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.

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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.

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.

Legend are born in October

Legends Are Born in October

By Christopher Balzano

This article originally appeared on Ghostvillage

When I began my paranormal career, I wanted anything but a career. I was a storyteller looking to document what I thought was the most interesting topic I could find. I knew it was engaging because I was fully engaged in it, and for many people who start to look into the paranormal, the idea of ghosts and spirits and all that come with them can be something of an obsession. In those early stages, many of us consume anything we can find, and when we can’t find the best stuff, it hardly matters to us. It’s all good because it’s about ghosts. But not all that glitters is gold.

Case in point: A few years ago, after becoming somewhat of an authority on an especially haunted area of my state, I was contacted by a newspaper that was doing their traditional Halloween stories. After the interview, they published an article that included many of the locations I talked about. There was even a map included. There was no follow-up with any of the places or checking of my facts or even permission from some very public areas to use what I had said. My words were truth, and as Web sites and other media outlets got the story, my naming of names spread throughout the area and investigators and researchers hit the field looking to touch the things I had talked about. It was not that I had told any lies; it was a storyteller retelling the most engaging things he had heard.

Innocent, right? One of the subjects I talked about was a local college known for some amazing hauntings, although like most colleges, the back story and the folklore were the real star and the details of the ghosts were secondary. As the head of the library and the college archivist both sat down to breakfast that morning, they saw their college in bold letters (and a special generic clip art picture on the map) and knew they were in for a tough time. There were no ghosts on campus and the stories had been the subject of folklore for years, which they explained to dozens of people who called over the next few days to request permission to investigate. They were just good ghost stories. A letter they wrote to the paper explaining just that never made it to the editorial section.

A few years later I met them both as I was doing research for my book on that area. Both eyed me suspiciously and knew me by name. They gave me a detailed account of what they had gone through and continued to go through because of my article. Of course, as a folklorist, I was bringing the information to the masses, something the newspaper felt was more of a detail than a direction. The women both eventually understood my focus and helped me with the book, as well as helping me a few times since, gather information or to check a detail of a case.

I’m not sure if the line between folklore and fact is any more blurred than it was years ago. We have a tool that can help verify the stories we are told, but so often we can’t trust the second source or don’t bother to look. A phone might help, but there are deadlines and the stories are not meant to be more than casual reading. Why check facts when you are talking about something as silly as ghosts anyway? The odd thing is that these stories become the foundation of something almost uncontrollable. An article becomes a posting which becomes a blog entry which is used as the background of a book, and before anyone has time to check the batteries in their EMF meters, legend becomes modern haunting.

Don’t get me wrong. The folklorist side of me loves seeing this. I am as intrigued by the way information is spread as the information itself. I was thrilled last year when someone cited a personal experience of mine as something that had happened to a friend of theirs, and it wasn’t until I pressed that they confessed they heard the story during a ghost tour and wanted to spice it up. The bigger point for those looking for truth is to understand the bringers of that truth. Newspapers don’t ask for a list of works cited by those they interview, and when speaking on the record (and all investigators should always assume everything they say to a reporter is on the record) those words become part of the paranormal landscape that over time may harden like cement.

I have already seen these articles appearing in the papers, and for the most part I don’t print them because it is hard to say which ones are more newsworthy than the others. I’m not asking people to stop reading them, and I am definitely not asking people to not share what they hear with their friends and other lovers of all things unexplained. Maybe when you do, however, you should include a special disclaimer that might be more accurate than the one you might be tempted to use. Instead of claiming a place might be haunted, we should all start out by saying, “Once upon a time, there was a tale of a haunting.”