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Deerfield Inn, New England's favorite haunted inn

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by Marti Mayne

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Ask Jane Howard, Deerfield Inn innkeeper and chief story teller, to tell you a tale…any tale at all… about the historic Deerfield Inn and she’s never at a loss. Ask Jane to spin a ghost tale, and you’d better have some time. Ghost stories at the Deerfield Inn are numerous and even humorous, with plenty of history woven in along with some very colorful characters. And Halloween will be a particularly spirited event at the Deerfield Inn this year, complete with costume contests, devilish cocktail concoctions, plenty of Ghastly Goulash with Mashed Bootatoes and other themed specials on the menu. Within an easy one-tank drive from Boston, why not plan to enjoy the spooktacular soiree on Halloween and you might just sleep with a ghost when you stay overnight!

The Deerfield Inn is one of the original historic inns of New England, built as an inn in 1884 in the midst of a drought and a plague of grasshoppers. The entire village of Deerfield is a National Historic Landmark preserved exactly the way it was more than 300 years ago, complete with a few of the original inhabitants who are still hanging around. Nearly all the houses along the Main Street are said to have at least one spirit attached to them.

The Deerfield Inn is believed to be home to two very special specters with a history so entrenched with the inn’s story they simply can’t leave. Cora Carlisle was an owner of the inn at one time. She and her husband were both “spiritualists” and would hold séances in her living room which is now a guest room named after her. In fact, even after his death, Cora so regularly consulted her husband on business matters he apparently kept the inn’s bookkeeping going through a medium for quite a few years.

Cora was very inquisitive and bossy in life and was the keeper of many of the villagers’ secrets. To this day, she is still nosy in after-life as she is known to knock on the door of her former living room to say, "It's Cora, let me in!" in an astringent and peremptory voice. Guests who’ve peeped out after her inquiring knocks have seen her take a hasty leave down the corridor in her nightclothes. A night security man at the inn reported seen Cora in a long flowered skirt with a chain of keys at her waist. Listen carefully, and sometimes the jangling of her keys can be heard in empty rooms.

The Deerfield Inn’s second ghost is named Hershel, and is believed to be a former guest of the inn or a frequent visitor there. He likes to call upon the guests in room 148 (Chester Harding Room) from time to time. Hershel has been known to slip under the door and appear in a bright box of light. The light then breaks up and bounces around the room. It’s a good idea to pay attention when this happens, for if not then Hershel has been known to tease guests by tugging at their bedclothes and even lobbing magazines around the room. Stories have been told by guests who felt Hershel tugging at the pillows under their head, He even moved a glass of water from beside the bed to another table. Hershel is a playful sort. A number of times he’s been held responsible for pushing the restaurant’s bartender on the back when she was walking to the kitchen with a tray of glasses, and he likes to turn on water taps and leave them running.

Hershel gets very excited when children are in the inn and will rock on one of the front porch rockers. If you walk by the inn and see one rocker going back and forth on a day without a breath of wind while the other chairs remain still you will delight in knowing you met Hershel. Always fancied a womanizer, Hershel has a penchant for pinching the bottoms of female guests, according to a number of guests who’ve reported the oddity.

The Deerfield Inn staff have grown so accustomed to the Cora and Hershel stories, they simply tell guests they are lucky to have met their most loyal customers…still hanging around!

Several years ago, a group of amateur ghost busters set up sensitive recording devices in the areas where sightings have been made. Once everything was in place they locked the doors until morning. Indeed, the voices of children giggling were clearly heard from an area where the children and servants used to stay when traveling to the inn with their families and which is now a storage room.

Come for dinner at Champney’s Restaurant and Tavern, located at the inn, and you’ll be treated to a real monster bash on Halloween (October 31) with prizes for costumes, white candles that drip red, and plenty of cobwebs and spiders. The specials of the day might be anything from eyeball soup to Ghostly Goullosh with mashed “bootatoes”. And cocktails will feature plenty of smoke, slime and sensational concoctions like the Bloodsucker, with raspberry puree dripping like blood down the inside of a Bacardi, Cointreau and pineapple juice cocktail.Stay overnight and guests are treated to a bootiful room offered at 25-percent off on October 31, 2013.

When You Go

For more information on sleeping with a ghost at the Deerfield Inn, visit www.deerfieldinn.com where reservations can be booked online. To talk directly with a vacation concierge, call 413-774-5587. Reservations are guaranteed with a deposit, but experiencing the ghosts can’t always be promised! You have to be open to it and lucky!

Deerfield Inn, 81 Old Main Street, Deerfield, MA 01342. 413-774-5587, www.DeerfieldInn.com.

Enjoy easy access in under 2 hours from Boston. For directions, click here.

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