Massachusetts’s most haunted: True (?) tales of ghost captains, spectral widows, hotel poltergeists, and more

Let's face it, Massachusetts is haunted. Nathaniel Hawthorne knew it; H.P. Lovecraft knew it; you know it, too. We're sitting on a shitload of history here - going back to the original Eurotrash invasion of 1605 - and not all of it is bright and shiny. If any state is going to be infested with restless spirits, it's good ol' Mass.

So it's no surprise that there are spots with a reputation for paranormal activity. For example: Cape Cod, normally one of the best places to watch the wealthy vacation, is littered with haunted mansions. One of them, the Barnstable House built in 1716, is home to 11 ghosts.  One of its previous owners was a sea captain; legend says that while  he was away at sea, his wife found their daughter drowned in their well. The wife proceeded to starve herself to death in the third-floor bedroom.  Boarders have claimed to see the ghost of the captain helping children down the stairs, or slamming doors.  There are also stories about the windows unlocking and locking on their own. One visitor said that his newspaper moved from one side of the table to the other by itself. Spooky, right? I mean, who STILL READS NEWSPAPERS? Ghosts, apparently..  

Then there's Salem. Execute 19 people, and 400 years later they'll build a gift shop. Despite the fact that they bear no relation to the mass hysteria that swept through town in the 1690s, Wiccans, goths, and Harry Potter fans have all flocked here, and it's become a great place to buy magnets shaped like witches. Despite the touristy bullshit, there are still traces of genuine creepiness. Take 43 Church (formerly known as the Lyceum Bar & Grill), a great place for a beer, which also happens to stand on the site of an old apple orchard owned by Bridget Bishop -- the first to be hanged for witchcraft back in 1692.  People claim they have seen her spirit haunting the building, and/or heard a female voice whispering in their ears. Occasionally, employees have even seen a woman standing by the second-floor window.

READ: "Salem's spookiest tourist traps," by Greg Cook

Salem isn't the only place in Massachusetts that has an uneasy past. The Concord Colonial Inn in Concord was built on a Native American burial ground - never a good thing. Strange occurrences include books flying off shelves and sightings of people vanishing in thin air.  In 1966, one woman said she saw a figure hovering over her bed.  Another time, a guest ran downstairs and slept in the foyer after seeing a ghost in her haunted room.  In the morning, her suitcase was found re-packed without any knowledge of who did it. Room 24 is what gets the most attention; a paranormal investigation team once claimed to make contact with three spirits just in that one room. No word as to whether they were members of AIM.

But those are the ‘burbs, where the lawns are huge and no one can hear you scream. Surely civilized, metropolitan Boston is safer? Ha! Think again. Back in the 17th century, they used to hang people on Boston Common, and people have seen ghosts there. Two women seen walking together are thought to be Quaker Mary Dyer, hung in 1660 for her religious beliefs, and Elizabeth Emerson, hung in 1693 for murdering her two children.  It's nice that they're keeping each other company in the afterlife, at least. Meanwhile, over at Fort Warren on George's Island, the ghosts are color-coded. "The Lady in Black" was executed in 1862; legend says she tried to help her Confederate POW husband get free, and then killed him as the fort commander closed in on them. Soldiers stationed here later claimed to fire at a dark cloaked image, only to have it disappear afterwards. "The Woman in Scarlet" was killed by a cannonball  on a British ship blockading Boston Harbor during the Revolutionary War. Since then, several people have claimed to see a woman walk around with blood dripping from her head.

Next time you are trying to give yourself a good scare on Halloween by going to a horror film or touring a haunted house, remember that some of what you are seeing may be based on real life mysterious events.

MORE: Get more of Boston's haunted happenings at

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