Today, a fact came to my attention that could be part of the reason that the Sea Hag was often seen in the early part of the 19th century, but since then sightings have tapered off. The lighthouse that stands on five mile point is not the original one, but an updated lighthouse (built in 1847). The original lighthouse was much smaller and deemed too faint to protect boats from hitting the coast (in fact a boat did crash into the rocks due to the faintness of the light). Having a much duller light would lead to a significantly creepier atmosphere where one could be much less sure of what one saw in the water. Therefore there are two explanations for the decreased sightings; either the Sea Hag doesn’t exist and the weak light was playing tricks on observers’ eyes (early 19th century eyes that were more prone to believing in the paranormal), or the Sea Hag does exist and is hesitant to show herself in the more illuminated harbor.
I actually went down to Five Mile Point in the harbor today to get a better sense of what it would have been like to be in the city in the time of Robert Henway. A big part of being a historian and folklorist is to get an understanding of the surroundings in which the people you’re studying used to live. The New Haven harbor is a great place to do this because in a lot of ways it hasn’t changed. The lighthouse is new, but in the same location and the area hasn’t been too changed by industry. Looking out into the water, I got a good sense of the opportunities and the peril that lay beyond in the 19th century.