On an October day in 1872, a 47-year-old woman in Connecticut died. People die every day, of course, so this was nothing unusual — at least at first. But something happened after this woman’s death that inspired a local legend. Let’s talk about Mary Hart, better known as Midnight Mary.
There isn’t much information — if any at all — readily available on Mary’s early life. We do know she was born on December 16, 1824 and later married a man named James P. Hart. At noon on October 14, 1872, 47-year-old Mary fainted, possibly after having a stroke. 12 hours later, she died at midnight on October 15. Her headstone was engraved with a poetic retelling of her last days:
The People Shall Be Troubled At Midnight And Pass Away
At High Noon
Just From, And About To Renew
Her Daily Work In Her Full Strength Of
Body And Mind
MARY E. HART
Having Fallen Prostrate
Remained Unconscious Until She Died At Midnight
October 15 1872
Sometime after Mary’s death, a couple of stories sprung up about her. The most well known account goes as follows:
After Mary was thought to have died at midnight on the 15th, her family had her buried quickly. But the following night, her aunt had a dream that Mary was still alive in her coffin. She went to the cemetery owners and had them exhume Mary’s grave. When her coffin was opened, the inside was shredded and Mary had blood under her nails. It seemed she really had been the victim of a premature burial, but died while under the ground.
Another thing that seems to have fueled most of the legends surrounding Mary is the first line on her tombstone: “The people shall be troubled at midnight and pass away.” People have interpreted it to mean Mary was angry about being buried alive and wanted to lash out. As the story goes, her vengeful spirit has endured in the afterlife. She’s said to roam the area around her former home on Winthrop Avenue — not too far from Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven, where she was buried. A woman who closely resembles her will reportedly hitch a ride with passing motorists from time to time. In true vanishing hitchhiker fashion, the motorist would return to Mary’s house the next day, only to discover their passenger was a ghost all along.
Another version of the story says Mary was a witch and her grave was cursed. If anyone visited it at midnight, she would rise up and kill them. Other versions say anyone who struck her grave would die at midnight.
Over the years, multiple people have posted their alleged experiences with Midnight Mary online. In one account, a girl claimed her boyfriend’s dad went to the grave with some of his friends at night. One of the friends peed on the grave and was taken to the hospital after receiving claw marks on his nether regions. Another person claimed their cousin got claw marks on his back after spitting on the grave. Yet another account comes from an individual who said they got severe stomach cramps after photographing the grave at noon.
Another story that’s been reported in various newspapers concerns a woman who lives near Evergreen Cemetery. One night, she visited the cemetery with her cousin, but at some point they got separated. The woman thought she heard her cousin calling out for her and walked in the direction she thought the sound was coming from. When she reached the cemetery gate, she saw her cousin approaching from the opposite side she’d heard the noise from — and she apparently hadn’t been calling out for her at all.
And even the cemetery’s general manager had a strange experience there. Late one night, he got a call about an alarm going off at the cemetery. He asked the security company for more information, but they seemed reluctant to give him any. So he drove to the cemetery office where, right at 11:59 pm, he heard a strange noise. He dashed from the building as fast as he could and had trouble getting his car to start at first. But he managed to get it going, exiting the cemetery gates right at midnight. When he arrived back at work the next day, there was no record of the alarm ever going off the night before.
So what’s going on here? Is there really a vengeful ghost out there who’s angry about her agonizing death and wants to lash out at the common people? As if often the case with these tales, the truth is a bit less sensational.
Most of these legends seem to have originated from the strange inscription on Mary’s grave. Much of it simply details the circumstances of her death; it never mentions her being buried alive, so we don’t even know if that happened. But what about the first line? “The People Shall Be Troubled At Midnight And Pass Away.” Does this really mean that Mary will kill you at midnight if you disturb her grave?
Well, no. This is actually a passage from the Bible, specifically the book of Job, chapter 34 verse 20. The entire verse reads as follows:
“In a moment shall they die, and the people shall be troubled at midnight and pass away: and the mighty shall be taken away without hand.” (KJV)
In the Bible, Job is a man who seems to lead a pretty good life…until he loses all of his children, his livestock and his possessions. The book is all about how even good, God-fearing people will sometimes endure suffering, and the passage on Mary’s tomb deals with accepting the inevitable — such as death.
So are all the strange encounters at Mary’s grave real? Did people really have paranormal experiences after interacting with her tombstone? As with all alleged supernatural activity, I will let you decide for yourself what you believe. But the stories of Mary being buried alive or a witch who curses people are just that — stories.