Phantoms of the Hamptons
In one of New York State’s oldest settlements, a quirky town crier and his shy Wiccan wife revel in sharing three hundred years’ worth of macabre local lore.
The wind has been relentless the last few days in East Hampton, but less than a mile from the crashing surf of Main Beach, it is eerily still in the South End Burying Ground. Three steps up a wooden staircase and three steps down into the old cemetery, barely a leaf is rustling on this October night. The only noise is a bat squeaking high in an oak tree.
Hugh King, the official town crier of East Hampton, Long Island, is used to nights like these. He’s been taking visitors on tours of the graveyard for twenty-four years, usually wearing a dark cape and top hat, or in warmer months, a vest over a purple shirt with puffy, ruffled sleeves.
The first thing a visitor might notice upon entering the cemetery from the north end is the towering marble obelisk in remembrance of the crew of the John Milton, who perished in a snowstorm in the winter of 1858, off the coast of nearby Montauk. Of the thirty-three sailors on board, twenty-four frozen bodies washed up onto what is n…