“Real Connecticut Ghost Stories”? 3 books to read this summer about Connecticut music, legendary women and ghosts – Hartford Courant

Connecticut history can be arranged in different ways. One could construct a workable history of Connecticut based solely on famous buildings (from the Old State House to the PEZ Visitor Center), roads (from Post Road to Interstate 95), parks (from Putnam Memorial Park to Bushnell Park ) or films (from “Amistad” to “The Conjuring 3”).

Three recently released books form dynamic images of Connecticut’s past, shaped mostly around places that can still be visited. They take new approaches to specific facets of the multifaceted state and provide a vivid portrait of how the state has grown and changed – as long as you accept that the term “living” can encompass the dead and the undead.

Here are three recent Connecticut-focused books for summer reading.

By Patricia W. Harris (Globe Pequot Press, 2022)

Connecticut features prominently in this collection of profiles of famous New England women. With nine entries, we are second only to Massachusetts among the six states.

The best feature of the book is that besides useful biographical essays on each woman, it is a travel guide, describing the places where women’s achievements are celebrated. The entry on Mabel Osgood Wright spotlights the ever-thriving Birdcraft Museum and Sanctuary she founded in Fairfield in 1914. Yale-trained sculptor Maya Lin is known for “The Women’s Table” outside the the university’s Sterling Library, a tribute to the legacy of women. enrolled at Yale between 1873 and 1993. Katharine Hepburn is represented by the arts center named after her in Old Saybrook, and Prudence Crandall and her school, Florence Griswold and her museum (listed under her original purpose, “Art Colony Boardinghouse”) and “Harriet Beecher’s Stowe’s Final Home” is naturally part of the selection.

The book also sparks interest in lesser-known historic homes such as Theodate Pope Riddle’s family home in Farmington and Caroline Ferriday’s country home in Bethlehem. Perhaps the most illuminating entry might be the one devoted to Kathleen Moore, who served as a lightkeeper at Black Rock Harbor in Bridgeport for over 60 years.

“Perhaps he is addressing government bureaucracy,” Harris writes, “but Kathleen Moore had to wait until her father died in 1871 to be officially recognized as chief lighthouse keeper”—performing duties that she began performing as a child around 1817. .

By Tony Renzoni (The History Press, 2022)

For Connecticut music fans, this book, which should be read in tandem with Renzoni’s earlier effort “Connecticut Rock ‘n’ Roll – A History”, carves out a pretty narrow slice of the past. Its primary audience is baby boomers who came of age before the state’s drinking age had yet risen from 18 to 21, when nightclubs were bigger, than bands rock were more popular and that local radio stations could turn a hometown record into a regional hit.

“Connecticut Music Sites” refers to a certain slice of traditional rock and roll and does not follow classical music, rap, or even folk. There is no mention of the legendary Exit Coffeehouse. Renzoni overlooks iconic punk/new wave venues such as Ron’s Place (where REM played as early as 1981), The Grotto, The Moon (where Nirvana played) and The Tune Inn.

Some venues are rented out to world-renowned artists who have performed there: The Doors at New Haven Arena, Bob Dylan at Yale’s Woolsey Hall and elsewhere, and U2 at Toad’s Place, New Haven Coliseum and Hartford Civic Center. Others are hailed as launching pads for top regional acts. When listing locals, Renzoni’s main affinity (as in his earlier book) is with the guitar bands and party bands that ruled the state in the 1960s and 1970s. These include The Scratch Band ( whose vocalist Christine Ohlman still plays today with Rebel Montez), Flying Tigers (formed by members of the original band Alice Cooper), The Wild Weeds (featuring Al Anderson, later of NRBQ and now a solo star) and Bram Rigg Set (whose drummer Beau Segal once ran The Oakdale, founded by his father). The more recent local artists who make their mark here tend to be in the jam band genre, mainly those who appeared at the Gathering of the Vibes Festival, which has its own short chapter in the book.

“Historic Connecticut Music Venues” ends with three seemingly random appendices: “Interviews with two Hall of Fame legends,” Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones and Felix Cavaliere, having lived a good part of their lives in Connecticut ; “The amazing and mysterious saga of the mega-hit song ‘Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye’ recorded by a Bridgeport Trio”, commemorating the Steam band; and 11 free pages of photos that could have been placed elsewhere in the book but weren’t.

Despite the lack of organization and huge gaps in knowledge, the book is ultimately more charming than frustrating. Renzoni is a dedicated promoter of a specific scene he knows well, and he glorifies them in a way that makes you want to seek out old records, photos and collectible videos from that era. The book ignites nostalgic urges for those who remember places like the Hartford State Theater, which closed in 1962 and hosted everyone from local legends The Five Satins to Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry. The Bushnell may not be credited for hosting Patti Smith just three years ago, but it’s remembered for booking Jimi Hendrix in 1968 and The Who in 1969 and also supporting locals like Gene Pitney and The Fifth Estate.

It may lack a lot of local musical history, but there are worse places to start.

By “Cryptmaster Chucky” aka Charles F. Rosenay!!! (Kiwi Editions, 2022)

Ghosts don’t often appear randomly. As a rule, they seem to haunt the places where they lived, died or were buried. Stories of supernatural manifestations can therefore be much more interesting than the appearances themselves.

There are a fair number of Connecticut haunting books, but “True Ghost Stories of Connecticut” adds new material to the genre. Local entertainment promoter Charles Rosenay!!! (the exclamation marks have been legally attached to his last name for decades and are useful here) asked various acquaintances to recount their first-hand experiences with the supernatural.

Some of the state’s best-known haunted areas are duly invoked (Dudleytown’s Spooky Forest and Derby’s Sterling Opera House each get two chapters), with current experiences. Some of these places are obvious places: cemeteries, native burial sites, Newgate prison or Fairfield Hills asylum. Others haven’t been on the card before. Mike Cronin of 2 Brothers Extreme Paranormal Investigation Teams describes ‘The New Demon House of Derby’, which he discovered last year, and Paul Longo, editor of Ghost Watch magazine and website, contributes to a frightening encounter that happened at his childhood home in Stratford.

Many of those who share their stories are true believers, while others are converts who have been shaken by their encounters with the unknown. Some of the tales are accompanied by photographic evidence of shadowy figures. Several stories involve Connecticut’s top ghostbuster couple, the late Ed and Lorraine Warren.

What is central to this book is everyone’s desire to know more about the spirits they have encountered. It leads to new research and insights into Connecticut history and culture that you won’t find anywhere else.

Christopher Arnott can be reached at [email protected].

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