“When I was young, ghost stories were as essential to my group of neighborhood friends as the bikes we used to investigate them. I knew the “Gates of Hell” legends of Maudslay State Park were ridiculous at best, but the prickling sensation I felt as I got off my bike to take a look for myself had an effect all its own. The story of the human heads said to be propped up by the spikes of the gate was enough to keep me peddling near the head of the pack on the ride home. These ghosts lived and lurked in the woods we explored, so while we listened to the stories, we experienced them, too.
It’s this kind of upbringing that makes locals privy to ghost stories that otherwise fall below the radar. The historically rich buildings of the North Shore seem to validate the ghost stories harbored there and for good reason, it turns out. From college residence halls to the local Town Clerk’s office, ghosts have come to inhabit all types of local places. But why?
“Older buildings are more comfortable for a spirit to reside,” says Denise Bilodeau, vice president for student development at Endicott College. Nearly 29 years of involvement with student and residence life has molded Bilodeau into quite the expert on Endicott’s very own ghost. She suspects buildings today are made of materials that fail to “create an atmosphere where energy would thrive, like a spirit, like a ghost.”
Not a believer? Pay a visit to some of these places before making up your mind. But regardless of your beliefs, the spirits of Massachusetts’ past are embedded in the landscape and thrive today as their stories are passed on by others like Bilodeau. “And hopefully there will always be someone to pass them on to,” she says, “because they are rich in history and culture.”
The Garrison Inn, Newburyport
Ask a Newburyport native and you’ll find that room 408 is said to be haunted by Sarah White Banister, the heir to the building’s original owner. Staff members have seen her there in the past. Recently in a nearby room, a woman staying there alone described talking with a little girl. Another occurrence caused the housekeeping staff alarm when they heard what they thought was rushing water from a third floor room. No guests were scheduled to be there, but inside they found the the television blaring static. Even now, the television can be heard turning on when guests and staff pass by the closed door in the hallway.
Old Hill Burial Ground, Newburyport
The stones of this impressive Newburyport cemetery jut out awkwardly from the grassy hills in all directions. Established in 1729, this cemetery has earned quite the grave-robbing reputation. The infamous Pierce Tomb has suffered three known break-ins, the last of which prompted the crypt to be tightly sealed by a wall of brick. The tomb is rumored to be haunted by a man and a woman who have been spotted leaving it in the evening, only to return late at night.
Maudslay State Park, Newburyport
It is well known that this park was once the estate of the wealthy Moseley family, who settled in Newburyport in 1805. Part of the foundation still remains, but otherwise, the family is somewhat of a mystery. A young woman is said to haunt the mansion’s foundation in the evenings. More common, though, is an uneasy feeling that you can’t quite put your finger on. Some describe it as a sensation of being watched, or the slight raising of the hairs on the back of your neck that can occur on the warmest of days.
Dungeon Rock, Lynn
After a pirate ship landed in Lynn Harbor in the summer of 1658, four men rowed its treasure chest to a place now known as Pirate’s Glen. British soldiers captured and hanged three, but one, known as Veal, escaped, making the natural cave his home. Years later, Veal was said to be killed in the cave during an earthquake. But word of the treasure lingered, and in 1852, Hiram Marble, an avid member of the Spiritualist Church, believed the spirits within the cave would lead him to it. On a quest to validate his Spiritualist beliefs, he spent the remainder of his life digging, inviting local mediums to guide his way until his death. Despite his son’s additional efforts, the treasure was never found. Today, some argue that the story negates the validity of the Spiritualist faith, while others think the spirits were having some fun of their own while leading Marble astray.
Howard Street, Cemetery Salem
The old Salem jail looms beside the Howard Street Cemetery and is said to be the site of Giles Corey’s death during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Corey refused to admit his guilt, and as a result, he was pressed to death with stones—a method intended to force out his confession. Rather than confess, he demanded more weight be added, earning him the title of “Man of Iron.” Corey’s ghost is said to have haunted the cemetery ever since. Some say he placed a curse on the town in his last breath, while others claim to have felt the cool touch of a hand when visiting the burial ground. Regardless, the brutality of the story is spooky enough on its own and effectively haunts the minds of those who hear it.
Hammond Castle, Gloucester
Hammond Castle is no stranger to the paranormal. Psychic fairs and galleries frequent the structure today, just as they did when it was the home of inventor John Hays Hammond and his wife, Irene. Frequent sightings of Hammond’s ghost give merit to the rumors, particularly in the balcony area that overlooks the Great Hall. During a school field trip, the ghost was spotted here by a little boy who accurately described Hammond’s appearance down to his favorite tie. While preparing for an event at the castle, Jeffrey Noonan Justice, a psychic and medium of Salem, says an image appeared to him in a mirror. In what he describes as a “flickering instant,” he saw a female face that he later would identify as Irene Hammond. He describes feeling “enveloped in peace and confidence,” as if he had received “a big thumbs up from the other side.”
Kent’s Island, Salem
According to Justice, this island is “extremely haunted.” In October of 1935, novelist John Marquand purchased Kent’s Island, where he built a mansion. Marquand’s property was sold to the state after his death, where a lack of funds caused decay. Justice believes there is something deeper at play, pointing out that none of the homes built on the island has survived. According to his experiences, the island is haunted by Native Americans who died there. He paid a visit last year and says of that day, “Messages came saying don’t come back, and [they were] directed at me.”
Dogtown Commons, Gloucester
Tammy Younger and Judith Rhines, just two of the alleged witches from Dogtown’s infamous days, may be among the spirits that linger on the grounds today. Dogtown is said to be haunted by a woman dressed in black, but Ron Kolek of the New England Ghost Project didn’t see her during his investigation here. Instead, he found the town to be a mysterious “dead zone” where electronic equipment failed and “an eerie calm overtook the landscape.”
Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, Portsmouth, NH
Jeremy D’Entremont, operations manager of the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, says his wife was the first to hear a man’s voice in the lighthouse. Ross Tracy also heard it, as he painted the lantern room. The voice asked, “What are you doing?” Others have heard the voice, which could belong to Joshua Card, a former lighthouse keeper. In recent years, different paranormal groups have investigated the tower, finding various levels of activity.