Thursday, October 31, 2013

Who You Gonna Call? Connecticut's Haunted Court House

My first law office was located in Hartford's Munsil-Borden Mansion. Built in 1893, I had an office on the second floor of the stately mansion. 
The home was once owned by a heiress to the Borden milk fortune and flourished during Hartford's gilded age. The trek to my office required a walk up an old beautifully carved staircase silhouetted by stained glass windows.  The windows contained images of the previous Victorian owners forever entombed in stained glass. Their ghostly visages stared down intently at anyone who dared to traverse the halls. The building was actually a popular jaunt for ghost hunters.  I couldn't blame their interest.  The milk heiress was a distant relative of suspected infamous axe murderer Lizzie Borden.  When the moon shone through the stain glass windows, I could feel the previous owner watching me as I prepared legal briefs and made copies.  The house was full of creaks and hisses.  Naturally, I made an effort to get out of there at sundown.  No one was going to get me with 40 whacks with an axe.  At the time, I only had my law degree for a few months.  I still had the will to live.  The old mansion would not be the only haunted building I encountered.

Is Derby Court Haunted? 
One of Connecticut's most unique courthouses has to be the one in Derby, Connecticut.  Located on Elizabeth Street, Derby Superior Court is directly adjacent to the elegant Sterling Opera House. Visitors to the court can stop for a bite in one of the area restaurants or take a stroll at the nice little park across the street. But don't be fooled by the nice landscaping, the quaint park benches and the friendly court staff.  I write this blog post as a warning to my fellow practicing attorneys in Connecticut.   Beware of Derby Court.  It may be haunted.  And opera may be to blame.


The author with professional Ghostbuster Dan Akroyd
Opened in 1889, the 1200 seat Sterling Opera house was once the premiere entertainment venue in the lower Naugatuck Valley. It has hosted the likes of comedian Red Skelton, academy award winning actor Lionel Barrymore (great uncle of Drew Barrymore), escape artist Harry Houdini, tuba aficionado John Phillip Sousa and boxer John Sullivan.  It is said that D.W. Griffith premiered his controversial film "Birth of A Nation" here.  Even Amelia Earnhart once graced the Opera House halls when she spoke to a local women's group. The Sterling Opera House was the gem of Derby. 

Unfortunately, the gem lost it's luster and the Opera House closed it's doors in 1945.  For the next 20 years, it served as a police substation until finally shuttering it's doors in the 1960s.  The property would remain neglected and abandoned until the good people of Derby decided to bring it back.  In addition to ongoing renovations at the opera house, the adjacent courthouse recently got an upgrade. 

Paranormal investigators claim the Opera House is haunted.   Local residents have shared stories of seeing spirit like mists and orbs.  They have seen a Victorian woman with a child and have heard the voices of children. They have reported hand prints of a child in several locations.  Many believe it to be the spirit of a young boy named Andy.  Visitors have even left toys around the opera house for him to play with.  Whether you believe in ghosts or not, it was enough for the television program Ghost Hunters to investigate.  The space was featured in an episode of the popular show.  Yet, the question remains.  Have the spirits traveled into the adjacent court house?  Is the Derby Court House haunted as well?  Could they possibly get past the courthouse metal detectors?  Who knows? 

Ghost hunting aside, if you would like to contribute to the restoration of this once grand structure, I encourage you to visit www.saveoursterling.org 
  




   

10 comments:

Blogger Bug said...
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l said...

I don't think ghosts can transfer from one place to another. Although this concept has already been used by Hollywood. If they indeed can travel from the opera to the court house, you might want call the street where both houses are located the one that is haunted.

Ryan Donovan said...

I'm glad that over the past eight years that I've been a slippery floor injury attorney, I never had to experience being in a court house like this. I don't think I would feel comfortable defending a case in this type of environment. Hopefully, the state will fund in reconstructing this court house in the near future.

Sarah O'brien said...

This is pretty cool. I was hearing about this from a lawyer in Barrie that I know and it seems like something like this would be fun.

Mac jodila said...

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spencer shawn said...

That Borden Mansion seems pretty creepy! I would get out of there as soon as I could too! My friend said that the guys at http://www.sarnialaw.com/about-us/ were pretty good and I need some legal advice. What do you think of them?

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