Sophia Buckley-Clement is a Mid-coast Maine native and amateur “spook enthusiast” who’s been studying in Vermont for the past three years. Though Vermont may not be known for its cryptids and ghouls, this place is too damn old for there not to be some weird stories.
I’ve seen a lot of long-forgotten places before.
Creepy abandoned sanatoriums, houses falling in on themselves in the middle of nowhere, broken down barns that haven’t held anything but spiders in the last 50 years, even an overgrown mini golf course from the ’70s – and that’s just to name a few.
The slate mill grounds in West Castleton, however, are probably the most well- documented forgotten place I’ve ever been to.
Now simply a historical landmark within Bomoseen State Park, the village of West Castleton used to be a bustling company town owned and operated by the West Castleton Slate and Railroad company. Established in 1852, the company and its workers experienced great success given the high quantity of quality slate – and the rare, widely demanded “green slate” residing within the area.
Irish, Italian and Slavic immigrants made up a majority of the company’s men. They lived with their families in small company-built homesteads only a few hundred feet from the mill. Known as “screwdriver men” on account of the homes’ proximity to Screwdriver Pond, these men were often put in dangerous situations. Not infrequently were workers killed by collapsing rock or blasting incidents.
After the main mill building suffered a fire that made the pages of the New York Times in April of 1879, the company rebuilt and continued to ride the success of their efforts. It wasn’t until 1929, the year of the great stock market crash, that the mill finally closed. The demand for high-priced slate roofing had vanished, workers had become upset with their living and working conditions and most of West Castleton’s deposits had been exhausted. The company and its men dispersed from the area, leaving only buildings and already cut slate behind.
Now I know the question you’re all waiting for me to answer: Where’s the spooky stuff? Where are the spirits? Show me some GHOULS.
Across the shores of Lake Bomoseen was a tavern that miners visited on evenings when the work hadn’t been too tiresome. As the story goes, three Irishmen took a rowboat to drink the night away – but they never arrived.
It is said their bodies were never recovered and to this day, locals report seeing the phantom boat under a full-moon.
Now, I definitely didn’t see any old-timey ghost men, but stepping onto the property where these people once lived was truly a unique feeling. Some might call it spiritual, and others just plain crazy, but I’d like to think I felt the energy of how hard those men worked. How many of them died. How they left this place just as quickly as they found it.
Few places, to me, have felt as full of life and just as empty.
For those like myself with a morbid curiosity, I recommend a visit. Stand where those men stood and maybe, just maybe, someone will be standing there with you.