Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Halloween secret spaces

Buried within are the places the public rarely sees, doesn't look at, or doesn't want to see — the spots that common sense begs you to avoid. Dig around Lizzie Borden's pet cemetery or mix a potion with Salem's most famous witch. That is, if you dare.

Mixing a potion

Laurie Cabot, 76, has been mixing potions since she was 16. The "Official Witch of Salem" learned the craft years ago from English witches and now runs her own shop, The Cat, The Crow, and The Crown, on Pickering Wharf in Salem. She still mixes her own potions, like this love concoction that she has made by combining rose and ambergris oils, then charging the blend "with magic." "They both have the components to attract love," Cabot said, explaining the herbal oil choices. Her potions can have different purposes, including love and money, she said.

Checking into a "haunted" hotel

The Omni Parker House Hotel has a long history of sightings since opening in 1855. In the restaurant, a painting of founder Harvey Parker often projects an eerie glow, the staff said. Once, a female guest ate at the restaurant and had a frightening dream of seeing Parker in her room. As the hotel tells it, Parker appeared in front of a mother and daughter who were sleeping in room 1012. The man in 1800s attire grinned at the girl, who smiled back. Then, he disappeared.

Checking into a "haunted" hotel

The 10th floor is said to have perhaps the most paranormal activity in the hotel, even driving away one spooked security guard. Many guests have reported noise coming from unoccupied rooms, and several have specifically described the ghost of a former resident. A fan of cigars and whiskey, the apparition is said to have appeared in front of a woman and her daughter as well as the security guard, while wearing a stovepipe hat and smelling of liquor and tobacco. He died in his 10th floor room in the 1800s.

From 1867 to 1868, author Charles Dickens resided on the hotel's third floor while on his American lecture tour. His portrait still hangs in the Dickens Room on the third floor, where elevators are frequently called for no apparent reason. The hotel also still displays the mirror that Dickens looked into as he practiced for his first public reading of "A Christmas Carol." According to the hotel, people have reported gazing into the mirror and noticing that items that should appear in the reflection are missing.

At the Omni Parker House Hotel, guests and staff have reported sighting ghostly images in the glass panel wall that separates the restaurant below from the bar area. Depending on how you look at it from the floor in the restaurant, you can see different images as you move, due to the old glass. Do you see someone looking back at you?

Escaping ghosts of the past

Much has been whispered about a ghost at Fort Warren on Georges Island in the Boston Harbor. During the Civil War, Fort Warren held captured Confederate soldiers, including Lieutenant Andrew Lanier. His wife sailed from Georgia, observed the shift changes, cut off her hair, dressed as a Union soldier, and sneaked onto the island. But the couple was caught during a daring escape. Prior to being hanged, the wife made a final request: to dress as a woman again. The soldiers found a black dress used for plays and hanged her.

After the execution, many reported a "lady in black" stalking the island. She is said to have scared a sentry away from his post. In the Bastion A staircase, some say they've heard her voice. The light seen in this picture baffles our photographer: "I can't explain what the streaks of lights are in the pitch black coal room tunnel where a group of kids from Lexington Christian Academy were passing through. One of them had a flashlight, but nobody passed through the tunnel during the two-second exposure."

Before departing to take souls on the popular Ghosts and Gravestones trolley tour, 17th century gravedigger Steven Johnson takes a look at himself in a locker mirror to apply fake blood. Johnson, whose character drags a chain behind him and frightens passengers by sneaking up on them, uses burnt cork to darken his eyes and mar his face.

Getting bloody with Ghosts & Gravestones

These "gravediggers" are ready to dig in. The tour visits the sites of Boston's most grotesque and notorious murders and legends, from the Boston Strangler to the Angel of Death. To cap the tour, passengers get a rare treat: a stroll through two of Boston's most famous graveyards, Copp's Hill Burying Ground and the Granary Burying Ground -- after dark. From left, the diggers are Julia Cook, Evan O'Brien, Kat Kingsley, Mike Manship, and Steven Johnson.

Below Boston

Beneath the city is a whole other world. One rarely sees Boston's vast sewer system, but this undated photo from the Boston Water and Sewer Commission gives a peek into the darkness at a large bellmouth near Stony Brook at Armory Street.

Near a "curse"

This ship figurehead, informally called The Lady Maritana, is said by Ghosts and Gravestones to be cursed: "She was the figurehead on three different ships which faced tragedy in the 1800s — the Berceau, the Caroline, and the Maritana. The latter two met a deadly end, sending crew members to watery graves. Retired from the sea, she was moved to Lincoln Wharf, which burned down three days later. She was relocated to the Old State House, which caught fire as well. The eerie Lady has been relatively quiet in her current display case at the Old State House Museum."

In the shadow of Profile Rock

Profile Rock in Freetown State Park is the epicenter of the Bridgewater Triangle, a presumed New England paranormal hotspot. Tales abound, from visitors feeling touched as they walk through Taunton State Hospital to motorists nearly being driven off the road by a lunatic "ghost trucker." But Freetown stands above the rest. This rock is said to resemble a Wampanoag chief watching over Native American ghosts still seething over losing in King Philip's War

In the shadow of Profile Rock

While the rock has been defamed by graffiti, such as this face, over the years, Profile Rock still has many reports of ghost sightings. People have reported seeing people standing and jumping off ledges and overhangs near the rock, then disappearing.

Among Harvard's dead

At the Harvard Museum of Natural History, a storage room holds a plethora of animal specimens that are off limits to the public, unless they are used in a hands-on class. The only way one gains such access is through enrolling in a course in Classroom A. Here is one such specimen kept in the room: a preserved reddish green guenon.

Among Harvard's dead

Look up in the sky! It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a preserved Philippine fruit bat, or flying fox. The museum has 12,000 animal specimens on display, drawn from Harvard's research collection of 21 million specimens. The museum is the public face of the Harvard research collections.

Among Harvard's dead

Watch out for fangs! The Harvard Museum of Natural History also stores huge zoological specimens like hippos, elephants, gorillas, and this preserved Bengal tiger with a growling face. All in all, there are close to 500 mammals on display at the museum.

Getting creepy crawly

Warning: If you have arachnophobia, look away. The museum doesn't just store preserved animals, it holds live specimens, too. This tarantula is tended to by Julie Vallimont, a museum education specialist. The spider is kept in Harvard Classroom A, where it's brought out to teach students of all ages in classes about biodiversity. Look for the tarantula, a scorpion, and perhaps a horseshoe crab in these classes

At the site of a famous first burial

When Mount Auburn Cemetery first opened in Cambridge in 1831, it was the "first large-scale designed landscape open to the public in the United States," according to its website. However, the first burial didn't occur until July 6, 1832, and is marked by this headstone. Since then, the cemetery has gained National Historic Landmark status from the Department of the Interior.

Joking with "The Mischievous Lady"

Since the Traugots purchased the Beechwood Inn in Barnstable in 1994, they say they've had many run-ins with — and even once been spoken to by — a female ghost in her late 70s. Owner Ken Traugot said he first saw her 10 years ago, standing behind this love-seat while he was doing yard work. Thinking it was a guest or a neighbor, he came in to find no one in the house. After being convinced he was alone, he headed back to the yard, only to look up to the window and see the woman again. A few months later, a female guest asked, "Do you have ghosts?" before describing seeing the exact same woman, he said.

Joking with "The Mischievous Lady"

The Traugots named the presumed presence "The Mischievous Lady," because of her apparent delight in playing tricks. "She's locked us out of rooms and out of the house a couple times, moved tools on me, loosened light bulbs. She likes to do these kinds of pranks," Ken Traugot said. In 1995, after two guests checked out of the Rose Room, someone applied the manual deadbolt, which can only be locked inside the room. No windows or doors lead in or out of the room, unless you unbolt the bathroom windows, which Traugot eventually was forced to do.

Joking with "The Mischievous Lady"

Rocking chairs on the front porch of the Beechwood Inn overlook historic Main Street. Teams who investigate the paranormal have visited the inn and documented some sort of presence, from orbs of light to shadows moving unnaturally.

Joking with "The Mischievous Lady"

Don't look under the bed in the front guest room. Guests have reported a presence close to their face or touching their face as they lay in bed. While the Traugots are convinced their ghost is a female, the former owners felt a male presence and named it "Arthur." The Traugots believe the woman could be the resettled spirit of local lore who once was seen holding a baby during a fire at the Barnstable House. The family believes she was chased from her last residence by the fire, and has now chosen their comfy confines.

Picking bones at MGH

The 1800s were a time of medical leaps and bounds. Locally, Dr. William T.G. Morton, a Boston dentist, made medical history in the Massachusetts General Hospital's surgical amphitheater on Oct. 16, 1846, when he administered ether anesthetic to a patient before another doctor removed a tumor from the patient's neck. The amphitheater, later renamed the Ether Dome, still houses this anatomical skeleton that was used for teaching at the time of Morton's procedure.

In the cage with birds of prey

What are you looking at? At the Franklin Park Zoo, Inti, a female condor, appeared more interested in eating our photographer for lunch than the beef bone that was given to her during feeding time.

Behind the walls of a Danvers asylum

The former Danvers State Hospital, the mental institution once among the most revered "haunted" spaces in New England and the inspiration for the movie "Session 9," is now the site of a development called Avalon Bay. While only one of the gothic arches still stands, dipped into our photo archives to show the mysterious building's final years.

Behind the walls of a Danvers asylum

The hallway of the medical ward shows a patient resting area, which critics say was often overcrowded, in this 1975 file photo.

Behind the walls of a Danvers asylum

As this vacated ward in this 1988 file photo shows, the hospital slowly deteriorated before it was completely abandoned in 1992 as the result of mental health system budget cuts.

Buried in Lizzie Borden's pet cemetery

See which family members Lizzie Borden buried! No, not her parents. Fall River's famous acquitted child buried her three dogs at Pine Ridge Pet Cemetery in Dedham, with a tombstone that is an exact replica of her parents' tombstone in Fall River. The pets' tombstone inscription reads: "Sleeping Awhile."

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