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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A Beautiful and Haunted Museum

A beautiful and haunted museum sits next to the Connecticut River in rural Hadley, MA.  Situated on acres, amongst farmland, this c. 1752 Colonial-style house has been home to many of the same-family members over the course of a couple hundred years.  In 1949, Dr. James Huntington opened the home to the public and the Porter, Phelps, Huntington House Museum was born.

After such a long history, it isn’t too surprising that the house seems to be home to more than one family member who just didn’t want to leave.  Phenomena associated with the house are doors that open and shut on their own, footfalls walking the halls and rooms,  disembodied voices, and encounters with someone that quickly moves past visitors.  It seems that most of the activity is from a woman or two, and possibly a child who seems to like the staircases best.

Moses Porter constructed the house outside the Hadley village stockade on about 600 acres of fertile land and created a home for his wife Elizabeth and their young daughter Betty.  Things went well until the French and Indian War broke out and Moses was called to duty.  He was deployed to the Lake George area in 1755.  Capt. Porter was killed in battle and buried in New York.  One night, one of the Porter’s servants handed Elizabeth her husband’s sword from battle.  She knew then, he’d never be home again.  Elizabeth never got over the death of her husband.  The house experienced a long period of sadness and emotional distress that continued in a downward spin.

Eventually, the house was passed along to Elizabeth Porter’s daughter Elizabeth. Betty lived in the mansion with her husband Charles Phelps, Jr. and their several children.  After Charles died, Elizabeth hoped her son, Charles, would bring his family and come to the house to live with her.  He never did.  After Betty’s death, the house went to her daughter, Elizabeth Whiting Phelps,  who had married Dan Huntington, the parents of Dr. James Huntington.  The House is now managed by the Porter Phelps Huntington Foundation.

It has been purported that an impression in the bed can be seen in the front bedroom that belonged to Elizabeth and Moses….the place where Mrs. Porter got the devastating news her husband was dead.   We’ve toured the property on several occasions and on one of them a definite shape could be seen in the bed.  We’ve heard knockings, and there are definite shadows that can been seen out of the corner of one’s eyes.   I understand that the family themselves, and only among themselves, knew some of their relatives never left the property.

Who is the woman there?  It’s up for grabs.  It could be either Elizabeth Porter or Elizabeth Phelps.  They both seemed to have reason enough to stay on.  Maybe if you go and visit you can determine the source of activity…..and experience it for yourself.  There’s a prominent feeling of being both watched and followed.   I don’t think you could ever feel like you were alone in the place.  And the child?  Maybe one of the children who never reached adulthood and left this world at a very young age.

It’s worth a visit to this museum for it’s historical, architectural, and aesthetic value alone.  But, if you’re fortunate enough to have a family member visit you while you’re there – it’s an extra treat.

–  ashanta

ashantaofthelema@gmail.com