Category

Haunted House Story 
Cambridge, Massachusetts 
June 8, 1885

Residential homes, particularly those that have been standing for three quarters of a century or more, can't help but have their own local stories and rumors, often super-natural. Of course, why would the local community preserve these kinds of stories if they were anything else but super-natural? Cambridge, one of the old cities in the country, has one particularly spooky entry in its rumor mill.

"On Concord Avenue and not far distant from Harvard Square, [in about 1795], was built a two-story wooden-framed dwelling house, to the rear of which were attached the usual number of low, rambling structures called sheds. It was built and owned by a burly, and, to all appearances, brutal sort of a man of whose past no one seemed to know, much less dare inquire. Whence he came or what or how he subsisted, the strictest inquiry failed to elicit. One thing was certain—that for months at a time he was not to be seen, from which the neighbors were led to conclude that whatever business he followed, be it legitimate or otherwise, was carried on at some place other than Cambridge. Some were of the opinion that he followed the sea, from the fact that when at home the most of his time he spent in daily excursions upon the Charles River. This belief was not based wholly on the above fact; there were additional ones, such as his manner of expressing himself, his skill in managing the boat and the swaggering, shuffling gait with which he walked about the town.

His habits when at home were reserved, having little or no communication with his neighbors, and, what was more marked still, showing no desire for such.

During the second year of his residence there, and after a prolonged absence, he brought back with him a woman whom he called his wife. She, like the husband, was also of a brutal and repulsive appearance, and to all who saw her, a fitting companion for the lord of the low-gabled dwelling.

The woman also avoided interaction with the neighbors, never leaving the house except when compelled to do so in order to obtain the necessaries of life. The husband continued his old custom of absenting himself from Cambridge during certain fixed periods each year. The woman during those times was more communicative and neighborly, never, however, allowing familiarity to exceed a certain line or degree.

When the man was at home there seemed to be frequent and loud outbursts of anger, interchange of compliments, shrieks [and] blows. Judging from the nature of the sounds that from time to time broke the stillness of the night it was the general belief that husband and wife were both heavy and frequent drinkers. Many of these carousals were continued far into the night, and not infrequently until early morn. Several persons repeatedly heard quarrelling between the man and woman, which, when excessively aggravated, usually terminated in blows.

One day the man disappeared, and so did the woman. Nothing was thought of the matter because the people believed that he had gone off on one of his periodical leaves of absence. At last the fact leaked out that the woman too had gone and a feeling of relief seemed to prevail in the immediate neighbourhood of the house. One fact, however, appeared rather strange, that they had made no apparent disposition of the house.

Things went on smoothly for nearly a year, when once more the man appeared, but so unlike his former self that many failed to recognize in him the owner of the property. His form was bent, his face emaciated and his general appearance that of a man depressed by heavy mental strain. He now became more companionable and sought as much as possible the society of his fellow man. He was frequently to be found at the house excessively intoxicated and strangely attired. No one, it seems, had courage to beard the lion in his den, although now and then a glimpse could be had of him through the partially opened window. His attire on the occasions mentioned above were after the fashion of a robber or pirate, with a heavy silken sash about the waist, in which were numerous curiously wrought weapons of defense.

This sort of thing lasted through the summer and winter and far into spring, when he became suddenly lost to view. No one seemed to know aught of his whereabouts, and, furthermore, scarcely any one cared. The low, rambling roofed house remained undisturbed, no one caring to venture within its portals.

The spring had passed into summer, and the strange man was once more forgotten, when the authorities were suddenly informed of peculiar odors that pervaded the neighborhood of the house. A committee was finally organized and an entrance was effected, when lying on the floor with his throat cut almost from ear to ear, was found the body of a man. An inquest was held, the result of which was that death ensued from a knife held in the hand of the victim [suicide].

An examination of the effects of this strange creature threw no new light on the manner of livelihood pursued by him, nor did it reveal anything of the whereabouts of the woman he called wife.

For two years or more nothing was thought about the matter, most of the inhabitants no doubt having forgotten all about it, when rumors began to be afloat that the house was haunted. More than one person passing the premises late at night swore to having heard strange and unearthly noises coming from within; at one time loud and distinct, as if some persons were quarrelling; then these sounds would gradually subside until all that could be heard was a dismal moaning, such as the wind frequently makes through the branches of the trees. The place began to be shunned by all; even the children gave it a wide berth during the broad and open day.

One man testified to seeing a strange man appear at the window one night as he was passing, and remaining there for a second or so, and then disappear, he knew not whither. The disappearance was followed by long scuffling, as though a lively scrimmage was taking place inside; then all was still again. The face he saw at the window was a pale, haggard one, with heavy lines about the eyes, as though the owner was haunted with the shadow of some great crime committed in the past. The eyes themselves were illumined with a wild, unnaturally light, and seemed to be centered upon some picture and imaginary horror. The person who saw these things was a newcomer in the neighborhood, and knew nothing of the early history of the house, but from the description given of the face and form, of which he had but a fleeting vision, many recognized them as belonging to the man who had met a suicide’s death there a couple of years before.

About five or six years afterwards a family of Germans, consisting of a man and wife and three small children, entirely ignorant of the manner and life of the former occupants, moved into the house and apparently enjoyed peace and quiet for something like seven or eight months. Then their nights began to be disturbed by cries and sounds. These nightly revels would begin about midnight and continue uninterrupted for upwards of an hour, when just as strangely everything would become as still as death and so remain until they were renewed again on the following night. The husband made visit after visit to the quarters whence the sounds proceeded, thence to the yard and shed, but could discover nothing that would throw light upon the cause of the strange occurrences. The wife and children become frightened, and of course prevailed upon the stubborn husband to seek new quarters.

Then a long period of [vacancy] followed, lasting perhaps fifteen or twenty years, when once more a tenant was found. Again the weird and unearthly wounds began, and again investigation after investigation followed, but always with the same unsatisfactory result. Once more the house was left vacant, and as time wore on it suffered much from wind and weather. None seemed desirous of living there; in fact, no one cared about passing it after darkness had settled upon the earth. The place was shunned by all to whom a knowledge of it had come; even the unbelieving would prefer a circuitous route in going from place to place rather than pass near the haunted house on Concord avenue.

At last a speculator took hold of the matter and began to remedy the defects by tearing down the old structure, proposing to erect in its stead a residence of more modern style. When the site of the old building had been cleared away he set a party of men at work upon the plan which he had drawn of a cellar, and thus all reminiscences of the haunted house disappeared. While they were so engaged however, many articles of woman’s clothing were dug up, some of which were remarkably well preserved. This, of course, gave birth to rumors of foul play, but the most thorough search failed to bring anything further to light. The sheds were torn down and the soil dug up all around them, even parts of the garden in the rear of the house, but other than the clothing, nothing tangible could be discovered. With all this, however, nothing was ever heard of the strange woman who consorted with the still stranger man.

The work of improvement went on, and in the space of a few months, all remnants of the haunted house vanished, a beautiful two-story pitched roof dwelling house taking its place. For some time even this new structure was looked upon with the eye of dread, but time gradually dispelled the memory of the associations of the place, until now [1885] it may be questioned if there are more than a dozen persons who can tell you anything about the early history of its site."



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