The State Capitol, Hartford

September, 2011 by Ray Bendici
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Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Damned Story: Although the distinctive golden dome of the Connecticut State Capitol stands proudly as a symbol of democracy, there are some who believe it also shines as a beacon for otherworldly entities, in particular, the disembodied soul of a former governor.

Designed in the High Victorian Gothic style and constructed over seven years on the former grounds of Trinity College overlooking Bushnell Park at a cost of $2.5 million (nearly $56 million today), the impressive statehouse opened for legislative business in 1878. Home to the governor’s office as well as the Connecticut General Assembly, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a glorious piece of eye candy, made from marble and granite and featuring all manner of sculpture, statue, portrait, mural, flag and historical object.

One item of particular interest is a bronze statue of former governor William Buckingham, which stands near the Capitol’s west entrance. Buckingham was a true statesman, serving four terms as mayor of Norwich before being elected governor in 1858. A popular leader, he was re-elected seven times, holding the office through the Civil War to 1866. He then went on to the U.S. Senate, and had that office when he died in 1875 at the age of 72.

For reasons no one has ever been able to explain, it’s believed that the spectre of the former governor roams the halls of the Capitol, even though the building didn’t open until three years after he died, and he never worked there. (We’re really never sure how anyone can identify a spirit given the general lack of features and low-light conditions, but hey, why not?) Still, there are those who believe that he had a special affinity for Room 324, which used to be used by lieutenant governors, one of whom during the 1920s claimed to have seen the ghost of Buckingham standing there. Over the years, other legislative members and staffers also have reported seeing unusual things, witnessing the door opening on its own and feeling cold spots in Room 324.

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In the past, Capitol police have also admitted to hearing unexplained footsteps during the night.

Is the former governor visiting a building in death that he never set foot in during life? Or is it the shade of someone else, possibly looking for peace in a building that seems to be full of dispute?

Our Damned Experience: We’ve been in the Capitol building a number of times, but the only odd thing we’ve ever witnessed was the legislature agreeing on something.

If You Go: The State Capitol is located in Hartford, obviously, on Capitol Avenue. (Who’d a thunk it?) It is open to the public (and tax payers!) for both guided and self-guided tours year round, Monday to Friday.

As mentioned, the building itself is an architectural gem, and there an abundance of wonderful historical items and works of art on the premises. Well worth a visit for anyone.

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