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.

Grandma’s Raising Your Child

Regina always felt close to her grandmother, Maria, living with her most her life, surviving tragedy together and sharing all of the best times of her life. After Maria’s death from cancer in 1989, Regina found herself feeling guilty over her death and saddened that her grandmother and friend would not be able to share the most exciting stage of her life.  She was dating the man she would eventually marry and soon there would be children.  “I think she would have gotten a kick out of my sons.  She never had a grandson except Paul and Michael a bit later.  She would have loved them.”

Lately Regina has begun to feel that Maria might not be missing out but is sharing her family’s lives in the apartment she used to live in.  Regina has felt her grandmother’s presence since her death, but since the birth of her second child and the boys moving into what was once her grandmother’s bedroom, the feelings have turned to physical experiences, and as the moments seem to intensify, Regina is left more confused than scared.  “It’s scary, but more or less positive,” says Regina, an energetic mother and cataloger at a library in Boston.  “Ever since she died there’s been a connection there.  What’s the message?  I mean, what’s the main purpose?”

grandma2Regina lived in the same house as her grandmother for most of her life.  After a fire in 1981 they were separated for a few months, but when her parents bought a two family house in Everett, Massachusetts, Maria moved in downstairs.  Regina would climb down the backstairs to her grandmother’s apartment to have tea and spend time talking.  When Regina left for college in the late Eighties, Maria became sick.  She tried to come home as much as possible, but the college was in Western Massachusetts and her grandmother was in and out of the hospital.  The night before Maria died, Regina had a confusing dream that seemed to trigger the connection between the two.  She dreamt of standing over her mother’s casket, her grandmother at her side.  The next day, although she was doing better, Maria passed away.  Regina never fully got over the guilt she felt about not being there, and it did not help when years later she heard her grandmother had responded to her absence by saying, “What, is geography more important to her than me?”

The first time she noticed something unusual about the apartment was shortly after her grandmother’s death.  She was staying there with some riends from college.  They joked around and watched scary movies, but some time during the night each of them experienced something they blew off until the next morning when they all told what had happened to them.  They each distinctly heard tea being made, from the sounds of things being moved to the clinking of the pot and the sound of the spoon against the cup.  Regina sees it as a sign of their connection.

“As soon as I would get home from school in the afternoon she would yell up the backstairs, ‘Are you coming down for tea?’  It was our thing.”

Four years later, now married, she moved in to the apartment.  Through the years she noticed small things but constantly pushed the idea aside.  “You look back and make the connection.”  There was often a smell in the apartment she associated with her grandmother, even though the apartment had not been lived in for years and her father had renovated the place.  They both would smell her grandmother’s perfume, White Shoulders, mixed with cigarette smoke, often coming from the bathroom.  Maria would often sit in the bathroom smoking and doing crossword puzzles.  Regina would also see shadows out of the corner of her eye and experience vivid dreams about her.  One involved Maria standing on the newly renovated upstairs porch, dressed in black, holding a baby, and eerily cackling.  She also woke up once to her grandmother in the room glowing white with angelic wings.  She felt it might have been a dream, but the next morning she found feathers in her bed.

1172840_10152431110917841_210684489_oShe attributed most of the dreams and experiences to her imagination and guilt.  When her second child was born, however, things began to intensity.  “When I had Anthony I needed more room so the two kids could share a room.”  She moved Anthony, and his older brother Tom, into the bedroom where her grandmother once slept.  Almost immediately things started to happen.  There was a fire alarm installed in the room that ran off the electrical of the house.  It started to beep as soon as the kids moved in, although her and her husband had lived there for three years without any noise.  They cleaned the alarm, reset it and had an electrician take a look at it, but every time they put it back up it went off.

Tom, her three year old son is often heard talking to someone over the baby monitor.  Regina hears a soft buzz and then her son whispering low enough so that she cannot understand what is being said.  When Regina finally got up enough courage to ask him who he was talking too he explained, “I’m talking to my friend, the lady.  The lady that watches me sleep.”  Tom has started to not sleep in his room, preferring to sleep with his mother in her bed.  Recently, Regina was talking with her mother upstairs with the boys asleep in their room.  Her mother heard Tom talking over the monitor and asked what he was doing.  Regina explained to her skeptical mother, Maria’s daughter, who she feels has had things happen to her but refuses to talk about them.  Regina went back downstairs and right before she opened the door to the boys’ room, she heard Tom say, “Shhh,” over the monitor.

There have been other signs that there might be someone else living in the house.  The family dog does not go in the room unless there is someone in it, often circling around the door when it goes by and running from the room into Regina’s lap.  Regina has seen a figure in the hallway out of the corner in her eye.  She has not gotten a solid look, but she knows there is someone there.  Keys hanging from hooks in the hallway start to swing when she feels someone is there.

nanaLately things have gotten stranger.  Near Halloween she was sleeping in her bed with her son.  From the angle she was at she could see her mirror and through the mirror the reflection from her television.  All of a sudden there was a bright light about the size of a grapefruit in the mirror, slowly moving from side to side.  She tried to rationalize what was happening, thinking it might have been the Halloween lights outside, but she could not tell where the light was coming from.  She closed her eyes, but when she opened them, the light was clearly in the room inches from her, right above her son.  The light then seemed to move into the bathroom, at which point Regina ran into a different room.

A few nights later she was again lying in bed with her son Tom when she felt someone sit on the bed.  She could feel the pressure and thought it might be her husband.  When she looked there was no one there.  She asked, “Nana, is that you?”  The pressure on the bed felt like someone just jumped up and Regina felt as if the room had become suddenly empty.  This experience has confused Regina more than the others.  She always felt the presence was her grandmother, but she does not understand why she would run away when she tried to make contact.

Regina is convinced the spirit is that of Maria, but she is not fully ready to see her grandmother in the kitchen making tea.  “I’m afraid to know.  I like to hear it on the other side but I know it’s not in my head any more.  At some point you have to say, ‘there’s something here.  There’s something going on.”  She feels her grandmother was not ready to die and was on some much medication towards the end she did not know what was happening to her.  If she had, she would have fought it.  She feels Maria wants to see her great-grandchildren grow up and share their experiences.  “She won’t have wanted to miss out on everything she’s missing out on.”  She also feels the nature of what happened points to her grandmother.  “I think the stuff that is happening is her personality.”

Regina also believes the activity will get stronger as Christmas approaches.  “It was her thing,” she says thinking about the holidays spent with her Nana.

Regina has gotten use to the idea of the ghost she might share her house with.  Although she is still not sure what to make of her grandmother, she accepts the signs that are around her.

grandma3It was somewhat discouraging for her though.  Just when she was ready to listen to what her grandmother had to say, she stopped talking.  She continued to smell the roses and cigarettes in the bathroom and sometimes felt someone watching her when she was alone, but the lights and noises stopped.  Pretty soon Regina felt her grandmother must have passed on.

That was until Christmas.

Maria had always enjoyed the holidays.  Regina was able to look back on her experiences in the apartment and see her grandmother had always made herself known around Christmas.  She was not really thinking about it when she put up her decorations this year.  There were other things to think about.  Her husband had just gotten out of the hospital with a heart problem.  More importantly, this was the last Christmas they would be in the apartment.  They had bought a house several months before and were only waiting to finish fixing it up before moving in.  When she had purchased the house she had wondered briefly if Maria would move with them.

Tom, now almost five, made his way downstairs from his grandmother’s upstairs.  He stopped to look at the tree and then went into the kitchen to brush his teeth in the sink.

As Regina finished up the last of the decorations, she heard Tom talking from the kitchen.  He was not singing or babbling, but talking in complete sentences with pauses as he was listening to someone else and responding.  Regina thought it must be her father and went it to say hello.

Tom stood alone on his stepladder with his wet hands in the sink.  He was alone.  “Tom, where’s Papa?”

Tom looked confused.  “Papa’s not here.”

“Well, who were you talking to?”

“The lady with the white hair on the stairs.”

Regina wanted to ask him who the woman was.  What did she look like?  Had you talked to her before?  But all she could do was watch little Tom make his way to the TV room as and think about all the times she had run down those same stairs to go see her grandmother.

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.

The Country Tavern

This was a classic haunted I first heard about in the early days of researching. I got the story because my parents ate there on an almost weekly basis. The legend was already hot by then, but when I published it in Jeff Belanger’s Encyclopedia of Haunted Places, it’s infamy grew. There is less spoken about the legend today, but the backstory and first hand accounts make it a classic New England haunted tale.

The aged wooden building now known as Country Tavern in Nashua, New Hampshire, has served many purposes over the years.  The flashing video sign and new coat of paint might hide the history to those passing on Amherst Street, but anyone who has been inside knows the past comes off the walls.  The antiques on the walls and exposed beams hint at stories that stretch back, and any waiter or waitress you ask is willing to share the history of Country Tavern’s most famous visitor.  Camille, the owner, looks more like a uncle or old friend than the proprietor of one of the most successful restaurants in “America’s Number One Town to Live in” as he shakes your hand and confirms the story.

At Country Tavern the talk is of Elizabeth.

Originally built as a farmhouse in 1741, the newly restored building was once the house of Elizabeth Ford, the wife of a ship captain.  After one of his long voyages, he returned to find his wife pregnant by another man.  He waited until the baby was born and then killed them both, burying them somewhere on the property.  Some say they were buried directly on the land below where the restaurant now stands.  Other say he dumped them in a well on the property.  Either way, Elizabeth has stayed on the property.

Employees of the restaurant report items being moved and hearing footsteps late at night.  Some say she would regularly cause things to fall and break.  This seems to be the most malicious thing she desires to do, because most stories about her describe her actions as harmless and at times even pointless.  There is no rhyme or reason to what she does.  The sightings seem to be focuses more on women on the premises and her favorite activity used to be to play with women’s hair in the ladies room.

There have been several physical sights of the mother.  She is never seen in detail, but more as a shadow with a face.  She is most often seen looking out the windows to the parking lot in the back of the building.  One customer was in that parking lot smoking a cigarette before rejoining his family inside.  He saw a door on the second floor open and close several times without anyone moving through.  The door then began to swing violently, still with no one appearing.  He questioned the people inside who confirmed no one was in the area at that time.

Although a specialist was brought in during the late nineties to give Elizabeth peace, the owner and staff do not try and hide what they have experienced.  The reports of her activities have all but stopped, but the employees and customers keep the tragic story of mother and child alive.

Nick’s Nest

This is another found story, and another case of serendipity leading to a treasure.  I was originally supposed to go to a gallery opening in New York with Jackie Barrett, but snow made travel impossible.  The next day I planned to go to the Warrren Museum and spent a while talking to Lorraine on the the phone, but it started to snow again.  Instead, after the snow had stopped, a friend and I headed out to Nick’s to follow up on a report we were told.
Although the restaurant has hit come controversy of late, Nick’s is still around and changing with the times, although it is unclear whether they are still experiencing anything unexplained.

 

Nick’s Nest in Holyoke, Massachusetts, is a landmark built on tradition.  People can sit at the counter and touch the past, and enjoying a hot dog and some homemade baked beans has never felt more like traveling back to a simpler time.  From the basic, original menu to old the neon sign and the antique music box, when you get sit and eat your popcorn you feel someone from another age is sitting next to you, whispering old stories.  The new owners know all about touching history.  They feel the ghost of a past owner walking the halls, checking up on the place.

Although it is now a landmark in the town of Holyoke, Nick’s Nest earned its name in part from its humble beginnings.  Nick Malfas was the very definition of the American dream.  Malfas first started his business as a popcorn pushcart in 1921.  Every morning he would fill up the cart and walk up and down the streets of town selling his goods.  As his popularity grew, he continued to expand his business.  Without money to buy a professional electric cart, he converted an old Ford model T into a makeshift mobile restaurant by building the popper into the truck.

DSCN1199

One set of stairs where people have seen a ghostly figure.

 

In 1927 further expansion forced him to open a store on his favorite corner in Holyoke.  The new highway was being built, and Malfas knew the right food in the right location would be the perfect fit.  The story goes the building was so small his wife called it nothing more than a “nest”, and they just knew the name was right.  In 1948, Malfas decided to move to a new location that included two additional floors for his son Charles.

Charles took over the business and continued to run it like his father.  Every passing year meant more pressure to expand and modernize, but Nick’s Nest stayed much the same as it always did.  The menu remained simple; popcorn, hot dogs, baked beans, soda and soup from time to time.  The people of Holyoke took this consistency to heart, continuing to cherish the restaurant for its delicious, high quality food.  The bean recipe became notorious and the hot dogs were always made from lean fresh meat.  Once, when the meat packers went on strike, hot dogs were taken off the menu until the best meat could be purchased again.   The food was always good, but it was the tradition and nostalgia that truly drew people in and kept them coming back.

Charles son, Charles Malfas Jr., has become as much a part of the modern legend of the place as the food it sells.  Much has been said about him, and all of it falls into the realm of rumor.  Some say he did not like the family business and tolerated working there and running the place after his father passed because it was the only life he knew.  Others say a injury that forced him to install chairs lifts from the restaurant floor to the residence on the second floor prevented him from working the restaurant the same way his father and grandfather had.  Other say he was influenced by a seedy friend who manipulated him to take out a second mortgage to pay debts and ultimately sell the restaurant.

While none of this can be confirmed, Charles Jr. did allow the business to go downhill.  He was said to be rude to customers and employees, many of whom had worked there for years.  Press releases and interview contradict this, but former employees and old customers tell a different story.  Old ways were looked down on, and money stopped getting put in for repairs.  The second floor was not kept up and the third floor was all but abandoned.  It was at this time the rumors of a possible ghost began.  Again, nothing can be confirmed, but Charles Jr. was said to have been pestered by some spirit in the place, and the rumors all stated it was one of the old owners showing their disapproval of the state of the family treasure.

DSCN1214In early summer 2005, the location was bought by Kevin Chateuneuf for a little over six hundred thousand dollars.  The price included the restaurant, the residence and the attached house and the secret recipes and traditions of the name.  Kevin and his brother-in-law Ted went about rebuilding the business and restoring Nick’s Nest to its old glory.  Ted moved into the second floor and has since become familiar with all the sounds and odd winds connected to such an old building.  It was Ted that first started to notice odd things, but he brushed them off at first.

Odd things started to happen to different electric devices in the restaurant.  Several times the radio in the restaurant turned on after Ted had shut it off for the light.  He though he had forgotten in the course of closing up the first time it happened.  “We hadn’t been there that long,” says Ted.  “We were both new on what we were doing closing up.”  He shut the stereo system off, but then heard it on after he had made it upstairs.   The second time he knew he had turned off the radio when hours later, while sleeping upstairs, he heard it on again.  He was too tired to go down and turn it back off, but he started to think something unexplained was happening.

Another time the lights in the basement went off when he knew he had left them on.  The main switch lights the stairs and first section of the basement and then hanging lights all along the rafters light the rest of the area.  He and another employee were moving things out of the basement.  When they went back down, the basement was in total darkness.

Another time Kevin was walking with his wife and decided to go by the store after it had closed.  Ted  had closed up for the night and the building was locked and the lights turned off.  As they made their way down the street, the couple noticed something odd.  “We went past the place and, I don’t know why but we looked up,” says Kevin.  “There was a light on on the third floor.  I knew there was no one there.”  Kevin also saw a figure in the window, but assumed it was a reflection of something on the wall behind the window.

Ted confirms he shut the light off before going to bed, and the switch is located as you leave the stairs.  No one had access to the second or third floor other than Ted himself and there is no way to get to the third floor without going through Ted’s apartment.  As a matter of fact, one of the reasons Kevin has been unable to rent the space is because there is no way to get out in case of a fire.

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The most disturbing incident happened when both when were working late just after they had purchased the property.  “We hadn’t been there that long.  We were both new on what we were doing closing up,” says Kevin.

They were in the office on the third floor when they heard a long creak and then a loud bang from one of the doors on the second floor.  “We were sure we were alone.  We just heard a creak and then, ‘Bam’, it slammed.  It sounded like the loudest door in the world,” says Ted.  The two felt the temperature and began to joke with each other about who would go upstairs to check.  Neither went to check, but they were sure no one else was in the building; they both reported there was no wind that night and the door that was the best candidate for the sound was open when Ted eventually went to sleep.

Orbs seen on the second floor landing, the area where the slamming door was heard.

All of these experiences could be passed off it was not for other disturbing elements to the house.      While the store was open one day, Ted was hit in the back of the head with a package of plates.  The plates were not on a shelf above him and no employees were behind him.  He also reports things falling off the rack that have been placed securely.

Ted, as a resident in the building, as had more exposure to oddities that might exist in the building.  He has heard creaks that sound like footsteps and has experienced cold spots.  Much of the activity seems to center around the second floor residence.  Ted is sure there is something there, although he not quite ready to admit it might be a ghost.  “Sometimes when I’m in there (his room on the second floor) I sense something is with me.  I look over to my right (down a hallway that leads to the room in the front of the building).  I look over and feel something is there.”

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Another spot of activity…ignore the orb…

There are other things about the house that remain unexplained.  The intercom on the second floor is pulled out, almost as if destroyed in anger or frustration.  In the days when Charles lived there, it acted as an intercom to the store, and the microphone to it is still hanging in the store.  He would go up to sleep or take a break during the slow times, and when it was busy, his father would call up to him to come down and help.  Could it be the father still tried to communicate through the line after his death, perhaps giving some sign of his disapproval of the way things were being run?

There are also an abnormal number of thermometers placed throughout the second and third floor.  They are not thermostats, but rather cheap gauges measuring changes in the room.  Almost every room has at least two, including doors near crawl spaces and the kitchen.  Why would it be so important to know the temperature?  If there were spirits in the house, they might have caused dramatic changes Charles was trying to monitor.

In December of 2005, Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads traveled to Holyoke to interview the owner and his brother and law and take a tour of the place.  During the visit, pictures were taken of most of the rooms and temperature and EMF reading were made.  Several unexplained orbs were sighted in areas mentioned as having activity, although it should be mentioned almost all were in areas that had the potential for dust.  The temperature often dropped ten degrees in small pockets of space, especially in the basement.  In one of the third floor bedrooms a small object, like a plastic bag but with a tip on the top, was seen in both the video and digital pictures taken.  This room is just off the main room on that floor, where the light went on, and had a bed and some personal items left by Charles, the only room to have anything from the former owners.

As the investigators left they took the time to get some pictures of the outside of the building.  The light on the third floor was on, even though the video clearly shows Ted shutting it off and no one has access to it after they had left.

Kevin and Ted are unsure who they ghosts might be.  Both believe it to be Charles Senior, checking up to see what they are doing.  They have recently started renovations to restore much of the original look of the house and store, and Kevin believes Charles likes this.  Before they bought the building, neither was told of any haunting and nothing has been reported by the tenants of the office space attached where Nick and his family lived.  No customers have ever had anything happen, but a few employees, mostly former or older employees have said they hear odd noises, like footsteps and voices, from time to time.

There are rumors Charles Senior reported the place being haunted to a few customers.  This seem like more of a rumor, especially considering his disposition.  It seems unusual he would confide such sensitive information given his personality.  It is worth noting the investigation into Nick’s was sparked by an e-mail from a ChuckyLighthouse who we have been unable to contact since.  If Charles Junior did indeed retire to Maine or Florida as some have said, he may very well have an affection for lighthouses.

It is hard when your future is laid out for you.  Nick Malfas worked hard to pass something on to the next generation and to leave a piece of himself behind.  After generations, sons can lose sight of this.  From your birth you are planned to inherit the mantel, even if you want another path.  Those kinds of emotions can stir up negative feelings, and if last wishes are ignore, there might just be enough there to allow someone to return.  Two generations lived for the small store in Holyoke that was nothing more than a nest, and in death they seem to still feel the emotion of its neglect and the pride in a new family looking to bring back the old days.