The Sinister Story Behind This Popular Boston Park Will Give You Chills
It’s no secret that Boston Common is rumored to be haunted, but the sheer volume of creepy stories associated with a place where many of us gather to have fun
is surprising. Since it was established back in 1634, there have been centuries of notable events — and deaths — that occurred on the Common.
During Puritan times, the death sentence was carried out on the Common. The people hung here were guilty of murder or for the sin of simply holding the wrong religious beliefs. Quakers and Catholics alike received death sentences for keeping their faith.
Mary Dyer, who began her time in the Colonies as a Puritan, later became a Quaker; Boston had strict anti-Quaker laws with increasingly harsh punishments. These escalated from fines and imprisonment to whippings to cutting off Quakers’ ears. Dyer was banished upon pain of death but, when she kept returning to protest the treatment of the Quakers, she was hung on the Common.
In 1688, Goodwife Ann Glover was hung for "witchcraft" here because she refused to stop practicing Catholicism.
The Great Elm, which toppled over during a severe storm in 1876, served as Boston’s hanging tree.
The deceased’s loved ones sometimes stole onto Boston Common in the dark of night to cut down the corpse and perform an unofficial burial on park grounds. This was often because, in order to have a standard Christian burial, authorities required the surviving family members to acknowledge the deceased’s guilt. This may explain why many believe the Common is a center of paranormal activity in the city.
Today, a plaque is the only indicator that the Great Elm was ever here.
The most popular ghost stories tied to the Common features two women in 19th Century dress walking arm-in-arm, or sitting together on a bench. While you do sometimes encounter people in period dress in the park, they don’t generally disappear into thin air when approached!
The Common can’t escape its ties to violence. Even the Parkman Bandstand is named after a murder victim.
In 1908, Professor John Webster killed George F. Parkman by hitting him over the head with a piece of wood. The case caused an uproar, which dominated headlines at the time. Supposedly, Webster was ashamed because he owed Parkman money. Although the actual crime happened at Boston Medical College, which is now Mass General, this is one more link connecting the Common to a gruesome incident in the past.
However, the most disturbing event to take place on the Common occurred in 1895, when the subway was being constructed. While building the Boylston Street stop on the green line, workers unearthed the remains of hundreds of bodies belonging to British troops who died in the Revolutionary War.
It turned out that hundreds of bodies had been buried under the Common, all along Boylston Street.
Over the years, the coffins had disintegrated and the bones were mixed together, making it unclear just how many men were interred here. Lookie-loos came to gawk at the spectacle of the exposed bones until subway workers began collecting the remains and storing them in boxes over a seven month period. It is thought that between 900 to 1100 bodies were dug up during this process.
The remains were later reburied in Central Burying Ground on the Common, in a mass grave. Despite that, legend tells that early trolley drivers claimed to spot men clad in red coats on the train tracks at Boylston.
All of these incidents serve as a reminder that, although Boston Common has been used for everything from grazing livestock to ice skating, this popular park has an unexpectedly morbid history.
Have you ever had any paranormal experiences on Boston Common?
If you’re interested in our city’s past, check out some of
the oldest photos ever taken in Boston. Want to learn about more creepy places? Then read about some of the most haunted spots in Boston here.
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