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With our partner, The Connecticut Historical Society, WNPR News presents unique and eclectic view of life in Connecticut throughout its history. The Connecticut Historical Society is a partner in Connecticut History Online (CHO) — a digital collection of over 18,000 digital primary sources, together with associated interpretive and educational material. The CHO partner and contributing organizations represent three major communities — libraries, museums, and historical societies — who preserve and make accessible historical collections within the state of Connecticut.

The Pettibone Ghost

Just off Route 202 in Simsbury is the former Pettibone Tavern, a local landmark that has served travelers since 1780. Built by Jonathon Pettibone Jr., the establishment became an important stop along the Boston-to-Albany Turnpike and hosted important figures like George Washington and John Adams.

After Native Americans set fire to the original building in 1800, the tavern was rebuilt and opened again in 1803. Since then, it has predominantly served as a restaurant and kept its historic name until another fire damaged the building in 2008. Under new management, Pettibone Tavern was renamed Abigail’s Bar and Grille, a nod to the building’s most famous attraction: the ghost of Mrs. Abigail Pettibone.  Legend has it that Mrs. Pettibone would take lovers while her husband, a whaling captain, was away on his frequent expeditions. This habit continued until one fateful night when Captain Pettibone arrived home early. Upon discovering his wife in bed with another man, he promptly dispatched of both Abigail and her paramour with an axe. It is said that Abigail’s restless spirit haunts the restaurant to this day. According to employees and patrons alike, there always seems to be an eerie chill in the air as you pass the women’s restroom on the second floor. Visitors have also reported seeing spectral visions of a woman, while employees note that the lights frequently turn themselves off or on and that furniture appears to move by itself.

While a cursory look at historical records reveals that the only Abigail Pettibone in Simsbury died of old age prior to the tavern’s 1803 reopening, that isn’t to say that another spirit doesn’t haunt the tavern. There has been debate as to whether the apparition of a young boy roams its halls. Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, the history surrounding the building is enough to encourage a visit.  Who knows what you may discover?  The Pettibone Tavern sign is on view at the Connecticut Historical Society at 1 Elizabeth Street, Hartford, Connecticut along with other signs from 18th- and 19th-century Connecticut taverns.

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