“Alas! They had quitted their security , and fled right into the path of destruction. Down came the whole side of the mountain in a cataract of ruin…long ere the thunder of the great slide had ceased to roar among the mountains, the mortal agony had been endured, and the victims were at peace.” ~From “The Ambitious Guest” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
First and foremost thank you for taking the time to read my latest article. It has been far too long and I’m glad to be writing to everyone again. I’ve created a new Twitter account that can be found @Aparanormalwor1 and I’d love to hear from you. Now that that is out of the way I’d like to tell you all a story of the Willey family. I live in New Hampshire and, as such, I consider myself a pretty avid hiker (it sort of comes with the territory if you live near the White Mountains). There is something about being out in the woods, especially during a New England Fall, that is magical, and certainly at least a little spooky; not just because you have to dodge the bears…..no really, this is from my last hike on 8/31/18:
I am currently conducting research on supernatural happenings in the White Mountains and wanted to share a story that may be known by some but, if you aren’t familiar with it, consider this an introduction to the supernatural forces and entities in the whites, and my future book. Much of the Whites, even today, is largely unpopulated (outside of the tourist towns like North Conway and Lincoln) but in the early 1800s it was largely desolate; this is when Samuel Willey moved his family to Crawford Notch. Maybe Willey loved the wilderness, or maybe he simply wanted a change of scenery, but when Willey moved his family to his Crawford Notch home he opened it up as an inn to for travelers of the quiet road.
As you may be able to tell from the picture Mount Willey is incredibly steep leading down into Crawford Notch and with the extremely difficult weather that hits this area often, tragedy was bound to happen. Mr. Willey, having been scared by landslides near the Saco River, decided, as a precaution, to build a stone shelter above his house in 1826. In August of 1826 a heavy rainstorm caused a rock slide that sent the Willey family, Samuel, his wife, two hired hands, and five children, screaming from their house towards the rock shelter. The family would never set foot in their house again. In fact, in a strange twist of fate, the Willey’s, in their shelter, were all killed, but their house in which they fled was spared from the slide by an outcropping of rocks near the home.
While the Willey parents, both hired hands, and two of the children were found crushed to death a few days later, three of the children were never found; this is where the stories of hauntings in and around the Willey Mountain woods stem. In fact, if you’ve ever used the term “I’ve got the Willies” you have likely been inadvertently referencing this tragedy and mountain. As a quick digression and confession, until only about a month ago, I did not have any knowledge of this story or haunting (which is strange to me because I tend to pride myself in spooky knowledge in and around New England). What spurred me to research this particular area was this. There is a trail that most people “peak bag” (simply put, summiting more than one mountain in a single day). This trail is known as the Tom, Field, Willey trail and is typically completed by summiting each of those mountains in order starting at either Tom or Willey. I had intended, with my girlfriend, to summit the 3 but to add a smaller mountain, known as Mount Avalon, that is just off the main trail, to the list. We summited Avalon and trekked over to Mount Field. The hike between Avalon and Field hit us MUCH harder than we expected and we decided to forgo the other two mountains. As we traveled from Mount Field to Mount Tom (away from Mount Willey) I suddenly had this overwhelming feeling of being watched. Now, I have spent a lot of time in the woods. I’ve been on Mount Washington at 2am and have solo hiked a good portion of the Whites and I have never had this feeling as strongly as I did. I got “the willies” I guess you could say. I watched the forest as we hiked for quite a while but never saw anything. No sooner did we get off that particular trail and the feeling was gone and the only bit of dread I had left was going down the incredibly steep trail back to the car. As we were driving home we discussed the feeling we had on that particular trail and we googled the hike to come across the story of the Willey family. Now, I admit, the woods in which I felt this was a good 2 miles from Mount Willey and the location of the tragedy, but it seemed to validate some of the feelings we had as neither of us knew anything about this prior to that day.
While my experience may or may not be related to the stories told by those who have been frightened on Mount Willey, my story is certainly not the only one that exists. People report hearing laughing, crying, and moaning while near the location of the tragedy. Phantom smells of rot and death appear, seemingly out of nowhere, only to disappear just as quickly. Even strange lights seem to appear and disappear on occasion. One woman claims that as the wind picked up around her while hiking she saw a hiker, clear as day, in front of her, only to disappear entirely when the wind stopped. Another claims she was picked up and thrown down on the ladders that you must ascend and descend to get off the summit. I will leave you with one final story of Mount Willey before ending this post. Recently a friend of mine, Monica, who just began hiking this year, was hiking from the summit of Mount Willey back to her car. On the way she noticed a boy playing down by the rocks near the Willey tragedy. “I can recall him clear as day” she has told me. “My first thought was who would let their young son out here alone”, she continued “He was wearing a white t shirt and I thought a blue backpack but I think another shirt over his shoulders. He was tapping a stick on the ground and looking at me with an impish smile like he wanted to trip me with the stick. And as I was looking he simply vanished! I saw him clear as day and I can still see him. It’s so strange.” So was this one of the lost Willey children whose body has never been found, or simply a random child who was playing a really great game of hide and seek? At this point, the experiences of those on Mount Willey will remain unsolved but, perhaps, not forever.
*Research for this story was found, in part, at Newenglandhistoricalsociety.com and worldhistoryproject.org*