Horror Stories Of Torture, Sexual Abuse And Murder From A Catholic Orphanage In Vermont

Public documents and witness interviews were published on BuzzFeed last Monday after a four year investigation into the torture, sexual abuse and even murder of children came to a close, thanks to details given by former residents of St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Burlington, Vermont.

This news comes only days after Pope Francis travelled to Ireland to apologise for the 800 children who were found murdered in and buried in a septic tank in Tuam, Ireland between 1925 and 1961, in a single mothers home provided by the Catholic church. This revelation also follows the grand jury report of the 1,000 children that were sexually abused by the church in Pennsylvania over a 70 year period.

The St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Burlington, Vermont, which shut its doors in the 1970’s, is the focus of international attention after a four investigation into the Catholic orphanage revealed several decade long reports of the torture of children, their subsequent sexual abuse, and also reports of several children being murdered by nuns on the grounds of the establishment. 

Some of the reports surfaced as claims in litigation from the 1990’s, but the church denied any wrongdoing, meaning that most cases were dismissed whilst other litigants against the church had to settle for as little as $5,000 in compensation for abuse, with also simply too much time elapsing to prove any of the claims in court. Many had been suspicious that the memories recovered from the 1930’s till the orphanage’s closure in 1974 could be without merit.

An unknown nun from the orphanage with two young boys. Credit: Facebook

However, the new investigations by BuzzFeed help lay weight to the claims with corroborating evidence which had never been proven in court before.

St. Joseph’s was run by the Montreal-based Sisters of Providence and closed in 1974, and the claims concern the children who grew up in the Catholic establishment over a 44 year period. 

Key witness Sally Dale was the longest permanent resident at the orphanage from the age of 2 years old to 23 years old. In 1996, Dale gave a 19 hour deposition recalling the abuse, including witnessing seeing a nun throw a child out of a window to their death. In 1944, when she was six years old and out in the courtyard, where she then heard the sounds of breaking glass and looked up to see a boy flying out the window and a nun leaning out of it with her arms stretched out. He was thrown to his death.

Recounting the incident, Dale stated: “He kind of hit and – I guess you’d call it, it was a bounce. And then he laid still.”

Then a nun grabbed her by the ear in the courtyard and led her away, then warning her that what she had seen was “only her imagination.”

The orphanage was built in the 1800s and ran under the supervision of the Sisters of Providence until it shut down in 1974. Credit: PreservationBurlington.org

In another statement by Sally Dale, a boy was pushed into the water of a lake by a nun from a rowboat; a method used in order to teach kids how to swim, which was recalled by many former children as part of their residence at St. Joseph’s.

When Dale asked the nun about the boy who never came up from the lake, she was told by the nun as recalled in the disposition, “Oh don’t worry, he’s gone home for good.”

Sally Dale, who’s now deceased, was one of one hundred former residents St. Joseph’s that filed lawsuits against the orphanage in the 1990’s, several years before the Boston Globe’s landmark investigation into the secrecy surrounding child abuse in the institution. 

Former St. Joseph’s resident, Sherry Huestis, recalled that in the middle of the night, a seamstress that worked at the orphanage named “Eva”, would sometimes pull her out of bed to keep her company whilst making the rounds and checking the doors.

One night, Huestis said they heard terrible screams, where they found a nun laying down with her legs spread on a bed and two nuns hovering over her, then a black baby emerged from between them. The next day, the baby was in the nursery when a nun later entered and pushed a satin pillow over its face until the baby went limp.

Graffiti written by former residents, seen on the grounds of the former orphanage. Credit: Facebook

Once Huestis sp0ke out to a social worker about what she had seen, the nun slapped her in the face, making her never want to talk about it ever again.

Another former child resident, Joseph Eskra, who lived at St. Joseph’s between 1950 and 1960, recalls one night when one boy didn’t turn up for dinner. A search party set out to look for him, when he was later found frozen to death outside, tied to a tree. More stories of horrible beatings were claimed to have taken place, such as locking up kids in cupboards and burning the child residents with lit matches, as well as many stories of sexual abuse at the hands of the nuns.

Sally Dale’s most insane claim, which is so disturbing that it is even hard to believe, is when she was asked to kiss a dead boy who had been burned and electrocuted beyond recognition, after being forced to wear a metal helmet. She was warned that the same would happen to her if she tried to run away.

This disturbing story is corroborated by a boy dying in a such a manner in Burlington, which would verify Sally Dale’s story. On April 18th, 1955, Joseph Millette was electrocuted at the Green Mountain Power transformer station whilst wearing German World War II army helmet, according to a newspaper clipping in the town. The claims of Dale’s story of the electrocuted corpse matches Joseph Milettes’ state of death down to a tee, even though he wasn’t a resident of St. Joseph’s at the time.

Additionally, five out of eight priests at St. Joseph’s were also accused of sexual abuse that accused in other litigations. The accused priest’s were father’s Foster, Bresnehan, Devoy, Emile Savary, and Donald LaRouche, who ruled over St. Joseph’s 39 years of existence. 

The old St. Joseph’s building is now an upscale condo complex. Credit: apartments.com

Monsignor John McDermott of the Burlington Diocese released the following statement to BuzzFeed: “Please know that the Diocese of Burlington treats allegations of child abuse seriously and procedures are in place for reporting to the proper authorities. While it cannot alter the past, the Diocese is doing everything it can to ensure children are protected.”

The Vermont Catholic Charities and the Sisters of Providence declined to comment on the allegations in the published claims in BuzzFeed, which may even indicate guilt. 

The grounds at St. Joseph’s has long since been sold off by the Catholic church, and was recently purchased by a developer who converted it into several upscale condos and renamed it ‘Liberty House’. We bet you that those condos will be haunted by the children that lost their lives in the care of the Catholic church.


Story by The Narrator

Featured Photo Credit: Facebook

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.