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Connecticut ghost town auctioned for $1.9 million

For weeks, the sale of a ghost town generated hype and fear about its future
Abandoned Connecticut village auctioned for $1.9 million 03:34

Welcome to Johnsonville, a town with 62 acres of pristine New England real estate and a population of zero.

For weeks, the sale of the ghost town generated hype and fear about its future, and now the auction for the village of Johnsonville in Moodus, Connecticut, ended Thursday with a winning bid of $1.9 million, reports CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller.

The village died along with its owner 20 years ago. Some say the remains are haunted by the man who couldn't let go.

Thomas and Brian Kronenberger remember this quaint New England village in better days. They helped to build it.

"I fell in love with it so much that I ended up starting up my own business," Thomas Kronenberger of Kronenberger and Sons said. "My brother and I got together and created a restoration company."

They spent more than two decades alongside their father, painstakingly restoring the now-decaying relics and recreating a 19th-century village in 20th-century Connecticut.

Thomas said he knew the place when it was vibrant.

"Saw it going up. Saw it when it was put together stick by stick," he said.

It's sad to see the town now in disrepair, Thomas said.

"It's like part of your soul. When it's gone, it's gone," he said.

The town was the brainchild of Ray Schmitt, a businessman who bought hundreds of acres around an old twine mill. He shipped Victorian structures from all over the northeast to this spot -- an old barn, a general store, the home he lived in and even an old chapel.

Tom Kronenberger, Sr. led the project. Tom said he was one of the few people who could talk back to Schmitt.

"Between you and I, basically, a lot of his ideas were screwy anyway," Tom said.

Some say the place is haunted.

"If it is, then probably Ray would be the guy who was haunting it because this was certainly his love," Brian said.

Ray Bendici writes on all things nutty in the Nutmeg State, from the strange to the paranormal.

"People love this stuff," Bendici said. "So there's no doubt that if you have a haunted village, people are going to come check it out."

That's exactly what happened when Johnsonville's owners, a hospitality group, put it up for auction this month. Despite the chipped paint, rusting metal and sagging roofs, bids came pouring in from all over the world.

Realtor and senior vice president of RM Bradley Jim Kelly said people saw the forest through the trees.

"So if you're the winning bidder at auction, you could be not only the owner of this 62 acres of bliss in New England, but the mayor of your own town," Kelly said.

If nothing goes wrong, the auction winners will own this property in 30 days. The Kronenbergers hope they get a second chance to restore this village to its former glory.

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