Spirits will be haunting the city's third-oldest cemetery in the days leading up to Halloween.
But the spirits won't be fleeting apparitions that vanish as quickly as they appear. These spirits will materialize to tell the stories of their lives -- and tragic deaths.
The Norwalk Historical Society on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 25 and 26, will host its third annual "A Haunting at Mill Hill," and those brave enough to attend will commune with the spirits at the burying ground at 2 E. Wall St., overlooking the Norwalk River and next to the historical society's home.
The spirits, most of whom will be portrayed by members and alumni of the Crystal Theatre, will appear to visitors and recount the personal stories of seven Norwalk residents from the mid-1800s to mid-1900s, said Samantha Kulish, chairwoman of the society's committee that plans the event.
"The people make their way through the burying ground and different ghosts appear, and they hear the stories of how they died and a little bit of their life before they met their untimely death, so they get a little bit of a glimpse of what happened to that spirit," Kulish said. "Every year, there's different people telling the stories and there are different stories every year."
Madeleine Eckert, a member of the historical society, did research into unusual deaths in Norwalk, and this year's stories include a murder on train tracks in East Norwalk and the explosion of the Adelphi steamship, Kulish said.
"It leaves you with some interesting stories and a peek into different people's lives in Norwalk because all of these people lived in Norwalk and all of these people died in Norwalk, so you're learning their unknown history that never would have made it into the history books," she said.
Kulish said a lot of people turned out for the previous two "A Haunting at Mill Hill" events and that she expects a good turnout this year. She said many people are attracted to the unknown, particularly around Halloween.
"It's sort of that, `Well, you never know. It could be true.' The element of the unknown, I think, gets people," she said. "That's what got me about ghost stories."
Kulish said she thinks people also like hearing stories and that she wrote the monologue for each of the seven spirits featured this year.
"Today, we're so involved in our cellphones and computers, we miss out on the storytelling that went on in days gone by," she said. "I'm so happy we're doing this because there aren't that many ghost tours in Fairfield County."
Kulish said she started "A Haunting at Mill Hill" in October 2011 after leading a haunted walking tour at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury. But the Danbury tour took place along city streets instead of a cemetery and had only one speaker, she said.
"This is a bit more theatrical," she said.
The burying ground on East Wall Street was established in 1767 and includes many Revolutionary War soldiers. It provides a better atmosphere for a Halloween-themed event, and the Norwalk Paranormal Research Society once apparently picked up an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) of a man while doing an investigation in the cemetery before the 2012 "A Haunting at Mill Hill," Kulish said.
The paranormal society's website doesn't include that EVP, though it does have photos of what appears to be a child's spirit in the doorway of a Norwalk home and orbs in the shape of faces in another Norwalk home.
Sheffield Island Lighthouse also apparently has spirits. The Northeast Paranormal Investigations Society in New Haven recorded an EVP of a little girl at the lighthouse and photographed what appears to be the spirit of a man in one of the lighthouse's windows, both of which are on its website.
Three tours will be offered on both Oct. 25 and 26 -- at 6, 7:30 and 9 p.m. -- and attendees will meet in the Norwalk Historical Society's building, which is about a dozen yards from the burying ground, and then head out for an hour-long tour. Hot cider and doughnuts will be available after the tours in a former one-room schoolhouse on the property that was built in 1826, Kulish said.
The former schoolhouse is near two other historic structures -- a meeting house rebuilt in 1835 after the original was burned to the ground by the British in 1779 and a replacement was demolished in 1834, and former Gov. Thomas Fitch's law office, which was restored in 1971.
The meeting house, which is now home to the historical society and its exhibits, has been on the property since its construction. The schoolhouse and law office were moved to the East Wall Street property from East Avenue about 45 years ago.
Kulish said the tour isn't recommended for children under the age of 8, but parents ultimately make that decision. She said attendees should bring flashlights or lanterns, and parking will be available across the street at the Human Services Council's building at 1 Park St. and possibly Collins Funeral Home, if a funeral or wake isn't taking place.
"A Haunting at Mill Hill" is a fundraiser for the historical society's educational programs.
Because of the anticipated large turnout, the historical society encourages people to sign up for a walking tour in advance by visiting the society's website at www.norwalkhistoricalsociety.org or by calling 203-846-0525. The cost in advance is $12 for adults and teenagers and $7 for children. After Tuesday, Oct. 22, or at the door on the night of the event, tickets are $14 for adults and teenagers and $9 for children.