As October 31st and the festivities of Halloween draw near, thoughts turn to haunted places and unexplained occurrences. Our minds fill with ideas of ghosts and spirits, the supernatural and the paranormal. Visiting haunted house attractions, telling spooky stories and generally attempting to frighten ourselves is all part of the fun.
Much to our surprise there are places within the heritage area that are rumored to be haunted, with sightings of apparitions witnessed by many. Below are a few sites and events to explore, guaranteed to appeal to the curious. We are sure there are more haunted places and stories to be discovered, so don’t hesitate to let us know.
Concord’s Colonial Inn
Is the Colonial Inn haunted? We cannot say for sure, but many seem to think ghosts inhabit the property . According to local lore and some of the guests who have slept there, room 24 has been the site of strange happenings. One legend believes that the apparition is that of a Revolutionary War surgeon who cared for wounded soldiers at the inn in 1775.
As the story goes, in 1966 newlywed couple M.P. and Judith Fellenz of New York, registered at Concord’s Colonial Inn and were given room 24 on the second floor. After one night at the quaint New England Inn, the couple checked out. About two weeks later the Innkeeper at the time received a letter from the bride, reading in part:
“I have always prided myself on being a fairly sane individual but on the night of June 14 I began to have my doubts. On that night I saw a ghost in your Inn. The next morning I felt too foolish to mention it to the management, so my husband and I continued on our honeymoon. I wondered whether or not any sightings of a ghost had been reported or if any history of one was involved in the history of the Inn.
The incident sounds very melodramatic. I was awakened in the middle of the night by a presence in the room—a feeling that some unknown being was in the midst. As I opened my eyes, I saw a grayish figure at the side of my bed, to the left, about four feet away. It was not a distinct person, but a shadowy mass in the shape of a standing figure. It remained still for a moment, then slowly floated to the foot of the bed, in front of the fireplace. After pausing a few seconds, the apparition slowly melted away. It was a terrifying experience. I was so frightened I could not scream. I was frozen to the spot . . .
For the remainder of the night, I could not fall asleep. It was spent trying to conjure a logical explanation for the apparition. It was not a reflection of the moon as all the curtains were completely closed. Upon relating the incident to my husband, he said the ghost was included in the price of the room.”
Since then, paranormal activity has been investigated in other areas of the inn. Ghost Images Paranormal Investigations and Spirit Encounters Research Team did investigations in 2005 and more recently SyFy’s Ghost Hunters did an hour-long episode exploring paranormal experiences at the inn.
Source: Concord's Colonial Inn
The Woman in Black
Established in 1939, Fort Devens Post Cemetery is tucked away on Patton Road and is open to the public. Services are held every Memorial Day.
The two-acre military cemetery is full of small, understated gravestones in defined rows. Buried there are soldiers and their families from six of America’s wars. Thirty graves were moved from the original Camp Devens Cemetery and ninety-seven were transferred from old Boston Harbor forts. Also here are the graves of men as well as children who were victims of the influenza epidemic of 1917-1919, when as many as 14,000 were stricken with the disease. Additionally, there are graves of twenty-two German and Italian prisoners of war who died in captivity.
One of the unknown bodies moved to the cemetery from Boston Harbor has a haunting tale. As the story goes, during the Civil War a woman dressed as a man sneaked into Boston with hopes of freeing her husband, a Confederate prisoner-of-war. She was captured and sentenced to death. Her dying wish was to be dressed in women’s clothing. All that could be found was a black, hooded dress, which she donned just before being hanged. The woman’s spirit has been reportedly seen wandering the Devens cemetery. Still wearing the black dress, she is known as the Woman in Black.
S.K. Pierce Mansion
Wealthy businessman Sylvester Pierce earned his fortune as the owner of the S.K. Pierce and Sons Furniture Company. The success of his company and the furniture industry led to Gardner, MA being known as the “Chair City”.
In 1875 the furniture mogul felt he needed a house befitting his stature and built a grand mansion. Nearly 7,000 square feet in size, the mansion boasted 26 rooms, ten of which were bedrooms, and took 100 men a year-and-one-half to build. Painstaking detail went into every aspect of the property including hand carved mouldings and cornices, running water drawn from a cistern in the attic, a master bedroom and the servants quarters. Twenty-three servants ran the daily operations of the house, seeing to a guest list that included President Calvin Coolidge, Bette Davis, Norman Rockwell, Minnesota Fats, P. T. Barnum and others. The Freemason Society used the mansion as their meeting place.
Sylvester Pierce and his wife Susan and son moved into the house with big dreams for their future. But all dreams went awry when Susan Pierce died mysteriously from a bacterial illness within weeks of settling into the house. After a year of mourning, Pierce married Ellen, a woman 30 years his junior, with whom he had two sons, before his death in 1888. When his second wife passed away his three children bickered constantly over ownership of the mansion and the chair business. With the Great Depression, Pierce’s youngest son Edward took control of the mansion. With diminished business and dwindling fortunes, the mansion underwent hard times. Edward Pierce turned the mansion into a boarding house where a variety of unsavory activities transpired. Tales tell of murders: a prostitute strangled in the infamous second floor red room, a Finnish immigrant named Eino Saari burned to death in the master bedroom and a young boy drowned in the basement.
Over the years the belief of a supernatural presence has taken hold. A number of ghosts of previous residents have been described including S.K. Pierce himself, his wife Susan, Edward, his son, as well as Mattie Cornwall, a nanny, a man believed to be the red room strangler, the murdered prostitute and others. Voices, chanting, a rocking chair moving to and fro, slamming doors, sudden temperature changes and the sounds of footsteps in hallways and on the stairs are all experiences described by visitors. On occasions the roar of lions can be heard, which some believe is S.K. Pierce expressing his displeasure. Some have even felt the pressure of being pushed. One visitor felt she was being pushed toward the stairs, while another described being almost pushed out a third floor window.
Well-known paranormal groups from the TV shows Ghost Hunter, Ghost Adventures and My Ghost Story have visited the house and believe the entities are very advanced. The stories of this house have been captured in books, and the house is cited as the second most haunted house in Massachusetts and ninth in the United States.
In 2015 Dark Carnival purchased the house with a plans to fully renovate the Victorian mansion, and open it to the public for overnight rentals and historical ghosts tours for the brave of heart who wish to experience the house. Once the renovations are complete, the basement will be the site for haunted tours, with trained actors and actresses, high-end illusions and animations, and perhaps the ghostly inhabitants will appear.
Halloween Tales - Celebrate Halloween with The Guild of Historic Interpreters at Minute Man National Historical Park. Walk along the dark and haunted road, and listen to bone-chilling tales from America's past in the spooky old barn behind Hartwell Tavern.
The Tale of Jerusha Howe
The beautiful, historic Wayside Inn is rumored to be haunted, and there begins the tale of Jerusha Howe, the reputed inn ghost. The inn was built by the Howe family and passed down for four generations of Howes, ending with Jerusha’s brother Lyman’s death in 1861.
Growing up in the inn with her brother as the innkeeper, Jerusha was known as “the belle of Sudbury”. Musically and artistically talented, she often played the piano for visitors at the inn. Little is known of her romantic affairs but legend is that she was engaged to an Englishman who sailed home to make arrangements for the wedding and was never heard from again. Whether he died at sea, abandoned her or never existed, perhaps is of little consequence, as no matter where the truth lies, Jerusha never married. She lived out her days at the inn, dying at age 45 in 1842.
However, she seems to be spending her afterlife in Room 9, the second floor bedroom she used while living. A room with warm and rustic charm, it comes with the usual nighttime creaks and thumps of an old dwelling. But guests have reported smelling Jerusha’s citrus-scented perfume or being awakened to see her presence at the foot of the bed. On occasion, some guests have felt a presence sweep by them on the stairs or when the inn is empty of visitors the piano piece, Copenhagen Waltz, can be heard playing.
An interesting custom has evolved at the Wayside Inn and is referred to as the Secret Drawer Society. Little notes, often reporting ghostly encounters, are tucked into nooks or cracks or drawers throughout the room. Some go back decades.
Whether haunted or not, the inn is an historic treasure with a welcoming atmosphere that keeps visitors coming back. And Jerusha, a capable young woman who ran the inn beside her beloved brother, in some small way has continued to do the same, achieving lasting immortality.
The Murdock-Whitney House was built by Elisha Murdock, son of Ephraim Murdock, who founded E. Murdock and Company in 1834 which grew to be the oldest and largest woodenware manufacturer in the country. Once the home of members of one of the most successful, long-standing families in Winchendon, the 22-room, beautiful and historic Murdock-Whitney House is now home to the Winchendon Historical Society, bequeathed to the Society by Adelaide Hazzard Whitney upon her death in December 2000.
Claims exist that an old woman, believed to be the former owner, haunts the house. She wanders the hallways, very protective of her home and especially having people in her bedroom. Footsteps are heard throughout the house, including on the mysterious third floor.
In 2015 Paul Conti, a periodontist from New Jersey, purchased the house with a plans to fully renovate the Victorian mansion, and open it as a bed and breakfast and historical ghosts tours for the brave of heart who wish to experience the house. Renovations are underway with anticipated completion early next year. Don’t miss this sneak peak of the inside in this Chronicle Haunted Houses episode.
Photo Credit: Jason Baker Photography