Posted On: May 13, 2021 | Posted By: amber

Boston’s Lady in Black - Photo

Boston truly is a unique and stunning combination of modernity meets history. The architectural detailing of brick homes and designs gone by meshes beautifully with the sleek and clean look of newly constructed skyscrapers. Boston is not only home to the nation’s largest marathon and delicious coastal cuisine but to a lengthy history and boatloads (no pun intended) of mysterious happenings, as well as a strange Lady in Black.


As an old colonial city, Boston has had its fair share of historical mysteries. As a significant player in all of the nation’s wartimes, Boston is certainly no stranger to death and tragedy. Known as one of the most haunted cities in the entire country, Boston lives up to its name.


One of the most famous of the harbor city’s spirit residents is the Lady in Black. Her tale is filled with irony and mystery, her very death being filled with violence and tragedy. A love story gone horribly wrong, read on to meet Ms. Black and how she became known as one of Boston’s most notable hauntings.


Historic Fort Warren



Let’s start at the entrance of the infamous Boston Harbor. Sitting at nearly two centuries old lies Fort Warren. The large expanse of grounds that sit on top of George’s Island was fortified during the beginning of the American Civil War as part of a seacoast defense strategy. Fort Warren took the Army Corps of Engineers just over sixteen years to finish building. The stone structure is named after Joseph Warren, a patriot that enlisted Paul Revere and sent him on that now-iconic ride to warn of the British arrival during the Revolutionary War. Joseph Warren was a leader of the Boston area patriots at the time. He later died in the Battle of Bunker Hill in North Carolina.


The grounds at Fort Warren served as a military training camp as well as a prison throughout the Civil War. It held military officers, political prisoners, and anyone else who was against the Union’s cause. The substantial stone fortitude and its hidden weapons made it a secure spot to not only house prisoners but to keep critical military personnel safe and sound. Fort Warren played its part in both World Wars, serving as a command post of The Harbor Defenses of Boston during WWI. Throughout WWII, it was yet again an essential defense strategy in defense of the Boston Harbor. Fort Warren stood its ground, protecting the water from enemy forces. In 1950, Fort Warren was decommissioned and was soon sold to the State of Massachusetts as a recreational ground.


You may be wondering, what does an old military fort have to do with a woman in black? Keep reading; we’re getting there.


The Tragic Tale of Melanie Lanier


One of Fort Warren’s most infamous stories is that of Mrs. Melanie Lanier. Her husband was a Confederate soldier who was imprisoned at the fort. He was captured during a battle in North Carolina early on in the war and was taken to the prison for holding. The soldier’s wife, Melanie, caught wind of his whereabouts, some believing he stealthily smuggled a letter out to her from the island prison. Melanie made it her life’s mission to be her husband’s heroine and set him free from the shackles of Fort Warren.



One evening, Melanie put her strategic plan into motion. She boldly boarded a boat that was headed to George’s Island, where she planned to free her husband. Rumor has it that she befriended a Confederate ally that housed her near the prison during the days before she could get into the fort and reach her beloved husband. She used this time to communicate with him through the prison walls, telling him each step of her plan in secret.


On the night of the planned escape, she boarded a small rowboat along with a pistol and a handful of rope. She also brought with her a pickaxe, which she planned to use to dig him and a couple of other prisoners to freedom. Quietly she approached the prison, her senses heightened, her heart pounding. She hit the land, unaware that this would be the last day of her life.


She waited patiently offshore in the darkness at the designated meeting spot. Minutes passed, and finally, her husband signaled her. She heard him before she could see him, whistling a tune. She knew then that their plan was ready to be set in motion. Dressed as a man, Melanie stealthily approached the prison’s foreboding walls. The goal was to use the rope to hoist herself over the walls of the fort. The breach was a success; she was so happy to see her beloved again. After their brief reuniting, they quickly got to work with their co-conspirators. The couple and several other prisoners then began the tedious task of tunneling their way out of the prison, underneath its thick, stone walls. Using the pickaxe, they cut slowly through the earth, planning to create a tunnel that would run directly to the prison armory. Their plan was the weaponize themselves in order to overthrow the prison guards and escape.


However, their seemingly perfect plan was soon foiled. Their digging was loud enough to catch the attention of a couple of Union guards. After other authorities had been alerted, a riot began. Melanie herself was found in a standoff with a Union soldier, brandishing her pistol to protect herself and her husband. Finally, the guard lunged at Melanie, attempting to grab the weapon from her hands. She fired, but instead of hitting the guard, it pierced the skin of her husband. The man she was trying so desperately to save was now dying there before her eyes, at her hand.  Her heart shattered, his life slowly draining from his body.


Melanie’s Fate


Melanie was swiftly arrested for aiding her prisoner husband in his escape. She was sentenced to death by hanging for the crime of treason, and her destiny was quickly headed straight for the gallows. Still in her masculine disguise, she begged the guards to allow her the dignity of dying in women’s clothing. With no female prisoners on the island, the guards were only able to find a simple black gown to clothe Melanie in her final moments. The body of Melanie Lanier was buried in that gown on the grounds of the island. Her spirit has remained restless with the guilt that filled her when she killed her own husband, and she is now reported to wander about the island. Countless other bodies are said to be buried on the island, and sightings of apparitions are abundant.


Strange Sightings of the Lady in Black


In the months following her death, Melanie’s image was seen aimlessly wandering around Fort Warren. Witnessed in the same black gown, she longingly moves about, mourning her husband. Soldiers have even reported seeing and feeling her saddened soul among them. Over time, sightings of her have only increased in frequency. She eventually became known as The Lady in Black. Her dark and heavy gown swaying in the harbor’s breeze as she searches in vain. These days, she has been seen standing atop the entrance arches, staring down those who enter. She’s even known to chase unsuspecting soldiers away from the fort, her anger spurring her actions. Melanie’s soul cannot seem to escape the fort, an ironic twist since her husband could not escape in life, and she is now trapped in death at Fort Warren.



Fort Warren is now part of the National Parks Service and is open to the public for exploration. Have you ever ferried over to this haunted fort? If so, have you witnessed Melanie and her desperate search for an escape? Will she ever find her husband’s soul, or is she doomed to wander about the harbor for all of eternity?




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