Despite its comparative size, the pages of Williamstown history present to our browsing thumbs a bit less blood stained than those of some neighbors. Today, the town of around 7,700 people ranks far below state averages for violent crime overall, plagued by some dozen or so assault and rape cases a year (a feat not to be too quickly glazed over when measured against national averages for college towns). While truly accurate, apples to apples comparisons of records become increasingly impossible the further back one goes, no one period in its story appears to have been considered particularly rough and rowdy, in deep contrast to many Berkshire villages. Far more of the tenor of social distress from this part of the map expressed via media of the past two centuries has concerned... well, noise complaints.
Nonetheless, we have evidence enough- from the alleged peddler disappearance in earliest days, to the slayings of 19 year old Bonnie Pearson or 43 year old Reginald Rockwell in the 60s and 70s, and on to more recent incidents- that the concept of being murdered in Williamstown has never been completely alien. Out of this history, one troubling unsolved case stands out in particular.
On Oct. 7, 1976, Cynthia Krizack, a 17-year-old student at Mt. Greylock High School, left her home en route to the Williams College library to study. When she had not returned by noon the following day, her parents reported her missing. An extensive search ensued, involving more than 200 volunteers and covering an area of 16 square miles around the Krizack home and the college campus. Two Williamstown residents reported that they believed they had heard a scream that night in the vicinity of the college, but the Williamstown Police Chief countered that it was "not unusual to hear screams in the neighborhood of the campus."
Finally, on Oct. 31, Krizack's body was discovered by a hunter, near the bottom of a rocky gorge off route 9 in Windsor. An autopsy determined the cause of her death to be strangulation, and her body showed signs of blows to the head by a blunt instrument. This condition was just the same as that of Kim Benoit, an 18 year old North Adams girl abducted under similar circumstances two years earlier.
While the two cases seemed almost staggeringly similar, local authorities at the time dismissed a connection between the two murders.
As with Benoit, Cynthia Krizack's murder was never solved, and while cold case enthusiasts have speculated connections to several potential suspects over the years, one subsequent incident reported in nearby Bennington is rarely if ever considered.
In the early morning of Nov. 2, 1976, less than four weeks after Krizack's murder, 21-year-old Cheryl Mull of Bennington was found unconscious in her car, with battery cables wrapped around her neck. She had left her job at Price Chopper shortly after midnight, only to find a mysterious man hiding in the backseat of her car. When she got in, he promptly attempted to strangle her with the cables, but was scared off when a local police officer drove by and, seeing what appeared to be an empty car with its headlights on, turned back to investigate. He quickly switched off the headlights and fled on foot. After she was taken to the hospital, six local and state officers searched the nearby woods but failed to find anyone. The mysterious assailant was never caught.
Five years later in northern Berkshires, 18 year old shop clerk Lynn Burdick vanished from behind the register of a Route 2 convenience store, and no trace of her has ever been found... which may or may not be a completely different story.
More typically, a variety of less sinister occurrences have occasionally disturbed the town's latent desire for quiet.
In 1879, a pair of Pownal men hunting in the south of Williamstown came upon a frightful sight, one which was taken seriously enough it made the New York Times soon after.
The “wild man” encountered they described as “being about five feet high, resembling a man in form and movement, but covered all over with bright red hair, and having a long straggling beard, and with very wild eyes.”
The "thing" was first seen as it sprung from a rocky cliff and darted for the woods nearby. Unable to catch a good glimpse of it at first, one of them fired and was believed to have wounded it. Enraged, it turned and charged at the men at a high speed. In panic, the hunters lost their guns and ammunition as they ran, and "dared not return for fear of encountering the strange being."
This, the correspondent noted, was reminiscent of tales already old by that time of a strange, hairy man-like creature said to be seen in the forests of the southern Green Mountains. This "wild man" - which years later would come to be called "the Bennington Monster" or the "Bennington Bigfoot"- had at that time not been seen in many years, though the two men's account reinvigorated interest in surrounding towns. There was talk of assembling a party to go look for it, but it is unclear whether this was undertaken.
While other hairy hominid reports have continued to come in from about the Berkshires, this appears to have been the last from this vicinity. Almost 70 years after the incident with the wild man, a young Williamstown couple was similarly chased, this time by a cougar. That of course, is only weird on account of all those fine folks from wildlife agencies that keep telling us those big cats went extinct here long before...
Folks around the area have also been perturbed by the periodic unusual aerial activity. On November 10, 1958, a number of Williamstown residents reported three large lights hovering in the sky in the direction of Bennington, one with a reddish glow and two much brighter ones. An hour and a half later some teachers from Drury reported seeing a strange searchlight from the southwest. All observers felt certain they were not viewing airplanes or meteor activity. Closer to the ground, a series of small unexplained lights in the Spring Street vicinity in August 1970 were reported by a group of young people, who said the lights disappeared when approached.
In November of 1984, 7 people allegedly witnessed a "enormous sized triangular craft" moving south over the town. In September of 1996, another object appearing to be three points of light slowly trolling the sky caught the attention of another witness. On November 11, 2003, some Williams College students viewed another large, strangely moving triangle. "We believe that it was a UFO because of its flying nature and odd shape that didn't look like a plane," said one. "It had a definite haze around it, but one could make out three standout areas that were more luminous."
A subsequent report from August '07 of two lights racing across the sky was later determined by investigators to have been related to a shuttle launch on the night in question. Then just last may, three red lights, again in a triangular formation, were seen moving slowly over the town by another witness wishing to remain anonymous.
These two articles, while not exactly comprehensive of the files of Weird-comma-WilliamstownMass (I didn't mention the bizarre 70 year old insect, did I?), offer a fair exhibit from the cabinet of its curiosities, a primer of things you won't find in the regular brochure. Perfect for that wild eyed Williams bound student or morbidly curious visiting Hollywood VIP in your life. I hope too that it suffices to address earlier admonitions of folkloric discrimination on my part, complaints not without merit; back to the armchair for now, then, to wait in eager anticipation for notifications of omissions...