Posted on February 11, 2019
Boston, Massachusetts is such an important city for business, education, and technology that it’s easy to forget its unsettling history. The city’s past was violent, tragic and “haunted” by terrifying war stories and perhaps also by spirits who still roam some of the cemeteries and old buildings.
Boston and Haunted War Spirits
Historically, Boston is one of the United States’ earliest cities, founded in 1630 by English Puritan settlers. Settlers originally called it “Trimontaine” for what used to be three visible mountains. Later they realized it would be easier to name the territory “Boston” after the existing Boston in Lincolnshire, England. The first governor John Winthrop not only pushed Puritanism but also education, the latter of which still permeates Boston’s culture.
Boston became a focal point of conflict during the American Revolution. In the 1700s, Bostonians were showing their characteristic rebellion and resisting England’s control over the colonies. Patriotic mobs started the Revolution. In 1765, mobs began assaulting English officials after England passed “The Stamp Act”, which required direct tax and revenue stamps. The British sent more reinforcements resulting in the notorious Boston Massacre, which only fueled the war to come.
It was a time of anarchy and mob rule. In their fury to defy British governance, an entire shipment of the East Indian Company’s tea was destroyed in an act that was later to be known as ‘the Boston Tea Party’. The company was already struggling financially, forcing a dramatic confrontation with the protesters. The British demanded compensation for the lost tea and all attempts at resolution failed, setting the stage for the American Revolutionary War.
Today, multiple eyewitnesses report that ghosts still haunt areas of Boston and apparently these spirits are from a few different eras in time.
Boston Ghosts in the Colonial Era
Mary Dyer and Boston Common
Boston’s bloody history doesn’t begin with an angry tea party, however. Among the various religious groups arriving in the Americas to avoid persecution were the Quakers, who found themselves in the awkward position of being among the most hated in seventeenth-century Boston society. Suspected of being witches, many were hanged for blasphemy, including Mary Dyer, a Quaker immigrant.
She was hanged in Boston Common in 1660, a site which is now a central park. A bronze sculpted Mary Dyer statue was designed in her honor and still stands on Beacon Street. Reportedly, an apparition appears every so often, one who could very well be the spirit of Dyer.
Back in the day, pirates, Quakers, and others suspected of malicious deeds or witchcraft were hung from an elm tree before a crowd of spectators. Haunted spirits might still roam the area today, as some of the accused were never given a proper burial. This could be why their spirits continue to wander the area, having no eternal resting place.
King’s Chapel Burial Ground—Haunted?
King’s Chapel Burial Ground was founded in 1630 and is the city’s oldest cemetery. The founders of early Boston were buried here, namely John Cotton and John Winthrop. This site is also rumored to be haunted by a few names spirits.
Captain Kidd, a longtime 18th Century “pirate hunter”, who was later accused of piracy himself died here and was buried inside King’s Chapel. According to eyewitnesses, his voice and apparition still wander the grounds on some eerie nights.
The most interesting haunting story, however, is that of a nameless victim who was accidentally buried alive. Before the advent of modern medical procedures, it was common to misconstrue a temporarily comatose person for someone dead. There are also far more buried bodies than there are tombstones at King’s Chapel. No wonder rumors abound of “buried alive” spirits still wandering around the cemetery looking for tombstones, as well as disembodied voices, and even disembodied heads who still can’t quite make it out of the soil.
Revolutionary War Hauntings
Granary Burying Ground
First founded in 1660, Granary Burying Ground is well known for its old faded tombstones. It’s also the final resting place of many Revolutionary War Heroes. Samuel Adams, Robert Paine, John Hancock, and Paul Revere are among some of the American heroes buried in Granary.
Visitors report seeing strange shadows and experiencing uneasy feelings, as if someone is watching nearby. Could the actual spirits of our forefathers be lurking here? Urban legend has it that Paul Revere’s ghost can still be seen riding his ghostly horse. The Revolutionary War-Era ghost of James Otis, Jr. might also be around the grounds. James Otis, Jr. died in a most unusual manner – struck by lightning inside his own home! The entire site is notorious for its dark energy, as it contains a mass grave for Boston Massacre victims as well as another mass grave for child victims of the same tragedy.
1 Milk Street
Over at 1 Milk Street, there was a Tudor-era mansion known as Province House, which was used for entertaining prestigious guests – at least until the Revolutionary War ended those festivities. According to historian and writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, the housekeeper Esther Dudley was told to wait for the return of the king’s guard, a return which never came. But that doesn’t stop her spirit from continuing to wait for its next order.
Haunted Boston Common
Boston Common also reportedly has ghosts from the Revolutionary War period as well as Colonial Era hauntings. According to one ghost hunter, Sam Baltrusis, Boston’s subway tunnels may be haunted by British soldiers that died in the Revolutionary War. The remains of numerous British soldiers were discovered during the building of the Boylston T station in the early 20th century.
Civil War Era Hauntings
Fort Warren and Melanie Lanier
Although Fort Warren at Georges Island, Boston Harbor was named after Dr. Joseph Warren of the American Revolution, the fort was also frequently used during the Civil War Era. It no longer functions as a fort, but it’s open for viewing.
In the 19th century, Fort Warren was used during the war to hold Confederate prisoners, including a certain Sam Lanier. After being captured by Union troops and imprisoned in Fort Warren, he sent a message to his wife Melanie. Melanie then tried to help her husband escape, wearing a soldier’s uniform to evade detection. But when she was later caught, she had no choice but to reach for her gun. Unfortunately, the gun exploded and only wound up killing Sam. She was later hung for being a spy for the Confederacy.
One legend says that the Yankees who caught her were surprised to discover she had dressed as a man in hopes of evading detection. Before her execution, she requested to wear a lady’s dress. However, other versions of the story suggest her executors gave her a black robe to wear since they didn’t have any available dresses.
After Melanie’s death, soldiers observed ghostly imprints in the snow near the area, suggesting her spirit was still guarding the fortress – and still wearing black. Visitors claim she may be a hostile ghost since a few of them reported being scratched and cut when near her presence. Other accounts suggest Melanie’s ghost was active almost immediately after she died and put her cold, ghostly hands on the standing guard present at the execution.
Legend says her apparition used to like standing around the ramparts of Fort Warren and staring down at the soldiers below, giving them the creeps, or on some occasion, even chasing after them. Today, most sightings of Melanie happen well beyond the sea, not just in the city.
The Haunted Pilot House
The Pilot House was first built in the middle 1800s as an inn for captains staying in Boston. Now, visitors and inhabitants of the building claim they can still hear noises from an era ago, including ghostly voices and the sounds of drinking, playing cards, and slamming doors. The most famous spirit is a lady in white who appears in the kitchen, still cooking for departed sailors. Those who have seen her describe her as translucent and with an angelic glow.
Modern Boston, MA Hauntings
Boston Haunted Hotels and the Omni Parker House
The Omni Parker House Hotel is perhaps the most famous and active of Boston’s haunted attractions. The origin begins with a simple idea: Harvey Parker first built the hotel in 1855. He was a noted perfectionist, which explains why his spirit is still seen wandering around the hotel, still micromanaging. Visitors report that he is most often observed around the room 1078 or elsewhere on the 10th floor. He can also be heard rocking in his chair during odd hours of the night. These ghostly sounds are especially unnerving since the hotel doesn’t have any rocking chairs inside the building.
Parker himself is only one of a few different spirits haunting the building. Other ghosts have been spotted on the third floor, hovering around room 303, a place where allegedly a man committed suicide in the mid-1900s. The room was eventually retired because of multiple complaints and eventually turned into a maintenance closet.
The elevators to the hotel also malfunction in strange ways, such as mysteriously stopping at the third floor without anyone being present. There have been reports of lights flickering on and off and multiple disembodied voices. Some believe the elevator may be haunted by Charlotte Cushman, an actor from the 19th century who died in the hotel from pneumonia.
The Omni Hotel may also have its own famous resident spirit, namely the author Charles Dickens. They say Dickens used to read his books in front of the mirror on the mezzanine level. The mirror may still be haunted with the ghost of Dickens and may even be aware of when the author’s name is spoken. Staff members say that even cleaning the mirror sometimes causes strange things to happen – so don’t be too surprised if it’s slightly neglected compared to other mirrors in the hotel.
The Liberty Hotel – Haunted?
The Liberty Hotel has reported unusual activity at late night hours, possibly due to its former residents – inmates of the Charles Street Jail. First built in 1851, the site was formerly abandoned before being converted into a chic hotel with a distinctive “jail-like” atmosphere, including cell block rooms and old-fashioned catwalks.
Former inmates, including the Boston Strangler, Albert Desalvo, may still haunt the building. According to eyewitnesses, one can catch a glimpse of strange things outside windows and ghostly visitors in hotel mirrors.
Boston has had a dark past and has heard many phenomenal stories over the years. Whether you’re eager to stay in the haunted hotels in Boston or want to take a Boston ghost tour, there is always a brave soul ready to show you the way.
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“BPS at a Glance”. Boston Public Schools. March 14, 2007. Archived from the original on April 3, 2007. Retrieved April 28, 2007.