Scary Story a Day…The Guard at the the Door

These next few we’re going to call the Jenna Chronicles.
 Jenna was my roommate for years and got this whole thing started for me.  We sat down together that first night and set up http://www.geocities.com/chrisandjenna441/Massachusettsghostsandlegends/, the precursor of Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads.
In addition to being willing to talk to anyone and egg me on to do the same, Jenna was a magnet for activity. She was part of the background for the Mr. Mustache story and the Haunted Majestic legend and experienced the FedGov and Charlesgate cases with me.  By the time we made our first trek into the Bridgewater Triangle to look into haunted Rehoboth, she had already experienced enough odd things to fill a book.
If you have a story or legend contact us at spookytripping@gmail.com.

 

Sometimes it takes a while to piece together the little things that happen on a day to day basis and realize there might be something else at work.  Sometimes when spirits don’t get their due they pop their heads up and tell you they’re there a little louder.

Jenna and I were living in an apartment together on Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton.  It was a small apartment with a tiny room for a front entrance that had an intercom system and a door buzzer.  We centralized the phone there and soon found Jenna’s cat, Karma, was fond of playing near the front door.

There were two locks on the door, but I never locked both of them, even when nobody was in the apartment, because the same key that unlocked one unlocked the other.  Anyone who could break into one could easily get into the other.  I soon became annoyed at Jenna.  She would double lock the door when she went to bed and then double lock it when she left in the morning.  I was getting bored having to open both locks every time I wanted out or in.  After a few months I asked her to stop.  Her eyes sparkled when she told me she never touched the lock, but was getting annoyed that I was always double locking the door.  This continued until the day we left.

1412During the same time, Karma would often jump at the wall in the front entrance, playing with something that wasn’t there.  The intercom would often buzz and there would be no one needing to get in.  We didn’t think about it too much because the apartment building was filled with younger people like ourselves.  Whether drunk or just trolling for someone to let them in, it would not have been unusual for people to hit an apartment that wasn’t there’s.  Our phone would ring at all times of the night and day and there would be silence on the other end of the phone.  Several attempts to contact whatever was there failed to give us any solid proof of a spirit, but we knew they were there.

It wasn’t until my friend was coming to stay with us that we experienced fully what the ghost was capable of.

My fiancé at the time, Jill, had come to stay with us over the summer.  She and Jenna were at home waiting for my friend to arrive from out of state while I was working down the street.  Jenna was working at the computer in my room and Jill was sitting on my bed.  They were talking when they heard something in the front hall.  They stopped, and heard the door lock by itself.  They looked at each other, and Jenna screamed and jumped on the bed.  They heard it click several times, and then the buzzer went off.  After arguing over who would get the buzzer, Jenna went out.  It was my friend.  She buzzed him in and unlocked the now locked door, opening it a bit so he could get in.  She then ran back to my room and on my bed.

Several seconds later there was a knock at the door.  The door was now closed, and the deadbolt locked.  They both walked to the door, arm in arm, and let him in.  When I got home an hour later, to a double locked apartment, they were all still on the floor of my room.

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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.

Horn Pond’s Little Demons

 

100_0203Most of the locals who walk along the picturesque trails  circling Horn Pond know little of its history. They do not know how it was once used to carry supplies in and out of nearby Boston. They look across its empty surface and do not know that boats and swimmers used to sail and play and laugh.

They do not know it is haunted.

Horn Pond has been a source of mystery since before it was settled. Native Americans in the area stayed away from the pond. Their legends tell of a great battle between the gods of light and the gods of darkness. The bad guys were winning victories all across the land, forcing the good guys to run and hide and try to regroup.   Finding a hiding place in Woburn, they made the mountains of Woburn their home until they got word the bad guys had found their hiding place.  They dug out a trench, waited for the evil ones to enter it and then filled it with water, trapping the demons beneath the surface but not killing them.

It’s not a new story.  In fact, there are several similar references to this kind of battle, including one in Lakeville, Massachusetts, where the legend is attached to Pukwudgies.  There the curse was responsible for the sketchy murder of  John Sassamon, the spark of King Phillip’s War.  The backstory is also responsible for haunted ponds and lakes in Minnesota, Michigan, and Oregon.

It may be the demons that have taken the lives of the people on Horn Pond, but it the human spirits people believe they see at night. In the past two hundred years the body of water has taken the life of over forty-five people, an amount made even more outrageous by the size of the pond. Most of the accidents involved boating errors or small children. There have been some reports of falling through the ice, but what is unusual is that there is no curse or negative Native American-settler story attached to the area. Most bodies of water considered this haunted in New England have a story of a settler taking the life of a Native and the pond becoming a source of death as revenge. Natives and modern Americans seem equally affected by the forces.

100_0198

The haunting happen at night and during the day. The pond is used for nature walks and has foot traffic even on the coldest day. Some people have said the mood changes when they reach certain spots. They have feeling fine and then need to stop walking and turn around. They often feel as if they are being watched. Dogs have been known to bark or whimper and then become normal again.

At night lights have been seen above the water. They have been described as bright blue, round, several feet tall and hovering above the water. Several people have seen people walking on the water, always with their back to the viewer. One local tells of a canoe she has seen several times. The canoe always is seen sailing to the middle of the pond and then fades away as she watches. The water itself is closed to both boats and swimmers.

The Bill for Nothing

One of the most frustrating aspects of computers is trying to get a bill paid or have someone answer a question on the phone. We make our way through automated phone directories like mice in mazes looking for cheese. It’s something we’ve all experienced, and this makes it the perfect situation for a good urban legend to be born.

One such urban legend had its birth in Massachusetts. The story is said to have happened in Newton, Massachusetts in the early nineties, just as computers were gaining their foothold over our lives. A man opened a new account with a credit card company, but before it could use it, he received a bill for $0.00. Not thinking much about it, he threw the bill away and placed the card in his wallet. The next month he received another bill for $0.00.

He showed the bill to his friends who all got a good laugh out of it. They suggested he go buy something to get a real balance, but when the man went to the store the next day, his card was declined. Assuming there had to be some error, he called the company to see what was wrong with his account. He spent thirty minutes on the phone, but was only able to reach an automated system. A friendly but prerecorded voice told him a balance of $0.00 was due on his card and because it had yet to been paid his account was on hold.

The man immediately cut up the card and decided to get another. The next month he received a notice from the original card company telling him his $0.00 was now in collection and refusal to pay would affect his credit. He smiled as he thought of how to beat the company and wrote a check out for $0.00 and sent it out.

A few days later the man received a call from the bank. They had received his check, but because it was for $0.00 it had caused there whole system to crash and they had lost all the transactions that day. They would be charging his account for making their computers crash and they would not honor the check.

The man paid the bank fees, and the next month he received a bill from his credit card company saying he owed $0.00 and that the account was now in the hands of a collection agency.

While this story does not have the chill factor of other urban legends involving ghostly hitchhikers, homicidal babysitters or college stalkers, it says as much about what we fear on a daily basis. The story draws us in because of its exaggeration of a situation that aggravates all of us. No one gets hurt it this tale, except of course for the man’s credit scores, but its effect tells us about our society.

Since its first appearance in 1992, the story has been told countless times, sometimes taking place in Massachusetts and other times in other states and locations. Credit card companies say they would never send a bill for a zero balance, never mind allow it to get in collection. But there are other elements to the story that show it as an urban legend.

The original tale named the city as Newtown, which is a misspelling of the suburb. In later stories it is referred to as a town outside Boston or as the correctly spelled Newton.
In the tale, there is no name given to the credit card company or the man who acts as the hero of the story, a sure sign of a legend in the making. The story has also appeared in other places, giving it a more universal appeal and adding details to the lore. In one story that takes place in Australia, the man actually brings the company to court and wins a big settlement. The story has appeared in columns, newspaper articles and talk shows, but the facts have never been confirmed.

expensive Boston Creme Pie

The Omni Parker House on Boston’s famous Tremont Street is the kind of building that screams of the history of the city. Placed between the Old North Church and the Boston Commons, and surrounded by dormitories and college campuses, the building still stands out. More than a hotel, it is not tall as some of the other skyscrapers of the city or as well known to the people who pass by it on their way to work or class or the Freedom Trail. Those who know understand it has housed some of the most influential people of the last century, and those really in the know speak of the ghosts that also are said to check in every now and then.

The name may have changed through the century and a half it has been open, but not its draw to famous people in the world of entertainment and politics. It has been a phoenix of sorts, originally open in 1855 and then reopened in 1927, and all the while it has been a stop for people seen in history books. It is said John Kennedy stayed there on more than one occasion and even asked Jacqueline to marry him there. It was the stop over for Malcolm X and Hô Chí Minh in their professional careers, the latter acting as a baker, although not the primary figure in our story.

Over the years, the hauntings there have become as infamous to paranormal enthusiasts. There seems to be several ghosts that roam the rooms, and the property has seen its share of tragedies that have created different culprits for the hauntings. The most frequently seen is that of the original owner Harvey Parker. Many residents and staff have seen a man matching his appearance, with his characteristic beard, walking the halls, often disappearing through walls. Some people have woken up to see him standing at the foot of their beds early in the morning or very late at night. Legend has it he sometimes asks if everything is alright or if there is anything he can do to help you. The most documented hauntings have happened in Room 303 where a man killed himself in 1949. People have heard conversations or laughing in the room when no one else was present. The odor of cigars and cigarettes have been smelt there although there was none lit, and a staff member returned to the empty room once to find a lit cigarette although he has just left the room. Fires have been set in the room, always found before any serious damage is done. People have also seen the man, whether it be a flash in the mirror, seen across the way in the window, or as a full person who opened the rooms door and shouted at one employee. The haunting had become so bad that the room was closed and turned into storage, and many people feel it is the inspiration for the short story and movie 1408, originally written by Stephen King.

The most lasting story of the hotel may be the one that never happened.

Some time ago, usually it is said to have happened in the late Sixties or early Seventies (although some have placed the story as happening only a few years ago), some friends were enjoying a lunch in the same place Camelot was formed. The Omni Parker House is said to have invented the Boston Crème Pie, so it was their tradition to order it as their dessert. Have finished, and having just finished the story or her last failure in making on in her own kitchen, one of the ladies asks the waitress for the recipe. The baker, just coming of his shift, deliveries the handwritten recipe on the hotel’s finest stationary and wishes her luck. Both women are floored and enjoy a good laugh until the bill comes. The restaurant has added five hundred dollars to it. They leave, paying only the price of the actual lunch. The woman is later contacted by the hotel’s lawyer and told she will have to pay or they will be pressing charges. Her lawyer tells her the same. You see, she received the letter, clearly looked at the recipe, and because she had asked for it on her own, she was liable for the price.

The woman pays the bill in disgust. She is so put off by the incident, she types the recipe out on note cards and travels the Green Line handing it out to anyone who will take it. She even gets it printed in the Boston Globe and goes on to post it anywhere she can on the Internet.

The story, however perfect, never happened. There was no handwritten code to the secret of the Boston Crème Pie or the march of revenge. If you ask authorities at the hotel, they will laugh and tell you it is all part of the mystique of the hotel, but its truth lies somewhere this side of the Tooth Fairy. It is what urban mythologist call a David and Goliath story and has its own history in the lore of Friend of a Friend (FOAF) tales. While it may have not been the first of such stories or the most widely circulated, it is the version Bostonians hold on to the most.

Most people who study folklore trace it back to an old wives’ tale told about a red velvet cake from the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City back in the 1960s, but the concept of the overpriced bill for a recipe was seen for two decades before that. Since then, the story has been told about Neiman Marcus Cookies, Mrs. Field’s Cookies, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, and even Gatorade. The basic elements of the story, the request, the recipe, the bill, and the revenge, carry through all the stories, and while the food changes, the appeal never does. There is even a similar legend told about a man who asked to borrow HTML code from a Web site, but that is not nearly as circulated, probably because you can’t eat code.

The draw for the audience is clear. A simple person, the David, is charged by the faceless company, the Goliath, and ultimately gets her revenge (it is important to note the hero of the story is almost always a woman). The basic setup is odd in that most people who eat at the places mentioned are members of the upper class, usually the bad guys in urban legends. Their revenge speaks to our basic feelings of being rolled over by big business and our desire to see the little guy win out over them. This is intensified by the fact places like the Omni Parker House are surrounded by “average” people and struggling students. There is also a deeper meaning in the story that points at our disappointment towards the hero herself, and one of the sexist themes unfortunately seen all throughout modern folklore. If she had just been able to make the snack herself, none of this would have ever happened. In fact, that is what happens when ladies go out to lunch and gossip.

The legend endures, and most places embrace the legends and use it as a way to poke fun at themselves. Many of the restaurants mentioned, including the Omni Parker, actually have printed note cards with the recipe ready for those who ask about the story (although the Omni Parker stopped this years ago). Some will even provide you with a fake copy of a bill with the recipe price included. Stories like this can not be killed, and it is better to be part of the joke than the butt of it.

If you are downtown and taking in a slice of history, stop in to the restaurant in the Omni Parker House and get a slice of Boston Crème Pie to go with it. It is a delicacy well worth the price, and better than the doughnut with the same name you can get at any of the 27 Dunkin Donuts you can get walking distance from the hotel. Enjoy the view and the company, even enjoy Massachusetts official dessert free of guilt. Let it end there though. Don’t ask for the secrets of making it in your own kitchen or they may just change their minds and force you to wash dishes for it. As the lawyers in training at Suffolk Law School on the next block will tell you, a law is a law if everyone believes it.