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Food Fight With a Poltergeist

weird-massachusetts-book-coverMy friends and I were all sitting at a rustic old table, drinking Guinness, and listening to the band that was playing on the Charlemont Inn’s restaurant stage. The Inn was located in Charlemont, Mass., a quaint little town of just around 1,000+ residents or so. The Inn was built in 1787, and had allegedly housed some distinguished guests like Mark Twain and President Calvin Coolidge. The place was packed that night, not only because of the good food and music, but also because many tourists stayed at the inn to recharge from a day of hiking, biking, and sightseeing along the Mohawk trail. My friends and I, well, we were doing a different, more unusual type of sightseeing.

According to the stories, “the inn is also host to as many as six spirits, including a revolutionary war soldier, a past innkeeper, and a young woman aged 16 or 17 called Elizabeth (though what her name really was is unknown). Elizabeth slams doors, stomps on the stairs and down the hallways, and takes small personal items then returns them to a different place. Staff has seen items such as potato chips and coffee cups launched across the kitchen.”

We were ghost hunting.

So, I want to get this out of the way; I am a staunch skeptic when it comes to stories or personal experiences of the supernatural. I think that most stories of apparitions in old buildings are clever marketing ploys to scare up interest and revenue. But, when my good friend Chris suggested the idea of a weekend road trip inspired by the book Weird Massachusetts: Your Travel Guide to Massachusetts’ Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. I was intrigued (and also in my early 20s with nothing else going on in my life). Though skeptical that we would encounter anything, I figured that if I was ever going to have a brush with the supernatural, it might as well be with a poltergeist that likes to throw food at me.

The “Weird” travel series of books is a great way to learn about local curiosities and legends, especially with Halloween just around the corner. We toured the Hoosac Tunnel in North Adams which “is a railway that burrows almost five miles through the Hoosac Mountain Range in western Massachusetts from the towns of North Adams on its west side, to Florida, Massachusetts to the east. Construction began on this large project in 1851 and finished in 1875. Over those 24 years, around 200 men died, giving it the nickname, ‘The Bloody Pit.’” Perhaps you want an excursion that’s a little less grim? We swung through Leominster to check out the weirdly tiny replica of America’s first conservationist, John Chapman, A.K.A., Johnny Appleseed (conveniently found on Johnny Appleseed Lane). What weird road trip would be complete without a visit to the Bridgewater Triangle, New England’s own take on the Bermuda Triangle, which houses stories of indigenous curses, UFO sightings, bigfoot encounters, and so much more? Want a truly weird and surreal experience though? Check out Massachusetts Museum of Modern Art (Mass MoCA) in North Adams, which offered a level of weird I will never be able to truly comprehend.

Why stop with Massachusetts though? A few years later, Chris invited me to travel with him and another friend of ours to Arizona. Now you’re probably starting to understand how my friend’s mind operates; of course he booked our hotel in Arizona’s hotbed of UFO sightings, Sedona. The one book we brought with us? Why, Weird Arizona, of course! One of the most interesting excursions on our trip was to the Petrified Forest, which is, in fact, a national park. The Petrified Forest is known for its fossils, especially fallen trees that lived in the Late Triassic epoch, about 225 million years ago. The fossils and the park are really a sight to behold and well worth the trip out to see them if you’re ever in Arizona, however, don’t try to take any home with you, because legend has it that the fossils are cursed. The Weird U.S. website states that one visitor described a piece of petrified wood he had taken more than 10 years earlier. “It was a great challenge sneaking it out of the park,” he wrote. “Since that time, though, nothing in my life has gone right.” Curse, or crushing guilty conscious? I will let you decide.

Our “Weird” book inspired road trips were a blast, and we learned a lot, too. No, I never got to have a food fight with Elizabeth’s ghost or get abducted by extraterrestrials- maybe next adventure. Perhaps you will have better luck on your weird road trips, and if you do, be sure to let me know!

Ready to embark on your own journey, or learn more about local legends? Here are some other books to help you along:

Weird New England, by Joseph Citro

Ghosts of Boston: Haunts of the Hub, by Sam Baltrusis

Massachusetts Book of the Dead: Graveyard Legends and Lore, by Roxie J. Zwicker

Spooky New England: Tales of Hauntings, Strange Happenings, and Other Local Lore, retold by S.E. Schlosser

Brian DeFelice is the Information Technology Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, MA. Look for his article in the October 24, 2019 issue of the Transcript and Bulletin.

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