MONROE, CT — When it comes to scary stories and the occult, not many New England towns’ local legends overshadow Monroe, home to famous ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren, whose books were made into popular horror movies like “The Conjuring.”
Monroe’s local legends include the melon heads, the White Lady Ghost, who is most frequently associated with Union Cemetery in Easton, the possessed Annabelle doll, and the tale of Hannah Cranna “the witch.”
Melon heads, who resemble small humanoids with oversized heads, are believed to live in the woods along Velvet Street, a.k.a. Dracula Drive, heading toward Trumbull.
Some say the cannibals, who feed on small animals, stray cats and the flesh of teenagers, escaped from Fairfield Hills Hospital, a former mental institution in Newtown, according to the New England Historical Society.
“Melon head stories surfaced in Connecticut after World War II, a time when people moved away from cities into the suburbs,” the New England Historical Society article says. “They probably reflect the New York exurbanite’s prejudice and fear of isolated rural folk.”
One theory claims melon heads came from a family accused of witchcraft and banished to the wilderness, where inbreeding through the centuries made them mutate into melon heads.
The melon heads legend goes beyond Connecticut and is shared by several towns here. As the story goes they live on the outskirts of towns on heavily wooded country roads, known as melon head roads.
A New England Folklore article entitled, “Melonheads Part I: A Trip Down Dracula Drive” told the story about a group of Notre Dame High School girls, who drove along Velvet Street in Trumbull in a blue Ford Granada in search of melon heads on a dark night in the 1980s.
The girls parked the car and got out. “The woods were very still and very, very dark. Other than the headlights there was no illumination — no street lights, no houses nestled among the trees. The girls were alone in the night-time woods,” the story says.
After walking a couple hundred feet, behind them, the girls heard the car door open and slam shut. The engine started and the car barreled down the road towards them as the girls jumped into the woods to avoid being hit.
“The Granada’s thieves were illuminated by the interior light,” the New England Folklore article says. “They were the size of children with disproportionately large heads and were clad in dirty rags. Their eyes glowed with orange light, and they cackled wildly as they drove past the girls. The tail lights disappeared into the distance.”
“Megan, Deb and their friends had found what they were looking for. They had found the Melonheads.”
‘Never challenge evil’
The Warrens had stored relics from hauntings in the basement of their Monroe home — including a possessed Raggedy Ann doll, according to a story I wrote as editor of Monroe Patch 10 years ago.
According to the story, a nurse from Hartford received a Raggedy Ann doll from her mother. When the doll was left on the bed with its arms at its sides and legs straight out, the nurse and her roommate (another nurse) would come home and see the arms and legs crossed. Other days it would be in different rooms, sitting in a chair, kneeling or in a variety of other positions.
The nurses held a séance and a medium told them the spirit of Annabelle Higgins, a girl who died in a car accident outside their apartment, wanted to inhabit the doll and live with them.
They allowed it to and more things started happening. One day, Lou, a friend, had fallen into a deep sleep and dreamed that the doll strangled him. Another time, he and Angie (one of the nurses) heard loud noises in her roommate Donna’s room.
After the noise stopped, Lou went in to investigate. The doll had been tossed to the corner of the room, and as he approached it, he felt a presence behind him. When he turned around there was no one there. But he yelled, doubled over and grabbed his chest, according to his account. Blood came from the front of his shirt and he had three scratches in a claw mark on his chest.
The doll is now kept in a glass case with the sign: “Warning, Positively Do Not Open.”
During a presentation at Shelton High School in 2011, Lorraine Warren told the story of a Monroe police officer, who turned white as a sheet and was out of breath after being left alone with the doll. She said he abruptly resigned and was never heard from again.
Her son-in-law Tony Spera said a young couple taunted the doll and that the guy kept challenging it to scratch him.
Three months later he died when his motorcycle struck a tree and his girlfriend was badly injured. Prior to the accident, the woman said they were laughing about the doll, according to Warren.
“You should never challenge evil,” Spera warned.
The White Lady Ghost
During the presentation at Shelton High School, Spera and Warren showed a series of photos in which they said a large head of a woman was forming, adding their belief it was the White Lady Ghost, who has reportedly been seen at Union Cemetery on Route 59 in Easton.
People are discouraged from visiting the cemetery at night, because Easton police officers have slapped numerous trespassers with hefty fines over the years in reaction to complaints.
According to an article I wrote in The Easton Courier in 1998:
Some people claim to have seen the White Lady at Union Cemetery, and others said they saw the ghost at Stepney Cemetery in Monroe.
Rod Vecsey spoke of his experience during a television show called “From Beyond.”
Vecsey said he drove passed Union Cemetery after midnight on his way home from work.
He was startled to see a man seated next to him in his peripheral vision.
Before Vecsey could think about it, he had to slam on the brakes because a woman in a bluish white gown was in the middle of the road.
“As soon as I hit the brake pedal I felt a slight wind blow past me,” Vecsey said. “The road turned a cranberry red, then disappeared.”
Vecsey said he felt a pushing on his chest. Shaken up, he was in tears as he got home and woke his wife up at 1 a.m.
Another reported sighting of the White Lady occurred a few years ago in Monroe.
Two transformers caught on fire in front of Stepney Cemetery off Route 25. Glen Pennel, a fireman, raced to the scene in his pick-up truck. A police officer was with him.
As Pennel arrived at the cemetery, he was horrified to see a woman wearing a white gown dart in front of his truck.
“I slammed on the brakes,” Pennel said. “I hit her. The impact was like I hit a brick wall.”
The woman rolled up onto the hood of the truck and fell to the ground. A woman driving behind Pennel shouted at him, “how could you hit that woman? Didn’t you see her?”
Pennel’s grief gave way to fear when he looked around his truck and found nothing there. Yet, the front of his truck was dented in.
“It was not a deer or a cow,” Pennel said. “It was a woman. A solid object.”
The tale of Hannah Cranna
Edward Nichols Coffey tells the story of Hannah Cranna “the witch” in his book, “A Glimpse of Old Monroe,” which can be found at Edith Wheeler Memorial Library. All of the information below was taken from this book.
“The uncanny stories told about this poor creature are undoubtedly more the product of vivid imaginations than fact and are, thus, Monroe’s contribution to American folklore,” Coffey wrote.
He said Hannah Cranna’s “real name may have been Hannah Hovey and that Cranna was a nickname given in jest. She reportedly lived at the summit of Cragley Hill in the Bug Hill – Cutler’s Farm area of town.”
Coffey goes on:
A victim of charity, she was perhaps more shrewd than most in her era and seldom lacked for firewood and food. She knew that area folk were partial to superstitions and by threatening them with dire misfortunes she tricked her neighbors into accommodating her. As her infamy grew many catered to her since few wished to draw her displeasure and wrath.
A more courageous element in the community sought to bring her to trial for practicing “witchery” and the occult. She was supposedly arraigned but continued to live out her days, still held in awe by the populace.
Hannah surveyed her domain from a rock seat still found on the edge of Cutler’s Farm Road. Here His Satanic Majesty allegedly appeared and left the mark of his cloven hoof.
Among the legendary tales were that Hannah Cranna’s house was guarded by a legion of snakes of various kinds and sizes and that she protected “her bird friends” in magic circles, causing even hunters with the best aim to always miss their target.
When a young man fished for trout in her stream without permission, upon catching his first fish, Hannah spotted him and cried, “curses upon you and your fishing,” according to Coffey’s book.
Despite fishing many times thereafter, the man never caught a fish again.
One morning, a housewife baking pumpkin pies took a batch out of the oven when Hannah asked for one. She gave her a smaller one and Hannah said, “Why don’t you give me one of the larger ones, you selfish woman?”
Hannah cursed the woman and her pie-making and the housewife never had luck with her pies again.
During a drought, a farmer asked Hannah to use her “mysterious power” to bring rain to the countryside. She said if he had faith in her, his wish would be granted by sundown the next day. The rains came and villagers looked upon Hannah as a deity.
Late one afternoon, two men with an ox-load of hay saw the witch in her garden and asked her to grant them some of her “boasted power.” Knowing it was said in jest, Hannah said, “before you pass yonder tree, your wish will be granted.”
The story goes on:
Laughing, they coaxed the oxen and, although the cart was on a down grade, no amount of tugging was able to move it. The nuts loosened on the cart, the wheels came off, and the oxen ran away, leaving the men looking on in despair. The men headed for home and it was days before the oxen were found.
Hannah cried when her huge Shanghai rooster, Old Boreas, died. The rooster was known around the village for crowing at exactly midnight, enabling people to set their clocks to it.
Hannah herself died three weeks later, during a heavy snow in January. A passing neighbor heard a low wail from her house and waded to her door, where she invited him in.
“The spirits have called and it won’t be but a short time before I will be in the great beyond,” she told him. “I have a wish to make that must be carried out. I am not to be buried until after sundown and there must be ample bearers to carry my coffin from the house to the grave.”
No other means of transporting her body were acceptable. Her final warning was, “obey my wishes if you would avoid trouble and vexation.”
She died the next day and villagers placed her coffin on a sled, because of the long walk through the snow to reach the cemetery that afternoon.
Traveling only a short distance, those involved were given quite a jolt. The coffin slid off the cart and ended up half way down the hill toward the house.
Next they secured it with chains and several of the more daring men sat atop. As they descended the final hill the coffin began to shake, dumping those astride it.
This happening so frightened the townsfolk who gathered that they agreed to follow Hannah’s final request. So it came to be that her body, in the old tradition, was carried on the menfolk’s shoulders to the gravesite just over the town line into Trumbull. They arrived at sundown and disposed of their duties as quickly as possible.
Returning home from this eerie funeral, it was found that her little house on Cragley Hill was ablaze. No one dared to go near enough to extinguish the fire and it smoldered for weeks thereafter. Moans and strange occurrences reportedly still took place in her old haunts.
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