Sarah and Samuel Higgins had three beautiful children in Killingworth, Connecticut. Some accounts place the event in the 1770s, while others place the tragedy much farther ahead in the 1870s. In several accounts, Samuel’s name is listed as “Horace.” The actual event happened in 1779. It is up to us today to decide if it was murder, or if it was something altogether different.
The Higgins family had an unusual house during the 1770s. The strangeness was never explained, but it was remembered even in the 1880s. Despite their oddities, no one anticipated what would happen when Samuel Higgins decided to abandon his family.
Sarah fought with her husband on that final day. History did not remember what the argument was about or why the deed was really done. The newspapers called it a “fit of rage,” but it could’ve just as easily been insanity. When men abandoned their families in centuries past, it meant certain starvation and abject poverty.
As Higgins left, his wife grabbed a dull knife and called for her 7-year-old son to come see her. She said she needed to fix his collar, but cut his throat. She then did the same to the 5-year-old daughter and then her 2-month-old daughter. She then started cutting her own neck. Samuel discovered her by this point and wrestled the knife away from her.
She was judged insane and permanently confined to a room that looked out over the three graves of her children buried in Union District Cemetery (the Emmanuel Church Cemetery today). She wore a black ribbon around her neck for the rest of her life to hide the scarring of her suicide attempt.
The clock tower across from her room, and the cemetery, had stationary hands. It didn’t stop her from telling others she would be “forgiven of her sins” when the hands reached midnight. She stated, when the clock reached the designated time, her husband would return with open arms and they would again have three children. She lingered in that state of mind until 1810.
The little bodies were buried together, but locals noticed no grass grew on their graves. At the time, a popular notion was that grass would never grow atop an unavenged murder victim. All three children were interred on October 13, 1779. None of the graves have headstones. Samuel remarried and died in 1811, in Vermont.
It is unusual that a simple “fit of rage,” would prompt someone to take a dull knife and perform such a brutal act, not to mention she turned the blade on herself. This leads to the question of insanity. We are left to wonder if the act was willful and intentional, as the newspapers said for over a century, or if Sarah was the victim of post-partum depression.
The home where the killing occurred became haunted after that day. No one lived there. A strange woman in white began to roam the empty halls and bizarre noises filled the night. It became known as the “house that didn’t sleep.” Perhaps Sarah’s spirit returned to wait for midnight, as in life, when all would be forgiven and forgotten.