Sunday, October 30, 2016

Cavendish Ghost Stories: Charlie

The Cavendish Historical Society (CHS) has been collecting ghost stories since the summer. We’ve learned about Homer who has haunted the Proctorsville Fire Department for years, though he hasn’t been heard from recently. Supposedly there was a murder in this building, which was once a carriage barn.

Robert, so named because he looks like Robert Redford from an old western, still makes his presence known at the Golden Stage Inn along with a “ghost cat” and a strange mist that photographs quite well in one room. Lots of other eerie things-people who call your name and talk to you, but when you turn around no one is there. Clearly this Inn deserves its reputation as one of the most haunted places to stay in Vermont. 

Lena is actually written into the deed of the house she occupies-she has full access to the front bedroom and parlor-though she hasn’t been alive for many years. In short, we have a very long list of ghosts and spirits who seem to like calling Cavendish home.

Of all the stories, the one we want to share this Halloween features Charlie and his pennies. Maybe we liked this one so much because CHS plays a role in it.

In June 2014, CHS was contacted by a man looking for information about his ancestors and wanting to know if any possible relatives still lived in town. Though a descendant of the Dutton and Proctor union, he and his parents visited Proctorsville as a child to see aunts, uncles and cousins. Falling on hard times, the family ultimately moved to Florida, where both parents died in 1969.

A few questions about his Parker line confirmed that he was in fact part of the same family as CHS board member Gail Woods. As we stood in her kitchen, he tells Gail his mother's maiden name-Carmine June Cook. "I knew Carmine,” Gail replies. “ She had a son Greg Roche." To which he excitedly pointed to himself repeating, "that's me, that’s me!" 

As Greg asks about names from his childhood, Gail’s husband Woodie pieces together that the “Aunt Adie” has a granddaughter-Janet Pipkin- now living in the old family home on Depot Street.

An e-mail and phone call, resulted in Janet posting the following to Facebook, What a night... Almost 50 years ago, my mom's cousin [Carmine June Cook] disappeared and cut ties with the family. So my mom never knew what happened to her and her son.

One of my strongest childhood memories is my mom always looking up their names in phone books whenever we were staying at a motel in another city. "You never know, they might be in here," she would say.

Greg Roche and Ann, Janet's Mom
Today a man from California visited the Cavendish Historical Society to look up some family history, and thanks to Margo [Margo Caulfield is the coordinator of CHS] he not only got the history, he got the family! It is my mom's cousin's son. I got to meet him and we called my mom together.
Mom was so overjoyed to hear from him. She has wondered for so long how he was. And on Sunday, she will find out when she gets to see him again after all this time. Just amazing.

So now for the ghostly part, which is provided by Janet Pipkin

While driving in snow on Route 131, Charlie Cook (1882-1923) had an accident. He was taken to his home at 145 Depot Street in Proctorsville but, unfortunately, due to massive internal injuries, he died several days later surrounded by his wife and young daughter.

Janet took residence in the house in 1991, as she was the granddaughter of Adelaide Cook Brittain, Charlie’s sister. The house has always been in the family, primarily the residence of another sister, Grace Cook, who died in the 1980s.

Soon after moving in, Janet noticed pennies around the house. She thought nothing of it; loose change did not seem like a big deal, until things became weirder. Having vacuumed one of the bedrooms, Janet left the room to put the vacuum away. Returning to the freshly vacuumed room she discovered pennies right in the middle of the rug. While cleaning a window, a penny fell from above, landing on the floor by her feet. Not being a real believer of spirits, it struck her as odd and curious, but defying any logical explanation.

While driving to Manchester, she remembered in a panic that she had put a potato in the oven to bake over an hour ago. Fearing fire, she turned around and went home. By now it had been two hours since she put the potato in the oven. Rushing into the kitchen, she found the stove turned off and a perfectly cooked potato. This was illogical. She had only put it in 20 minutes before she left. If she had shut off the oven, how could it possibly have been fully cooked? And if she didn’t, why was the oven shut off and the potato not burnt?

The final incident that pushed Janet from non-believer to believer was breaking glass. Having just gone to bed, she heard the distinctive sound of breaking glass. Figuring it was one of the cats breaking something, she ran downstairs and saw her roommate also rapidly descending the stairs. Searching the house from top to bottom, neither saw any signs of broken glass.

Janet called her mother, Ann (Adelaide’s daughter, Charlie’s niece) and told her what happened. Ann wasn’t surprised. Soon after Grace had died Ann had come to the Depot Street house to do some packing and cleaning. It was the first night when she heard the sound of breaking glass. Like Janet, she searched and found no explanation of the noise.

In discussing the situation with her Mom, Janet wondered it if could possible be a ghost. Ann related the story of Charlie’s death. He died in the front bedroom of the house, and sadly, his wife and young daughter were never the same again. The daughter ended up living her own tragic life wrapped up in drug and alcohol abuse and had disappeared in the 1960s.

Janet became use to the pennies showing up everywhere. She even spoke to Charlie trying to explain that a penny doesn’t have a lot of value and quarters would be more appreciated, but no luck. “Off” events or incidents just were attributed to “that Charlie.” A visitor to the house, upon leaving, touched Janet softly on the arm saying, “I don’t mean to alarm you but I can feel spirits and I have to tell you that you have a haunting that seems to originate in your front bedroom.” Janet replied, “Oh, that’s just Charlie!”

After twenty years of living in the house, Janet met her long lost cousin Greg, as related above. Not only did this bring closure to the many years of searching by Janet’s Mom, but there was another member of the family that needed “closure.” Since Greg was Charlie’s grandson- Greg mother Carmine, was the daughter of Charlie- he agreed to go to Janet’s house and have a chat.

Greg told Janet (as well as Charlie) about his life’s successes as well as what had happened to his mother. He talked about his wife and children and how content he was with his life in California as a leather artist.

Since then, Janet doesn’t see many pennies anymore. She runs across one every now and then and wonders it is still Charlie. There seem to be no more noises or strange incidents. Janet wants to believe that Charlie finally managed to get the news he needed to be at peace. But she still keeps listening for that possible sound of broken glass.

Check out CHS’s 2015 Halloween Story The Cavendish Witch

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