Today we turn our attention to the far off land of Tolland, Massachusetts. Situated on the edge of Connecticut, it was, and still is, largely a farming community. With a total land mass of almost 33 square miles, its population sat at an astoundingly small 471 at the 2020 census. It’s the smallest town, by population, in Hampden County and still manages to govern itself with an open town meeting. It actually started its life as a part of Granville back in 1750. But by 1810, Tolland had enough of G-Ville and its big city ways and incorporated itself as the 169 household having, land working community that it is today.
That’s why it’s so surprising that this sleepy town is also home to a scary ghost!
|Seriously, this is downtown Tolland, MA.|
The Fancy Ghost of Elijah Berry or Scooby Doo IRL
Okay, so it’s not really that scary. It all began back on August 29th, 1884 when a well-off gentleman farmer by the name of Elijah H. Berry unexpectedly passed away. He was having a good time fishing on Noyes’ Pond when his boat capsized, sending him into the water. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but this was back when stubbing your toe could kill you and this was an older guy. He got sick from his unplanned swim and ended up dying a few days later. It was a surprise ending for a man who was well-known and well-liked in his community.
A man of simple pleasures
The one thing that you really need to know about old Elijah Berry is that he was a wealthy man with a simple lifestyle. He was a farmer who had saved plenty of money throughout his life and had a pretty good nest egg going into the next one.
Step into a time machine and ask around about Elijah and you’re going to keep hearing the same thing. He was a simple person who really believed that the clothes made the man. Even with all of the penny pinching he had going on, he still managed to dress to impress.
His clothes were the fanciest around and he could always get picked out of a crowd with his long, gray frock coat, matching vest, corduroy pantaloons, and broad brimmed hat. Just think of a particularly balling Quaker and you’re pretty much imagining Elijah Berry.
Money in the bank
So, yeah, he got wet and died because it was the 1880s. It’s what happened next that really makes this story interesting, though. Elijah left his money and farm to his children and grandchildren, but it wasn’t as cut and dry as it could have been, much like his last fishing trip.
He had an estate of about $75,000, or a pretty decent $2,133,688.78 in today dollars. That’s pretty damned good for a farmer! See what happens when you don’t blow all your money on avocado toast and streaming services?
Anyway, that all sounds pretty good, but there was a problem. It was that Elijah Berry only had $60,000 in the bank, because banks are for cowards. Once all of his bonds and securities were liquidated, it left $15,000, or almost a half million is 2022 bucks, completely lost and unaccounted for. This is also when Charles Berry and his family come into the picture.
Fine, I’ll take it
After the bulk of his estate was dispersed among the family, Charles Berry Jr, grandson of Elijah and progeny of the patriarch’s only son, was bequeathed the homestead and whatever was left over of the estate. This included the phantom money.
It was kind of like a consolation prize for him. Sure, the $15,000 was totally missing and would never be found, but, you know. It’s yours, bro.
So, Charles, his wife, and his baby all moved into the farmhouse… By the way, the research for this whole thing came from an old timey article in The Cambridge Transcript and they only ever referred to his wife as Mrs. Berry Jr., so don’t blame me for omitting her name. They also called the town “Tollard, MA” instead of Tolland, MA and, unless there’s a whole part of Massachusetts that only exists in the mirror universe where this took place, it was a misprint. Don’t go around complaining that journalism is dead. It was never really bulletproof to begin with.
Anyway, they moved in and Mrs. Berry Jr. immediately wanted to take all of Elijah’s old clothes and toss them. Charles was all like “Damn, that’s harsh, Boo.” and they just ended up storing them in something called a garret. It’s basically a small attic, only crappier.
|This, but without the poor poet living in it.|
Go to sleep!
It was a few days after moving in and the Berry’s baby was being a real, well, baby. He was being all finicky and crying and basically keeping them up all night. That’s the problem with the Lost Generation, though. They were just too damned coddled. Elijah Berry was probably working two jobs by the time he was that baby’s age. This kid most likely wouldn’t even get the black lunge from the mines until he was like six years old. Damn kids.
Mrs. Berry was forced to leave the bedroom door open so she could cater to this little leech and that’s when everything went all weird.
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Ghostly happenings in Tolland, Massachusetts
Sometime around eleven o’clock that Saturday night, Mrs. Berry just grabbed onto Charles’s hand and said “Hark!” Yes, she literally said “Hark” because the term “Damn, son!” hadn’t been invented yet.
The reason she let this awful word escape her lips was something she had heard. Charles Berry harked as hard as he could and he heard it, too. The garret door was slowly creaking open, followed by soft, stealthy footsteps coming down the stairs. Hark, indeed!
He then did what any American homeowner would have done. He reached right into his bureau drawer and pulled out his piece! Ain’t no one gonna disrespect Charlie’s house wittout gettin’ a hole blowed in ‘em!
|Bid good morrow to my diminutive acquaintance, good sir!|
Mirror on the wall
So he jumped out of bed and just got to its foot when the apparition appeared. In the dim glow of the lamp, Charles and his wife could clearly see the ghost of Elijah Berry in the hallway mirror. How did they know it was Elijah? Well, by his clothes, of course! He was all decked out in his fancy frock coat and wide brimmed hat. There was no other person in town who dressed like that, and certainly no one in the house!
That was when it got real. Not one to mess around, Charles Berry lifted his revolver and absolutely emptied it into his mirror. He blasted away, shattering the glass and chased the ghost away! See? That’s why guns are awesome!
Charles took a second to think about how badass he must have looked while he was shooting and then ran into the hallway. Besides the shattered mirror, nothing was amiss. The shadow of his dead grandfather was gone and it was as if no one had been in the house all night.
Well, the kitchen door was open, but he didn’t care about that. He got to shoot his gun and a good time was had by all.
|Charles Berry Jr. in his own mind.|
Two days later
When Monday came, it was time to deal with the shattered mirror. The glass had been cleaned up, but Charles now had nothing to aim gangsta style at when he was alone in the house and wanted to look cool. He pulled down the frame to replace the glass, and BOOM! Right behind the mirror hung an iron door that was built right into the wall.
That’s something you just don’t see all that often in Tolland, MA and Charles Berry was ready for another chance at being hard. He grabbed a giant hammer and just went to town on the thing.
Luckily for everyone with ears, the door gave way quickly and that was when the family finally got rewarded for shooting into the dark with a small baby in the next room. It turned out that the door was just the visible part of a built in safe that was holding, you guessed it, the missing $15,000!
Elijah Berry had come back from the grave to help his beloved grandson find the missing money and spend the rest of his life in the lap of luxury! The end!
|You know damn well that is NOT, in fact, ALL, folks!|
Scooby Dooby Doo!
Okay, so that’s not the actual end of the story, though that would be nice. The day after Charles found the missing money, a constable by the name of Walker arrested a vagrant for being homeless. What tipped Walker, Tolland Ranger off to the guy’s lack of housing was what he happened to be wearing at the time.
While his shoes seemed to match his general demeanor, he also happened to be clothed in a fancy, wide brimmed hat, nice vest, grey frock coat, and corduroy pantaloons. That get up should really ring a bell, just like it did for Walker Fife over there.
He immediately called in the Berrys... Berries? Berryses?... and asked them if the guy in the cell looked a little familiar to them at all. Wouldn’t you know it, he did! He was wearing the very clothes that they had just hung up in the garret!
The guy, one Julius Caesar Bragg, who was from around Tolland, MA. knew that Elijah had passed away, but had no idea that his family had moved into the house. He snuck in on Saturday with the intention of taking clothes that he figured no one had any use for, anymore.
It was on his leaving the garret that the Berrys... Berrysesus?... had heard him and he, himself, that Charles Berry saw in the mirror before he started blasting caps. Before the gun smoke was able to clear, Julius was like, “Damn, that guy HATES mirrors!” and screwed off out the kitchen door, before anyone was able to identify him as a flesh and blood person.
That means that the ghost was really just old man Bragg in a costume, who inadvertently guided Charles Berry right to the missing fortune, and he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for that meddling kid!
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