Met State: The Asylum Time Forgot

There’s an odd thing how paranormal landmarks work.  There’s an ebb and a flow to the popularity of locations which draw people in.  Whether it’s the Lizzie Borden’s Bed and Breakfast or Eastern State Penitentiary, these locations have a tendency to flare up, become very popular and eventually take a backseat to the next supernatural trend. Usually it’s due to television and media exposure, and much like a hot trend on television for the season, unless there is a deep rooted sense of community or legend within the story behind the location, it is almost impossible to keep the momentum.

Metropolitan State in Massachusetts is a lot like that.   Obviously when the hospital was still open reports from there were frequent.  When you consider its closing aligned with the rise of ghost hunting television shows and the founding of investigation groups, it’s no wonder it became one of the most popular legends in the Metro Boston area.  The longer it sat unoccupied, the more the stories grew.  The larger the fence was around it grew, the more people needed to see what was behind it.  It was even featured in Jeff Belanger’s Encyclopedia of Haunted Places.  Then nothing.  

After I found this old article, I tried to connect with some of the people I had spoken to about it and research whether things were still being spread the old building.   People I spoke to who research and investigate in the area had to look  it up when asked about it.  Met State’s time has come and gone.  It will be interesting to observe what might happen to it as time passes.  These things tend to go in cycles.

 

Asylums feed into our very idea of terror.  The insane, the locked doors, the masked doctors performing treatment we’d rather not think about.  To hear the word conjures up images we try and block out.  The buildings, designed to be inviting and practical, fit into our worst visions of these asylums, and as they fell into ruin they became more and more intimidating.  The torment that went on in them and the patients who died without names and without peace create a settling ripe for ghosts and ghost stories.

Although not as famous as its nearby cousin Danvers State Hospital, Metropolitan State Hospital in Middlesex County, Massachusetts has become known itself for the type of ghosts and ghostly legends that give people nightmares.  No one knows what went on behind the cement walls of that building, but our imagination has created its resident’s lives.  When reports started to come out about the strange happenings on its grounds, Metro State was labeled as haunted, and since its closure in 1992 those rumors have been confirmed time and time again.  Trespassers inside the building and people just interested in the beauty of the land say the same things doctors and mental health workers had said for decades.  Metro State is haunted.

metstateWhen looking at the hauntings at Metro State Hospital, it is important to separate the facts from the legends that now surround them.  The rundown buildings lie in Waltham, Belmont and Lexington, Massachusetts, cutting into the landscape of three very different communities.  It was originally opened in 1930  and functioned successfully for decades..  Although many mental health treatments in the past century seem ludicrous to us today, Metro was always on the cutting edge of the field.  As methods changed, Metro changed with them, and when severe financial cutbacks hit the state in the 1980’s, Metro felt them as much as the other institutions in the state.  The buildings were plagued with overcrowding and understaffing.  Unlike other hospitals that could be converted to prisons or juvenile detention facilities, Metro State was hampered by the design that had made it unique.  The building was finally closed in the early nineties. 

During the time it acted as a functioning hospital, its residents suffered horrible conditions and saw the worst of human sorrow.  Lost souls filled the rooms, giving in to homicide and suicide by its residents.  Doctors tinkered with experimental treatments like mind-altering drugs and electroshock therapy.  The poor died without family around them to grieve.  The psychic energy amassed in within its walls makes the hospital a prime area for the appearance of ghosts.

The reports started while the building was still open.  Several employees spoke of shadowy figures seen at night.  Described as a looking like a tall slender man but having no solid form, the unknown visitors would walk through walls or appear in locked rooms.  Residents reported the same shadow, but the reports were ignored as delusion.  Then nurses and security officers began seeing them too.  One woman described at least three different men who all walked differently.  She stated it became common knowledge around the main buildings and were talked about but ignored.

Other residents reported hearing the screams of residents who had passed, especially those who had suffered electroshock treatment at the hospital.  One employee went to assist a certain patient he had had a close relationship with.  The man was screaming about his mother, but when the worker, recently back from a vacation, went into the room a different man was there.  His resident had died over the week.

met6Underneath the hospital runs a network of tunnels once used to travel to different parts of the 23 acre grounds.  The tunnels were lit by intermittent bare light bulbs, and patients were often found in them after having wandered off.  There were also reports of deviant workers would take willing and unwilling patients down there for sex.  Whispers were often heard down in the tunnels although no people could be found.  One man described always feeling as if there was someone behind him or in front of him, but he never saw anyone there.

Not all the spirits in the yard are happy.  Poorer patients without families were buried on the site.  Hundreds of bodies were laid to rest in unhallowed ground with nothing but a marker stating their religion and a number.  Although there have been recent attempts to find their identities and give them a proper burial, their souls seem trapped.  Glowing red and green figures have been seen in the areas of the old and new cemeteries.  The emotions of these people are felt throughout the grounds.  People have heard whispers and footsteps and one woman stopped walking near the grounds after she continuously saw visions of the patients while near the building.  Although she walked without really thinking about what went on there, she would see them inside her head and feel what they had felt.

met5The reports continued after Metro State’s closing.  The longer it remained closed, the more the main building looked like a stereotypical haunted house.  What was once a beautiful and intriguing piece of architecture was became covered with graffiti with broken windows and crooked doors.  Adventure seekers and paranormal investigators found their way in.  Inspired by their own fears and the media coverage of the asylum, they broke in.  Equipment has registered activity such as EMF readings, bizarre changes in temperature and ghostly photographs.  They have experienced the same shadows and screams reported while it was still open, but they have also felt sudden sadness and depression hit them and seen objects in plain sight move by themselves.

The ghosts are not confined to the buildings.  There have been numerous sightings made on the grounds.  Designers envisioned a active yard where patients would receive occupational therapy and grow their own crops.  Touch and sensory treatment was also utilized.  This positive energy has also been imprinted at Metro State.  In the daytime there have been reports of people with a glowing aura picking flowers with smiles on their faces.  These people disappear when approached and have even been seen floating slightly off the ground.

met3Like other asylums throughout the East coast, the grounds at Metro State are being recycled.  AvalonBay Communities Incorporated has purchased part of the land and is converting it to apartments and a golf course.  Buildings are already being torn down and construction has started, giving rise to a new chapter in the land’s history.  The same company has been buying old hospitals and building homes, laying the foundation for a new set of hauntings and legends.  Instead of a haunted house being on what was once an old Indian burial ground, people will begin to talk of houses built over the sunken remains of old asylums.

met2If a society is judged on how it treats its sick and helpless, should it not also be judged on how it remembers it?  Metropolitan State began as an experiment in curing those society had cast away.  The souls trapped in the hospital may never find peace and those walking the grounds may never find rest.  That then remains the legacy of Metro State; a reminder of what we tried and a living ghost of just how far we need to go.

Old Ghosts at the Almshouse in Walpole

The Almshouse on East Street in Walpole has been the sight of hauntings since a fire in the late 1800’s and may have been the site of more than one tragedy before that.

 

Built in the early 1800’s by the houses original owner, Daniel Allen, the house was transformed into a house for the poor of the town and a weigh station for the homeless who jumped the railroads tracks nearby.  The poor farm allowed people to work in return for room and board and was supported mainly by town funds.  Because many of the people who lived in the house were unregistered with the farm it was difficult to keep track of who was there and tragedies that might have happened to people who lived a high risk lifestyle, but in the late 1800’s a fire killed anywhere between 16 and 26 boarders.  The house switched hands many times after the fire and in the early 1900’s children accidentally set fire to the barn and caused other damage to the property.  There are also rumors of the house being used as part of the Underground Railroad, and as we have seen in other stories, there has been a coloration between these locations and hauntings, often because of escaped slaves caught, but also because of the emotion releases during the tense moments hiding for one’s life.

 

The house has been known to be the spot of several hauntings, the most regular of which is known as Uncle Joe.  He is said to be responsible for tickling people on the back of their necks and misplacing thing.  There is a bit of sadness in his haunting, as he seems to play out his failed escape from the fire by opening and closing windows and rattling windows.

 

There have been various investigations of the hauntings at the Almshouse, but they have yet to produce anything more than medium impressions and scary stories.

 

The majority of information for the Almshouse came from a 1970 article by Janathan Kannair and an Article in The Walpole Times which ran on October 31, 1985 by Steve Mackinnon

 

Thank you to The Walpole Public Library and librarian Warren Smith for the information.  Libraries and Librarians like them are vital to the research I do and proved most helpful.  Help them keep up the work they do by checking out the Friends of Walpole Public Library and giving what you can.

Revisiting Charlesgate

This was one of the first articles I wrote on Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads, even before it was called that.  Part of this appeared in Jeff Belanger’s Encyclopedia of Haunted Places and was “borrowed”  by several other books.  Charlesgate is where it all started for me, so it holds a special place in my heart.
Two things hit me upon reading the article.  The first is that I hope my writing has become better since this was first published around 2002.  Not sure I can say that’s true.  The other is that so much of what I was putting out there about the building and its history was based on things I was told and information passed down rather than researched.  I think that works sometimes.  Natalie Crist of Tripping on Legends was going through the story and asked me questions about the dates and times things had actually happened.  I had no answers for her.  I don’t think I need them.  So much of the legend of Charlesgate comes things that cannot be verified.
Before I left Boston, I took a haunted tour of the city that went by my old dorm.  The person giving the tour retold my stories back to me, not knowing I was the one who had experienced them or at least had written them down.  They were mixed and matched, with details added that had never happened.   The Federal Government story was its centerpiece and almost none of the details were right.
In that spirit, I offer you the unedited original story.

 

The old Charlesgate Hotel is one of the most haunted buildings in Boston. Over time the building has taken on legend status, making it difficult to separate the truth from the mystique that surrounds it. It was built in 1891, supposedly by the Mafia, although there has been no connection between the original contractor and architect and organized crime. From the outside you can’t see the eighth floor, where some of the illegal activity was supposed to have happened. There are several areas that are boarded up or filled in, revealing hidden rooms that were once used but that you cannot see unless you follow the slight cracks in the wall. One such room on the sixth floor was the sight of a suicide. Walking through the halls, checking out the rooms and then comparing it to the original blueprints (on file at the Boston Public Library) shows many inconsistencies and points to potential areas of hauntings.

After serving as a hotel it was sold and sold again until it eventually became a BU dorm. The lore began with the influx of students. BU sold the dorms and it became a tenement, serving some of the worst tenants in Kenmore. At that time, students began to move in as well, often charged far more than the other people living there, creating an interesting mix of college kids and sketchy “adults”. Emerson College bought the building in the 1980’s and renovated it back into dorms, placing its foot firmly in the square and extending its influence in the city.

100_0170Some of the legendary spirits that walked the halls are very old. In the basement there are the spirits of horses that died when there were stables there. There is a little girl that haunts the elevator where she died. Often people had seances and weird things would happen, and more than once magic and black magic had been practiced in the dorm rooms. But there were other strange things that went on. Often at night there was scampering in the ceilings, too small to be people, but too big to be rats. There would be voices and light problems. Some student would see a gurney roll by their room.

Suicide plays a major role in the mythology of the building, often being the root cause of things that cannot be explained. In the 1970’s there was an alarm clock in a room where a supposed suicide had occurred that would go off at 6:11 am although it was not set. Another time 3 girls moved into a room on the 6th floor. Although each of them wanted the big closet upon moving in, they all had unusual sensations when they approached it, deciding it was better to let someone else use the closet. Research discovered another suicide in that closet. Once a student woke up to see a spirit hovering over him. The ghost was also seen by the RA who ran in to see why the student was screaming.

cgate3It was a hotbed of activity, and if you used a Ouija board anywhere in it, you’d get results (See the Federal Government story).  One night we got an answer to some of the activity. We contacted a spirit that called itself Zena that would clearly write out answers to our questions and offered a detailed history of its existence. It was not a normal spirit because it had never lived, but was more of a spell that had been cast on doorways by one of the original builders to protect those inside. They saw everything and tried to help people and often communicated on the board as different people to make them do what they thought was right. They told me of a spell placed on me by someone that was later confirmed by two psychics who had no idea what I was going in for. It knew things only the people themselves would know, and made a believer out of more than one skeptic that would try the board.

After we left the dorms it was sold again, and one person who lives in the building says he never has had anything happen. I think back to a rule of Ouija boards though. If a spirit is on the board and it is not cleaned, and it is destroyed somehow, the spirit is said to escape. If there was something in those walls, I wonder what might have happened when they gutted the place out to make the condos.

100_0175Recently, while taking photographs for a new book coming out I evaluated some of the designs at Charlesgate. I had lived in the building for two years, but I had never noticed the faces, some obvious and other not so obvious, around the windows and in the rest of the metalwork. There were also scratches which appeared random, but upon zooming appeared to spell things out. Some of the expressions I found, hidden in the beauty, were “No Exit”, “Hell”, and “Gone”.

The Odd Ghost of Federal Government

This is another old post from Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads and one of my favorite Ouija Board stories.  It also appeared in my first book Ghostly Adventures.

 

Federal Government is the strongest proof I have that a Ouija board might indeed be a useful or effective tool in paranormal research, and also a great argument for why you might not want to use them.  He seems to be a powerful spirit with negative intentions, a long memory, and some influence on our world.

In the Spring of 1995 some friends and I spent too much time using the board.  We were living in the old Charlesgate Hotel in Boston, considered one of the most haunted building in Massachusetts.  We had been using the board and getting mixed results when a very strong spirit pushed a weaker one off.  He immediately told us to be scared.  When we asked of what he moved the pointer slowly over the OUIJA label on the top of the board slowly enough to give me goosebumps.

FedGov quickly became obsessed with one of my roommates at the time.  John (name changed) was a womanizer and I had joked earlier that semester that he was sleeping his way through the alphabet.  We asked FedGov why he did not like John and he said because he made girls cry.  When we asked how he made girls cry and scrolled through all the letters on the board in a “z”, movement he would often mimic through our interactions with him.  He said John had to die, and it was his goal to do it.  Whenever we would be talking to a spirit he would force them off and start spelling out John’s name and making a “z” across the letters.

FedGov once caused our fire alarm to go off, but it wasn’t until he almost killed John that we took his threats seriously and understood the kind of power he had.  We were using the board and John went to take a shower.  We were talking to a spirit that claimed it was one of our guardian angels and FedGov came on.  After identifying himself he started to spell out “HAHAHAHA”.  When we asked why he was laughing he spelled out “ACDCACDCACDC”.  We were all confused until John came back into the room.  His hair was wet and the color was gone from his face.

When he had gone to use the shower the light had been out.  He screwed it back in and began the shower.  Just as he was washing his hair, the light went out.  His first instinct was to screw the light in, but he stopped.  He was soaking wet and standing in a pool of water.  He washed his hair in the dark rather than risk electrocution.

All of this could be a coincidence if it wasn’t for Sarah, one of John’s old girlfriends.  They had dated on and off over the years, almost always ending with John doing something horrible to her.  They talked that summer, and John brought up ghosts.  Sarah said she believed in them because she had talked to someone who claimed to be the devil.  She had first talked to him when she was young and he had told her that when she died he would have her.  Her soul was his forever and he was just waiting for her to join him.  When she had used the board earlier that year the same spirit had gotten on, asking her if she remembered him.  She said she knew he was not the devil and begged for his real name.  It spelled out FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

Mini Lights, Minnie Lights, Come Out Tonight

 

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The Mini Lights of St. Petersburg ended up being one of the most interesting legend trips we’ve done, not because of any evidence we got, but for the rich insight it gave us into the community and the challenges it provided for trying to figure out where things happened and what the straight story might be.

Ends up there isn’t one location and there isn’t one story.  You can spend your time trying to straighten out spaghetti or you can devour the bowl and ask for some garlic bread and meatballs.

Check out the episode we did on the way and after…  http://triplegend.hipcast.com/deluge/triplegend-20170326103541-9630.mp3

As well as some follow up on that case and the Devil’s Tree in Port St. Lucie…  http://triplegend.hipcast.com/deluge/triplegend-20170327012736-6406.mp3

…and hear the show where we first talk about it…http://www.hipcast.com/podcast/HtJFN9GQ

…and more about the Devil’s Tree and the mysterious draw to the ruins.  http://www.hipcast.com/podcast/HQRrNrBQ

 

Subscibe to the full show at http://triplegend.hipcast.com/rss/tol1.xml or search for us on Sticher, TuneIn and Itunes and Google Play.

 

For more content, also follow us on Twitter at @SpookyBalzano and @NayNayMyFriend and on Faceboook at https://www.facebook.com/TrippingonLegends/ and YouTube.

 

Revisiting Rockadundee

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I first published information about Rockadundee Road in early 2oo2 as I was starting Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads.  It was one of the first Massachusetts legends, right after the Red Headed Hitchhiker of Route 44, that connected with me and that I was able to, to some  some degree, track down.   It’s interesting how this story went from an obscure legend passed through the writings of a few Web sites back in the day to a full fledged legend.

The greatest moment of local folklore is the moment the story becomes such a part of a community, or such a menace to it, that media outlets and other writers have to come forward to prove the legendness of it.  Here are some more modern accounts of the story and the craze around it:

 Suburban Legend: The Haunting of Rock-a-Dundee Road  by Hell’s Acre

Ghostvillage’s discussion on it…with a little visit by Christopher Balzano

Strange USA’s discussion

In Massachusetts, there is the tale of Rockadundee Road in Hampden, a small town in the western part of the state that could be copied and reproduced as a picture of New England.

It is the kind of road, formerly part of the forest that now surrounds it, that inspires ghost stories.  Urban legends stick there and get passed between residents and paranormal enthusiasts alike.

The more bizarre stories involve an old witch who lived on the road who needed humans, particularly teenage, for rituals and incantations.  She would find people who became stuck on the dirt road, hack them up with an ax, and bring them back to her shack in the woods.  There is also a tale of a group of teenagers who went to the road, and for reasons unknown, and hung themselves from the trees along the road, perhaps hoping their spirits would haunt the town together.

The town reports no teenager who ever went missing or a group who ever killed themselves in a mass ritual, but the legends persist.  All of the stories coming out of Hampden are echoed across the country in other legends, and the themes of the stories should be familiar to anyone who spends any time near a campfire.  The hanging, the witch, the haunted road, and the use of teens in all the stories, resonate with urban mythologists and researchers alike.

gazebo

There is one story that has a twist unique to Rockadundee Road.  The story starts once with the death of a child, usually a young boy.  While playing near the road, the child is hit by a car, almost always said to be a drunk driver, and killed.  The parents, or maybe the community, create some kind of memorial for him.  The site of his demise is covered with signs, a cross, or teddy bears.  The ghost of the child then becomes like the ghost hitchhiker, appearing in cars or seen playing on the side of the road.

The story is pretty standard, and more and more investigators are hearing of haunted roadside memorials. At Rockadundee Road the victim is a boy killed by a drunk driver whose parents, in their grief, built a gazebo as a memorial. The boy is seen playing in the structure or nearby.  The story goes on that a group of teenagers suffered a mysterious death while jumping on the gazebo as part of a dare.  

In almost every report, like most haunted road graves, there is also a ghost car that follows people in the same area.  The phantom vehicle comes from behind, often honking at the observer or flashing their lights.  The car disappears going around the next turn.  In Hampden the haunted tailgater has been reported to run people off the road.  Most believe the car to be the one that killed the child.  The psychic impression of the violent demise is trapped on the road and is forced for some reason to replay itself.

The haunting seems too good to be true and involves a situation too familiar to not connect with the majority of people.  We have all seen the memorials on the side of the road and wondered what the back story is.  When the deceased is a child we become even more empathetic and more likely to believe the story.  We feel for and are frightened by the little boy unable to find peace.

There are usually contradictions or inconsistencies involved in the story.  The driver is said to be drunk and never caught.  There is also the fact that no one ever reports of seeing both ghosts.  The stories are always retold as, “I saw this and I was told this is the reason why and there is this other ghost…”  The teller fills in the holes, making the story more exciting.  Most importantly, the same haunting is told and told again in different towns around the country.

The dark and lonely road is enough to inspire fear in anyone, but on Rockadundee Road, the haunted road is raised to the level of art form.

 

 

Tripping the Devil’s Tree

Natalie Crist and Christopher Balzano went out in search of the Devil’s Tree at Oak  Hammock  Park in Port St. Lucie.

We’ve got a full write up of the context and what happened coming later this week, but you can catch the two podcasts they did on the topic.  The first is a trek down different Devil legends and the second is their field report on the Devil’s Tree.

Epsiode 7…Tripping the Devil

Epsiode 8…Tripping the Devil’s Tree

 

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