Weird Wednesdays: Connecticut's cursed town

The “Weird Wednesday” column is brought to you by a staff writer who is obsessed with factoids, history bits and freaky information to get you over the weekday hump.

Illustration/Alicia Fitzmaurice

Abandoned. Damned. Haunted and infested with demons that lurk between the trees… Everything you’d want in real estate, right in your very own backyard.

Dudleytown, Conn. is a charming little plot of land in the Litchfield County town of Cornwall (Northwest CT to you out-of-towners). It’s the ideal picnicking spot, if your idea of a fun picnic includes shadowy trees, ruined stonewalls and a reputation of driving visitors mad.

At least, according to the brochures.

Dudleytown is a bit of a misnomer; it wasn’t so much a town as it was a plot of land owned by several colonists by the family name of Dudley. Founded by Thomas Griffis in the 1740s and inhabited by various Dudleys, you’d think that it would be a nice, peaceful little New England settlement.

However, according to legend, strings of plagues followed the inhabitants. Some members committed suicide. Others were driven mad by some unseen force. Tragedies struck seemingly at random; one settler died as he fell from a barn he was building. Another lost his wife to a lightning strike.

One Dudleytown resident by the name of Nathaniel Carter supposedly lived in the town for a brief interval in the mid-1700s. When he and his family moved to New York, they were slaughtered by a band of hostile Native Americans, the curse seeming to reach even beyond the borders of the town. Even after it was largely uninhabited, a man who bought property in Dudleytown in the 1920’s supposedly had his wife turn insane one day.

(Also, fun fact: Dudleytown to be called ‘Owlsbury’ because of the large colony of owls that would inhabit the trees and hoot through the night. Which is actually kind of creepy. Make of that what you will.)

There are several theories as to why the town was cursed, ranging from ancient Indian burial grounds (the gold standard) to demonic infection of the land, to the Dudley family itself being damned. Supposedly, one of their ancestors, Edmund Dudley, was beheaded and cursed by King Henry VII for treason in the 15th century. His close relatives purportedly suffered from waves of tragedy as well (including a plague that wiped out a decent chunk of the British army.)

Dudleytown was largely abandoned by the early 1900s, as residents either died off or moved to the Midwest in search of more fertile/non-cursed land. However, it’s said that tortured souls/demons/bad luck vibes still haunt the area to this day.

In reality? There isn’t really much of a connection between Edmund Dudley and the Dudley family members that settled in Cornwall. Most of the supposed suicides and deaths were either unconnected to the town or merely coincidences-- some of the settlers that died never set foot in Dudleytown at all.

Dudley Town's former station platform in 2011 with an old channel carved in it. The channel and buffer beams were for a former gantry crane at the Freightliner depot that Later covered the station platforms and goods yard. (Courtesy/Wikipedia Commons)

The reason people abandoned it wasn’t such much a curse as the fact that Dudleytown was really terrible for farming. With no close sources of water, alternatively rocky and swampy land and infertile soil, you’d suppose the worst curse of the Dudley family would be a complete lack of skill in agricultural surveying.

Most of the ‘legends’, in fact, originated in the 1920s, when the Spiritualism movement was winding down and people told each other ghost stories when they weren't busy ruining the economy.

Nowadays? Dudleytown is actually a curse-- upon the residents of Cornwall, that is. The aptly named Dark Entry Forest Association, with any visitors attempting to visit the doomed settlement considered trespassers, privately owns the land.

There isn’t really much to see, in any case-- most of the structures have crumbled, leaving behind a few sad looking walls. The ground is marshy and the trees overhead make the area a gloomy place to shoot photos.

It doesn’t stop people from trying, though. Ghost hunters, thrill seekers and drunk college students alike have all sought to gain entry into the so-called ‘damned village’. Though the town of Cornwall does their best to discourage visitors (a cursed settlement doesn’t do very well for town imaging) people have claimed to see orbs, hear voices at night and that there’s an eerie lack of wildlife within the ruins. Self-proclaimed demonologists, Ed and Lorraine Warren, visited the settlements at one point, announcing it was ‘demonically possessed’.

Whatever your verdict on Dudleytown is, consider it a lesson: Don’t try and build a farm in a swamp.

Marlese Lessing is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at She tweets @marlese_lessing.