The Haunted House: Ghostly Legends Born from Tales of Misfortune
PARIS — Old abandoned houses, through their greyish, disheveled declines, often acquire the legendary status of being haunted by ghosts.
This is especially true where residents were known to have reputations for weirdness, eccentricity, or scandal. As memories of characters fade with their demise, sites associated with them may take on new life, aided by neighborhood gossip that gathers momentum as stories are repeated from generation to generation. .
This was the fate of Daniel Staples of Paris. Once considered a town ruler and prosperous farmer, Staples experienced marital discord, disgrace and financial downfall.
In 1772 Staples left Turner and became one of the first five settlers in Paris. On September 20, 1777, he married Mary Webber.
On November 17, 1784, he bought two lots from Lemuel Jackson, in row 6 in Paris. Covered in thick forest, Staples worked to make it one of the best farms in the city which had the largest herd of dairy cows ever owned in Paris.
As the father of the city, he held several official positions over the years: as a selector, church founder, road surveyor and fence inspector.
Staples built an impressive farm that showed the depth of its prosperity. Superior pine was plentiful and provided shingles, clapboards, even towers. Staples’ house was said to have the best quality workmanship to be found in the county.
From its vast lawns, its cultivated fields, its orchards and its lowing cows, the Staples farm attracted the admiration of all passers-by.
But behind the facade of wealth, however, the Staples estate was in turmoil. After 36 years of marriage, Mary accused her husband of adultery with another woman, Betsey Door of Livermore, and was granted a divorce.
Mary received the farm assets in their separation settlement, but the two continued to share their home, even though Staples was to marry Betsey Door.
The newlyweds leave Paris for Livermore. But like his first wife, Betsey eventually kicked him out and he returned to Paris, penniless and descending from reality.
Given Staples’ great fall from grace, with his old farmhouse suffering a similar decline through neglect years later, it was perhaps inevitable that the legend of Staples’ farmhouse would become entangled with the supernatural.
“He became quite fascinated with perpetual motion,” Ben Conant, curator of the Oxford Cape Historical Society, said of Staples. He apparently became convinced that he could invent a way to find power that would make his own power indefinitely without loss or expense. His preoccupation with the idea caused him to abandon his responsibilities; he never recovered financially from his costly divorce.
In 1830, Staples was registered as a city pauper. During the annual town hall meeting that year, townspeople “voted that the poor be auctioned separately to the lowest bidder…Daniel Staples was struck off at Azel Kinsley for ninety -nine cents a week.
Mary Staples sold the farm to Milo Hathaway, who lived and worked there for a time, but decided to move south to Paris where his children would receive a better education.
The old farmhouse, once a majestic symbol of rural grandeur, has deteriorated further until only legends and tales remain.
In 1932, George Morton wrote that an old acquaintance told him that when she was very young, her grandfather had taken her inside the abandoned house and to a room on the second floor, where he said a man had hanged himself once, convincing the house was haunted.
Despite the morbid story, she and another young girl dared each other to sneak into the house. Neither could ever convince the other to enter this second-floor room, which they claimed retained an unnatural darkness compared to the rest of the house.
The story spread to other generations of young people in Paris Hill, evolving into a ghost story where it was a woman who hung herself using a bed cord. The true story of Staples’ life has been lost in haunting mythology.
Staples unfortunately spent his last years as a ward of the city of Paris. One of its first settlers and beset by a confused spirit, he died homeless and was buried in an unmarked grave. Even his once great house would not survive. It was eventually dismantled, with valuable parts incorporated into other buildings around Paris Hill.
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