Pomfret House, First Report
It is the received wisdom that, contrary to what sly cartographers might have you believe, there exist four Connecticuts. Ask any native son of the Nutmeg State of this quartet and you may be granted a knowing nod and a sly smile.
Connecticut Number One is New York City’s unsightly metastasis. The I-95 corridor from Greenwich to Bridgeport is tolerable commuting distance from Manhattan, and it is my humble belief that only the noisome presence of the shipyard keeps New Haven residents from making the daily haul to the City That Never Sleeps. Connecticut Number One is home to starchy urban professionals, status-hungry strivers, and the odd working stiff. Yale is part of this Connecticut, despite the geographical discontinuity.
Connecticut Number Two centers on Hartford. You’ve got your Windsor Locks and your New Britain and your Manchester and your Bristol and whatnot, and folks there head into the once-proud home of the Whalers (RIP) to toil in the glass and steel temples of the nation’s great and grand insurance concerns. Connecticut Number Two is more tweed than pinstripe, more corner donut shop joe than iced latte and remains steadfastly conservative in day-to-day practice, despite its cerulean voting habits. UConn is here. Go Huskies.
Connecticut Number Three still rings with the echoes of its briny maritime past. Old Lyme, New London, Mystic, Saybrook, Stonington, et al bear the salt crust of the harpooneers that once draped their creaking bones before pudgy iron stoves as Nor’easters tore shakes off drab salt-box homes along the ice-rimed waterfront. If there is a cultural embodiment of a woolen sweater, a badly-chewed pipe, and a watch cap, it is Connecticut Three, even with the gentrification of the past 30 or so years. Gateway Community College provides terminal education for this Connecticut.
Connecticut Number Four lies in the forgotten north. Salsbury, Enfield, Stafford, Union: the names of decrepit mill towns escape the notice of even lifelong state residents. Here you will find the country homes of wealthy hedge fund managers, semi-retired movie stars, beltway bandits, and Old Money nestled quietly among throngs of fourth generation needleworkers. The roads here are rough, festooned with frost heaves, buckled by the roots of ancient and mighty roadside trees, and bent at perilous angles thanks to their heritage as former oxcart paths left over from colonial farms. I am one of the few working-class children of Connecticut Four. Our numbers may be small, but our bitterness and misery run deep. Lincoln Technical Institute prepares this Connecticut for the meager few manufacturing jobs the state still retains.
What the locals won’t tell you is that there is a Connecticut Number Five.
Part of the reason we won’t tell you about it is that many of us don’t know it exists. Those of us who do know of it are bestowed with the infamously cranky New England disposition that disdains nosy southern leafers from prowling our lands in their gaudy rented Land Rovers, chatting loudly about OH MY GAWD THE COLORS HELEN LET’S GO GET SOME CAWWWFEEE and clogging our already sclerotic thoroughfares with infuriating autumnal rubbernecking. Please, dear Manhattanites: if you must hoist your perfumed carcasses to the hinterlands for your annual fall pornography, I implore you to pick a spot inhabited by your own kind. Just northwest of Poughkeepsie boasts a very nice stretch of wilderness ideally suited to your arboreal eroticism.
Connecticut Number Five was settled not by Thomas Hooker nor John Haynes. It was not homesteaded by Puritans, nor did the 17th century Dutch explorers ever so much as set one silver-buckled foot on the cursed land. Local Nipmuck, Pequot, and Mohegan tribespeople viewed the lands of Connecticut Number Five with superstition, erecting stone wards—many of which still stand—cautioning hapless travelers against accidentally treading upon poisoned earth.
Sadly, the pedigree of Connecticut Five is likely lost to time. Moreover, it is not contiguous land, as the other Connecticuts. It is spatter, as if a cosmic spear punctured the land and bits of psychic viscera stained the landscape where they fell. Or perhaps an elder god failed to reach the privy on time after snacking on some green apples.
It would be tedious to catalog each parcel of tainted territory. Besides, even to those of us from the northeast who know of the unholy stains cannot rightly know of them all. We can point to that one plot in the local graveyard, or to the skeevy spot on Church Street you always cross the street, despite there being nothing more menacing there than a mailbox. Maybe you’ve taken a stroll out to the frog pond along the old landfill access road and known not to wander too deep into that one particular stand of inexplicably uniform trees. You may not be able to say exactly why you shy from these places, but you know in your bones that they are Bad, and you must not walk there.
In the case lately relevant to my interests, Connecticut Number Five manifests in a residential property atop a modest hill off Harrisville Road in Pomfret. Lacking much imagination, we called it Pomfret House. It is possible that at some point the estate bore a proper name in the manner of English country homes, but by the first time I encountered it on a gloomy winter day in 1987, whatever noble mien it once bore was long effaced by time and the foul reputation of its previous and sole owner.
Pomfret House was built by a Mr. Endrias Patiikii around 1840. Patiikii was something of an oddity, as most East European immigration to the US at the time was from Hungary. Moldovan immigrants were all but unheard-of at the time, particularly those from the Floreşti District in the north. He was further distinguished by his peculiar appearance and mannerisms. The schoolyard gossip had it that he stood nearly seven and a half feet tall and wore ragged tailcoats stained with unidentified, obscene grease. He would be frequently be spotted skulking near the potters’ fields and graveyards of what are today Woodstock, Pomfret, and Putnam with a wood-frame backpack, always vanishing before the superstitious locals could accost him.
Additional playground lore speaks of strange lights and miasmatic aromas from the house, but the rumors were a hundred and fifty years old when I heard them, so they were quite naturally rather incoherent and contradictory. People agreed that Patiikii was a weirdo and that his house was, like turbo haunted.
I mentioned earlier that I consider myself from Connecticut Four. This is a partial truth. Like the lanky Moldovan, I too migrated to the northeastern corner of the state, and just in time for junior high school. The first kid to make an attempt to welcome me was a chubby kid in an Iron Maiden t-shirt and boat shoes named Jason (obviously not his real name).
I sometimes think that Jason appreciated my arrival simply because it meant that he was no longer the weird kid in class. My bizarre West Coast habits and accent immediately set me apart and got the other students to focus on me, leaving him just enough leverage to rise one meager rung on the social ladder. After Monday’s news, I regret not making a more punctilious effort to fit in. Perhaps Jason would not have started down the path that would ultimately lead him to ruin if he had been obliged to conform. Or, barring that, at least beaten into dull submission.
I know it was 1987 when I first saw Pomfret House because my new chum Jason was absolutely beaming from his brand-new New Order cassette tape. I am quite confident that everyone reading this has heard the track “Blue Monday” from the Substance 1987 LP (yes, I know that it was a B-side that had been around for 4 years or so at that point, but cut me some slack; I was in eighth grade at the time), and the first time I heard the opening electronic pulse corresponded to the exact moment Pomfret House swerved into view.
How does it feel?
Let me ask you this: do you believe in love at first sight? You catch someone’s gaze and right away you know that the two of you were meant for each other, and that even should fate keep you apart, one day love will overcome adversity and your destiny will be fulfilled and all that junk?
Imagine that, but evil instead of love.
Except “evil” isn’t quite accurate. Evil implies intent. Malice. The sensation I got looking at that house for the first time was one of overwhelming disdain. If houses could be said to have souls, its could not be touched by tender, human sentiment. I could nearly taste the frosty indifference it bled.
It was a house. Just a house. Can you tell why my classmates might have thought I was the weird kid?
Jason noticed the dread emanating from Pomfret House too. As did his mother, who was driving. She later sheepishly admitted to typically avoiding the Harrisville Road route, and it was only because SR 169 was suffering unexpected construction delays that she took the bypass.
Something caught Jason’s imagination that day. A few years later, I suppose we must have been juniors in high school, he rounded up me and a couple other buddies and challenged the four of us to stay the night in Pomfret House. Before you go and get all riled up in the comments, I am well aware of the horror movie cliché, but in our defense, it was the late 80s/early 90s and we were kids. The contours of what constituted cringe in those days were different. Cut us some slack.
I won’t belabor the events that led three of us running back to Dale’s van before the clock struck midnight, hollering for Jason to get his ass out of there. Such details are not relevant to this tale.
Now, I’d like to be salacious and say that after that night, Jason was never quite the same. I’d like to say that when he did come sauntering out from the front door at a lackadaisical lope that some light had been taken from him, replaced by the gloom of the house, that his soul had tasted the bitter soup of corruption and had found that it relished the flavor. I’d like to come up with a series of increasingly bad metaphors for what happened to him in the ten to fifteen minutes between us fleeing the uncanny dread of that place and his leisurely exit, but I regret to inform you that I cannot. He did not appear to be any different than usual, and even more regrettably, his family moved away a few months later.
In fact, I haven’t thought about any of this until last Monday. A classmate of ours who is now a deputy for the Windham County Sheriff’s Department happened to remember that Jason and I were pretty good friends when we were kids. There was an incident last week on Harrisville Road and some remains were recovered. Forensic evidence suggests that Jason had been operating what Deputy Todd (not his real name either) described as some sort of unlicensed biological laboratory in a sub-basement underneath Pomfret House. After a few back-and-forth private messages on Facebook, I learned the following:
- Jason had purchased the deed to Pomfret House from the county for a modest sum after cashing in right before the dot com crash. Bank records show fairly sizeable loans for remodeling, but if any work was done on the property, it was not evident on any of the above-ground structure.
- On the 4th of February, 2021, a series of explosions loud enough to rattle the windows of neighbors a quarter mile away were heard originating from the property. Subsequent investigation revealed no visible damage to the building apart from a trap door in a small basement room being blown off its hinges and lodged into the flank of a stuffed moose.
- The basement, otherwise furnished as a stereotypical 1970s rec room, hosted what might possibly qualify as the most expansive private collection of aberrant taxidermy in the whole of New England. Notable examples include four housecats sewn together as if they share a common spine, a knot of armored snakes, two emperor penguins each sporting three ostrich legs, a gorilla with its head on backwards, and six flayed human corpses preserved with brightly dyed lacquer in a single large domed glass specimen jar.
- The areas of the sub-basement that had not flooded with an as-yet unidentified viscous liquid contained millions of dollars’ worth of ruined laboratory equipment and the partially-liquefacted results of unsuccessful surgical and genetic experimentation. The remains of several aberrant creatures were intact enough to transmit to the biology department of the University of Connecticut for forensic DNA analysis. The large majority of biological material, including what appears to be the severed left hand of my childhood friend were found strewn about the interior of a room containing a mass spectrograph, a cyclotron, a deck-mounted centrifuge and an autoclave large enough to sterilize a fully inflated yoga ball. Also found were fourteen broken manacles once firmly anchored into the reinforced concrete lining the south wall of the laboratory.
- By Deputy Todd’s reckoning, the sub-basement of Pomfret House acts as an inlet plenum into a complex of tunnels stretching God knows how deep into the surrounding hillside. County rescue divers refuse to suit up, citing the unknown nature of the fluid. On a personal note, I can support this decision. I am a certified SCUBA diver myself and even with a positive pressure system rather than a two-stage regulator rig, there’s no telling what could get gummed up with some strange substance. Moreover, depending on the density of the fluid, hoses could get crushed, and divers could be more prone to nitrogen narcosis or the bends under unknown conditions. In my considered opinion, prudence should triumph over curiosity in this case.
A number of questions still vex me. For the past few days, I have found myself restless at night, dredging up forgotten conversations. I recall in the waning days of junior high Jason badgering me on topics ranging from the nature of the soul to the possibility of radical gene splicing. At the time, I dismissed these discussions as mere infatuation with role-playing games. Those of you who were into GURPS or Second Edition D&D at the time may recall that there was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pen and paper game published alongside the big merchandise blitz concurrent with the first season of the animated series. I was under the impression that he was simply trying to bring a bit of verisimilitude to some of the homebrew mutant chimera characters for our next campaign. After reading Deputy Todd’s description of “something that looks like an armadillo stapled to the back of a bobcat,” I cannot help but recall a particularly in-depth discussion on the relative merits of a high-agility melee character with natural armor. I argued that a build like that would have to sacrifice other characteristics or risk unbalancing the game. Jason disagreed.
There also remains his peculiar fascination with Egypt. Shortly before we drifted apart after he switched schools, Jason would regularly announce with grandiloquent tenor that he intended to study the lost mysteries of the Egyptian sands, and proved himself all too eager to share news of whatever boring old cartouche had been newly unearthed in some godforsaken crevice in the vast expanses of the Siwa desert. If I recall properly from secondhand accounts, he did obtain at least an undergraduate degree in Egyptology. Deputy Todd did not know offhand anything about Jason’s educational credentials, as they did not appear to the Sheriff’s department to be germane to the case.
I suspect differently. In retrospect, Jason’s fascination with mutation and genetic engineering awoke in him the same dreadful passions as did Egypt. As much as I disdain primitive theories of Nephilim or ancient aliens or the like, I have a hard time squaring Deputy Todd’s comments and my own experiences inside Pomfret House with the possibility that Jason found something unspeakable scrawled inside a forgotten tomb or temple out there in the shifting sands. He then may have miscegenated some jackaninny piece of hieroglyphic garble together with modern CRISPR technology to bring those perverted aberrations to life.
I’m sure it’s nothing, though. I am also sure it is all completely unrelated to recent reports of a one-handed man lately seen roaming the small roadside graveyards peppering Thompson, Killingly, Dayville, Putnam, and Woodstock dressed in tailcoats and a top-hat, and bearing a wood-frame backpack.
All is not well in Connecticut 5. Nutmeggers beware.