Saturday, November 28, 2015

Mt. Greylock’s Old Coot

Town of North Adams seen
from Mt. Greylock.
This ghost story gained traction after the North Adams Transcript newspaper published it under the headline, Ghost on the Thunderbolt in 1939. This story is one that is often shared today. It takes place in the Berkshires located on the border of western Massachusetts.

It is said that during cold snowy winters on Mt. Greylock a ghost known as Old Coot is seen wondering the base of Bellows Pipe Trail.

Williams Saunders, a farmer in North Adams, Massachusetts left his wife and children in 1861 to fight for the Union army during the Civil War.

A year later, Saunders’s wife Belle received a letter informing her that her husband had been “gravely wounded.” Belle waited for weeks that turned into months but heard nothing more about her husband’s condition.

Unable to run the farm by herself she hired a local man, Milton Clifford, to help her run the place. Two years passed and there was still no word, Belle assumed her husband was dead.

She then married Milton Clifford. He was a good provider and treated her children as if they were his own.

In 1863, after the war had ended a tired, bearded stranger wearing a Union uniform stepped off the train in North Adams. He headed home only to find his wife standing outside happily in the arms of another man. He heard his children call this man, “daddy.”

Heartbroken, William Saunders retreated to the nearby woods of Mt. Greylock. He built himself a small rustic shack along the Thunderbolt Trail. He lived there for years, occasionally going into town for supplies.

He took odd jobs on farms in the area including his own. It was said that he was so changed in appearance his wife and children did not recognize him.

The locals nicknamed Saunders, Old Coot.

One mid-January morning hunters found Saunder’s lying in his shack dead. They searched his papers and found his true identity. This group of men were the first to see Old Coot’s ghost.

They watched in amazement as a dark shadow left Saunder’s body and then dart through the woods.

Bellows Pipe Trail 
Ever since, several other witnesses, hikers, skiers and bikers, have reported seeing "Old Coot" on the base of Bellows Pipe Trail. He is seen in January, the month he died. He also is sometimes seen as late as March.

He is described as an old bedraggled man that walks bent over.

When this story was published in the Transcript in mid-January in the 1930s some point to the fact it was just to generate interest in an upcoming downhill ski championship *—regardless this publicity made it one of Massachusetts’ most enduring ghost legends.

One photo Transcript
published of Old Coot.
Supposedly, on two separate occasions Saunders’s ghost has been photographed. The Transcript newspaper, published both these photos.

Some state they are obviously faked. I will leave it up to the reader to decide. The following brief video below highlights both photos.

* At 3,491 feet, Mt. Greylock is Massachusetts’ highest peak.

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