure and had put the torches out. The house became one of the only ones to survive the destructive fires.
While the group stood there, Littig produced a long cardboard makeshift coffin and asked everyone gathered to whisper a bad thought into it. When they were done, Littig exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, this is so heavy,” and, with that, carried it further south and into the Old Burying Ground, established by the Daughters of the American Revolution. There, Littig handed it to Walt Matis, who had transformed into a black-shrouded resident gravedigger.
Matis set the box aside, to be “buried” later, and, with the aid of a flashlight, read a spooky tale from a large weathered book. The reading put a cap on the tour, leaving little ghosts and goblins to ponder all that they had seen and heard.