A Haunted Historical Site – Keystone Arches

One of the things I love about the area I live in is that there are more than a few haunted locations in the Chester, Middlefield, and Becket areas of MA. One of the places that come to mind most people have probably never heard about – even though it has an important place in American history.

The story begins in the mid-19th century. Boston could no longer compete with New York in the transportation industry because of the Erie Canal, which had opened in 1825. New York offered traders and manufacturers access to the expanding Western frontier by way of the Great Lakes. To remain relevant, Boston had to overcome the main obstacle between itself and the young nation’s interior, the Berkshires. The mountains blocked any reasonable chance for a rival canal.

Railroad technology was still young, but the promise was evident. So for dreamers, planners, and engineers, the challenge boiled down to one question: through the mountains or over them?  Investors conceived another route that would utilize the natural gorge cut by the Westfield River on the eastern slope of the Berkshires and the path of the Housatonic River on the west. Investors decided to go over them and build a railroad access.  A series of 10 bridges had to be erected in the rough terrain to create a suitably straight route along the Westfield River. The project was agreed on and started in 1839. It was completed in 1841.

What happens next is what, I believe, leads to the activity some people experience now if they visit the Arches. To accomplish this massive project, the railroad had to employ large numbers, (up to 3000), of laborers.  These men were mostly Irish immigrants who were sought as they were very poor and willing to do the hardest, most dangerous labor, for very little pay. Research tells me those brave men were paid approximately $10 to $15 a month for work no one else wanted or dared do.

Living conditions for these workers were bad as they lived in quickly erected shanty towns also known as squatter areas. Their shelters were constructed of any scrap materials they could gather. Often times during construction workers died either accidentally or due to illness. These deaths were never reported.

Many times while hiking to view these lost stone arches, I have personally experienced what sounded like hammering, and shoveling, and I’ve heard voices mumbling.  Could these men still be working and living in those terrible conditions hoping to leave soon?

–  Bran.

 

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An Uncomfortable Story

This is a personal account and one of the first that confirmed for me that all the things I had been experiencing may have actually been real.  I was not yet a teen, my father had died, my mom remarried, and we moved to a different state, (MA), to a new life.  I had a step-sister about 17 years my senior.  She had a fantastic job in the Boston area and lived there alone with her very young daughter.

One day, not too long after our move, we got a call that Barb, (not her real name), had been found dead after a presumable jump from her 10th, (or so), floor apartment.  This didn’t seem right.  She loved her daughter and had plans for their future together.  Her job was secure and she was successful.  Suicide just didn’t fit the picture, but I guess it often doesn’t make itself apparent.   But, there was this mystery man in her life that no-one in the family had met or knew.  No one knew who her daughter’s father was, either. According to neighbors of hers, this man visited her place often.  But who was he?  Did she really jump?  Why would she have done something like that with such a bright future and a kid she loved so very much?

Since I was considered, by my stepfather, too young to go to the funeral, I stayed home.  There were subsequent investigations by police into her case.  There were things that just didn’t seem plausible or to fit into the scenario.  There were some clues that could have suggested foul play.  There were questions that no one found answers to, but nothing ever came to fruition that I know about.  If this situation may have been a homicide it certainly has remained a cold case.

As I got older I decided I’d like to visit her grave.  I knew she was buried in Spring Grove Cemetery in Florence, MA – a suburb of Northampton, but had no clue about where.  I parked the car and got out, walked around for a bit, and then just stopped and looked.  Suddenly, I saw this woman with short brown hair and a blue dress wave to me.  She motioned with her hand to follow her.  I did.  She took me right to the site I was looking for. I had found my step-sister and she helped me do it.

Later that day, after arriving back home, I related the story to the family.  They looked either shocked or surprised….  It seems Barb had been buried in a blue dress.  I couldn’t have known that – I never saw her in that attire.  Her hair was short and brown.  And the area of the cemetery was correct.  Her name was on the stone at my feet.

Either there were no more investigations by the police or the case just turned cold and stayed that way.  I don’t know, but nobody was ever accused of pushing her over her balcony even though suspicions loomed.  Yet, every year on the anniversary of her death there were red roses placed on her grave by someone no one could identify.

-ashanta