Retro Autumn Road Trip: New England

September 21, 2020 — So much of my life can be traced to one road trip that Lindsey and I took in October 2007. I was living in Virginia at the time. Lindsey and I had been dating for four or five months. OTIS had been off the ground for about the same amount of time. And as part of our Halloween Season festivities, we planned a nine-day trip through New York and New England.

We had both been to New England before we met each other. And we had both done road trips through it, too. But never this long of a trip or this focused of one.

I think this trip cemented our relationship (we would get engaged five months later on another road trip, in Ireland), revealed our shared passion for road trips and for New England (we would move here six months later), and gave me enough material to keep OTIS alive for a while with an expansive variety of sites and states (something I was worried about in the early days of the site).

So, armed with a binder full of printed MapQuest directions, tickets, reservations, and other information (the technological equivalent of navigating by the stars), we broke north one Friday after work. These days, when we do big road trips, I always post summaries on OTIS, so I thought I’d go back in time and reconstruct this trip. Many of these photos have never been published on OTIS.

Pennsylvania was just the trip to get to the trip, but since we left after work on a Friday, complete with DC-area rush hour traffic, we decided to spend the night in the state. As part of that night, we hit up Field of Screams, a multi-site haunt in Lancaster. This was the night I learned how terrified of haunts Lindsey is, which made the night a thousand times more fun. While we were there, somebody was filming a show for the Travel Channel (they would hold up lines to build up camera-ready crowds and such). I never found out what the show was, but I love that the night is documented somewhere.

New York
You know where we stopped here: Sleepy Hollow. It was my second time there, her first, and we saw all the sites from the Washington Irving story, hung out in the graveyard, visited Sunnyside, went to the Great Jack-o-Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor (with my printed out tickets). It wasn’t our only New York stop, but we didn’t hit the other site until the route back.

Rhode Island
We hit three Rhode Island towns. Exeter to see the Mercy Brown stone, Providence to see H. P. Lovecraft sites, and—believe it or not—Warwick to see TAPS headquarters. When Ghost Hunters came out, I was all in, man. Those early days of ghost hunting shows was so fun and fresh. On this leg of the trip, we’d also stumble upon our first Patrick Dougherty installation and one of those R2-D2 mailboxes back when Star Wars was the single vision of a single guy whom we only semi-trusted anymore. We also found ourselves at a hospital when Lindsey contracted a bad ear infection.

TAPS Headquarters

Massachusetts was the core of this trip. Half of that was because of our Lizzie Borden House stay. The other half was Salem. Both of us had been to Salem one other time; neither of us had stayed at a murder scene before. In Salem, we didn’t do too much. Walked around a lot. Ate at the Witch’s Brew Café. I don’t think we did any of the actual attractions. We also met up with some of my friends in Boston one night and also visited Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain. Years later I would learn that Jamaica Plain was the birthplace of my grandfather, but at that point I only knew it as the home of one of the best cemeteries in Boston, and one we haven’t returned to since. I think we need to fix that this season.

New Hampshire
Only one stop in New Hampshire, America’s Stonehenge. A quick drop-in to see some rocks. Partly that was because we were talked out of driving up Mount Washington by some of our fellow guests at the Lizzie Borden House. I would get to the mountain three years later to discover it to be my favorite place in New Hampshire. Within a year, we would be living in the state, getting married in the state, and buying our first house only 15 miles from America’s Stonehenge.

We barely crossed the border into Vermont, just to say we hit all six New England states on this trip. But it was our “New England covered bridge” moment, and it was a wonderful, rain-soaked one.

After cutting across the top of New Hampshire, we found ourselves in Maine, where we swung by Stephen King’s house before spending most of the time in Acadia National Park, where we ate lobsters and marveled at Maine’s rocky coast.

On the return trip we stopped in Bridgeport to see P.T.Barnum sites—the museum, his statue, his grave (and Tom Thumb’s grave), but the real stop in Connecticut was just before, in Bristol, where we saw the classic horror movie characters of Cortlandt Hull at its original site in his backyard. It was only open a few weekends in October. These days he displays them at the Bristol Historical Society, although still only a few weekends in October. About four years later, for The New York Grimpendium, I would visit the grave of his great-uncle Henry Hull, who played the titular character in The Werewolf of London.

New York
Only one stop here on the return trip, Houdini’s grave. It was our “ta dah” for finishing the trip. I still have the playing card we removed from the offerings atop it.

These days, I know New England much better, I know Lindsey much better, I know how to do road trips much better. But those nine days are still some of my favorite in a life that, since then, has been full of really amazing days.