Tag Archives: massachusetts

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.”

Interpretation

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.

Background

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.

Interpretation

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.

Background

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.

Summoning a Plymouth Colonist Ghost through Song (Legend, Memorate)

Text

Collector: “Do you have any experiences with ghosts in your childhood?”

Informant: “Yeah, I was probably about 10 or 12 years old. I was in a town called Duxbury Massachusetts, which is right outside of Plymouth. In Duxbury, there is a little memorial park [for] one of the founding colonists on the Mayflower named Myles Standish he was a military general of Plymouth Colony. The cellar hole where his house used to stand, you can kinda walk down this cliff face to this beach. I was kickin’ it there with my buddies, swimming [in the water] and such, and the sun started to set. A friend of mine started telling this freaky ghost story he had heard on the internet. It was like a song that was starting to haunt people. He got the the end of the story and then started playing the song. The sun sets, it’s dusk, we look up at the cliff face and there’s this like dark pilgrim-looking figure standing up there and we started freaking out. We all saw it. It looked like someone was standing at the top of the cliff. So we [run] up the stairs and get to our bikes, we start peddling down the streets. That’s my ghost story.”

Context

The Informant is a 21-year-old male college student who grew up in Boston Massachusetts. As a child, he would visit Plymouth to see family and frequently heard legends about the land, its bloody history, and spirits who came back to haunt it. The informant’s friends summoned a colonist spirit by playing a song. 

Analysis

The Informant’s story is an example of a memorate because this spiritual encounter was a first-hand experience. The Friend’s “freaky ghost story” about a song was a legend that the group then decided to test. What intrigued me about the story was where the test took place. There was a memorial site on the land for a brutal colonist military general, Myles Standish. The English general was infamous for the ruthless slaughter of Neponset Band Natives in The Massacre at Wessagusset. Standish lured Natives into a small building where he stabbed and hung them. The general even (my Informant shared this with me during a different conversation) stuck a well-respected Neponset Band Warrior’s head on a pike to scare the Natives. The dead bodies did not get a proper “send-off” into the afterlife. According to our class lecture, some cultures believe that the absence of a ritual or funeral ceremony for the dead means spirits cannot transition into the afterlife. Instead, the spirits are condemned to haunting the land where they died. Plymouth is not only haunted by spirits but by its history. The story of Myles Standish delegitimizes the land and calls into question rightful ownership. This supports Professor Thompson’s commentary on why Americans do not encourage or embrace the practice of folklore. 

The Infamous Bridgewater Triangle

Text: “A super popular legend in Massachusetts is the story of the Bridgewater Triangle which is like an area in southeastern Massachusetts that is supposedly haunted by ghosts, UFOs, and other paranormal phenomena. According to legend, the Bridgewater Triangle is a hub of supernatural activity, with many people claiming to have witnessed strange occurrences in the area. These include sightings of Bigfoot-like creatures, mysterious orbs of light, and ghostly apparitions. The Hockomock Swamp, which is located within the Bridgewater Triangle, is said to be a particularly active area for paranormal activity and I personally heard a story about a ufo with a bunch of flashing lights being seen there, but I have also heard about people saying they’ve seen bigfoots or like giant snakes there. Its basically this huge area where a ton of weird unexplainable stuff happens.”

Context: CW is a very close friend of mine and it was clear to me from the very beginning of this story that he did not really believe in the supernatural sightings within the Bridgewater triangle, but he still said this legend was very very common in Massachusetts. He recalls first being told about it by his friend in middle school, but that when he was first told about it, his friend blew it out of proportion, saying that the ghosts of several random famous people have been seen there having parties or that aliens often go there to just casually hangout. This led to a good laugh and it also helped explain why he was altogether unphased by the supposed supernatural nature of this area close to his home. We looked up if any of the supposed sightings could be backed by evidence and while we found some very blurry pictures it was certainly not enough to “prove” anything.

Analysis: I found this to be one of the more enjoyable legends I have been told about particularly because it leaves a lot up to the person hearing the story’s imagination. It seems that it does not necessarily matter what supernatural activity occurs in the Bridgewater Triangle, it is more important just to believe that something supernatural might be happening there in general. The legend has supposedly gained a large following among paranormal enthusiasts and has been the subject of numerous books, movies, and TV shows. Additionally, many people who live in the area have reported experiencing strange occurrences and believe in the supernatural happenings that are said to occur in the Bridgewater Triangle. This legend exists because of the numerous reports of paranormal activity and strange occurrences that have been reported in the area. The stories of this particular area have been passed down from generation to generation, and many people believe in the supernatural happenings that are said to occur there. This leads me to believe that it s primarily passed down through word of mouth. People who have experienced strange occurrences in the area share their stories with others, who then pass them on to their friends and family. Like in the case of CW, who heard the legend from his close friend. I also enjoy the fact that this particular legend can have many different effects on a person or group depending on what they believe in. Because of the lack of concrete or credible evidence, this falls nicely into the category of legend because of how much people do truly believe in the supernatural activity of this area, even though it is yet to be proven.

Smith College “Grateful Gate” Superstition

Context:

Smith College is a historically women’s college in Massachusetts. EZ is a current Smith College student.

Main Piece:

“So there’s this gate in the front of campus called the Grateful Gate, and you’re not supposed to walk through it until graduation, so um, I’ve never walked through it yet, and that way hopefully I’ll graduate on time.”

Analysis:

Many colleges and universities have a superstition that involves not interacting with some architectural part of the campus until graduation, with the superstition stating that if one does the superstitious action, one will not graduate on time. In this case, walking through the Grateful Gate is a part of the graduation ceremony at Smith College, so the transgression of the superstition is moving through this action at the improper time. By walking through the gate (metaphorically symbolizing graduation) before the actual completion of studies, the transgressor brings themselves bad luck.

For another college superstition with the punishment of not graduating on time, refer to this piece of folklore: “Auburn University – Seal Superstition,” Eli Alford, USC Digital Folklore Archives, May 1, 2021. http://folklore.usc.edu/auburn-university-seal-superstition/