Ghosts of Ohio
Lore & Legends


No matter what aspect of the Dudleytown legend one chooses to examine, it is almost impossible to separate fact from fiction. For example, while it is known that Thomas Griffis founded Dudleytown in the 1740s, it is unclear as to why he chose the name Dudleytown. Some historians believe Griffis chose the name based on the fact that five men named Dudley-Abiel, Barzillai, Gideon, Martin, and Abijah-lived there. But even this is clouded in mystery. Variations on the legend claim that all of these men were brothers, while some say only Gideon, Barzillai, and Abiel were related. One version even states that Abiel and Abijah were the same person and that there were only four original Dudleys, three of whom were brothers. Confusing, huh? Regardless, the one aspect that all the legends agree on is that the Dudleys were responsible for the curse.

Which brings us to the question of how and why the curse began. Unfortunately, the story does not get any clearer. Most variations claim that the curse was a result of the sordid past of the Dudley family. But, like everything else concerning Dudleytown, there is no concrete proof of this. Truth be told, while several Dudley family members lost their heads to the executioner's ax during the sixteenth century in England, apparently for being at odds with royalty, there is nothing that mentions a curse resulting. There are even reports that when caught in an affair with the Queen, that a member of the Dudley family was cursed. Again, there is no basis to support this happening, nor that there was any direct relationship with the Dudley men who lived in Dudleytown. Again, in keeping with the tradition of Dudleytown, the only real "proof" of this being true comes from the mouths of storytellers.

There are even some versions of the legend that claim the curse came about as a result of Dudley family members being involved in the Salem Witchcraft Trials. This has yet to be substantiated. Also, in the late 1980s, a book written by well-known "demonologists" was published that added a new twist to the curse. The book attempted to connect the Dudley brothers with Governor Thomas Dudley, even going so far as to make the Governor a victim of the curse as well. According to the book, an unknown assailant near Dudleytown chopped Governor Dudley to pieces. This claim was made despite the fact that Governor Dudley died of natural causes in 1653-close to 85 years prior to the Dudley brothers setting foot in Dudleytown.

Since we cannot pinpoint the cause for the curse, let's turn our attention to the people of Dudleytown. According to the more popular versions of the legend, the following are alleged to have been "victims" of the Dudleytown curse:

  • Nathaniel Carter Family-Looked upon as being the first group of people to fall victim to the Dudleytown curse. The Carter family lived in Dudleytown from 1759 until 1763, when Nathaniel relocated them all to a home near what is now Binghamton, New York. In October, Indians attacked the Carter home while Nathaniel was away, killing his wife and infant child. Upon his return home, Carter himself was murdered. According to legend, Carter brought the Dudleytown curse upon his family by purchasing a home once owned by Abiel Dudley.
  • Gershon Hollister-When he fell to his death during a barn raising in 1792, Hollister earned the distinction of being the first recorded death in Dudleytown. Although apparently an accident death, some versions say that Hollister was actually murdered by William Tanner, who owned the barn. It is also said that Tanner himself fell victim to the curse and went insane and died. However, it should be noted that Turner was 104 when he died.
  • Abiel Dudley-Although often placed at the center of the Dudleytown curse, Abiel passed away quietly in 1799... at the age of 90.
  • Sarah Faye-One of the more popular characters in the Dudleytown legend is Sarah Faye. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Faye, the third wife of General Herman Swift, was struck and killed by lightning during a thunderstorm in Dudleytown in 1804. And there are also versions of this story that have General Swift "going mad" after hearing the news.
  • Mary Cheney-Perhaps one of the most famous resident of Dudleytown. Mary Cheney has the distinction of being the wife of Horace Greeley. . . and for allegedly committing suicide one week before her husband lost his bid for the Presidency. Both the suicide and Greeley's loss are blamed on the curse, even though Cheney appears to have died due to a "normal" illness.

These are but a few of the names mentioned in association with the Dudleytown curse. There are many others, as well as an assortment of tales related to bloody deeds, strange disappearances, and in some cases, even Bigfoot and UFOs. Truth be told, the fact that not much is publicly known about the history of Dudleytown has caused what we do know to become distorted. Everyone loves a good ghost story, right? For example, keeping in mind what we have already learned above, look at some of these quotes from web pages that tell the "truth" about Dudleytown:

  • "When Dudleytowner Gersham (sic) Hollister was found brutally murdered in William Tanner's home on the outskirts of town, Tanner himself went insane, also mentioning demons and ghosts, saying that Hollister had been killed by some weird form of animal."
  • "Everybody named Dudley died a mysterious or tragic death. A bunch were even hacked to pieces by wild Indians.
  • "Insanity, murder and suicide were rapidly becoming a staple of life in Dudleytown."

So if Dudleytown wasn't cursed, why did it disappear? Well, if one looks at the location of Dudleytown, some things become evident. To begin with, Dudleytown is (or was) at an elevation of almost 1500 feet and dwarfed on three sides by mountains. The ever-present shadows, along with the weather, would not have made Dudleytown an ideal place for growing crops. In fact, there are reports that farmers often found it hard to grow enough crops to feed their livestock, let alone their families. Add to that the fact that the soil in Dudleytown is incredibly rocky and you can see how, despite valiant efforts, the town was doomed, curse or no curse. But we need to also realize that even in these conditions, Dudleytown was "alive" for well over 100 years.

All that being said, we can not simply ignore the enormous amount of ghost sightings and strange occurrences said to take place in Dudleytown. But once again, it is hard to separate what is actually being witnessed in the area and what reports have, as with almost everything else surrounding Dudleytown, mutated and changed over time.

Some of the things that are reported most often in Dudleytown are huge black shadows have been seen wandering through the woods, emerging from old cellar remains, and even chasing visitors away from the site. There are also reports of strange, glowing creatures being spotted. There are even claims that Dudleytown was built on a vortex and it is said that the curse is still so strong that no animal, with the exception of owls, will venture into the area.

People have said that once one enters the woods, that you will immediately be hit with the feeling of being watched. Still others report overpowering feelings of evil, sadness and in some cases, of being suffocated.

A final note of interest is that there is no official cemetery or burial ground within what was once Dudleytown. Departed members of the town were taken away for burial in nearby towns Cornwall Plain or Warren. However, some researchers point to the fact that in some cases, bodies were forced to lie in state until a cart could safely make the journey to the neighboring towns. Perhaps this is the reason some spirits have chosen to remain.

As should be apparent from this article, there is still much to be learned about the history and the legend of Dudleytown. Sadly, the Dark Entry Forest Association, which owns the property, was forced to close Dudleytown indefinitely. This was due largely to the senseless vandalism that has been taking place at the site for far too long. It would appear that everyone from the simply curious to "ghost hunters" descended on the area. There have even been reports of cult activity in the area, which inevitably made it a local hangout for kids. There were even reports of individuals who, believing that the film "The Blair Witch Project" was based on the legend of Dudleytown, were attempting to create their own version of the film. Most recently, a large fire damaged a large section of the area. It was at this point that the decision was made to close the area. It is now patrolled by police on a regular basis and cars are also towed from the nearby parking area.

The closing of Dudleytown is yet another sad chapter in the current state of paranormal research. Sadly, the type of behavior exhibited at Dudleytown is something that becomes a reflection on the paranormal community as a whole. This is something that The Ghosts of Ohio is attempting to change. We would ask that everyone reading this do the same and ALWAYS respect the area you are in and be mindful of the rules and regulations. For if we don't change our ways, more places like Dudleytown will either fade away or simply be destroyed.

© The Ghosts of Ohio