The Elm City’s dark history was on display last night at the New Haven Museum.
Garbed in a red vest and gold chains, Michael J. Bielawa, discussed his latest book, “Wicked New Haven” which chronicles the dark, mysterious and supernatural side of the city’s history. Approximately 30 people attended the talk, which is the first in a series of five.
“I wanted to kick off my lecture series here in New Haven at the museum, in the beginning of October, the beginning of Halloween,” said Bielawa. “I hope that folks appreciate the history that we were talking about — the green, the skulls and the bones that we’re walking on, where we go in New Haven.”
The talk began with a background about Bielawa’s research on the folklore of New Haven, but it soon segued into the main topic of the night — the tale of a 19th century New England sailor. The sailor, Captain Parker Jones Hall, was involved in a bloody mutiny that resulted in the death of one of the crewman on his ship. The quarter panel, a part of the ship with the vessel’s name, can be found today in the Mystic Seaport’s Shipcarver’s Shop.
This is the third year that the New Haven Museum has sponsored a series of events in the spirit of Halloween. Programs like this “make history more interesting,” said Michele Cheng, the educational director of the museum. She added that they show off previously hidden aspects of New Haven.
This talk is part of a series of events that the museum will host about Halloween. “It was perfect to have him speak,” said Cheng. Event organizers hope these talks will help widen the museum’s audience to a broader and more diverse group of people, and also that they will help promote the museum as a resource.
Bielawa said the research process was one of his favorite parts of writing the book. He used resources at Yale’s libraries and at the New Haven Museum to uncover the book’s ghostly stories, digging through the archives department of the Sterling Library, the Cushing and Watson Medical Library. Bielawa also traveled outside Connecticut to do his research. “I traveled through all of New England and the Northeast … gather[ing] anything that sounds paranormal, supernatural, the folklore, the legend, interviewing people, visiting ghost towns,” Bielawa said. He even interviewed a witch. According to Bielawa, there are even haunted places here at Yale. He cited the welcome center on Elm Street and the Organ at Woolsey hall as notorious for being haunted. Bielawa said there may be over 10,000 bodies buried under the New Haven green, which used to be a graveyard.
“It was interesting to learn about a different perspective of New Haven,” said audience member Kristen Bogden, a first-time visitor of the museum who works at Yale. According to Bogden, the fact that the talk appealed to both her love of supernatural stories and her interest in New Haven history convinced her to come to the museum for the first time.
The talk was also “very interesting,” said Ed Maloney, a native of New Haven who attended the talk. According to Maloney, the presentation added to his appreciation of the rich history of New Haven.
More information on the Museum’s October event series can be found on its website.