Find ghosts and jack-o-lanterns aplenty in this Souhegan Valley town
By Jacqueline Tourville
In the mood for a ghost story? Not far from the Milford Oval, the town's bustling shopping district, a green gate and trail marker on the side of Adams Road let you know you've found the historic site of Monson Village, one of New Hampshire's earliest inland colonial settlements.
From what few written records of Monson remain, it seems life here wasn't too different from the other frontier settlements in the area. That is until the villagers of Monson abruptly decided to abandon the settlement, leaving behind family homes and farms, and even making the formal request to have the village's royal charter dissolved.
What happened to these people is unclear; the village buildings lay in ruins until the late 1990s when Monson was taken over by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and opened to the public as a series of kid-friendly hiking trails. The creepy part (that ’tweens and teens will love): Some visitors to Monson report seeing odd flashes of light in the woods or hearing the sound of drums beating in the distance. Interest in Monson "sightings" has been so keen that a New England-based paranormal research group recently turned up to perform a site investigation.
Ghosts or no ghosts, the abandoned cellar holes and derelict stone walls hidden along the forest trails make Milford's Monson Village a fun destination for outdoor adventure and a great way to bring history alive for kids.
After your nature trek, explore the shops and restaurants on the Milford Oval and Route 101A -- the town is home to a surprisingly eclectic assortment of independently owned establishments.
And don't forget Milford's big draw this month: the town's 20th annual Milford Pumpkin Festival. From Oct. 7 to 9, 2011, thousands will celebrate all things big, round and orange with musical performances and storytellers, the Pumpkin Fest talent show, community dinners, movie showings, a haunted trail (this one in Emerson Park), face-painting, craft fair, jack-o-lantern carving, giant pumpkin weigh-in, pumpkin pie judging, pumpkin catapult (yes, a catapult), and a chili cook-off. Activities for kids include scarecrow-making, a performance by Diane Kordas and the Romper Rhythm Band, pumpkin painting, harvest games, bouncy house, train rides and the story land pumpkin trail.
Stop by the Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce at 69 Route 101A in Amherst to pick up a map and brochure, or go to www.souhegan.net for more information.
Nearby: Story Organic Baby Boutique: Awarded the Yankee Magazine designation of "Best Baby Gifts", this Milford Oval gem is your one-stop shop for organic cotton baby and toddler clothes, non-toxic nursery items, and "green" toys and gifts. 673-5381
Monson Village: Find one of the original pioneer cabins, go bird-watching or enjoy a quiet ramble through the woods. From Emerson Road in Milford, take a right onto Federal Hill Road. After 2.5 miles, park at the entrance to Adams Road and look on the left for the green gate and Monson Village sign. For more information about this 220-acre preserve and historic site, contact the Society for the Preservation of New Hampshire Forests. 224-9945
Toyland Toy Store: This is one of those toy stores parents love every bit as much as their kids. Packed to the rafters with off-beat and hard-to-find brands, educational toys, plus all the latest from the big toy makers, there is no walking out Toyland empty-handed. 321 Nashua St. Call for hours, 672-1537.
Milford Pumpkin Festival: The town's 20th annual homage to the humble pumpkin is Oct. 9 to 11, with events at Emerson Park, Community House Lawn, Middle Street and the Milford Oval. Check the Web site for complete schedule of performers and kids activities. www.milfordpumpkinfestival.org
Toadstool Bookstore: Brimming with everything from the latest bestsellers to locally authored favorites, and with a wonderfully large section of the shop devoted to kids books, this independently owned bookstore is a book browser's paradise. Located in Lorden Plaza (586 Nashua St). 673-1734