Known for its rich history, New England has its fair share of places that have been said to be haunted. And while many of these stories take place in Boston (the T, the Boston Common, and the Public Library to name a few), our west-of-Boston suburbs have some stories from the past as well. Here are just a few of the spots nearby that give off that spooky vibe.
Harvard Shaker Village, Harvard
Harvard Settlement, the second Shaker community in the US (first in MA), though developed in the 18th century, still tells a tale of our New England ancestors. The Harvard Shaker Village Cemetery, which looks more like a lollipop farm than a graveyard, ended up as the final resting place for more than 300 members of the Harvard Shaker community during the years of 1792 and 1929. And while the Harvard Shakers may be long gone, nocturnal visits to their Harvard, MA graveyard have long been a rite of passage for local youth, generating various reports of ghost sightings: Shakers in fields, woods, and the cemetery.
An “urban explorer’s gold mine,” this 90-acre property spreads along the shores of Westborough's Lake Chauncy and is filled with crumbling buildings, which operated for more than a century before closing its doors in 2010.
The hospital, originally named Westborough Insane Hospital in 1884, is still stocked with rusting gurneys, medical charts and other tools used to treat mentally ill patients. Throughout the decaying property, rooms appear to have been left undisturbed for decades, painting an eerie picture of the mental health system as it functioned years ago.
Who haunts the halls of these buildings? It’s anyone’s guess, but at one point in the hospital’s history, there was a population of “criminally insane women,” some of whom, because of over-population and “lack of proper accommodations, had killed an unspecified number of other patients,” according to documents detailing the hospital’s history. Sounds like some pretty good ghostly candidates…
Fort Devens, Devens
Once a bustling Army base, reports say that in the older, unused buildings unexplained flashing lights have been noticed at night. If that doesn’t give you a chill, perhaps hearing a piano playing from the defunct movie house will.
Though many report sounds and lights coming from Fort Devens, some have mentioned actually seeing the paranormal. One explorer tells the tale of visiting an old abandoned mental hospital across the parking lot from the Police barracks, claiming that apparitions can be found on the first floor watching while young children can be heard playing.
They also advise, “the Parade Grounds are beautiful during the day, but don’t let looks fool you because at night you may see things differently.”
Gleasondale (private) home, Stow
Though residents of Stow claim nonsense at the mention of ghosts, residents who have lived in this particular home disagree. Built in 1814 in the Stow village of Gleasondale, residents of this home have claimed that ghosts show up every time “a hammer is picked up”- for minor and major construction projects. What do these spirits do? Rock in a chair, rattle the dishes, stand up brooms and mops, close doors, push books off of shelves, and (in the form of a black apparition) walk through the room to the backyard… you know, typical ghost stuff.
Though no one is quite sure how this home acquired the ghost, those who know of it say there was most likely a tragedy that took the life of the ghostly visitor. And, given the home is built out of a ship mast, it is said that the tragedy could have had something to do with a shipwreck- which would explain why she gets a bit peeved when changes are being made to the home.
Considered by skeptics as a figment of overactive imaginations or perhaps even a marketing ploy, Stone’s Public House is known to have a resident ghost: Mary. A giggling spirit who casts shadows (and then disappears into walls), the story goes that “Mary” was hit by a train and taken to die in the inn only steps away from the tracks.
Before you roll your eyes, this story has been documented with a record of Mary’s death in the Ashland town clerk’s office, and at the Massachusetts State Archives in Dorchester. The girl was a few months shy of 11 years old when she died on June 11, 1863. The cause of death? Records show “Killed by RR cars in Ashland.”
Need more compelling evidence? Mary’s pinafore sits in a frame on a wall upstairs at the former tavern built in the 1830s. Additionally, The Discovery Channel show “Ghost Lab” investigated Stone’s Public House and not only captured a child’s shadow on infrared camera, but it also got the voice of a little girl at the same time.
Have any stories about hauntings in your town? We’d love to know about them!
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