Local Haunts

New England is a region rich with the lore and legend of our ancestors. All it takes is a peek beneath the surface of the thrifty, hard working, and no-nonsense Yankee to see the superstition and wild imagination that, undoubtedly, has helped make our region so interesting and, occasionally, down right creepy.

 Without a doubt QuabbinValley has it’s share of local legend. Take the four towns of Dana, Prescott, Enfield, and Greenwich which are now just ghosts of their former selves. In 1938 when the State of Massachusetts disincorporated these towns 2,500 people were displaced from their homes, livelihoods, and ancestral homesteads. The towns were dismantled and the dead disinterred (well, some of them), but their history, some cellar holes, old roads, and possibly some ghosts remain.

Asa Snow
Probably the best known ghost story from this area is that of Asa Snow. Asa was born in 1797 and came to reside at the junction roads between Petersham and Dana as of 1840. He was an eccentric man who lived a life that was odd for his time. The locals nicknamed him “Popcorn” because he was a vegetarian and was believed to subsist on popcorn and milk. He was also a bit of a loan shark and it was rumored that he buried money on his property. His first wife, Isabelle, suffered from mental instabilities and committed suicide in August of 1844. His daughter, Minerva, died the next year.

It is easy to see why Snow developed a fixation on death. In 1865 he constructed a family tomb and disinterred his wife and daughter, allowing “those who cared to look at them” to have a peek, and then re-interred them in his tomb. After that he arranged for a sturdy metal casket with a 10 inch plate glass viewing window to be constructed for him.  Snow also made arrangements with the undertaker to go look in on his body for 7 days after his death to make sure he really was dead.

On November 29, 1872 Asa Snow died of heart failure while carrying home a pig carcass. The undertaker kept his promise to check on Snow’s body, but after three days Snow’s second wife, Eunice, dismissed him from his duties.

Snow’s tomb was broken into shortly after his death and local children would dare each other to sneak in and look at his corpse. In 1912 (forty years later) a local paper ran an article about Snow’s tomb and the uncanny preservation of his corpse which had, “features as nearly natural as the day he was laid to rest.” The article also recounted a tale of one man whom upon a bet was to spend the night in the tomb and leave a bottle of whiskey there as proof. When the man entered the tomb his horse who he had tied to a tree outside became horribly spooked, broke free, and ran off. The man recovered his horse who was trembling and sweating a mile down the road. He returned to the tomb the next day with his friend to find the bottle of whiskey, his proof for payment, smashed.

It was also reported that two men had gone to Snow’s tomb to photograph it. When they stepped inside the tomb the door slammed shut leaving the men in complete darkness. They tried to light their flashes to see, but one man got burnt and dropped his lamp. They had to grope around in the dark on the floor, terrified and disorientated, to find their way out.

Shortly after the publication of the article the tomb was vandaled and police were sent to seal it. It remained undisturbed until 1944 when the Metropolitan Water Commission destroyed it. Snow’s home was taken down in 1936. The cellarhole is still visible and the metal door of the tomb that he built was on site until the 1980’s. But, who’s to say the spirit of Asa Snow isn’t still roaming around Quabbin angry at the destruction of his final resting place or perhaps just protecting the place where he laid to rest his beloved family.

–  Moonchild