Albany, VT ~ Where things go bump in the night, or
A Mother-in-Law's Revenge


The old Hayden House still stands on the outskirts of Albany, Vermont, in the Northeast Kingdom. The Hayden Family ( above) is thought to have perished under the vengeful curse of a too-generous mother-in-law, Mercie Dale.

Posted 10.23.06

ALBANY, VT | For 364 days of the year when you hear of things going bump in the night you think of fender benders on I-91 or close encounters of the disastrous kind with Bullwinkle the Moose vs. Family Car.

On Halloween, where people go out of the way to scare each other and enjoy getting scared themselves, those bumps of the ghostly kind can sometimes give rise to bumps of the goose kind.

Back in the mid 1800s the Hayden Family living in the newly built Hayden House Mansion on Route 14 just outside Albany probably didn't have time for Halloween or realize they were all living on borrowed time, thanks to great-grandma.

Unsuspecting, they were living under a curse imposed on them by Mercie Dale, the mother-in-law of family patriarch William Hayden Sr. who died before the house was built.

Before that time. Mrs. Dale thought she was being a good mother-in-law, ( not a Monster-in-Law, ) when she lent her daughter's husband large sums of money to go towards the family's business. Instead, Hayden squandered it away supporting his lavish, party-hard, lifestyle.

When Hayden Sr. refused to pay the money back , their mother-in-law, son-in-law relationship went downhill and dipped even further when she suspected that he was poisoning her to assure that would never have to.

Legend says that on her death-bed in 1806 Mercie cursed her high -stepping son -in-law and his family, saying that the third generation would be the last of the Hayden line. She was not a happy camper and William Sr. and his unsuspecting descendants were going to pay. Big time.

In 1854, William Hayden Jr. built the mansion that still stands today. He was not aware of the curse that he and his aging father, the focus of Mercie Dale's wrath, were under.

In the above photograph, William Jr. stands in the archway in front of the family mansion surrounded by his wife and cursed children. The building today still looks the same as it did more than 150 years ago.

William Jr. looks dignified in his picture but must have been something of a party animal like Dad. Plans for the building included a spring-suspended dance floor on the third floor to add a little bounce to his ballroom dances.

Dancing on a spring-suspended floor after a few glasses of wine paints a rather amusing picture. However, William Jr.'s children, being the third generation of Haydens and focal point of Mercie's curse, would find little to party about if they only knew their days were numbered.

Mercie's 'or treat' from the grave came true because by 1927, according to various accounts, the entire Hayden family had gradually died due to an assortment of inexplicable illnesses.

The last Hayden at the family home was William Jr.'s son Henry, who , like his grandfather, was a few pumpkins short of a patch and pursuing a goofy but lavish life style, piddled the family fortune away.

Henry died penniless in 1910, leaving a daughter who took sick and died away from the home in 1927, herself penniless. The curse was now complete.

Today, they all rest in the Hayden family plot beside Route 14 at the North end of town. Mercie Dale rests somewhere in that cemetery, too, probably pleased with her curse-casting abilities. Do any of us really want to know where?


The handsome Greek Revival-style mansion - it's on the National Register of Historic places -- still stands today There are power lines running to the house, cars in the driveway and TV antennas on the roof. High-speed traffic whizzes past the old pillars at the entrance, where the family once posed for this picture.

The old house and surroundings are reputed to be haunted and widely written up in legends and lore of Northern Vermont . It is one of only a handful of reputedly haunted houses in the Northeast Kingdom.

Some say then can see ghostly lights near the property thought to be spirits of slaves that perhaps were buried in unmarked graves in the field near the farm. Some say phantom violin music can sometimes in and around the old mansion, probably a flash-back to one of the lavish parties during happier times.

On Halloween night, roving bands of local mini-ghosts and goblins in assorted sizes looking for candy and treats probably won't be stopping at Hayden House…maybe out of respect for the grand old lady of all Vermont trick or treaters, Mercie Dale.

You might wonder if today Merci might opt for a fate a little less gothic for her son-in-laws ancestors, perhaps instead treating them all to a little hunting trip with VP Dick Cheney. At any rate, if any of this ghost story is true the morale should be: "If you borrow money from you mother-in-law -- PAY HER.

Copyright © 2006 Gordon Alexander/Log Cabin Chronicles/10.06