Stamford’s ‘Tales of Horror & Death’ Returns this Halloween

Vintage photograph of the Hoyt-Barnum House on Bedford St built in 1699. Chris Preovolos/Staff Photo

Vintage photograph of the Hoyt-Barnum House on Bedford Street, built in 1699. Chris Preovolos/Staff Photo

Stamford’s “Tales of Horror and Death” will return to town this October, giving locals an opportunity to hear the real-life ghost stories haunting the city.

The event has had a lot of success in recent years, and the Stamford Historical Society has announced it will offer three tours of Stamford’s oldest house on Friday, Oct. 25. Tours will take off at 7 p.m., 7:45 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., and cost $10 — or $8 for members of the historical society.

It’s more than just a haunted house tour. In a column published in the Advocate last Halloween, Angela Carella explains that the event at the Hoyt Barnum House (713 Bedford Street) includes hair-raising stories of Colonial life in the city and local superstition:

“Life back then was pretty horrible by 21st century standards,” (Chairwoman Pam) Coleman said.

“There were epidemics of diphtheria, influenza, typhoid fever, measles and other diseases that could kill thousands of people at a time. There were no antibiotics, and the cures were disgusting. Small pox was terrible. If you survived, it left holes in your face. You were horrible to look at. You might never have married because of it, unless you married another smallpox victim.”

People died after being run over by an ox pulling a cart or a horse pulling a carriage. Epilepsy was prevalent in many families, and people were known to die after falling into a puddle and drowning during a seizure, Coleman said. Toddlers fell into hearths and burned to death. So did a Stamford woman named Hannah Holly.

“She died in her own hearth,” Coleman said. “She was probably alone when it happened, and she tripped and fell and her clothes caught fire.”

Medicine offered little relief. Blood-letting was a common “cure,” except that at the time it was thought that the human body held twice the amount of blood it actually holds, so people bled to death during treatment.

“One healer from the mid-17th century prescribed that, for labor pain, a woman should take a lock of hair from a virgin half her age, cut it into small pieces then grind it into a powder, mix it with 12 ant eggs and consume it in milk from a red cow,” Coleman said. “Not a brown cow or a black cow. A red cow.” (You can read Carella’s whole column here)

Just as last year, the Historical Society, which is presenting the event thanks to sponsorship by Bosak Funeral Home and Cremation, is advising that the spookfest is “not appropriate for children under 12.”

Maggie Gordon