Haunted Places

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Central Burying Ground, Boston Common

Haunted Boston

October 24, 2009
by Sarah Amandolare
If you’re planning an autumn visit to Boston for steaming bowls of chowder and cool October air, don’t neglect the city’s haunted highlights. Boston is a haven for ghosts and spirits, too, and they’re lurking almost everywhere. We’ve selected the city’s creepiest locales, from Boston Common to Boston Harbor. And if that’s not spooky enough, there’s always Salem.

Boston's Gallows Rumor

This most unfortunate form of punishment, death by noose, has let loose a spate of paranormal presences in two of Boston’s best-known destinations.

Beantown’s renowned public park has a storied past. Beginning in the 1630s, the Boston Common land was used for livestock grazing and hosted various official events, including parades and military drills. But that’s not all. Hangings were also held at Boston Common, most notably the 1660 hanging of Mary Dyer along with three other Quakers. Initially, offenders were hanged from a tree, but from 1769 until 1817, gallows were used.

Meanwhile, in Boston Harbor, Georges Island is a haunted reminder of the Civil War. On the island was Fort Warren, a prison for confederate soldiers that was known for its eerie dungeons. One prisoner, Andrew Lanier, was nearly saved by his wife, who traveled up from Georgia, dressed as a man, to rescue him. But in an absurd turn of events, she was caught, accidentally shot and killed her husband, and was then hanged for her crimes. Since then, she’s roamed the island in a black dress, attempting to strangle people, and has shown up in the background of photographs taken there.

Bewitched Buildings of Beantown

If you’re looking for a chilling place to stay during your trip to Boston, or want to experience show business in a sinister light, head to the following haunted buildings.

The Omni Parker House Hotel has hosted guests and ghosts since the 1940s. According to former bellman John Brehm, the ghost of the hotel’s owner, Harvey Parker, first appeared at the Omni in 1941.

“They used to say he roamed the halls on the tenth-floor annex,” Brehm told the Boston Globe in a 1992 interview, according to the Omni Hotels Web site. For instance, one elderly female guest was given a fright when a “heavy set older man with a black mustache,” similar in appearance to Parker, confronted her and then disappeared.

Some say Parker’s ghost is a sign of how meticulous he was about “every detail of his restaurant and hotel operations.” So concerned was Parker with the hotel’s perfection, that he still cannot “really bring himself to leave,” reports the Omni Web site.

Likewise, students at Emerson College remain loyal to the Majestic Theater, despite the building’s shroud of spirits. Emerson undergrads have reported chair movement and power outages at crucial and suspicious moments during performances and rehearsals. In fact, students still say, “excuse me” when passing empty chairs thought to be occupied by ghosts. The sound booth and third balcony are reputedly the most haunted, but beware of the backstage area and dressing rooms, as well.

Salem Spirits

If Boston isn’t scary enough for you, Salem will neatly fill the bill.. Known for its famous witch trials and spine-tingling tales brought to life by Nathaniel Hawthorne, this small town was practically made for Halloween.

Get acquainted with Salem witches by visiting historic sites, such as the Witch House, where accused witches were checked for “witches’ marks.” Salem’s museums are also a perfect place to get your haunted fix. Try the classic Salem Witch Museum, or the Witch Dungeon Museum, where you’ll witness a live reenactment of a 1692 witch trial and be guided through the depths of the dungeon.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel, “The House of the Seven Gables,” lives on in Salem. Hawthorne used to visit his cousin Susan Ingersoll at the actual house, where he was inspired to pen the novel. The house has a haunted reputation, with tales of Ingersoll’s ghost appearing in hallways and windows, while “a ghostly boy” is said to haunt the attic. Strange sounds are common, as well.

Visit the house during October for performances and tours, where you may cross paths with the ghosts of Hawthorne’s characters. Squeeze through the secret passageway to feel the chill thrill.

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