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”.

Polo Shirts and Glasses

This story first appeared under the name “The Message” at Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads and then in the book Ghostly Adventures.  The story has been changed slightly from its original appearances.  

Polo Shirts and Glasses

We have a hard time letting go sometimes, even when it is for the best.  The person tells us to move on, but we may linger on them, not understanding the signs around us.  Our perception of the moment, our slant of belief, makes angels into ghosts and familiar people into shadows, and we need to clear our heads before things can make sense again.  John was trying desperately to get someone to listen to him, and after his friends and fiancée turned him away, he turned to Denise.

All he wanted to say was that he was all right.

John was from Middletown, New Jersey, and was known as a good guy who went straight to work from high school and was known as a “typical guy.”   In the fall of 1997 he asked his girlfriend, Tara, to marry him.  She said yes and three weeks later he passed away for reasons that have not been discovered to this day.

Denise went to be with her best friend just days after she got the news.  Maybe it was how likable he was, or maybe it was the way he went with no explanation, but everyone he touched was unsettled by the passing.

Unusual things started to happen the night of his wake.  Everyone was standing in the driveway getting ready to leave when the sensory lights began to blink on and off.  John had been working on them when he died, but he had never finished installing them.  “They had never worked before, and never did again,” says Denise, remembering Tara laughing about the lights before breaking down sobbing.

Tara became convinced she saw John at night.  “She would wake up and see him sitting on the bean bag in her room.  She told me it became something that happened every night.  She stopped sleeping, but that didn’t stop it either.”  She would also see him at the foot of her bed and hear him walking through the house.  She would be too scared to talk to him and lie under the covers, hysterical.  She began sleeping with her parents and was unable to walk in areas of the house she thought he had walked on.  When she walked in the house, she would shift direction or talk the long way around the room to avoid places the ghost had stepped.  Her parents thought it might be PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) but they still ripped up the carpet and changed the house around trying to settle her mind.  Nothing worked.

In the meantime, John’s friends started to see him at night too.  He would appear at night at the foot of their beds or in the corner of the room.  He always seemed like to want to communicate with them.  Most of them hide under the covers until he disappeared or ran out of the room.  Other convinced themselves they were dreaming, until they started to talk about it.  He appeared to at least six of his friends before one of their mothers went to a psychic about it.  The psychic said he was trying to tell them something, and they went to her as a group.  They were unable to make contact.

Denise also had her own experience, but she didn’t tell anyone until eight months later when Tara finally went back to school at Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, West Virginia.  She asked Denise about the wake and the funeral because she had blocked most of it out.  Denise told her and then began to tell her a dream she had not longer after his death.

“I call it a dream because I don’t have any other explanation.”  She was sleeping in her bed, her room in complete dark, when she was suddenly awoke.  John was standing in the middle of her room looking down on her.  Everything in the room was dark except for him.  He had on a navy blue polo shirt with a red symbol and glasses, something she had never seen him wear.  “He told me to tell her that he was okay.  That he was happy, that he had moved on and that she doesn’t have to be afraid.”  Denise says he was solid, talked his usual voice and there was nothing unusual other than the fact he shouldn’t have been in the room.”

Tara’s reaction when Denise told her about this was even stranger.  She ran out of the room and came back with the only processions she kept from John; a navy blue polo shirt with a red rider and a pair of glasses he never wore after he had gotten his contacts.

There were no more occurrences after that.  After hearing the story, John’s friends moved on knowing their friend was okay.  Tara found peace as well.  “Prior to that she used to go to his grave every single day.  It was an obsession, she had to go.  If she didn’t she couldn’t function.”  Now she has married another man and is happy in her life.

“After my dream, the message got to her.”