Massachusetts has been around since the fledgling days of the nation, and a lot of history has been made within our borders. However, there’s a lot that’s been left out of the history books. Some truly strange and bizarre events have happened here in the Bay State, and you’ve likely never heard of some of them before. Here are just a few of those odd happenings.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. A massive wave of molasses once devastated Boston.
On January 15, 1919, a massive wave of hot molasses roared through Boston’s North End. The culprit? A fractured storage tank that let loose over 2 million gallons of hot molasses. It may sound sweet, but this disaster killed over 21 residents and injured hundreds more. Locals claimed that on very hot summer days, the streets of the North End would like molasses for years after the incident.
2. A book was bound in human flesh.
In 1837, a convicted bank robber and highwayman was executed in Boston. The criminal, James Allen, requested that his legacy be preserved in a very unusual way: by turning his flesh into the binding of a book. His final wish was honored, and Allen’s autobiography was bound in his own skin. The crook also asked for the tome to be given to one John Fenno Jr., the man who had accused Allen of the crime he was executed for. Today, the book is in the Boston Athenaeum Library.
3. An actual time-traveler's convention was held in Cambridge.
In 2005, an actual Time Travelers Convention was hosted by MIT. The hope was to lure future time travelers to the location. In fact, there was even a "landing zone" equipped with milk and cookies for the expected guests. The event made the front page of the New York times, and though no time travelers showed up, the university continues to broadcast the spacetime coordinates (i.e. time and location) of the event today. The reason? So that future time travelers will eventually be made aware and have had the opportunity to attend…in the past. Whew.
4. A shipwreck once filled Boston Harbor with exotic animals.
In 1938, a massive ship carrying hundreds of rare and exotic animals was shipwrecked in Boston’s Outer Harbor. The City of Salisbury practically split in two, forcing many of the animals into the water. Rescuers worked to save the animals, including bears, colorful birds, venomous snakes and monkeys.
5. Christmas was once illegal here.
In 1659, the city of Boston passed a law outlawing the celebration of Christmas. The reasoning? Puritan residents thought Christmas was an overly indulgent and immoral holiday. The decree was reversed just over 20 years later in 1681.
6. The largest cash heist of all time happened here.
Known as the Great Plymouth Mail Truck Robbery, this heist went down on August 14, 1962. A U.S. Mail truck that was delivering $1.5 million from Cape Cod to the Federal Reserve Bank in Boston. was robbed at gunpoint by two men dressed as police officers. This was the largest cash heist of all time at the time of its occurrence. They forced the driver out of the vehicle with submachine guns and drove the truck to an unknown location. The money was never recovered, and the identity of the robbers remains a mystery to this day.
7. A demon once prowled the woods of Dover.
In the spring of 1977, the sleepy Massachusetts town of Dover experienced a rash of strange creatures sightings. Several local youths alleged that they witnessed a bizarre creature, later nicknamed the "Dover Demon," prowling the woods around Farm Street. The creature was described as having a large, white head, huge eyes and thin, tendril-like arms and arms. It has been sighted several more times since the 1970s, though no one has been able to capture the "demon" on film.
8. The Rockport Paper House
The Rockport Paper House is an 95-year-old home built entirely out of newspaper. The structure was first erected by Rockport local and engineer Elis F. Stenman. He chose newspaper as the building material due to its low cost and unique insulating properties. Plus, he just wanted to see if it could be done. The house still stands today, and is filled with its original newspaper furniture and decor.
9. The Gloucester Greasy Pole
This strange contest takes place every year during St. Peter's Fiesta in Gloucester. Essentially, a large wooden pole is greased with all manner of slippery substances, from lard to Tabasco sauce and banana peels, and then costumed contestants attempt to walk the length of the pole without slipping into the sea. The reward for grabbing the flag at the end of the pole? Luck.
If you head to the town of Lincoln, you might chance to drive by a mysterious place called Ponyhenge. In 2010, a number of rocking horses and toy ponies appeared in a field off of Old Sudbury Road. Since then, their ranks have swelled to include more and more old toys and rusty rocking horses. Sometimes the horses are arranged in a circle, and other times they are seen to be gathered in different patterns.