The Damned Story: On Prospect Street in Hartford sits the stately Elks Lodge, home to The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America, one of the oldest fraternal organizations in the nation. Although the Elks have been long known for their strong community spirit, others believe their home base is also home to some other kinds of spirits.
The Elks were founded in 1868, and since then have donated millions of dollars and hours to the betterment of their local communities. The Hartford lodge was started in 1883, and in May 1903, moved into the four-story, yellow-bricked building on Prospect Street, which was the first structure ever constructed specifically as an Elks lodge. Sitting on less than an acre, the “mother lodge” was designed in the Renaissance Revival style by Hartford architect John J. Dwyer, and is constructed primarily of brownstone with limestone trim, with tall arched windows.
The building has two stories, an attic and a basement, and most of the interior features oak and mahogany finish. The main floor contains meeting and social rooms that are used for public events; one of the highlights is a grand double staircase that leads up to the second floor, which is primarily dedicated to the ancient lodge room, an ornate, quasi-octagonal space with a high domed ceiling, gilded moldings, columns and other architectural flourishes.
In 1984, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
But why might there be spirits haunting the Elks? According to a recent article in the Hartford Courant, some believe that one of the organization’s former members is still watching over the group; others suggest that paranormal happening here could be attributed to the lingering resident of a house that used to be on the same spot but was destroyed by a fire back in the mid-19th century. In 1972, a man was also found dead on the sidewalk outside the lodge, although it’s not clear if he jumped off the fire escape, was pushed or died in another manner.
The Courant article also claims Elks club members have reported feeling a presence in several locations inside the lodge, including the main lodge room, the ballroom and in the bar area. Others have allegedly heard voices, tables moving and mysterious footsteps, and have witnessed lights randomly going on and off. Some members have also alleged that they feel uncomfortable in certain parts of the building.
In July 2011, SyFy’s “Ghost Hunters” investigated the lodge, with the resulting show premiering at the end of November 2011. On the episode, it was reported that members have seen an male apparition including one instance where a lodge member’s daughter was told by the apparition to “Get out!” Other members have been touched or had their hair pulled by unseen forces. One member claims to have seen a black shadow figure in the bar area. Door knobs have also supposedly moved on their own.
During the investigation, Grant and Jason heard voices in basement. Later, Dave and Tango seemingly connected with the ghost of a former Elk, Samuel Chamberlain, who was one of the key founders of the Hartford lodge. By the end, they speculate that Samuel might be the spirit haunting the lodge, watching over his fellow Elks from the other side.
Our Damned Experience: We’ve never been to the Elks Lodge, but with all the great community work that the Elks do and amazing events they put on, it’s clear the strongest spirit there is the community spirit that pervades the entire building.
If You Go: The Hartford Elks Lodge #19 is home to over 700 members and is located at 34 Prospect Street in Hartford. The Elks have regular monthly meetings here, and it’s open daily to the public for lunch as well as other events throughout the year. The ballroom is also available for rentals.