By day, the elegant spire of the pretty little Episcopal house of worship known as Christ Church can not help but guide the eyes of the many souls who pass through and by Harvard to raise their eyes to the heavens. At night, however, they should turn their gaze and attention to the lower realms, and be on the look out for the ghost of a British soldier who haunts its pews. Older than the nation itself by six years, this church like so many other buildings in 1770s Boston played a key role in the American Revolution. A rallying point and place of refuge for many Tories and other British sympathizers, it is also the final resting place for at least one and perhaps several British soldiers who were hidden there and succumbed to their wounds. The spirit of one such Redcoat, who died far, far from his home in England, is said to hover about the pews, in search of his long-lost comrades…and a passage home.
The oldest stone building still standing in Massachusetts, the Powder House Tower (which later also came to be known as the Old Powder House) was built initially in 1703 as a windmill, but after an old man was accidentally ground to death by its millstone, it was shut down. That he died in his daughter’s arms, and had been hiding there to interrupt a lover’s tryst between the girl and her beau, only added to the tragedy – and the romantic spookiness of the place. His ghost, it is said, still lingers about and on many nights his moaning can still be heard. Despite – or perhaps because – of its eerie reputation, n the 1740s the tower was sold to the colonial government, which used it to store gunpowder (hence the name). In the year before Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill, it was raided by British soldiers who, fearful that the munitions would fall into the hands of the Sons of Liberty, removed the barrels of powder to the garrison. This raid sparked the famous “Powder Alarm” where Minutemen rushed to defend the tower – but arrived too late. A year later, when those same Minutemen along with General George Washington laid siege to Boston, it once again – and for many years thereafter – served as a powder magazine. It later reverted to a farm building, and for many years served as a storage center for the locally made “Old Powder House” brand of pickles. Today it is the centerpiece of a public park.
Boston Common today may the home of playing fields, fountains and other places where the people of Boston may relax and recreate themselves, but in colonial times it served another, far more sinister purpose. Boston Commons was an execution grounds, where criminals, pirates and traitors along with any others whose actions were found wanting by Puritan judges, were put in stocks, whipped and even hanged by the neck until dead. The souls of these ne’er do wells, many of whom spat out a curse with their dying breath, are said to rise from the very green on All Hallow’s Eve – and and other nights when the moon draws them out and the mist covers their shades as they roam about the Common.
Related: Boston’s Best Haunted Bars
Like so many of the islands in Boston Harbor, Georges Island was at various times a fortress, a prison and a prisoner of war camp. The star-shaped stone fortification known as Fort Warren on Georges Island did service in the last category during the Civil War. Some of the Confederates held captive there died in custody, as did a mysterious woman from Georgia, who perished in an abortive attempt to rescue her lover from the Yankees (the Union soldiers, of course, not the baseball team of the same name which so riles Red Sox fans today). Known only as “The Lady in Black,” this veiled apparition is said to haunt the cells where her beau perished, and to walk the battlements on stormy nights. Later a key part of the defenses against German U-boats in both world wars, Fort Warren and Georges Island is now a park, an historical landmark, a picnic ground and a beach, and is served by regular ferry service out of Boston Harbor.
Although still a working theater and site of most key functions at Emerson College, the Cutler Majestic has a spooky side that is as intricate as the gold filigree that decorates so much of its interior. Known as “The House of Gold” for its elaborate gilded Rococo plasterwork décor, the Cutler Majestic has been in continuous operation since it first opened its massive doors in 1903. Artists ranging from Shakespearean actors to Vaudeville song-and-dance men have trod its storied boards – but while ballets, concerts and Christmas pageants continue to fill its bill, the Cutler Majestic is, much like the theater in the Phantom of the Opera, not without its quirks – and legends. Why do chairs move about for no reason, and why do the lights sometimes flicker on and off even when no one is on stage? Ask any Emerson College student or alumni and they will tell you – it is because it is haunted, perhaps by some of the ghosts from the Commons.
Related: Ghosts and Gravestones Night Tours