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 World Mourns the Loss of One of Its Icons, Dr. Hans Holzer

This article originally appeared on Ghostvillage a few years back, after Dr. Holzer’s death, and was picked up by a few media outlets at the time.

In any field it is hard to remain relevant generationally. Influence is passed from age to age in stories, like a father telling his son about a man who once was great. Very rarely do they look at the same person and say he defined each of their times, and when it happens, the figure takes on a timeless quality. If it is hard to catch the spotlight, it is harder to remain there for decades, with each person learning a fresh lesson from a new lesson taught. Dr. Hans Holzer was beyond influential. He remained relevant.

After sixty years at the forefront of the paranormal, Dr. Hans Holzer passed away this Sunday, April 26, 2009, at the age of 89. He was born in Austria in 1920, but moved to New York in 1938, shortly before the darkest days of World War II. While so much of his early life was influenced by his time in Europe, he became a New Yorker at heart and stayed there until his death, often using the city as a base of operations for his investigations. His education might have seemed like a mixed bag to someone looking in from the outside, but it helped him carve out the name he would carry with him into a profession many people with his degree of education frowned upon.

Over the next half century he worked on some of the most recognizable cases in the paranormal world, including the case in Amityville. Authoring more than 130 books on the supernatural, he was prolific and also delved into plays, screenplays, and works of fiction. “He was so comfortable with the audience, speaking to them as if they were all old friends,” remembers fellow paranormal writer and research Brad Steiger, “He exuded a natural charm. He seemed genuinely happy in his work, and he maintained a high-level of enthusiasm for investigating the unknown throughout his life.”

Holzer was the transition from the old giants of the paranormal community to the new, but in many ways his work never went out of style, even with the advent of technology he sometimes frowned upon. His work was about documentation and observation and getting your hands dirty, but he believed spirituality and the human’s ability to communicate were as essential a tool as a piece of equipment. With these ideas he laid the foundation many investigators build on today, and to know about ghosts usually means having read at least one of his books.

Dr. Holzer had the unique ability to have one foot planted in the past, reaching back to the giants like Harry Price, and still be able to communicate with the newer generation. Over the past sixty years, there have been few who have managed the public face of the paranormal better. He was not only a mentor to those in the field, be became the funnel through which the general public learned about the work of paranormal investigators.
Part of Holzer’s appeal lay in his approach to the paranormal. His career spans shifting ideas, often conflicting with one another, on ghost hunting. From parlor room chic to outside the lines to the scientific movement of today, his methods remained rooted in a genuine place and transcend trend. A mix of research, investigation, and psychic evaluation his techniques have proven to be almost a necessity for modern investigators. Even if his ideas were in conflict with a person’s belief, and those ideas were strong and specific enough to cause conflict, the ghost hunter still referenced his words.

In an interview with Jeff Belanger of Ghostvillage, Dr. Holzer once said, “Fear is the absence of information. Fear is created by not understanding something. You bring on the fear.” His passing marks a transition for all who knew him and all who found comfort or influence in his words. We understand more having been touched by him and his work, and even in his passing he has taken a bit of the fear away.

Jeff Belanger’s Latest Book Introduces New Paranormal Movement: Legend Tripping

Picture Yourself Legend Tripping explores how to find, document, and experience ghosts, aliens, monsters, and urban legends.

Paranormal researcher and author launches new legend tripping resource Web site.

BOSTON, MA — July 13, 2010 — The idea of legend tripping has been around for thousands of years. There’s a good chance you’ve already done it. Remember sneaking off into that cemetery at night as a kid to see if there were any ghosts? Remember hearing there was a monster lurking in that old abandoned building and wanting to check it out? Or hearing about a UFO landing site and wanting to plan your next vacation in the area so you could stand where the craft was said to have left its mark? That’s legend tripping. But it can be so much more. We can become part of the story. Today people still seek out these legends in record numbers in an effort to touch the unexplained. In Jeff Belanger’s new book and accompanying DVD, Picture Yourself Legend Tripping: Your Complete Guide to Finding UFOs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Urban Legends in Your Own Back Yard, he explores how to find, experience, and chronicle these legends.

Legend tripping offers a unique and inexpensive paranormal investigation opportunity for those with a big sense of adventure, and it’s an activity that can be done alone or in groups. You don’t need complicated or expensive equipment, just your human senses and a sense of wonder.

“Legends are real,” said Jeff Belanger, author of Picture Yourself Legend Tripping, “They are born, they can travel, spawn offspring, and they can die. For millennia humankind has told stories of ghosts, creatures from distant planets, monsters, and religious legends to each other as a way to connect with the past and explore the future. These legends can be experienced almost anywhere, and oftentimes they are based on more than just stories.”

Any television program you’ve ever seen that explores haunted places, ancient mysteries, UFO sightings, or strange creatures is legend tripping. First there was a story: a legend that was born and grew because people had unexplained experiences and shared what they saw, heard, and felt.

Belanger draws on over two decades of legend tripping experience to show readers how to find these legends close to home or in their travels. When a person stands where the legend is said to have stood, when they interview eyewitnesses, there’s a transformation that often takes place: stories become real, and sometimes, if you’re lucky, you catch a glimpse of something paranormal.

“The journey is everything with legend tripping,” Belanger said. “Imps, fairies, aliens, bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, Bloody Mary, ghosts, demons-it’s time to start believing.”

In addition to the new book, Belanger also announced today the launch of a new Web site: — an online resource for legend trippers that includes a directory of paranormal legends from around the world. Belanger said, “The goal of the Web site is to have legend trippers everywhere submit their local legends and tell our readers about their own experiences while out hunting the paranormal.”

About the Author
Jeff Belanger ( is one of the most visible and prolific paranormal researchers today. He is the author of a dozen books on the paranormal (published in six languages) including the best sellers: The World’s Most Haunted Places, Our Haunted Lives, Who’s Haunting the White House (for children), and Weird Massachusetts. He’s the founder of, the Web’s most popular paranormal destination according to, and a noted speaker and media personality. He’s also the host of the Cable/Web talk show, 30 Odd Minutes. Belanger has written for newspapers like The Boston Globe and is the series writer and researcher for Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel. He’s been a guest on more than 200 radio and television programs including: The History Channel, The Travel Channel, PBS, NECN, Living TV (UK), The Maury Show, The CBS News Early Show, National Public Radio, The BBC, Australian Radio Network, and Coast to Coast AM.

About Picture Yourself Legend Tripping
Picture Yourself Legend Tripping: Your Complete Guide to Finding UFOs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Urban Legends in Your Own Back Yard (ISBN: 1-43545-639-4, pages: 228, DVD, price: $24.99) includes a DVD featuring the author and other paranormal experts and is published by Course PTR (a subsidiary of Cengage Learning) in July of 2010. The book is available at, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and many other booksellers.