I’ve arrived to Boston in one piece. Sleep-deprived from my creepy hotel room (it’s roughly the size of a shoebox and ultra dark), I think its prime opportunity to present the first in this week’s series of Boston-related posts. If you’d like to keep up with the rest of them, you can subscribe to this blog at the bottom of the page.
Ghost Hunting: Boston Haunts
Boston is one of the oldest and wealthiest cities in America. Founded in 1630, Boston was settled by Puritans. Right on the harbour, Boston has played host to massacres, numerous executions, battles, a revolution, and the occasional straying soul who’s refused to move on. It’s the birthplace of Edgar Allan Poe (author of The Raven; though why you wouldn’t know who this guy is while reading a blog about horror, I don’t know), Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter, The House of Seven Gables), Sylvia Plath (The Bell Jar), among others. It’s hauntings are subdued — you won’t find reckless spirits here; not like in New Orleans and New York where the stories get gristly. Boston is full of old, noble ghosts, with one or two exceptions.
The weather’s beautiful, and while it holds, I’ll be taking the opportunity this evening to partake in a ghost tour. I’ve already canvassed the basics, which I’m offering you here.
The Spirits on the Common
The Common occupies a good three city blocks in the heart of downtown. It’s the oldest part of the city, as it was where the land was first settled. Drooping willows sway over the duck pond, and the central hub is flanked by three cemeteries. Puritans took over the land from Reverend William Blaxton; being the central hub, it was also where they executed anyone who opposed their laws. Public executions? Sure. Puritans were really into hanging.
The most popular haunt on the common is attributed to two women in Edwardian tea dresses, strolling arm in arm. The hangings predate them by some years, ending in 1817, so their style of dress dates them later than the executions. It’s thought that the pair were guests at a nearby hotel who decided never to leave.
The nearby public gardens are host to a handful of card-playing spirits, as well as Paul Revere who sometimes parades through on his horse. There are mentions of the garden bending time at night as well, but I haven’t had the opportunity after dark to verify it.
The Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre
In the tradition of theatre ghosts, the Emerson Cutler Majestic has a resident spook who occupies a theatre box. Dating to 1903, the Cutler-Majestic is one of the oldest theaters operating in Boston: think heavy red velvet and gilded ornaments. In the 20s, The Majestic was renovated to accommodate vaudeville shows. Later, it again saw another transformation as it was turned in to a movie house until 1983. During the mid-80s, Emerson College purchased and restored it to its former beauty.
The most popularized tale is that of a Boston mayor who died during a performance. He is now often seen sitting at the theatre in the same spot. However, it’s hard to determine which mayor it is: as several have died at the Majestic.
- Reported sightings of a man walking in the theatre grid
- Ghost of a little girl who accepts gifts left for her
- A pair of sweethearts sit in the disused upper balcony
- One of the rooms is also known as “The Nightmare Room” due to a severe feeling of suffocation experienced therein
The Charlesgate Hotel
The former Charlesgate began its life as a Romanesque Revival style hotel in 1901. Designed by J. Pickering Putnam, it was purchased in 1947 by Boston University for use as a dormitory. It was sold again, then acquired once more in the 70’s as dorms by Emerson College. It’s now a condominium.
Many believe that when Putnam was designing the building he specifically chose materials that would attract and capture paranormal energies, sort of like the building in the original “Ghostbusters” movie and like the designer of that building, Putnam was consiered by many to be a person who dabbled in the darker side of magic and religion.(1)
Cue hilarity. Take a breath, and continue onward.
In the 90’s, a few kids equipped with a ouija board successfully contacted the spirit of a suicide. There are accounts of multiple suicides at the hotel, and at the dorm when it was inhabited by students away from home for the first time, but the two incidents are not necessarily related. In fact, the Charlesgate is so populated with occult phenomena that there’s a veritable buffet of dark activity keeping the place “alive” in its afterlife:
Bizarre accidents were common place in the building. Suicide was de rigeur: One student practically severed his head with a butcher knife in desperation; others reported being violently shoved down stairs by an unseen force. Others, still, report dark forms rushing in and out of rooms.
Those who live in the converted condominiums still report strange occurrences, but not of the caliber of the Charlesgate’s formative years. Cold breezes are often felt when no windows or doors are open, and sometimes the occassional phantom footsteps are heard on the stairs.
The Omni Parker Hotel
Just a short walk from Common is the Omni Parker House Hotel. The hotel dates to the mid-19th century, though its seen a renovation that situates the current decor in the mid-20th. Charles Dickens and John F. Kennedy have used it as a meeting space. The original owner, Harvey Parker, has been seen walking through walls, through the corridors, and guests have woken to find him at the foot of their bed. Apparently, Parker’s concern for their well-being and ensuring that they have an enjoyable stay has encouraged his involvement even after his death.
Unexplained laughter and conversation can be heard by visitors in room 303, and sometimes wisps of cigar smoke linger after encounters. It’s been turned into a closet after too many reports from guests complaining about disturbances, including the discovery of lit cigarettes in the room, as well as the occasional fire of unexplained origin. No serious damages were sustained. A couple of deaths mark the proper: a suicide at the hotel in 1949, and the deaths of five students accidentally killed in a 1770 prank on the Parker House land. It’s got nothing on Boylston street when it comes to trauma.
There’s more to come this week, so keep in touch or subscribe to this blog below!