In Evergreen Cemetery, which sits in downtown New Haven, Connecticut, there is a grave marker that belongs to the grave of Mary E. Hart, who was born in 1824 and died in 1872. There is nothing remarkable about this grave, except for its strange inscription, which reads, “The people shall be troubled at midnight and pass away.” This quote, which is from the Old Testament Book of Job, would seem a curious one to place on a grave. At least it would be if one was not acquainted with the tale of Midnight Mary.
Mary Hart lived a rather ordinary life, though it was doomed to be short. She was living with an aunt in 1872 when she suddenly fell to the floor. She was unconscious, and no attempt to revive her met with any success. She was pronounced dead and was buried the next day in Evergreen Cemetery.
That might have been the end of the story, were it not for a strange dream her aunt had the night of the burial. In this dream, the aunt saw Mary in her coffin, screaming and trying to get out. The nightmare was so vivid that Mary’s aunt believed it to be a message that Mary was still alive. She went to the authorities and begged them to exhume her niece.
The authorities agreed to the exhumation, and what they found was the stuff of true nightmares. It seems that Mary wasn’t really dead when she was buried. Her fingernails and fingertips were shredded and bloodied, and it was evident she had tried desperately to scratch her way out of the coffin. But since she had lain in the ground for over 12 hours by this time, she had suffocated and was now truly dead.
Such tales of premature burial were unnervingly common in the Victorian era. Without the ability to determine brain death, some people who suffered heart attacks or strokes and who became unconscious were presumed dead. They might revive later, but they would already be underground at this point. This is what happened to Mary Hart.
Of course, such a macabre tale has inspired many a ghost story. Some say that the inscription on Mary’s gravestone is a warning that anyone who comes into the cemetery after midnight will die, being cursed by Mary, who is angry at the world for her untimely burial. Others tell tales of seeing a ghostly woman in Victorian clothing walking on the road near the cemetery if you happen to drive by at midnight. Still today, people will leave offerings of coins or candy on her gravestone to placate her angry spirit.
You can still see Mary’s gravestone today at the cemetery. It is located at the back of the graveyard, so you’ll have to walk a long way to reach it and to leave. Just be sure not to visit Evergreen Cemetery after midnight.