The Hell Hollow Road Legend

What: Hell Hollow Road, a twisty track through the darkling woods of Pachaug State Forest in Voluntown, Connecticut.

Why you should know it: Word has it, it's haunted. This is where, more than 300 years ago, British soldiers killed a little Pequot girl. To this day, hikers and hunters say you can hear her screams.

“Screaming Maud”: She is known by this name (or Maude), though no one can say how an Indian girl would come by such a moniker. But then, as with so many local legends, what really happened here is lost in the mists of time.

Another Maude? And, in fact, there is another story of another Maude, a witch, who was hanged and buried here.

Investigations: Several teams of ghost hunters have visited this place and what is believed to be the site of Maud's grave. Some have filed reports of their findings online. Check out the Web sites of Creepy Connecticut (“Skeptically Believe!!!” drazor1.tripod.com/id58.html) or PIG-NE, the Paranormal Investigations Group of New England (www.pig-ne.com/031107.html).

Being watched: Mike of Rhode Island, who prefers his last name not be printed, led a team there in the dark of night. “We didn't hear any screams,” he says, but he and a friend felt “an ominous presence” as they walked through the woods in the dark. It was, Mike says, as if someone were following and glaring at them.

Night lights: Mike's team also took a lot of pictures of strange orange lights in the branches of the pitch-black forest. He can offer no explanation for these.

The “goosebump factor”: Mike and his friends assigned the place a goosebump factor of 65, which places it somewhat above “moderate goosebumps on the arms” but slightly below “goosebumps all over the body.” A goosebump factor of 100 would be “full-blown spine-tingling dread.”

EVPs: When members of PIG-NE visited Maud's grave, they reported mysterious drops in temperature (down to minus 4 degrees) and several “EVPs” (Electronic Voice Phenomena) in which the dead whispered into their tape recorders, saying such things as “Wait a minute” and “It's OK, Mommy.” Also, several members reported feelings of ineffable sadness and shortness of breath.

Some debunking: Another visit to Maud's grave, by a group called GHOST (for Grim Hauntings Or Skeptic's Truth) determined that Maud's tombstone — a shattered thing on which the date 1647 (or 1654) is barely legible — was made of modern poured concrete. (Goosebump factor: 0.)

Other apparitions: Several visitors to this place have reported seeing specters of “a lady,” “a hooded figure” and a Civil War soldier. Also, a small yellow ball that looked like a flame. Some have said that if you stand on Maud's grave and say her name, your car will break down.

Off the record: This reporter, being a weenie, visited Hell Hollow Road in broad daylight and so can report no screams. He did leave his digital tape recorder on to capture voices from the grave, and even invited Maud to comment, but the recorder captured only the immense silence of the woods — not one bird song — and his footsteps crunching through the snow. Which raises the question: Are ghosts nocturnal? Do they sleep?

Where's Maud? Maud may haunt this place, but to find her grave, you have to follow Hell Hollow Road into Sterling and cross Route 49 onto Cedar Swamp Road. Just down on the right is a small cemetery, and just beyond that, a path into the woods. Follow this path. Shortly after you cross a stream, you will see a massive, gnarled dead tree on your right (very spooky) and, on your left, the stone foundations of a small shed. Maud's grave is at the center of this. Treat her with respect.


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