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.

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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.

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The Ghosts of Two Cultures

Despite our culture’s efforts in recent years to reverse the years of abuse and neglect Native American’s have suffered, there still remains misconceptions and misrepresentations of these people that settled this land long before there were settlers. There has been an attempt to even the scales, but the long standing stereotype of their beliefs and lifestyle remains tipped towards one of two images; the savage or the mystic. We have modified how we identify them, from Indian to American Indian to Indigenous People, but those two pictures still prevail. There have been scores of movies showing our abuses and revolutionary ideas written about by the likes of Howard Zinn and James Loewen have made the realities of enslavement and anthrax covered blankets commonplace in modern history books. The New Age revivals from the sixties until today have shown their unique religious beliefs. Those roles still exist in our heads. The Native American is still a classic villain with a bazaar religion and acting as a mirror to the crimes of our past. Whether residue of centuries of guilt or genuine spirits trapped in their own prisons of emotions, there is a deep connection between the paranormal and Native American culture. This connection can be seen in the numerous reports of Native ghosts and the appearance of Native American ghosts and gods in Massachusetts legends.

Many hauntings fall into the realm of legends in a land as old as Massachusetts, and current reports as well as old folktales fall into basic motifs seen for over three hundred years. This does not invalidate reports as being untrue or merely a symptom of misunderstanding or fear. There is that element to them. Rather they help explain the possibilities of why these hauntings may be true. Deeper examination of these motif help to get a more complete picture of the relationship between settler and modern American to Native Americans.

The idea of the ancient burial ground often comes up in reports of ghosts in older times and modern days. The story is usually the same. Unexplained things happen in a house, most often poltergeist-like activity and odd dreams, and a deeper investigation reveals the house was built on an ancient Indian burial ground. The family is forced to leave the house or somehow expel the spirit or purify the land, which really means cleaning out the old to make room for the new. The concept is scary, the first essential element to a good ghost story. It invades our house where we are supposed to feel safe. Also included in this motif are instances where artifacts are removed and continue to curse or haunt those that take them, as well as dark tales of falling into a sacred land and being haunted or even killed by unseen forces.

It is important to note the wording of the phrase for it is always the same. Take the words “ancient” and “Indian”. “Ancient” allows us to see Native Americans as old, outdated and somehow mystic. The use of the word “Indian” helps paint a picture of the classic images of the people. Never is the more politically correct term used. “Cemetery” is never used in place of “burial ground”, creating a foreign feel that further serves to separate.

This concept has been seen in movies for years. It is interesting to note the modern day version of this tales where the American house is built on a cemetery like in the movie Poltergeist. The interesting aspect is that there are very few if any tales of this type of haunting in folklore until after Native American culture influenced European and American storytelling, although there is a rich tradition of falling into fairy circles and straying from the road into a haunted land.

Mary, a resident of Lexington, tells how her house became haunted by the spirits of “Indians” as she referred to them. She would hear chanting and find items in her house turned around facing the wall. After asking someone to investigate, she discovered her house was built on top of Native cemetery. She called upon a “witch doctor” to make the peace and her problems were promptly solved. She refused to watch the man clean the house and wanted no part of what he had done to help her. There is a Native cemetery in Rehoboth that has the reputation of being haunted. Dogs bark near the site at unseen people and travelers going by notice a dramatic change in their behavior and mood, even at night. There have also been reports of a shadowy figure walking through. In his book New England Ghost Files Charles Robinson describes a man from Middleboro who had his own experiences. The town uncovered an ancient site and went about digging it up. The town experienced unusual occurrences, but one man took a item he found on the site. He woke up to find a Native American ghost in his room and the next morning the item was gone.

The next motif involves attacks that occur on the coast or in lakes and ponds. These stories involve abductions, attacks or murders in a place people are already tentative about although they are places of recreation and enjoyment. Unseen hands drag someone under or tip over a boat. Children are seen and then disappear a moment later. Someone watches an old fashion canoe vanish. Afterwards the site is confirmed as being a location of tragedy, usually sparked by settler misdeeds. This motif is different from the others in that it sometimes extends beyond the spirits of people to include the gods of Native Americans. While a sacred land might be connected to a certain god or myth, the gods only consider the site sacred and therefore suitable to be used for burial. The human does the attacking. In contrast, it is the god who might attack people directly in the water, independent of the tension between Natives and the people attacked.

Any book on hauntings on the Cape and the Islands will reveal scores of tales involving Natives. Massachusetts lakes and ponds also have a high level of paranormal activity. A Westwood paper told the tale of Black Bear and his haunting of WigWam Pond in Dedham. Black Bear was a Native who tried to steal from a settler and was discovered and beaten. He returned later and tried to kidnap the man’s baby but was caught again. He was shot in the water trying to escape and jumped overboard rather than be caught. That part of the pond does not freeze over and cries have been heard there. Horn Pond in Woburn was the site of an ancient battle between the gods of light and dark. The gods of light trapped the bad guys there and then drown them. There have been multiple deaths in the pond through unexplained means. There is a rumor of tragedy in another pond in Lakeville. A branch has been seen being dragged across the water and people have heard voices and been hit, sometimes going as far as being touched on the leg and being dragged under.

Sexual tension and the rape of Native American women proves to be the spark of many hauntings, often becoming the root of water attacks, a certain buried spirit coming back or spectral lights. As settlers moved in they took a different perspective on the males and females they encountered. While males were a source of fear, native females represented sexual mystery and unattainable beauty, as well as objects of affection in a situation where women were not always available. The men took by force and the sexual attacks at times led to the eventual death of the woman. In other reports the woman kills herself rather than be disgraced or goes on living but becomes tainted or changed. While this is an excellent example of guilt in past behaviors, it is also a major aspect of paranormal activity. A rape and murder or suicide could produce enough negative energy to create a ghost.

One such case involves a Native woman who was sunbathing near a pond. Some local boys, angry at her attitude towards the settlers started to taunt her. She died while trying to get away from them and has stayed on at the pond. She has been credited with pushing people in the water and knocking boats over, sometimes trying to grab them and force them under once they are in. Her hand has been seen coming out of the water and some report to have heard her screams.

At times the relationship is consensual but the love is not allowed by one side’s culture. The lovers are kept apart. One or both might kill themselves or a misunderstanding may cause the death of one by the other’s people. It is a story as timeless and romantic as Romeo and Juliet and the numerous reports of old lovers seen at bridges or by the side of the road and widow balconies looking for their lover reveal this motif as still very much alive in the haunted sites of today. One such case is a bridge in Greenfield. A Native woman was in love with a settler and hung for trying to be with him. The bridge is still believe to be haunted by her ghost, although other aspects of the hauntings make it feel more like an urban legend. People entering the covered bridge can invoke the spirit by blinking there lights four times and honking there horn twice.

The last motif is the appearance of apparitions, seen as lights or orbs, in places of betrayal. This betrayal may be a battlefield or the site of a signing of a treaty gone bad, but it becomes tainted ground for Americans. Although there are some physical attacks at these sites, the bulk of the reports seem to be focused more on keeping the grave memory of what happened there alive. Full-bodied spirits are sometime seen looking lost or confused or reenacting the tragedy that happened. Whole battles are seen. Voices are heard or the sound of some action. Other times an unknown feeling overwhelms people in the area. They sense they are unwelcome and should leave the spot. People report feeling like they are being watched. Buildings constructed on the site burn down or suffer unexplained damage.

Two classic examples of this are seen in the southeastern part of the state. In Rehoboth there is Anawan Rock, the site of a surrender to the settlers that occurred during King Phillip’s War, considered by historians to be the most vicious war in American history. The settlers broke the treaty that was signed there causing more bloodshed. The forest near the rock has long been seen as haunted with dozens of reports, including lights, spectral Natives and drums. There has also been a voice heard threatening people in the forest that has been roughly translated into, “stand and fight.” In the Freetown State Forest the hauntings have a different feel. The land there was bought for short money and became a source of tension between Natives and settlers during King Phillip’s War. Today there is a reservation on the land, but that has not seemed to stem the tide of activity or violence the forest has become home to. In addition to suffering similar activity as Anawan Rock, the forest has become a magnet for violence. There have been several murders in the forest, most involving cult activity and even more bodies have been found dumped there. Cases of rape and assault were also common in last few decades there. One Wampanoag spokesman has been quoted as saying the violence there will not stop until the land is given back because the spirits in the forest and the ancestors of those robbed are unhappy and therefore restless.

Given the area and nature of the original settlers of New England, relationships between the societies were destined to create folklore and tales of spirits. Confusion, fear and miscommunications laid the groundwork for hostility and those hostilities flourished into traditions. Again, this does not validate the cynics who say paranormal activity is in the participants mind. Some of these tales, especially those that follow established folk motifs, may very well have never happened or originated in truth and then found themselves changed and manipulated by time. There is little doubt some of the hauntings out there are little more than cultural propaganda, but there are other reasons for the activity reported and for the survival of the legends.

Possible reasons come down to the two views of Natives; the savage and the mystic. The savage was someone to fear. Upon arriving in the Americas, Europeans form tentative alliances and relationships with the people they found. There began a sense of community, but I the backs of both side’s minds there remained an underlining fear of each other. Conversion and the desire for property brought this to light and sides began to form. Friends were now enemies and settlers began turning tribes who had alliances of their own against each other. This created a new need to see the enemy as an enemy. The land had to be cleaned for civilization and these people stood in their way. Details of attacks on settlers became exaggerated. Places were unsafe to go into because you may be attacked. These ideas and beliefs help to establish uniquely American folklore, giving people a sense of identity.

In a paranormal sense, these conflicts led to deep emotions that may still be replaying themselves. Anxiety and animosity are powerful feelings that are often associated with hauntings. People lived in fear and the abstract concepts became concrete in the form of strained relations and violence. Both the negative daily interacts and the killings on both sides led to deaths that still remain unresolved. It is not farfetched to see a spirit trapped by negative energy manifesting itself to the root of its imprisonment. Looking over the reports, most hauntings involve the killing or attack of a native or the invasion into sacred areas as the source of the activity.

Closely related to this is the native as mystic which formed the basis of some anxiety for the two groups as well as acted as ammunition in the propaganda war against one another. Their close religious relationship to the land around them was a source of confusion for settlers and possible trigger for activity. Settler could not fully understand the mysticism of the natives and this helped further isolate the two groups. It also led to the notion of conversion to a Christian belief set which invariably led to the idea that settlers were better and natives should be submissive. Religion also led to misunderstandings. Certain tribes did not understand the concept of ownership of land because of their religious beliefs and breaking legal agreements help escalate conflict. Certain rituals were seen as threats to settlers.

Native’s religion might be the source for actual hauntings as well. Their connection to spirits that they saw as very much active in their lives make them more likely to be sensitive to paranormal forces. They existence of ghosts is an integral part of their religion not in opposition to it. Whether their gods endowed them with certain powers after death can not be said, but it would at least make them open if that sort of thing is possible. At the very least, their deep religious connection with nature would prompt them to come back if they could to defend their land and seek revenge for promises broken.

There can be a debate on the nature of ghosts. An examination of hauntings over thousands of years reveals the same ghosts making their presence known in different places with different names. A vampire appearing in Romania starts to mirror one found in Rhode Island. This lends credibility to people who firmly state the paranormal should be seen as fiction, the recycling of folk beliefs passed off as fact. Science has yet to prove ghosts exist, although what evidence would cynics believe. Fact or fiction, Native Americans have played an important role in the paranormal history of this country. Examining haunted burial grounds and rivers, looking at the folklore passed down about the exploits of the savage, debating the truth and relationship of these separate disciplines, strengthens our identity.

Pukwudgies: Myth or Monster

The first seeds of this story were posted in 2004 on my original site, Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads, which was taken down a few years ago.  It is the first major published writing on the Pukwudgie other than in The Good Giant and the Bad Pukwudgie and The Narrow Land, which acted as a basis for much of my early historical research.  Most of this appeared in my first book on the Bridgewater Triangle, Dark Woods.

Since then, the supernatural creature has taken off, even becoming one of the houses in the new cannon of Harry Potter.  As the stories have grown, they have become further and further away from what my early research was, which makes the folklorist in me happy and allows me to sit back and watch things get twisted until the Pukwudgie becomes what we need it to be.

Hopefully, Tripping on Legends will be able to add to the story by looking into those stories that have been coming out of Indiana for years.

If you’ve had a pukwudgie experience, please contact us at spookytripping@gmail.com

Listen to Tripping on Legend’s episode chronicling the history of the Pukwudgie.

In the Southeastern corner of Massachusetts lies Bristol County, an area known locally as the most haunted place in New England. The energy that sleeps there has been rumored to cause haunted schools, ghostly armies and unexplained suicides and murders. Forested areas of the county have long been known to contain a litany of unexplained animals, from Bigfoot and thunderbirds to large snakes and odd bear-like monsters. For the past forty years cults have flocked there, and their activities, often criminal, have filled the blotters of local law enforcement. Of all the unknown horrors that live in Bristol County, the most feared is not a animal or a ghost or the members of Satanic cults that walk the forests, but a demon only two feet high, and if the history of the area represents the history of our America society, these Pukwudgies are the gatekeepers of our darker side.

puk1The Pukwudgies have haunted the forests of Massachusetts since before the first European Settlers ever thought about setting out for a new land. For centuries they tormented the local Native Americans and crept their way into their creation myths and oral history. They could easily be passed of as legend, and in fact, their physical description is much like mythological creatures from other cultures in other times. The difference is these demons jumped from the page and evolved as the people around them changed, changing from reluctant helpers to evil tormentors. The difference is these demons are still seen by people today.

Most cultures’ mythology has some reference to small monsters that have a strained relationship with humans. In many ways it makes sense. While large monsters have their place in our fears, diminutive creatures find their way into the shadows of our rooms and under our beds. Their names and nature change, but there are always common threads that link them together. Some are called monsters and roam the land looking for human food and kidnapping anyone they can find. Other are called demons, foul spirits that feed of the negative and expose the sins of man. When referring to one, its classification gets blurred and these two words become interchangeable, perhaps showing us how closely associated these monsters are with evil.

puk2Veterans returning home after World War II talked of gremlins tearing apart their planes or getting into jeep engines and causing havoc. The Hindus speak of the Rakshasas or the “Night Wander” who eats human skin and jumps into the dead to possess them. Africans tell stories about the Eloko who lure people with beautiful music only to devour them after they have been bewitched with an ever expanding jaw.
Although passed off as works of fiction and imagination, trolls and dwarfs have existed in people’s fears for centuries. They have become lovable and noble now, but the original stories recorded of these monsters are anything but fairy tales with happy endings. Trolls were notorious for ambushing travelers and destroying whole families on a whim. While some are described as giants with humps and one eye, many older cultures, especially in Scandinavia, described the being as the size of a plump child.

Dwarfs have always been small and their manners much better, but the end result seems to be the same. Like the troll, they are known as metal and stone workers, but unlike their flesh-eating counterparts, dwarves seem to avoid human contact. While they would prefer to be left alone, if impeded upon their work, they become like caged dogs. One variation of the dwarf is the Tommy-Knocker who lives in mine shafts and is sometimes said to be the ghost of miners who have perished in the line of duty and are doomed to work for eternity. They are known to cause cave-ins and fires in the shafts.

Perhaps the most famous of the small nightmare are seen by the Irish. Fairies patrol the roads in Ireland causing problems for any traveler who strays from the path. They live in hills or mounds and dance around fires. If a human comes across their mound or sees their dancing, they are caught and held captive. Even the beloved leprechaun was once a malicious spirit before he was Americanized and transformed into the gold keeper he is today.

puk8Exposure to nature seems to feed these tales, and the more a society depends on the earth for its needs, and the closer the relationship a people have with the natural world around them, the more these stories pop up. In this country, the people the first settlers found had a close, if not friendly, view of small dangers around them. The Cherokee have a mirror image demon known as the Yunwi Djunsti, or little people, that look and talk like Cherokee but are only a few feet high and have long hair that touches the ground. Although most people cannot see them, they are known to throw objects, trip up hunters and abduct people who wander off. In Canada they are known as Mennegishi and look much like the classic alien grey.

The Wampanoag Nation, the dominant Native America tribe in Massachusetts and Southern New England, had a monster who still dominates the landscape they once roamed.  The Pukwudgie made its first appearance in the oral folklore of the people of Cape Cod, but recent sightings have forced people to rethink this mythological creature.  Standing between two and three feet tall, the Pukwudgie looks much like our modern idea of a troll.  His features mirror those of the Native American in the area, but the nose, fingers and ears are enlarged and the skin is described as being grey and or washed-out, smooth and at times has been known to glow.

What makes these monsters dangerous is the multitude of magical abilities they use to torment and manipulate people.  They can appear and disappear at will and are said to be able to transform into other animals.  They have possession of magical, poison arrows that can kill and can create fire at will.  They seem to often be related to a tall dark figure, often referred to in modern times and shadow people.  In turn the Pukwudgies control Tei-Pai-Wankas which are believed to be the souls of Native Americans they have killed.  They use these lights to entice new victims in the woods so they may kidnap or kill them.  In European folklore these balls of energy are know as Will-o-the-Wisps and are said to accompany many paranormal occurrences.  Modern paranormal investigators call them orbs, and catching one on film is the gold standard of field research.

puk5Legends of the Pukwudgie began in connection to Maushop, a creation giant believed by the Wampanoag to have created most of Cape Cod.  He was beloved by the people, and the Pukwudgies were jealous of the affection the Natives had for him.  They tried to help the Wampanoag, but their efforts always backfired until they eventually decided to torment them instead.  They became mischievous and aggravated the Natives until they asked Quant, Maushop’s wife, for help.  Maushop collected as many as he could.  He shook them until they were confused and tossed them around New England.  Some died, but others landed, regained their minds and made their way back to Massachusetts.

Satisfied he had done his job and pleased his wife, Maushop went away for a while.  In his absence, the Pukwudgies had returned.  They again changed their relationship with the Wampanoags.  They were no longer a nuisance, but began kidnapping children, burning villages and forcing the Wampanoag deep into the woods and killing them.  Quant again stepped in, but Maushop, being very lazy, sent his five sons to fix the problem.  The Pukwudgies lured them into deep grass and shop them dead with magic arrows.  Enraged, Quant and Maushop attack as many as they can find and crush them, but many escape and scatter throughout New England again.  The Pukwudgies regroup and trick Maushop into the water and shoot him with their arrows.  Some legends say they killed him while other claim he became discouraged and depressed about the death of his sons, but Maushop disappears from the Wampanoags mythology.

puk3The Pukwudgies remained however, but something odd happens.  The timing of the tales of the monster are a map through the history of the Native Americans relationship with the European settlers.  The death of the five sons lines up with the very first settlers, and the flight of Maushop is told along side the changing of attitudes about the new neighbors.  The Pukwudgies, always seen in a negative light, become the foot soldiers of the Devil, which may explain their modern connection to shadow people.  As more Native Americans began to convert to Christianity, their myths evolved, until the Pukwudgies were responsible for the evil in the village, and the hand of Satan on the tribe.
People who spend time in the forest of New England will tell you Pukwudgies are not symbols, but a real horror that still stalks people.  They continue to see them, and as the world develops around them, the monsters remain unchanged and as dark as ever.
Joan was walking her dog through the state forest in Freetown, Massachusetts, on a cold Saturday morning in April when she saw the monster.  As she and her dog, Sid, walked down the path, Sid became anxious and strayed a few feet into the woods.  Joan followed him in, and stopped short.  Her dog was lying completely flat in the leaves, and on a rock ten feet away was a Pukwudgie.  She described him as looking like what she would describe as a troll; two feet high with pale gray skin and hair on his arms and the top of his head.  The monster seemed to have no clothes, but it was difficult to tell because his stomach hung over his waist, almost touching his knees.  His eyes were a deep green, and he had large lips and a long, almost canine nose.

puk6The Pukwudgie stood watching her, staring straight at her with no expression, almost like it was stunned to see her.  Joan froze and remembers thinking the air in her lungs had been pushed out.  Sid finally came to and ran back towards the trial, dragging Joan who was still holding the leash tightly.

Although the whole exchange took less than thirty seconds, it remains with Joan ten years later.  She has not gone back to the forest, but feels that might not be enough.  Three times since the event she has woken up to find the demon looking in on her.  It has never attacked her or spoken to her, she has merely seen it looking through her bedroom window, staying just long enough for her to notice him.  All three times she claims she was fully awake and could move if she had to.

Another man in Framingham, Massachusetts had a experience that forced him to remain away from the woods.  Tim was in a forest when he saw a bright orb in front of him.  Having investigated the paranormal he was excited and tried to snap a photo with his digital camera.  The ball of light disappeared and reappeared a few feet further into the woods.  Tim followed, losing the spirit several times before he realized he had traveled more than thirty feet off the path into a thickly wooded area.  He became scared and slowly made his way back to the path, only to find a two foot man standing there, walking towards him.  He turned and ran, and looking back saw the figure move back into the woods.

Tim reported that what he saw had walked upright and had used its arms to push something aside when he fled to the forest.  He had moved with a slight limp, but “like a human”.

puk7The second time Tom saw the Pukwudgies was a few years later in a parking lot near the same forest.  He was listening to the radio at almost a whisper and checking his rear view mirror for the friend he was waiting for when he saw the same small figure of a man.  Every detail was identical, and the Pukwudgie just stood there watching him.  The car turned on by itself and his radio began to get louder.  Tim pulled out of the parking lot and took the long way home to try and stop his hands from shaking.
puk4Although the monster seemed content to only frighten Joan and Tim, there are still physical attacks happening.  Several people have been assaulted and one person came down with a mysterious illness after seeing them in a cemetery in New Hampshire.  Another woman suffered scratches on her arm after following an orb in a forest in Taunton, Massachusetts.

The most disturbing reoccurring attacks might be taking place at the Pukwudgies favorite hunting ground.  In the Freetown State Forest there is an hundred foot cliff overlooking a quarry known as the Ledge.  There have been many hauntings at this sight, but the most frequent experience is an overwhelming feeling to jump to the rocks and water below.  In the folklore of the Wampanoag, the Pukwudgies were known to lure people to cliffs and push them off to their death.  There have been several unexplained suicides at the Ledge, often by people who had no signs of depression or mental disease before entering the forest.