In search of witches and history: Milford resident pursues passions

With the release of a new book, the launch of walking tours unlike any Milford has ever seen, and a book in the works on a World War II veteran, “hometown girl” Cynthia Wolfe Boynton is proving that creativity has a life of its own.

“I really wanted to use mid-life as a time of creativity and not destruction,” Boynton said recently while discussing her new book, Connecticut Witch Trials: The First Panic in the New World. To say that she is fulfilling her goal is an understatement.

In a span of about 10 years, Boynton published Connecticut Witch Trials and Remarkable Women of Hartford; authored two plays, Right Time to Say I Love You and Dear Prudence, which both premiered at the New York City United Solo Theater Festival; began hosting the Literary New England radio show podcast; initiated a successful sideline as a private writing coach; and launched the popular Spirits of Milford Ghost Walks.

To these accomplishments, Boynton added 15 years as a regular correspondent for The New York Times, nine years as editor and publishing director of Better Health magazine, more than 20 years as a successful journalist, and work as an English and communications instructor at both the Yale School of Medicine and Housatonic Community College.

“I’ve worked very hard and have been very fortunate,” Boynton said. “Really, I see these ventures as all connected.”

Long removed from her first job at the Milford Citizen, Boynton still carries deep gratitude to the staff there.

“I started working at the Citizen when I was 18, and worked there for at least 10 years. I really grew up there. I credit Linda Bouvier and Tim Rose with all of my success. They gave me a chance,” Boynton said.

A decade of success as a journalist led Boynton to contribute regularly The New York Times. Her articles ranged from a 2009 feature on the Connecticut RollerGirls, the state’s first and only roller derby league, to a profile of a Connecticut woman named Pasha Stocking, who had rented space on an I-95 billboard to try to land a job after she was laid off.

Boynton said she realized during her master’s studies at The Graduate Institute in Bethany that she “wanted to write stories that empowered women and brought to light stories of women who weren’t well known.” Thus was born Boynton’s first book, published by the History Press, Remarkable Women of Hartford.

In September, Boynton published her second book, Connecticut Witch Trials, which she termed a favorite of all her accomplishments. Boynton has long been interested in ghosts and the paranormal, and she said her latest book is “about the mind-set of a society, really an examination of fear.”

This book offered Boynton some excitement as well.

“Writing is hard work, and can sometimes be lonely. But it was so exciting to walk into the Milford Barnes & Noble bookstore and see my books there. Connecticut Witch Trials was right there on the New Arrivals table! That was an amazing moment.”

In researching the book, Boynton found no records of accused witches put to death in Milford, although she uncovered a local link to an executed witch.

“Andrew Sanford and his wife, Mary, were accused in Hartford of being witches in 1662,” Boynton said. “Mary was found guilty and hanged; Andrew was acquitted and was sent out of Hartford. He moved to Milford to be with his brother, and is buried in the old section of Milford Cemetery.”

Andrew Sanford’s grave is one of the stops on one of Boynton’s latest ventures, the Spirits of Milford Ghost Walks. Since the first week of October, she has guided ghost believers and non-believers alike on a stroll through downtown Milford neighborhoods.

Boynton said the walks “offer a healthy mix of local history and ghost stories” woven together with elements of interaction through the use of electromagnetic frequency detectors, pendulums, and dowsing rods to detect paranormal energy. Each tour accommodates up to 25 people.

“People love this stuff,” Boynton said. “We’re all learning so much. The walks are meant to be fun. They’re meant to be entertaining and educational, and to examine where the occult and Milford history may or may not intersect.”

The final weekend of the 2014 Ghost Walk season is coming up, on Dec. 5 and 6 in conjunction with the 13th annual Milford Lamplight Stroll. The Ghost Walks will begin at the Milford Historical Society’s Bryan-Downs House at 34 High Street, and will focus on the Christmas Spirits of Milford.

After a winter break, Boynton plans to resume the Milford Ghost Walks in March 2015. Until then, will she be idle? Hardly.

In partnership with Rainbow Gardens restaurant, Boynton has organized a Dinner with the Dead on Jan. 21. The evening will feature a special menu in a private room and the services of medium Catherine Crowley, who will assist participants in contacting beloved spirits. The night quickly sold out. Boynton added a second Dinner with the Dead on Feb. 4; her website indicated it, too, is sold out.

The next book project, though, will deal with keeping alive the story of a dedicated World War II veteran, Boynton’s father, Edward Wolfe.

In 1944, Boynton said, Edward Wolfe was taken, as a junior, out of West Haven High School and put on the U.S.S. Missouri for the entire war. She is in the process now of sorting through and organizing writings, records and the oral history of her 88-year-old father to tell this compelling story.

“It’s really important for me to get this story done now, while my father is alive and can share in it,” Boynton said. “I really believe that in storytelling, the teller gains as much as the receiver of the story.”