Tag Archives: Boston

Peddocks Island Ghost Story

Main Piece

Informant CH told many ghost stories from the Boston Harbor, on islands near her hometown. She recalls that of the islands, Peddocks Island was the “scariest place she’s ever been” and that she was taken there on a camping trip in both 7th and 8th grade.

An island tour guide who frequents Peddocks told her and her classmates of ghost stories that took place there–there are abandoned wartime barracks on the island and an abandoned ship watchtower, and the grounds are said to be haunted. One such story involves “hearing someone playing a piano, but there’s nobody there.”

While on a walk with another 7th grade peer at night by the barracks, CH and her friend saw a wandering man in a “war helmet with a visor,” wearing black, green, and white. He was “limping and had a gun slung over his shoulder.” They both screamed and the figure didn’t react at all. He was “walking on a path that didn’t exist” and, upon later recollection, CH added that she didn’t remember his walking making any sound. When they returned to camp and told of the occurrence, other teachers and peers didn’t believe them and asked why they all didn’t see it if something was there.

The next day, CH and her peers were taken to a history museum, where she saw photos of soldiers with the “same color grade and hats with visors and everything.” She learned that soldiers used to be trained on this island, and there used to be homes and hospitals set up on the grounds where she was camping.

The next year, CH returned as an 8th grader and, while staying in tents by the old watchtower, she saw a “girl…sketching the exact same guy because she said that she also saw him.”


Informant Interpretation: CH believes this story to be one example of many haunted stories told about Boston Harbor, and traces this back to the fact that “this is the portion that still retains its history.” No one builds or tears things down on the island. “The life as it was is still how it is,” CH mentioned, which makes it a “magnet” for stories like this. CH noted that she honestly believes she and her friend saw a ghost that day, and that this occurrence made her think ghosts dwelled in a parallel world (as he didn’t acknowledge her or her friend) rather than haunting this one.

Personal Interpretation: I found this story to be emblematic of a regional perspective on haunting, as permitted by the history of Boston Harbor–as a city much older than many others in America, it feels more in touch with its history. This plays out in CH’s legend by virtue of haunting coming about in old, untouched places–ghosts become representative of the collective public memory, remaining relevant because so much physical history and buildings remain too. I think it’s also an apt example of human perception informing folk narrative–observation of physical land features, attitudes of locals, and sheer emotional intuition all lend themselves towards forming regional beliefs and legends.


My informant is a current student of Theatre at the University of Southern California, originally from Hull, Massachusetts (located on a peninsula on Boston Harbor). She grew up there, and notes that her family has strong ties to the area. Both of her parents believe in ghosts, though she believes there to be a general local apprehension about their existence around the Harbor.

CH is white and of European (primarily Irish) descent, and female-presenting.

“The Lady In Black” Ghost Story

Main Piece

Informant CH recalls hearing a story from her Mom about “The Lady in Black,” a ghost who dwells on George’s Island in the Boston Harbor.

As told by CH, the Lady in Black was wrongfully convicted for a murder she didn’t commit, and hung on prison grounds. She now haunts these grounds, wailing. Prisoners have heard a woman’s cries in the prison, but there wasn’t anyone there.

The Lady in Black was “not a real person” (in terms of corporealness), and “couldn’t physically interact with anything,” and seemed “bound” to the site of the prison. Hearing her cries startled prisoners, and CH recalls that the legend of the Lady in Black is well-recorded and published in regional folklore. While discussing it, CH was unsure of more specific details and mentioned that I should look up further details, as she’s uncertain if her memory of the story aligns with the published materials.


Informant’s Interpretation: CH sees the story of the Lady in Black as a reminder of the wartime history of Boston Harbor. She also believes that the abundance of stories about Boston Harbor–particularly pertaining to ghosts–has to do with a permeating regional desire to “figure out what happened” and have an accurate understanding of history that’s still so well represented and physically present.

Personal Interpretation: I drew similarities between CH’s story of the Lady in Black to the Irish banshee, a wailing woman who acts as a harbinger of death. Being that the Lady in Black was particularly noted to be heard by prisoners and a victim of a wrongful hanging, I felt her association with death was particularly strong. This seems representative of a place (particularly a prison with heavily militaristic history) that has a great deal of death associated with it. Thus, I felt the haunting and its nature to be deeply tied to the literal and physical history of the island.


Informant CH is a current student at USC pursuing a degree in Theatre. She grew up in Hull, Massachusetts, and noted that her Mom grew up in the same town and the “islands have been her life.” CH heard this story from her, and thinks it likely came up because she mentioned thinking she’d seen a ghost when she was young (elementary to early middle school), and her parents responded by telling her about the Lady in Black. CH notes that due to this story and other personal experiences, she believes in ghosts, as do her parents.

CH is white and of European descent (primarily Irish), and is female-presenting.

Madonna Della Cava Feast

“Growing up in Boston we had a lot of festivals, and a few jump to my mind–there’s an Italian feast that everyone goes to in late August, like in middle of the streets in Boston, and you can get Italian food and listen to live music! It’s great. It’s called the Madonna Della Cava Feast, and my whole neighborhood (the North End) is totally transformed during the festival. I think the festival coincides with one in Pietraperzia, Italy, which is cool because an immigrant community halfway across the world has this intimate thing in common with its roots!”


This conversation was conducted in person at a dining hall, and I transcribed as faithfully as possible our conversation into written form.


This also highlights how festivals can have a cultural element where even in another nation, similar aspects are celebrated. Boston has a significant Italian population, so this isn’t surprising, but it does illustrate how these immigrant/motherland communities might be closer than one may imagine, given that immigration to a new cultural context might induce changes in the way festivals are celebrated.

Boston University Seal Superstition


The informant, NR, is a current Boston University student and heard about this superstition from friends while walking around campus.

Main piece:

“So, there’s a, there’s a giant seal in the center of Marsh Plaza, which is kind of like the center of campus. And it’s superstition that like, if you step on the seal, you won’t graduate in time. Literally like, you can go to Marsh Chapel like any time during the day, and like it’s the center of campus so like it’s always going to be, there’s always going to be people walking every which way. But if you observe, you’ll, uh, notice that people will like actually go out of their way to avoid stepping on it, on the seal.”


I think this is a pretty common college superstition, and I’ve heard mention of multiple similar versions on different campuses. Many universities have school seals embedded somewhere on their grounds, and since the seal is associated through its shape with the authority of the university, stepping on the seal could be seen as disrespecting the authority of the educational institution.

Alternatively, the seal could represent the college community, and disrespecting the community by stepping on the seal would result in being left behind while your classmates graduate on time. Other versions, like the one linked below, include conversions for reversing the bad luck drawn by stepping on the seal, but the informant says he has never heard of a conversion for stepping on Boston University’s seal.

For another version of this superstition, see this superstition around stepping on the seal at Auburn University: “Auburn University – Seal Superstition” by Eli Alford, USC Digital Folklore Archives, May 1, 2021, http://folklore.usc.edu/auburn-university-seal-superstition/

Kilachand Hall is Haunted

Informant – “Kilachand Hall is supposedly haunted. That’s where the honor students live. It used to be a hotel. The most famous resident was a playwright named Eugene O’Neill. There was also another famous writer there who won a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer or something. I don’t know. But anyways, O’Neill died in this hotel. And BU bought the building and turned it into a dormitory. Strange things have been going on on the fourth floor ever since, cause that’s where he lived. Apparently he died there. Lights inexplicably dim. Elevators stop working and open on the fourth floor for no reason. There are knocks on the door when no one is outside.”

Informant – “I heard it on my college tour. It makes me not what to live there haha.”

Eugene O’Neill did in fact die in Kilachand Hall (formerly known as Shelton Hall). I think this legend is popular because it is a reminder that a famous person died in the building. It adds panache to the idiosyncrasies of an old building.