The Most Bone-Chillingly Haunted Places in Massachusetts
Ghoul-infested ships, devilish graveyards, and infamous Lizzie Borden.
If you were to rank every US state in terms of spookiness, there’s a good chance that Massachusetts would come out on top. After all, the Bay State saw scores of bloody battles during the Revolutionary War, experienced mass death during the first Plymouth Colony winter, and, perhaps most significantly, serves as the setting for Hocus Pocus, AKA the greatest Halloween movie of all time.
For a lot of folks, October 31st is a time to stroll around the nearest wealthy suburb in search of king-sized Reese’s (the absolute best Halloween candy—don’t @ me), but for the thrill seekers out there, we’ve got you covered with some of the finest spectre-filled destinations Mass has to offer. From spirit-filled swamps to haunted highways, these spooky spots are sure to leave you with a healthy dose of seasonal fright.
There are a few things that the cozy Boston suburb of Dover is known for: moneyed residents, high-ranking public schools, and a hair-raising ghoul known as the Dover Demon. A prominent figure in the annals of Massachusetts cryptozoology, the most famous documentation of the beast dates back to April 1977, when local teenager Bill Barlett spotted an unfamiliar being while cruising along Farm Street late at night—and, as it turns out, he wasn’t the only person that reported an encounter that evening.
Though there have been no credible sightings in the modern era, Bartlett’s detailed sketch of the creature has served as the inspiration for multiple forms of media over the years, including a particularly gruesome 2009 episode of Animal Planet’s Lost Tapes. If you’re brave enough to venture out to Dover this Halloween, keep your eyes peeled—you just may catch a glimpse of a pair of bulbous glowing eyes peering out at you from deep in the woods.
When you live in a town as old as Middleborough, there’s bound to be some form of spiritual activity going on—a fact that volunteers at the historic Oliver Estate know all too well. Constructed in the pre-Revolutionary War era at the behest of Judge Peter Oliver, the property was home to some truly opulent architecture—for mid-1700s Massachusetts, at least. An ardent supporter of the Crown, Judge Oliver and his family ended up fleeing the soon-to-be United States, his personal mansion razed to the ground by an angry mob—though his son’s home still stands today.
The following centuries saw generations born, raised, and deceased in the Oliver House—many of which are purported to still roam the halls today in spirit form. These first-hand accounts have led the estate to star in a 2016 episode of Paranormal Lockdown, and for those brave enough to visit Middleborough, there are multiple ghost tours offered on-property throughout the year.
The scariest part of being on a haunted ship? There’s nowhere to run when the spirits come out to play. While the 700-foot-long USS Salem never saw active combat, this heavy vessel certainly saw its fair share of death during its ten years of service. One of the ship’s most notable—and certainly most gruesome—journeys took place in the Mediterranean, arriving on the western shore of Greece to provide relief to victims of the 1953 Ionian earthquake. Injured victims were brought aboard for medical care, but scores of people perished aboard the ship—and some believe that their spirits still wander her storied planks today.
For any budding supernatural investigators out there, the Greater Boston Paranormal Associates have crafted a five-hour itinerary dedicated to seeking out specters, providing patrons with infrared cameras, lasers, and voice recorders to aid in their search. If a night spent on the USS Salem is a little too spooky for your sensibilities, catch the 2019 episode of the Travel Channel’s Most Terrifying Places and live vicariously through the brave filmmakers instead.
We’ve all heard of the Bermuda Triangle, that watery grave where planes and ships have a habit of mysteriously vanishing. But Massachusetts has an unexplained phenomenon all to itself. It’s the Bridgewater Triangle, so named by paranormal researcher Loren Coleman in his 1983 book Mysterious America. The Bridgewater Triangle consists of 200 square miles and 17 towns, with Abington, Freetown, and Rehoboth serving as the “tips” of the triangle.
The Triangle is home to a treasure trove of bizarre, supernatural tales—a “huge black killer dog” spotted in Abington in 1976; UFO sightings; “George” the ghost (he frequents Bridgewater State University); tall, winged creatures; moving orbs of light; and even Bigfoot. Need more proof the Triangle is haunted? How about stories of mutilated cattle, a strange hitchhiker, and a “large, light tan cat the size of a Great Dane” dubbed the Mansfield Mystery Cat? A TV series about the Bridgewater Triangle was announced back in 2019, so it looks like its reputation won’t fade anytime soon.
Spider Gates Cemetery
Spider Gates Cemetery—also known as Quaker Cemetery or Friends Cemetery—was founded back in 1740. The black metal pattern on its 1890s-era iron gates were meant to resemble the sun’s rays, but were ultimately deemed by locals as spider-like in appearance, earning the cemetery its current moniker.
If you’re up for it, hit the graveyard in search of the Eighth Gate To Hell. Legend has it that if you go through the other seven gates of the cemetery (which aren’t really there), then enter Spider Gates, you’ll find yourself plunging into the fiery pits of hell. Other fun highlights of the cemetery include “The Altar,” a barren patch of land that’s purportedly used for Satanic sacrifices, and the grave of Marmaduke Earle, who’s said to call out from the grave if you circle around his tombstone ten times and then utter the words “Marmaduke, speak to me.”
It’s right there in the name—“hockomock” is an Algonquin word meaning “place where spirits dwell.” Local indigenous groups believed the swamp to be magical, which certainly freaked out the newly-arrived Puritans. They ended up calling it “The Devil’s Swamp” and “The Devil’s Bowl” instead. The area is the site of an old burial ground, so naturally, vengeful spirits could bubble up from the netherworld at any moment.
And then there are the Pukwudgies. A prominent creature in Wampanoag folklore, the name translates to “little wild man of the woods that vanishes.” Pukwudgies can make fire, cast magic spells, and disappear whenever they like. Their other hobbies include throwing people off cliffs, attacking them with spears, and blinding their victims with pocket sand. If you’re planning on taking a leisurely stroll through Hockomock Swamp, be sure to stay alert, lest the Pukwudgies come out to claim their next victim.
Planning a romantic staycation anytime soon? How about the house where Lizzie Borden allegedly hacked her mother-in-law and father to death in 1892? These murders were so horrific and sensational that Borden’s role is still argued about to this day. And the fact that she was acquitted of the acts—despite massive holes in her story and gross mishandling of evidence—just serves as high-octane fuel for the raging debate.
If you ever decide to sleep in the house, now a bed and breakfast, rest assured the owners do everything they can to make you feel as freaked-out as possible, including strategically placing pictures of the murder scenes throughout the property. If you’ve seen those pictures once, you really don’t need to see them again—trust.
Houses rumored to be haunted can be a tough sell when it comes to the real estate market, but caretakers of the SK Pierce Mansion in Gardner have fully embraced its mysterious past. The Victorian-style home was built in 1875 by Sylvester K. Pierce and comes equipped with ten bedrooms and 11-foot-high ceilings—just enough room for ghosts and orbs to roam freely.
Throughout the decades, numerous tales of nefarious death and flat-out murder have arisen from the house, ranging from strangled sex workers and drowned children to a potential case of spontaneous combustion. Today, the SK Pierce Mansion serves as a popular haunted attraction—you can even spend the night there, though you probably shouldn’t.
The Hoosac Tunnel—or Hoosick Tunnel, as it’s sometimes called—is a railroad underpass in the Northern Berkshires that runs from North Adams to Florida, Massachusetts. The tunnel has also been dubbed the “Bloody Pit,” thanks to the ungodly amount of people who died during its construction. The final number is disputed, but it’s believed that roughly 200 men lost their lives from 1851 to 1875 before the tunnel was completed.
One particularly disturbing incident began when a 1,000-foot central exhaust shaft exploded, destroying a hoist that was used to lower men and equipment down the tunnel. Miners near the top attempted to rescue those below but eventually gave up, assuming that everyone had perished in the rubble. Months later, they discovered a makeshift raft, the only evidence of a few long-gone survivors that spent their final moments entombed in the ground.
This vast forest may be part of the Bridgewater Triangle, but there’s enough gory lore around here to warrant its own blood-curdling entry. Several real-life killings have taken place in this deeply disturbed wood, including the 1978 murder of a Raynham teen, a 1987 slaying, and a shooting that resulted in two deaths in 2001. Even as recently as 2016, an unidentified person stretched wire across some heavily-trafficked trails, possibly in an attempt to slice off the heads of any passing motorbike riders. And did we mention that the site has seen numerous reports of Satanic cult activity over the years? Maybe that has something to do with all the evil lingering around these parts…
A tragic car accident heaped misery on the Houghtons, a prominent early 20th-century family, and the northwestern Massachusetts town of North Adams still hasn’t forgotten it. Albert Charles Houghton was the town’s first mayor as well as the president of Arnold Print Works, an entity that now serves as the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MassMoCA). On August 1st, 1914, Houghton, his daughter Mary, and a couple of friends went out for a morning drive up to Vermont—but not everyone made it out of the car alive.
While driving through the town of Pownal, Houghton’s driver lost control of the vehicle and plunged down a hill, resulting in multiple fatalities including Houghton himself, after a few days of uncertainty. The driver was cleared of any wrongdoing but couldn’t forgive himself for the accident, and ultimately ended his own life in the Houghton Barn. The mansion is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also rumored to be haunted, making an appearance on the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures as well as the show Ghost Hunters.
U.S. Route 44 runs 237 miles across four states, but there’s one particular stretch near the Seekonk-Rehoboth line that has a serious reputation for supernatural activity. Late at night, you may pass a hitchhiker with shocks of red hair and dark eyes dressed like a lumberjack. He’s most commonly known as the Red-Headed Spectre, and it seems like this apparition is a bit of a prankster. If you stop to pick him up, there’s a good chance that he’ll vanish as soon as he reaches the car, only to appear as a ghostly reflection in the rear view mirror, peering in from the back seat.
Others report a sudden crack over their radio, after which a deep, booming cackle bursts from the car’s speakers. No matter how the Red-Headed Spectre appears, one thing is certain—nothing good comes from it.
Metropolitan State Hospital
Founded back in 1927, the Metropolitan State Hospital was a mental-health facility built across parts of Waltham, Lexington, and Belmont—though it was ultimately closed in 1992 for cost-cutting reasons. This particular hospital was designed in accordance with the Kirkbride Plan, an avant-garde form of design engineered to heal the mentally ill through the use of circulating air and natural light. However, the design ultimately failed to have such an effect, as evidenced by the 1978 murder of Anne Marie Davee by a fellow resident.
The story is a tragic one: The Department of Mental Health was neglectful in conducting the case, and the missing-person report lacked proper documentation. The department officially closed Davee’s case in 1979, but parts of her body weren’t found on the grounds until 1980. The building’s eerie remnants may have inspired American Horror Story: Asylum, but Davee’s sad and true-to-life murder is scary enough on its own.