Dudleytown, was founded as a small settlement in Cornwall, Connecticut in the mid-1740s and was abandoned in the 1800s. Since the mid-1920s, the land occupied by the village has been maintained by philanthropists as a private land trust, who worked to reforest the land after decades of agricultural use. Few traces, such as cellar holes, remain of the original village. Due to rumors of ghost activity beginning in the 1980s, the village site has been subject to frequent vandalism, and the owners have since closed the land to the public.
Dudleytown was never an actual town. The name was given at an unknown date to a portion of Cornwall that included several members of the Dudley family. The area that became known as Dudleytown was settled in the early 1740s by Thomas Griffis, followed by Gideon Dudley and, by 1753, Barzillai Dudley and Abiel Dudley; Martin Dudley joined them a few years later. Other families also settled there.
As with every other part of Cornwall, Dudleytown was converted from forest to farm land. Families tilled the land for generations. Located on top of a high hill, Dudleytown was not ideally suited for farming. When more fertile and spacious land opened up in the Midwest in the mid-19th century, and as the local iron industry wound down, Cornwall's population declined.
Geography and conservation
The village was located a few miles south of the Cornwall Bridge neighborhood of Cornwall. It was located in a valley, known as the Dark Entry Forest, due to the shadows caused by the mountains surrounding the village and access road. The town's abandonment has meant that barely any ruins of the original township survive. During the early 20th century, old farms in Cornwall were sold to New Yorkers seeking a better life in the countryside, including Dudleytown, which has been privately owned since 1924 by Dark Entry Forest, Incorporated. The village site is today closed to the public and anyone found trespassing is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law by the Connecticut State Police and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
In promoting the land trust to investors, a March 1924 prospectus for the Dark Entry Forest stated: "This society is planned to promote forestation, to run a wood mill, to promote conservation of bird, animal and wildflower life, and to afford a playground for you and your children and your children’s children." Soon after acquisition the owners planted thousands of trees. During the 1930s, New York's Skidreiverein Club spent their winter weekends skiing on trails they built in the area; in the summers, they canoed down the Housatonic River. Horse riding camps for children were also held on the site.
Rumors and vandalism
A local rumor, that has been frequently shared on the internet, alleges that the founders of Dudleytown were descended from Edmund Dudley, an English nobleman who was beheaded for treason during the reign of Henry VII. From that moment on, the Dudley family was placed under a curse, which followed them across the Atlantic to America. This curse is blamed for instances of crop failures and mental illness in the village.
Local historians, however, have found no genealogical link between the Dudley family of Cornwall and the English nobleman, and have noted many other factual inconsistencies in the rumors. The village's decline has instead been attributed to its distance from clean drinking water and soils not well suited for cultivation. One confirmed case of suicide of a village resident took place in New York state, rather than within Cornwall.
Since at least 1990's, police in Cornwall have responded to numerous cases of vandalism, getting lost or trespassing at night in Dudleytown. The 1999 movie, The Blair Witch Project, about a haunted forest, prompted increased interest in the allegedly haunted village, increasing the frequency of such incidents. The owners the Dudleytown property have closed it to the public, and neighbors and town police keep a look out for trespassers.
- Cheung, Theresa (2006). The Element Encyclopedia of the Psychic World. Harper Element. pp. 174–175. ISBN 978-0-00-721148-7.
- Campbell, Susan; Bendici, Ray; Heald, Bill (2010). Connecticut Curiosities, 3rd: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff. Globe Pequot. pp. 3–4. ISBN 978-0-7627-5988-0.
- Harriet Lydia Clark (1989). True Facts About Dudleytown. Cornwall Historical Society.
- ""Dark Entry Forest"". Cornwall Historical Society. 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
- Chamberlain, Samuel (1962). The New England Image. Hastings House.
- Guest, Raechel. "Skidreiverein Club". Retrieved 27 August 2012.
- Winkler, Robert (30 October 2002). "Birder's Journal: Old Curse Haunts New England Forest". National Geographic News.
- Dudley, Gary P. "The Deaths at Dudleytown?". LegendOfDudleytown.com. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
- Edward Comfort Starr (1926). A History of Cornwall, Connecticut. Tuttle, Morehouse and Taylor. pp. 26–27. This book relates the story of the Dudleytown curse, and may have been the inspiration behind later accounts.
- Barlow, Bart (October 26, 1980). "A Lost Town Populated By Legends". New York Times. (subscription required)
- Weekly World News (11 June 1991). Deadly curse turned New England village into a ghost town!. Weekly World News. p. 43. ISSN 0199-574X.