Mysterious Happenings In Pittsfield:
Stories Of Witches And Ghosts
Submitted By Larry Berkson
Halloween is upon us, a time of ghosts, goblins, gremlins,
wizards and witches. From Pittsfield’s very beginnings they have
been a subject of fear, curiosity, and interest. There have been
believers and doubters and certainly several mysterious
happenings in our community.
Writing about the early years of the Pittsfield’s history,
historian Henry L. Robinson claimed that the “people of this
town . . . believed in witches as firmly as they believed in
their creator.” He tells the story of “Aunt Patience” who was
troubled by witches getting control of her butter churn, so one
day she placed a hot file in it. She then set out to find the
witch. About a mile down the road she found a woman with a burnt
arm and she knew she had found her witch.
the other hand, there were nonbelievers. John Swett, the famous
California educator from Pittsfield, claimed that his
grandfather Thomas Rogers Swett, a town founder, “was a sturdy
disbeliever in witches, ghosts and devils. . . .
Before beginning two tales of witchcraft in Pittsfield, it
should be pointed out that a descendant of one of the alleged
witches hanged at the Salem Witch Trials lived in a long since
removed house below the Metcalf Place and across from the Barton
home on Dowboro Road. On July 19, 1692 Susannah (North) Martin
was convicted for committing acts of witchcraft and executed.
She had a son John who had a daughter Mary. Mary married John
Peaslee and had a son Jacob who married Huldah Brown. They had a
son Elijah. It was Elijah who settled on the Dowboro Road. He
was a farmer and tanner and served as a selectman in 1788 and
first alleged witch reported in Pittsfield lived on Tilton Hill.
Her name was Sarah Walton, whose sister married John Kirby, an
early school teacher on the hill. Nothing further has been
learned about her.
Little Red House on the Canal
Perhaps the most repeated early story of witchcraft in
Pittsfield began in 1835. There was a little red house that
stood on the island between the canal and the river by the old
grist mill on Joy Street. It was owned by James F. Joy, son of
pioneer Cotton Mill owner James Joy. James F. was born in
Pittsfield and became a renowned corporate railroad attorney in
Michigan, associating with the likes of President Abraham
Lincoln and Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton. He wrote an
article for the New Hampshire Patriot explaining the mysterious
happenings in the Red House, and claimed that “the occurrences
were witnessed by many people ‘whose veracity would not be
suspected.’” Mr. Joy claimed that many of the events were
witnessed by six or eight spectators and that “there can be no
doubt of the truth of these things.” They happened “in a family
of unblemished and unsuspected character.” Another writer noted
that hundreds of people came from miles around to see the sight,
some from as far away as 30 or 40 miles. Many, he claimed,
visited the house with a determination not to believe the
occurrences but “became convinced of the fact that meat, bread
and dishes did fly without any visible agency.”
Peltiah Priest, who was employed in the Joy Scythe Factory
nearby, his wife, a servant girl and another family lived in the
house. One evening Mrs. Priest arose from asleep and ventured to
a far part of the house. She heard footsteps following her and
someone whispering. But no one was there. The following day
began the saga of a mysterious door latch in a small room with
only one door. Over the latch was a button of wood attached to
the door by a screw through one end. By turning the button it
would hold the down the latch, locking the door. Many things
were deposited in the room so access was needed frequently.
However, it kept locking with no one inside and the room had to
be accessed through an outside window. At first it was thought
that the screw had come loose so it was tightened so that it
would be hard to turn with fingers. It did no good. Then a nail
was driven into the door at the side of it but it was repeatedly
either drawn out or broken off and the whole or part laid on a
shelf on the opposite side of the room, and the door fastened
next morning the chairs and tables were turned directly upside
down. Crockery fell from the cupboard, passed over the heads of
spectators and crashed, broken on the floor. The beds were made
but as soon as the mistress of the house turned her back they
were thoroughly disarranged drawn into a circle in the middle of
These events were repeated for several days with other strange
occurrences. One time Mrs. Priest laid out the silverware in
preparation of the evening meal and the minute she turned her
back they were scattered all over the floor. Plates on the table
fell onto the floor as well. In one instance, a pile of plates
with two large ones on the bottom, sat on the table. One of
those on the bottom slid out without a sound and fell on the
floor. It happened again.
pie crust had been prepared and when Mrs. Priest turned to
another part of the room to get the filling, it disappeared,
never to be found. She cut a loaf of bread and when she turned
away it mysteriously was thrown into the garbage can.
then there was the incident of failing light in the basement.
The servant girl was sent to the cellar to get some potatoes,
with a candle lighting the way. It went out and was relit
several times to no avail. It kept going out. The lady of the
house then tried it, and again, was not successful. She then lit
a glass lantern, but that flame went out also. Finally she got
the potatoes with no light.
the end an old white haired man talked with Mrs. Priest about
the happenings. As the conversation finished he arose and stated
that they would occur no more. He then went into the pond and
knelt down, seeming to pray and immediately disappeared. Some
people attempted to track him in the snow but no footprints
could be found.
years the place was known as the “Witch-House,” and was one of
the oldest in town. By 1901 it was unfit for habitation and was
finally torn down, the remains being fed into the boiler of the
Frank Ehrhardt Place
us now come to a more modern tale of strange happenings in
Pittsfield. In 1949 Frank Ehrhardt retired from a career in
police work in New York City and moved to the Daroska Place in
Upper City. The family lived quietly in the 125 year-old farm
house until January 3, 1971. Then, for three days weird things
began happening. Neither Mr. or Mrs. Ehrhardt believed in
ghosts, or were superstitious. And their neighbors, not the
Ehrhardts, were the ones to report the events to the newspapers.
way of backdrop, legend has it that 10 year-old Elizabeth Blake
drowned in a well nearby in 1843. A headstone was placed nearby,
apparently marking the gravesite. It was removed and placed in
the Ehrhardt’s barn. It was after this that the strange events
First, a pack of chewing gum flew across the room, opened, and
spread out on the floor.
Second, a bar of soap was found in two pieces, half turned up on
the piano and the other half crushed in the hallway.
Third, bobby pins appeared in a flower pot.
Fourth, nuts appeared on a bed upstairs along with medical
tablets. Then they began falling on the bedroom floor.
Fifth, small coins seemingly scattered themselves all over the
Sixth, the toaster, refrigerator and stove broke down.
Seventh, and most mysteriously, Mr. Ehrhardt’s shaving brush
kept traveling from the bathroom to the hall. Sitting in the
reading room, they heard a noise, investigated, and saw the
brush in the hall. Mrs. Ehrhardt picked it up and placed in on a
shelf in the bathroom. Later they heard a louder noise, and
again investigated. Once again, they found the brush in the hall
and returned it to its proper place. Then they heard a noise for
the third time, this time sounding like someone slammed the
brush to the floor. They put it back on the shelf and then it
Finally, when a friend of theirs, Catholic Priest Father Hector
Lamontagne, was visiting, they ate some chocolate candy in the
kitchen. They went into the living room and upon their return
the remaining chocolates were melted on the radiator. They then
went out on to the porch and found that the latch had been taken
off of the screen door. The screws and parts were neatly
arranged on the floor.
Father Lamontagne blessed the house but the strange happenings
continued. One explanation was that the Ehrhardts were
Protestants, not Catholics.
Ehrhardts also allowed a man who claimed he could capture the
“spirit” and move it away, do a rather strange thing. He placed
bowls of spaghetti around the house, under the drain spout and
in the attic. This did not work either. Finally, Miss Blake’s
headstone was placed back near the well and the poltergeist-like
events stopped as mysteriously as they had begun.