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The Dutton House

01/06/05 12:00AM By Joe Citro
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(HOST) Vermont's Shelburne Museum hosts many visitors each year and, according to commentator Joe Citro, at least one interesting resident.


(CITRO) The Shelburne Museum is a Vermont Treasure. Among its numerous holdings is a collection of actual buildings. About 39 in all - dismantled, moved and reassembled from all over New England. But one attribute makes the Shelburne Museum unique: one of their displays is an actual haunted house. It isn't billed that way, of course. But museum staff know the inside story.

It's called the "Dutton House". It was moved there from about 100 miles away, in Cavendish, Vermont. There this "saltbox" was constructed in 1782. During the 20th century it sat deserted for about four decades.

During that time the old, scary-looking building picked up the reputation for being haunted. People avoided it. because there were ghosts inside. All sorts of scary stories grew up about the place. The Shelburne Museum rescued it from the wrecking ball, and in 1950 they moved it to the museum grounds.

But here's the odd thing: its ghost seems to have moved with it. No one is sure who the ghost is. Maybe it's Salmon Dutton, the house's builder. Or maybe it's his wife. Possibly they're both still there, wondering about all the people trouping through when the museum's open. The ghost - whoever it may be - seems to favor the upstairs, where people have seen flashing lights or felt cold breezes blowing through the rooms on hot summer nights.

I recently spoke with a man who worked as a museum security guard: Mr. Burt Levitt. He told me about his nighttime visits to the Dutton House. Alone. He said he could feel the house charged with a certain mood. Sometimes it was comfortable. But sometimes there was a tension, as if he had walked into a room where an argument was going on. He'd check everywhere to be sure no one was hiding. Then, before leaving, he'd stop by the door and hear footsteps walking around upstairs. Footsteps in a room he knew to be empty. He'd go back to double check and discover the adult-sized cradles were rocking all by themselves.

Other security guards reported hearing kids' laughter in the upstairs rooms. One guard saw a disembodied face at the window. The Dutton ghost occasionally takes a rest, it seems. And when he - or she - does so, they do it on a particular upstairs bed. That bed is often found disturbed in the morning, as if someone had been lying on it.

Over the years, many museum employees and volunteers have preferred not to work in this building alone - though it can be argued that no one is ever alone in the Dutton house.

This is Joe Citro.
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