Urban Legends of the White Mountains
Updated: Oct 14, 2022
Are you a haunted house nut or just looking for things to do in North Conway, NH?
Since Halloween only comes once a year, I figured I would dedicate a special blog to urban myths and legends in our beloved North Conway area!
We can all enjoy these urban legend stories of the White Mountains all year long.
New England is a haven for ghost stories because it was founded so long ago and some of the houses and buildings have been standing since the 1600’s. It's true! My personal home was built around 1700!
Here are 5 of my favorite local legends and urban myths in the North Conway area.
The gorgeous Omni Mount Washington Hotel sits at the north end of Crawford Notch, near Mount Washington in the majestic White Mountains.
It is a beautiful Y-shaped hotel with a bright red roof and spectacular views. Mr. Joseph Stickney, an entrepreneur from Pennsylvania, decided to build the grand hotel in 1902—the end of the grand hotel era. The hotel was the last of its kind in the area and barely managed to survive.
Ten years before the grand opening Mr. Stickney married a beautiful young girl named Carolyn Foster (he was 27 years her senior). He died a year after the grand opening of the hotel.
Carolyn inherited the hotel and all of Stickney’s money, and she eventually went on to marry a French prince. She only slept in her own bed which she transported back and forth between the Mt. Washington Hotel and southern France.
Although she was a little eccentric, she was loved by everyone. Carolyn kept a table reserved for herself in the dining hall and she always slept in the same room, 314.
The hotel began to decline due to the Prohibition, the Great Depression, and the use of automobiles which made the White Mountains less exclusive. The hotel had declined both in popularity and repair when Carolyn passed away in 1936. Six years after her death, the hotel closed down for two years.
Although she spent her winters in France she had a great love for the Mount Washington Hotel and never truly left it.
Legend has it that she haunts the Mount Washington Hotel. Her figure has been seen wandering the halls, she takes guests belongings but she is a Victorian lady with Victorian manners and she will always return them.
You may find her sitting on the edge of your bed, especially if you’re in her old room where her very own four-poster bed is still used to this day. (Can you believe it?) They even set up her reserved seat in the dining hall in case she decides to dine with the guests on any given evening.
Alongside the princess’ ghost, lights flicker on and off, and babies can be heard crying in the ballroom.
The question is which stories are fake and which are authentic? You’ll just have to book a night and go find out for yourself.
Stay in the Princess Suite (room 314) and speak with the staff about their experiences. Not only will you most likely experience a friendly Victorian ghost, but you’ll get to enjoy beautiful views at this National Historic Landmark in the White Mountains.
The Saco River urban legend is shrouded in mystery.
The Saco River runs for 136 miles from Crawford Notch to the Atlantic Ocean in Saco Bay, Maine. The river varies from quiet parts to rough rapids with fast currents.
The legend says that Chief Squando, of the Saco tribe, was canoeing on the Saco River with his wife and infant son in the late 1600’s when three English sailors snatched the baby from Chief Squando’s wife and threw him into the river.
The white men were drunkenly claiming that Native American infants were supposed to be strong swimmers and they wanted to see if it was true. The mother rescued the baby, although he died just a few days later.
Chief Squando, who had magical powers, cast a curse that the river would claim three white lives annually. The Saco River has been called, "The River of Death." As a local, I can say that every year there seems to be a death on the Saco. It's eerie!
Another version of the legend states that, near Limington, Maine three white settlers kidnapped the chiefs daughter in a canoe and she fell into the water and drowned.
The river has taken the lives of many people, and it is highly respected by locals to this day. Could it be because of the strong current? Rapids? Waterfalls? The curse? That's for you to decide.
There are no exact statistics or documentation of all of the lives that the Saco has taken, as the legend goes back 300 years.
What we do know is that many souls have been tragically lost to the Saco. In fact, most years there are tragic deaths of tourists and locals alike on the Saco River.
This is a river that deserves our respect whether it’s because of the curse or just human ignorance. And, Russ-Tee Bucket Ranch is right on the edge of this force of nature!
The Willey Family tragedy was a terrible incident that took place in Crawford Notch, a gorgeous mountain pass north of Jackson, NH. Crawford Notch is a large pass through the White Mountains near Jackson, New Hampshire.
The unfortunate incident that happened there is one of the most infamous legends in White Mountains folklore.
It was 1825 and Samuel Willey Jr. moved his wife and children to Crawford Notch. A year later one of the worst rainstorms the White Mountains had ever seen dropped right on top of them.
The rain created a huge landslide which tore apart the Willey family’s land. The slide was split by a ledge which left the Willey’s house untouched.
The bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Willey, two hired hands, and two of the five children were found after the storm subsided. The other three children’s bodies were never found.
One can only imagine, but no one knows why the family wasn’t in the house when the slide happened.
There is speculation that they were headed for a shelter they had built to protect themselves under a nearby cliff. Obviously, they never made it.
One of the Native American legends on this list is the Legend of Chief Chocorua.
I heard this story when I was young and it always stuck with me. It is a story of deceit and revenge—literally the backdrop for most Disney movies.
Chief Chocorua and his young son were living in, what is now, Tamworth, New Hampshire.
Supposedly, this took place in the 1700’s but there is no living record of Chief Chocorua so there is really no way of knowing for sure.
Chief Chocorua was the leader of the Pequaket tribe in the lush White Mountains wilderness. The Chief would often go on hunting excursions and his young son would follow along.
One day, away from home, the young boy was poisoned and returned home sick. He died soon after the incident and the Chief blamed some white settlers that lived nearby.
The Campbell's were one of the families in the settlement. Cornelius Campbell was away from his family for a few days following the boy's death and the Chief firmly believed his son was poisoned by the Campbell's on purpose.
In an act of revenge he killed the Campbell family and Cornelius returned to find his family slaughtered in their beds.
After burying his family, Cornelius and the settlers rallied to end the reign of the murderous Chief. They chased him up the Mountain (now named Mount Chocorua) and yelled for the Chief to jump off the cliff. He refused and Cornelius shot him fatally.
While Chief Chocorua was falling he was casting curses against the settlers. It is said that the area is still cursed to this day.
Here is our second Native American Legend that is shrouded and mystery.
There are many legends surrounding Chief Passaconaway. One recurring theme in every legend is of Passaconaway’s greatness with settlers and Native Americans.
He was born some time in the late 1500’s. Most legends speak of his magical powers: he was a genius, he had the gift of invisibility, he could control thunderstorms, he could make water burn, and he could bring dead vegetation and dead animals back to life.
Chief Passaconaway was both a shaman and a sachem (chief) of the Pennacook tribe. He even went on to become the bashaba (chief-of-chief’s).
Many of the legends surrounding Passaconaway bring him all over New England and to Mt. Washington where some of his tribe witnessed his ascension. It is said that his remains are buried on Agementicus, a mountain in Southern Maine, but that his spirit was seen being pulled by wolves up Mt. Washington, where he became a bright light and was carried into the heavens.
The legends of Passaconaway are vast and vary quite a lot. However, the stories of his magical prowess and his ascent to the heavens are the most popular.
For more information on things to do in North Conway, contact me!