There are definitely pros and cons with living in New England. The cons are actually the lack of cons! That’s right, we get very little in the way of horror conventions in our neck of the woods. The pros though are many and include a wide variety of history, much of it being of a supernatural nature. Rhode Island, the smallest state in the union, boasts more incidents of vampirism than all other states combined and it is believed that Bram Stoker based his best-selling novel on what was going on right in my back yard.
In 2012 not only did I get my dream job, but a bunch of my new co-workers shared some of my out-of-the ordinary interests. One day, while talking to one person in particular who has an interest in local history and folk-lore, we started talking about the Spider Gates Cemetery. I had only read about Spider Gates Cemetery previously in a book called “Weird Massachusetts” by Jeff Belanger. The cemetery was rumored to be haunted and supposedly had a long history of questionable activity. We quickly made plans to see if we could find this supposed elusive place.
The first thing I needed to do was find out exactly where this place was. Though the piece in “Weird Massachusetts” was detailed on what “happened” there, there was no street address and no directions. Web searches turned up only vague instructions. I even called out to some friends who live in Massachusetts familiar with the place and no one could give me any information on how to actually get there. Were they trying to protect me from something? Could these stories actually be true? On the morning on Wednesday, June 8th, we set out on our journey to find out for ourselves.
From everything we were reading, finding this cemetery was going to be difficult as everyone who had visited before had great difficulty. The ride to Leicester, MA was uneventful. We knew approximately where we were going and it wasn’t long, after helping some people move a large snapping turtle off of the road, before we found the actual entrance. There were no street signs or even any indication that far down the path would be what we were looking for.
The scenery walking in was breathtaking. There were “No Trespassing” signs everywhere but we kept going. Before long we found it…Spider Gates Cemetery. This old Quaker cemetery gets it name from the iron gates at the entrance that resemble spider webs. One of the rumors is that the entrance to the cemetery is actually the eighth Gate to Hell (though I have no idea where the other seven gates are). The gate was not locked and we entered without hesitation. The sign out front said that it was only closed after dark so we figured we were safe.
One of the things we did bring with us was a list of things that were reported here. The first thing we encountered was the hanging tree, immediately to the left as you enter the gate. According to the information we found it is supposed to be an oak tree but the tree immediately to the left was actually a sugar maple (and it was the tree featured in the picture of what I had printed online). The problem is that none of the stories have any proof and there is no way to substantiate them. Supposedly at one time there was a length of rope still hanging from the tree but there was none to be found on this day.
Interestingly enough, to the right of the gate, in the north-west corner of the cemetery, was a large oak tree that had a similar appearance to the sugar maple. I suppose either tree could actually be the hanging tree but even the oak was missing the length of rope that was supposed to be there. The next place we searched for is known as the Altar. This was to be found in the very center of the cemetery, surrounded by trees with a stone pillar at each of the four corners. Interestingly enough very little grass grows here but this is probably due to the trees surrounding the altar being twines as opposed to Satanic rituals. This squared off area is raised from the surrounding ground and is more than likely where the foundation of the Friends Meeting House used to stand.
The next area we checked out was actually outside of the cemetery but along the East wall. This is a small area with many stone pillars and supposedly runes were found here (though there is no proof of this). It almost looks like an extension of the cemetery but the main wall is definitely original, and not added later. No body seems to know its purpose.
The next stop on our quest was the grave of Marmaduke Earle, which was easily found. The legend says that if you walk around the headstone ten times at midnight, saying “Marmaduke speak to me,” and then press your ear to the stone that you can actually hear him speak. Obviously people have done this as there was a worn out area on the ground around his stone.
One thing we did notice upon exploring Spider Gates Cemetery is that coins were left on some of the stones. Behind the cemetery is Kettle Brook, rumored to be the actual River Styx. This would explain why coins are left, so that the dearly departed can pay the ferryman. Behind the South wall is a path leading to the brook and we walked down to explore. This area was absolutely beautiful filled with all kinds of plants and ferns. We followed the brook and found what appeared to be the remains of an old mill with amazing stonework.
Though we didn’t encounter any supernatural happenings (and no, nothing suspicious came out on our photos either) it was still a very enjoyable day. The weather was perfect and the landscapes were breathtaking. The cemetery itself is interesting, regardless of whether any of the stories are true or not (and from what I can tell, none of them are). It still made for a great day with great friends…something hopefully we can do again soon exploring someplace else that is supposed to be haunted.
Don’t forget to read other entries in my WEIRD PLACES series.