Elizabeth Shaw: Infanticide in Connecticut
A glowing lady in white has been spotted walking down Plains Road towards the Windham Inn. Some have said she looks forlorn; some have only gotten a momentary glimpse of her. Who is she and why is she so frequently spotted in historic Windham Center? The answer to that question lies in a story wrapped in shame, murder, and one of Connecticut’s first executions.
While we may never be definitively sure, most people have assumed that the lady in white spotted on the road is Elizabeth Shaw, who was executed on December 18, 1745.
Shaw, a 19-year-old girl described by many historical records as “mentally deficient,” gave birth to a baby out of wedlock. Scared of the backlash from her religious town, Shaw abandoned the newborn in the woods near her house. Her father, who caught her in the horrible act, and unable to get her to confess, went to the local authorities to turn his daughter in.
Elizabeth had a speedy trial, with a jury full of men, who sentenced her to the gallows. Her father, who was suspected of impregnating her, felt grief for sending her to her death, so he raced to Hartford to get a pardon from Governor Law, which he received. But, delayed by weather, Elizabeth’s father was too late.
Elizabeth was led to the gallows near the Windham Green, on a horse-drawn carriage, with Elizabeth sitting on top of her own coffin. She was then brought to the gallows and hanged by a man named Winthrop.
But her spirit hasn’t stayed relegated to the road. Shaw has also been felt and seen in the Windham Inn. Throughout its history, residents have talked about the ghost of “Betty.” While they may have been unconsciously naming the ghost after the famous Shaw story, E.C.P.S. has picked up on Shaw’s ghost through mediumship and direct communication from our spirit box and responses from our flashlight sessions.
While the timelines of Shaw’s death and the building of the Windham Inn may not match up (1745 vs. 1783), the history of the land in which the Windham Inn sits runs cold before 1783. Could there have been another Inn there? A house? A business? We don’t know. But Elizabeth could have had a connection to the use of the land before the Inn was built.
Even though the connection to the Inn is a mystery, the legacy of Elizabeth Shaw has lived on from generation-to-generation. So, if you find yourself driving down Plains Road on a dark and foggy night, keep an eye out for the lady in white — she may show herself when you least expect it.