Deep in the shadows of the mountains, down winding roads and atop windy peaks, the scary tales of the White Mountains lurk. While the bravest of souls might venture forth in search of said stories, we’d say forget that – instead, fill a big mug to the brim with your coziest hot beverage, and settle in for some spooky reading.
These are the haunting tales of forgotten towns, historical oddities, and tragic figures lost to the ages. What better time to recall them than during the spookiest of seasons? Your ghastly tour begins…
A GHOST TOWN: THORNTON GORE (Near Thornton, NH)
Many of the White Mountains’ ghost towns began as logging outposts, but Thornton Gore has always been a bit of an outlier. It might seem improbable given all the trees, hills, and rocks found within its footprint today, but at the time of its incorporation in 1781, Thornton Gore was a farming community. At its height, the town boasted several mills, a church, school, and two cemeteries, as well as over 1,100 acres of land cleared for farms and orchards. However, with the arrival of the Civil War and the subsequent reclaiming of abandoned farmsteads by the surrounding woods, Thornton Gore started to become a ghost of itself.
By 1900, just two lots remained. What became of the rest? It was sold to logging companies, stripped of its trees, and eventually sold to U.S. Forest Service as part of White Mountain National Forest.
While the demise of Thornton Gore is due to time rather than tragedy, something spooky still lingers in the air on a crisp autumn day. If you choose to walk down the narrow path that runs beneath a bower of yellow leaves, keep your eyes peeled. Old cellar holes and crumbling stone walls will indicate you are headed in the right direction. A cemetery with crooked headstones and faded inscriptions serves as your halfway mark – after that, bear to the right when the path forks near the very bottom of the hill.
Rusted machinery, a deep trough with mill equipment hanging above, and the glimmering waters of Talford Brook are your reminder that time is fleeting, and you’d best be leaving the forgotten town of Thornton Gore before the sun sets.
Directions: To access Thorton Gore, take Exit 31 of I-93 and head east on Tripoli Road. Shortly after Russell Pond campground, you will see a small hut on your right followed by a shoulder pull off on the south side of the road. Look for a clearing in the woods and a stone fire ring, and follow the footpath. Signage is very limited; never explore alone, and always bring a map.
Tripoli Road typically closes for the season in early November – do your research before departing.
A HAUNTING: LAKES OF THE CLOUDS HUT (Mount Washington, NH)
In 1915, the Lakes of the Clouds hut was erected in the saddle between Mount Monroe and Mount Washington. Over the years, it has protected hikers from the famously cruel weather found above 5,000’…but it has not always been so kind to its caretakers.
A classic ghost story of Mount Washington follows.
Each season in early spring, before the Lakes of the Clouds hut is opened to the public, an Appalachian Mountain Club crew member must make the trek up Mount Washington to assess the building and report their findings via radio. One season, the radio fell silent.
Throughout the day and into the evening, the AMC crew attempted to contact their lost member (a man named George). There was no response. Fearing the worst, the crew set out the next morning to follow in the trace of his footsteps. Once they arrived at the hut, they were greeted by total darkness. The windows were still boarded up for the season, but George’s backpack was there, lying on the floor of the dining hall. His radio? It was nearby, battery still fully charged.
The crew scoured inside and outside the hut in search of George, only to discover him hidden in a cabinet under the kitchen sink, shaking and whimpering in terror. They rallied together to pull the panic-stricken George outside and away from the hut, and guided him back down the trail to a waiting ambulance.
Weeks later from his hospital bed, George revealed the horrid truth: as he sat in the dining hall taking stock of his supplies, he felt a figure approach him from behind, as if about to place their hands on his shoulders. He jumped up in shock, only to see a distorted human face pressed against the glass windows, chasing his gaze from one pane to the next. The face seemed to melt through the glass…into the room…headed right at George. And then? He awoke to the cabinet doors swinging open and his crew guiding him out. How did the face appear in between the glass and the boards? Why did it choose to haunt George?
Many say it was the spirit of a hiker, claimed by the cruelties of the mountain some time long ago. For George though, the mystery remained unsolved. He never returned to the hut high above the clouds.
Information courtesy of “Haunted Hikes of New Hampshire” by Marianne O’Connor.
A CALAMITY: MOUNT WATERNOMEE B-18 BOMBER CRASH (Woodstock, NH)
Have you heard of the Mount Waternomee bomber crash? This tragedy is a little-known part of WWII history, but for the small towns of Woodstock and Lincoln, NH, it remains a haunting tale of being in the wrong place at the absolute worst time.
On January 14th, 1942, a massive blizzard took hold of the eastern seaboard. Snow squalls and howling winds blanketed the skies in white, and a cobbled together crew aboard a B-18 was caught in its dangerous path. The crew had departed from Westover Field in Massachusetts to conduct an anti-submarine patrol over the Atlantic Ocean, but they were quickly blown more than 150 miles off course, shrouded in zero visibility conditions.
At one point during a rare break in the clouds, city lights were spotted – could it be Providence, RI? The pilots set a new course northward, unaware that the city below them was actually Concord, NH. Ahead of them now lay the imposing White Mountains.
With ice weighing down the aircraft, the pilot had little choice but to drop the plane to 3,800’. Ahead of threm, invisible in the snow, lay Mount Waternomee. In an instant, the bomber sheared the treetops. One wing ripped off and the body of the plane split open as it crashed into the mountain. The bombs onboard were quickly engulfed in flames, and the nearby residents of Lincoln and Woodstock were startled awake by the sounds of several enormous, unknown explosions.
It can be counted as miracle that five out of the seven crewmembers survived the crash as well as the night. In the morning, local rescuers found the crew in various states of distress and staged a monumental effort to extract them from the mountainside.
Nowadays, all that remains of the B-18 bomber and its crew is some crumpled fuselage, a landing gear, and a memorial plaque dedicated to the brave souls lost and those that carried on.
Unless you are well versed in orienteering (aka using a map and compass), we strongly discourage spooky explorers from searching for the Mount Waternomee B18 bomber crash site. The trail is relatively unmarked and unmaintained.
A DEMISE: LIZZIE BOURNE (Mount Washinton, NH)
Take a ride up the Mount Washington Cog Railway and look for a marker near the summit, just below the Mount Washington Observatory. This small memorial indicates the spot where Lizzie Bourne, a 23-year-old from Kennebunk, ME lost her life on September 14th, 1855.
Earlier in the day, Lizzie, her uncle, and her cousin set out to hike to the top of Mount Washington’s daunting 6,288 feet. While blame could be placed on their late departure time or their lack of experience, a fierce gale only added to the disaster – once the storm set in near the summit, the trio were forced off the carriage road to take shelter. By 10pm that night, Lizzie succumbed to exposure.
When day broke the following morning, her beleaguered uncle and cousin were horrified to see that the summit house that would have protected them throughout the night lay just a few hundred yards further up the mountain. Lizzie was brought in from the cold but could not be revived.
To this day, her death remains one of the starkest reminders of Mount Washington’s might and mercilessness.
The Mount Washington Cog Railway runs seven days a week, year-round. If you would like to ride the Cog all the way to the summit to see the Lizzie Bourne marker, plan to do so during the summer months or early fall.
AN ODDITY: WALLACE HORSE CEMETERY (Littleton, NH)
This last tale is spooky yet oddly sentimental.
In 1919, Eli Wallace and his wife Myra laid to rest their pair of bay Morgan horses in Littleton, NH. The two had never been blessed with children and viewed their horses Maud and Molly as family. As such, they gave them a resplendent burial complete with harnesses, bridles, blankets, and feed boxes.
After Myra passed the following year, Eli purchased one last horse: Maggie, a working horse from the local meat market. He cared for Maggie until his death in 1929, at which time it was revealed that Eli had willed his money and land to be left to Littleton Regional Hospital. The one stipulation? That the cemetery housing his horses would remain in perpetual care. When Maggie herself passed, she too was buried with all her horsey possessions.
A visit to the Wallace Horse Cemetery today remains a somber one, with small tombstones and a simple wooden fence marking the resting place of three incomparably loved companions.
To find the Wallace Horse Cemetery, visit Eustis Hill Road in Littleton, NH. The cemetery lies across the street from the parking lot for the small Mount Eustis Ski Hill.
There are many more spooky tales to be told, but for now we shall let them rest in peace. Until next season!