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An Unforgettable 'Field Trip': N.H. Family Goes On Walk, Finds Forgotten Crypt

Courtesy Krystin Cooney
The crypt in Deerfield

Families are spending a lot of time together these days, often confined to their houses – and if they’re lucky, some open space or woods nearby.

That's led to some deep explorations for one family into the mysteries behind their house.

Editor's note: This crypt is located on private property. The owners ask that people do not try to visit the crypt, as it is old and potentially unstable

It all started with a moose. Krystin Cooney was walking with her family down their road in Deerfield when a neighbor called out - a moose had just passed through. Cooney had never seen one, so the family quieted down and started looking for it.

"Once we snuck down the path, we literally just stumbled upon a stone structure that we were fascinated by in the middle of the woods," she says.

It was the size of a shed, built into the ground like an old root cellar.

"I thought it was that someone built a really cool fort, and then I realized it was no one's property because no one's house is near it," says Cooney's 4th-grade daughter Ellie.

When the family got home, they started researching, emailing librarians and poring over digitized old town records. Turns out, they had stumbled upon a crypt from the 1850s.

Cooney, a history teacher at Bedford High School, learned that families typically built crypts in the winter when the ground was too frozen to bury people, or when they couldn’t afford plots in the graveyard. She was delicate about explaining this to her three elementary school children, given fears about sickness and death amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

Ellie said she found it “creepy” at first but has now gotten used to it. She told all her classmates about it during a virtual class meeting, and they have returned a few times, treating it like a miniature history field trip during school closure.

And about that moose? They never found it.

“It was so sad,” Krystin Cooney laughs. “That was our main goal. But after the excitement of finding a crypt in our backyard, I think the moose wasn't going to stick around.”

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Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.

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