Midnight Mary, New Haven

January, 2009 by Ray Bendici

The Damned Story: From what scant historical accounts there are, Mary Hart led an unremarkable life. It was, however, her alleged unusual death -- and what happened afterward -- that has made her story memorable.

First off, let's start with what is known to be fact: That in 1872, a woman by the name of Mary Hart died in New Haven and was thereafter interred in Evergreen Cemetery.

Her very real pink granite tombstone reads:

AT HIGH NOON
JUST FROM, AND ABOUT TO RENEW
HER DAILY WORK, IN HER FULL STRENGTH OF
BODY AND MIND
MARY E. HART
HAVING FALLEN PROSTRATE:
REMAINED UNCONSCIOUS, UNTIL SHE DIED AT MIDNIGHT,
OCTOBER 15, 1872
BORN DECEMBER 16, 1824

Oh, and then across the top, it says: THE PEOPLE SHALL BE TROUBLED AT MIDNIGHT AND PASS AWAY.

Cheery sentiment, right? As our friend Donald Carter points out in his Connecticut's Seaside Ghosts:

The quote itself is not some ancient curse or the last words of some poor soul convicted of witchcraft (of which Connecticut had more than its share!). It is an abridged Biblical passage from Job, chapter 34, verse 20. The complete passage, in the King James original version goes, "In a moment shall they die, and the people shall be troubled at midnight, and pass away: and the mighty shall be taken away without hand." The passage makes sense when one reads the rest of the marker.

Of course, why let fact get in the way of the damned conjecture?

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Detail of Midnight Mary's tombstone. Click to enlarge.
Steve Frank

According to David Phillips' Legendary Connecticut (and others), there are a three different stories surrounding the demise of Ms. Hart. The first -- and most horrific -- says her family found her apparently dead of a stroke at the stroke of midnight and quickly had her buried; her aunt, however, had a dream the next night in which she saw Mary still alive in her coffin and plead with the powers-that-be to dig her up. After they finally capitulated, dug her up and opened her casket, they discovered a horrific sight: Mary was dead, but apparently hadn't been quite that way when buried -- her fingernails were bloodied and the inside of her coffin was shredded as she had apparently tried to claw her way out. Like the Man in Black from The Princess Bride, she had only been mostly dead . . . for a while, anyway. Burying six feet under and leaving her to rot eventually made her all dead.

The next legend surrounding Mary is that following her possibly nasty demise, her restless spirit would wander the area around her former home on Winthrop Avenue (adjacent to Evergreen Cemetery), occasionally taking rides with unsuspecting good samaritans. A variation on the old "disappearing hitchhiker" tale, a woman fitting Mary's description would bum a ride late at night and when the driver would return the next day to see if she got home alright, they would discover that the person they aided was in fact the spirit of the departed Mary.

The final story is also from the urban legend files, basically going along the lines of Mary having been a witch in life and her grave being cursed -- anyone who was there at midnight would meet a terrible end when the witch rose from the dead. Since New Haven is renowned as a college town, there was always a student or two who scoffed at the story and tried to stay the night in the cemetery, only to be found dead the next morning, a victim of the murderous spirit of Midnight Mary.

Of course, none of these stories can be confirmed (or denied). The good people of New Haven have always been happy to continue sharing the supernatural stories of Midnight Mary, the woman whose legacy features a cursed gravestone and a tale of woe -- a damned damsel, to be sure.

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Midnight Mary's tombstone as seen from the road.
Steve Frank

Our Damned Experience: We visited Mary on a snowy day in January 2009. The first thing we noticed is that her stone is a lot bigger than it looks in pictures -- rather than a common narrow slab, it's a huge granite block!

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We didn't notice anything unusual about the grave, as it seems like another unique stone in a cemetery full of amazing funerary sculpture. (If you enjoy this sort of artwork, a visit to Evergreen Cemetery is highly recommended.) We also didn't experience anything out of the ordinary, but we weren't there in the middle of the night, either.

Maybe there's not something about Mary after all?

If You Go: Evergreen Cemetery is located at the junction of U.S 1 and Route 10 in New Haven, right off Ella Grasso Boulevard. Its open to the public during normal visiting hours. Mary's tombstone is located on the east side of the cemetery, near Winthrop Avenue. If you follow the outer cemetery road, it's about three quarters of the way up the east side, on the left and very easily spotted.

View 769 Ella T Grasso Blvd in a larger map

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Comments

Submitted by Loretta (not verified) on
I went to Midnight Mary's grave for the first time today, and while it's fascinating and enigmatic, I think some of the stories are exaggerated. Nobody mentions that this is a HUGE block of pink granite, and that Mary's husband and second wife are also buried there and inscribed on it. Indeed, the second wife didn't live too long either--- died in the 1880s (the granite is so pale it's hard to read.) And the husband's mother is buried right next to them, with a shiny tombstone in the same salmon shade of granite. Plus, the grave is very close to the original grand entrance. Obviously these were people of some means, which almost rules out a quickie burial at night, unless poor Mary died of plague or smallpox or other highly contagious ailment. Can't address whether Mary was buried alive without some historical evidence, but while not every undertaker practiced embalming, fear of premature burial in the 19th century was such that the dead were often waked until the point of "ripeness" to avoid such a fate. Unless, of course, there was an epidemic, but that would have been made clear on such a detailed epitaph, one would think. Otherwise, I believe that by 1872, in a big city like New Haven anyway, there were regulations against burying people in the middle of the night, just hours after dying a completely unexpected untimely death. It sounds more like Mary had a stroke or heart attack, and since she was fairly young (47) the husband felt overwhelmed by shock and grief, and having the means to do so, expressed his feelings in this unique manner. Since he and wife #2 are also using the stone, then it means HE bought it and the matching one for his Mum, and had the mysterious inscription engraved. There are some other fanciful monuments in the "garden cemetery" with interesting inscriptions and carvings, though not as well-known. I wonder who blackened the "People shall be troubled" part of this stone. It could just be a warning for people not to take their lives for granted, that death lurked around the corner to pounce upon even a seemingly strong, healthy lady like Mary.

Submitted by jim troche (not verified) on
I GREW UP IN NEW HAVEN. I HAVE GONE TO HER GRAVESITE MANY TIMES WITH FRIENDS WHEN I WAS 13 YEARS OLD AND I KNOW OF THE STORIES ABOUT MIDNIGHT MARY IM 45 NOW AND STILL HERE. BUT I WILL SAY THIS DAY OR NIGHT I STILL GET AN ERIE FEELING WHEN I DRIVE PAST THAT GRAVE. ITS ALWAYS DARK AND QUIET.

Submitted by Gabby (not verified) on
I live in Ohio and I had never heard of Midnight Mary until tonight. My boyfriends family used to live in East Haven and my boyfriend's father was telling me a story about the grave. Apparently he and a few friends went to the grave at night and one of the friends peed on the grave. The friend that peed on the grave had to be taken to the hospital because he suddenly had claw marks on his testicles. Good to know lol but I wonder if that story confirms her having to claw her way out.. maybe Mary just clawed that guy in the nuts for disrespecting her grave. oh and @Loretta the inscription is from the Bible the book of Job 34:20 King James Bible In a moment shall they die, and the people shall be troubled at midnight, and pass away: and the mighty shall be taken away without hand.

I grew up grew playing and running in that cemetery! I went church across the street from that cemetery, My best friend living across the street from that cemetery. One thing I must say. It was always peaceful and quiet in there. As a child and a young adult i never was frightend while playing there. ( even with the the opened grave!) P.S back in the days those huges gates would close at dusk on their own! thats over 40 years ago.

Submitted by joanne mccormac... (not verified) on
I grew up across the street. i heard people screaming at midnight and never saw anyone the next day. i never saw the cab though.

Submitted by Gregory (not verified) on
Me and a couple friends went there new years eve of 2008 we decided to jump the fence but once we all got over it was 12:03 so we missed out deadline of getting to her grave in time. so we decided to hang out in the graveyard for about an hour but when we were at the grave keepers house i looked to my right and driving on the cemetery road was a black car! i jumped to the ground to avoid being seen but then i noticed something weird about the car. you could see the graves it was passing on the door like if it had a type of transparent way to it. so we watched it as it drove through the metal picket fence and disappear into the night

Submitted by juda harper (not verified) on
you all need to remember that all the storys are fake come on really ? grow up if it is really haunted there would have been film crews and other media around at all times people back in the 1800 hundreds did things all together diffrent thats why storys come about. yes ct has had it's fair share of witches but so has other states and towns in the us a bible passage can not harm you back then many people have but saying on their tombstones nothing more than words so please leave the dead to rest in peace you should not walk on the dead would you want someone doing that to your grave... ps life is nothing more that anamated death you are living you life from birth in reverse seeing how you are going to die and once your number is pulled it is your time to go back home mabey heaven. mabey hell but you will never know witch one your in trust me.. the bible says ash to ash dust to dust all shall remain in life as you are in heaven hollow be thy name... oh and you can't claw your way out in the coffin even if it is wood air tight 20 seconds after the lid is shut and nailed driven throught it you pass out from lack of of oxagen soon after death. i should now i come from a long line of coffin builders dating back to the early 17oo hundreds and we still build coffins and have funral homes and crematoryreums in our family. your truly juda harper

Submitted by Christine S. (not verified) on
I grew up in New Haven and heard the stories about Midnight Mary and the stories that I have heard is if you go to her grave at Midnight on All Hallows Eve then you die the next day. I am not sure how true the story is but if you go during the day and talk to the care takers which are very friendly and kind and ask about her grave site they will give you a pamphlet about her. I do agree with Juda about when visiting graveyards be respectful to the dead and do not step on there graves. Because even though they are dead which we all will be some day it is still disrespectful to step on them cause I know I would not want someone walking or peeing on my grave. I have visited many graveyards around CT and always have respect for the dead because even though they have passed they are still our elders so show respect people. An' ye harm none, do as ye will.

Submitted by Zunt (not verified) on
The following story is true. Two night's ago, at 3 A.M. in the morning, I entered this website as I had been alerted to three follow-up comments to my slightly wacky comment I left. As soon as I opened the third comment, my electricity in my bedroom went out. I went downstairs to reset the circuit breakers and came back up expecting the lights to be back on. They weren't. To make this even stranger, they were only out in my bedroom and PART of the kitchen BUT, it made no sense as when the circuit breaker goes out, ALL of the kitchen goes out with it. That next day, the electrician came and spent over 2 hours trying to diagnose the problem. Finally, he had to bypass certain wires as he could not find the cause of why only a certain area was not working. As soon as I entered this website to see whether I could delete my comment (while he was here today), the power from his bypass connection caused the power to come back on in my room. Then, he came back into my room to reconnect my wall light switch and after he had done that, I noticed that it was EXACTLY 3.P.M. when he left. So, I came back onto this website and noticed that the quote used on her grave was originally from Job 34:20. I looked at my atomic clock which I keep on the side of my bed and it read 3:04 and 20 seconds. I am a non-believer in religion. I don't believe in ghosts either. I went into my basement at 3 in the morning with no working lights and fumbled 'till I found the circuit breaker box. That is how unafraid of the darkness I am. This makes me think though. Could it ALL be a coincidence? In any case I cleaned up my bedroom which VERY much needed it (I am single) as I didn't want the electrician to see it the way it was. This coming month, I am going to buy a bed-in-a-bag and keep it clean from now on. I personally think that this was Mary's way of saying in responce to what I wrote: "Don't be such a pig and clean up your damn room!" Message to Midnight Mary. I am STILL going to do golden showers whether you like it or not!

Submitted by Zunt (not verified) on
Well, personally, I am into golden showers so I wouldn't be offended if my grave were pissed on or not.

Submitted by Zunt (not verified) on
I just realized that Barbara was my late Sister's name and that all of my password numbers on ALL of my credit cards are 1111. Look at the time in which she wrote what she did. My late Sister was murdered on November 6th., of 1986. Two other people were murdered for the same reasons following her death. Can it get any stranger?

Submitted by barbara (not verified) on
i have been there a couple of times through the years and every time somthing weird would happen

i always went there on a sunny afternoon and everytime it would get very dark and stormy very eerie for sure on one occasion my cousin's son showed no respect and spit on her grave and he had claw marks on his back and his side now that i hear about her trying to claw her way out being buried alive it's freaking me out bigtime but he deserved it for being such an as-hole

Submitted by Diane (not verified) on
I grew up in New Haven and my mother and I were always both fascinated and terrified of weird death stuff. We loved poking around cemeteries...in the daylight only...we were way too scared to go at night! When she told me about Midnight Mary, I knew we had to go! We became frequent visitors to her grave, usually on Sunday mornings. I would always insist on being out of there before noon, just in case it was ANY 12 o'clock that pissed her off! So stupid! But, I do have to say it always felt creepy to be there. I never knew if it would have still felt creepy if we didn't know the story (or if we were just worried because it wasn't the best neighborhood) but it never felt very comfortable being there. One night, my two cousins and I were "driving around", something we kids did for fun in the early seventies, and, lo and behold, at just about midnight I realized that they were turning into Evergreen Cemetery. Their plan for entertainment that night was to pull up to Mary's grave and dump me out of the car and then take off! I don't know how I did it, but I LEAPT into the front seat and grabbed the steering wheel and SOMEHOW redirected that car clear of those gates and stepped on the gas pedal until we were blocks away from that God-forsaken place! Those little bastards STILL laugh about it. Now, the real reason I am writing...about 25 years ago, the New Haven Register printed a long story about Mary and her gravesite. That monument was not original. Many years after her death, a man who was very intrigued with her legend (I THINK he worked at the cemetery, but don't quote me on that) used his own money and had that stone erected in an effort to try and appease her and ease the curse by telling her story. I have often wished I had saved the article and whatever attempts I made at trying to procure an archived copy were fruitless, although I never tried all that hard. So, if any of you have the knowledge of how to track that article down, I would love to see it again. I'm thinking it was published on a major anniversary of her death, although I'm also thinking it could have been around Halloween. It's funny...all the times I had been there, I don't remember that her husband and his second wife were also buried there. And i don't think I ever thought to look at the stone next to them where I would have discovered his mother's grave. Since it is made of the same pink granite, I wonder if the mystery benefactor also erected that tombstone as well. Having my widower cluttering up my eternal resting place with his "people" would be enough to keep me angry for centuries!

Submitted by Donna (not verified) on
the New Haven Public Library has copies of the The Register dating back to the late 1800's early 1900's. the story was probably published around or on Halloween and you said it ran like 25/30 years ago so that would be October 1980/85.

Submitted by Donna (not verified) on
the New Haven Public Library has copies of the The Register dating back to the late 1800's early 1900's. the story was probably published around or on Halloween and you said it ran like 25/30 years ago so that would be October 1980/85.

Submitted by Christine S. (not verified) on
Diane have you tried going to the New Haven Public Library and checking the micro film there for the old newspaper articles.

Submitted by john poulton (not verified) on
When I was a senior in college at U of New haven 1979, I was an editor on the school newspaper, I ran a series of stories regarding Midnight Mary and the legend surrounding her demise. I told my readers on Halloween night at midnight I would spend at least an hour in vigil of her grave site to see what would happen. My roommate and i ventured out to the cemetary and the gravesite of Midnight Mary and easily found it since it was near the main entrance just inside the big iron gate. We had six pack and drank and sat around it and sat on it as well.hung around for at least an hour, nothing happended, But as we were leaving I turned to take one last look at her stone, and a big black dog appeared out of no where and circled her gravestone.. That freaked us out and we got out of there fast. True story.

Submitted by debbie candelora (not verified) on
As a child I offen played in evergreen cemetery, and as a teen my friends and I would hang out at Midnigth Mary,s Grave The story ,back than, Mary was indeed buried alive ,and would leave her grave every nite at midnight to make her nightly walk across the cemetery to her husband ,s crypt. WE NEVER KNEW HOW SHE DIED??????/

Submitted by Loretta (not verified) on
I'm telling you--- Mary's HUSBAND had to have bought that stone and had it engraved thusly, because he and his subsequent wife are also buried there, along with another female member of his family (the oblong pink granite stone right behind Mary's.) And it's pretty close to what used to be the grand entrance gate. It's locked, and that area is fenced in, so it seems like the back of the cemetery, and while the neighborhood there is kind of sketchy, in broad daylight, you can keep an eye on your surroundings and it's fairly safe. I had time to copy the inscriptions (which I had to touch like Braille because pink granite just is not that easy to read.) Here are the names of the four Harts buried there: MARY E. HART (our MM) 12/16/1824--10/15/1872 JAMES P. HART (the chief suspect widower) died 01/10/1877, aged 80 (born ca. 1796) FIDELIA PIERPONT (second wife) died 08/12/1885, aged 85 (born ca. 1800) and the single stone: JOANNA HART (James's SISTER, it would appear) born in Berlin, CT 03/20/1792, died in New Haven, CT 01/31/1870 Maybe there was some weird stuff going on in that family-- How odd that the FIRST wife was so much younger than her husband, and then dropped dead, and the SECOND wife was so much closer to James's age, that she could have been her predecessor's MOTHER! This family had some money, it seems clear, and I noticed no children of theirs are there, if they had any. But a midnight burial would be even more unlikely for a well-to-do family. People would talk. Maybe James had some influence on police and doctors, maybe the inscription was his way of deflecting suspicion. (Since he had to have owned the stone and plot, Mary's family would have had no rights to alter anything.) But the earlier poster was right, one doesn't live too long in a casket buried, presumably, the proper six feet under. And as I noted, 19th century people were terrified of this prospect, keeping bodies above ground until visibly decomposed, even photographing them. I wonder if there is any old obituary in a newspaper at the time.

Submitted by Violet Thompson (not verified) on
Years ago, friends and I had planned going to the cemetery on halloween night. A week or so prior a friend and I went to New Haven to find the location of the grave. On our way down 91, we hit this freak snow squall out of which a great white owl flew, hitting our windshield, and then we were out of the snow again. We arrived in New Haven and stopped to ask directions to the cemetery. When we got out of the car we found the bird had got stuck under a roof rack, having died of a broken neck, with it's wings spread as if still flying. As if this was not bad enough, having then gone to the cemetery on Halloween at midnight with seven people and having four cameras of varying types with us. Not one picture was achieved. One would snap the picture but the flash wouldn't go off or one would push the button and nothing would happen or in one case with a self developing camera, the picture simply didn't develop. Not one camera, not one picture in rolls of film.