By Danny Contreras
The 5 Ws (Who, what, when, where, why)
Mary Hart was a real person. She died in 1872 and was buried at Evergreen Cemetery, but the circumstances of her death are unclear. She wasn’t famous, nor held any high profile reputation. When she passed away, her tombstone read:
“AT HIGH NOON
JUST FROM, AND ABOUT TO
HER DAILY WORK, IN HER FULL
BODY AND MIND
MARY E. HART
HAVING FALLEN PROSTRATE:
REMAINED UNCONSCIOUS, UNTIL
SHE DIED AT MIDNIGHT,
OCTOBER 15, 1872
BORN DECEMBER 16, 1824”
The quote is an abridged version of the Bible’s Job, Chapter 34, verse 20.
How the story goes…
There are three versions of Mary’s myth.The first one is based on the time of her death. Mary suddenly passed away immediately at the stroke of midnight thanks to a heart attack. Yet, her aunt had a dream about the woman: Mary was buried alive. She pleaded to the town that Mary’s body be exhumed. What followed horrified the towns people. Bloodied fingertips proved she was buried alive and tried to escape.
The next story is about her spirit wandering around New Haven. Her ghost would speak with good Samaritans and ask for a ride home. The individual would return the day after to check up on her only to find out she was actually dead.
Finally, the most gruesome story tells us that she was in fact a witch, and cursed her grave before the burial. Yalestudents would try to prove their valor by staying a night in the cemetery only to be found dead the morning after.
Mary was a real person. Her grave can be found at Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven. The quote is also real, and can be found in the Bible and her tombstone.
Being buried alive was actually quite common. George Washington’s servant waited two days after his death to declare it officially. In 1885, a man known as Jenkins was buried alive. The man was trying to escape and injured his fingertips. His body was also turned upside down, and much of his hair was gone. The New York Times reported that the man’s family were distressed at the “criminal carelessness” of his burial.
The burials were so common that many casket manufacturers eventually added an emergency pipe to the caskets where the person would be able to either breathe fresh air or call out for help.
There is no scientific evidence of the existence of ghosts.
There are no reports of Yale students disappearing during this time period and found dead on the cemetery.
No records exist that indicate her body being exhumed after her death due to her aunt. The only time her body was exhumed was when her casket was transferred to Evergreen Cemetery.
The facts are clear: the story makes sense as premature burials were common. The time of her death, however, cannot be identified due to the lack of records. There is also nothing that indicates she was a witch. The legend is pretty much like that of the boogeyman. It was probably used by college students to prove a point, for parents to scare their children and New Haven natives to give the state’s history some flavor. Plausible as a real story, but impossible to be a real case of paranormal activities.