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Monday, April 18, 2005

What is the Bridgewater Triangle?


200 square miles of high strangeness jampacked with enough phantom lights, bizarre creatures, and ghastly apparitions to make Charles Fort cry.

If you live in southeast Massachusetts and you consider yourself an amateur Egon Spengler, you're in for a treat. Originally defined by Fortean investigator Loren Coleman in his 1983 classic Mysterious America, the Bridgewater Triangle is probably the most concentrated area of paranormal activity in all of New England.



Do you live in either Abington, Rehoboth, or Freetown? Then it's your stroke of good fortune to live at one of the Triangle's three angles.

Or do you call Brockton, the Bridgewaters, Taunton, Raynham, Norton, Mansfield or Easton home? If you do you're lucky enough to actually live inside Massachusetts' premier supernatural hotspot.

The source of all this bad craziness is widely believed to be the Hockomock Swamp, which is located smack in the Triangle's center. The Native Americans were well aware of all this bad juju long before we figured it out for ourselves - "Hockomock" is derived from an Algonquian word that means "devil" or "evil spirit." Currently the swamp is designated as a chief area of environmental concern and is home to a dozen rare and endangered species, including the blue spotted salamander. It also seems to be the favored vacation spot for flying saucers, spooks, spectres, and even Bigfoot.

Just check out this small sampling of unexplainable encounters:



Got UFOs?

  • October 31st, 1908 - Two undertakers, John E. Flynn and Phillp S. Prophett, spotted a strange light in the sky while driving their carriage into Bridgewater proper around 4am. Flynn described it as "not exactly a searchlight but an unusually strong lantern of some sort," that hung below a balloon shaped object. The light reportedly descended towards the ground rapidly, and then ascended just as quickly. Both undertakers watched the light for forty minutes as it traveled perpendicular to the ground, steadily and silently, until it finally disappeared over the skies of Plymouth. The Manchester New Hampshire Union newspaper reported that on October 31st "all of the balloons in which ascensions are made in this [Massachusetts] state, were accounted for." Flynn himself asserted "that a hot-air balloon could not move in a circle or perpendicular, as this one did."

  • March 23rd, 1979 - WHDH radio news reporter Jerry Lopes encountered a strange craft hovering over the junctions of Routes 24 and 106. Lopes described it as being "shaped like home plate on a baseball diamond, with a bright red light on its top, a powerful white 'headlight' at the point on the bottom, and rows of white and red lights around the edges" (Coleman,36).

  • 1973 - Folks dining at Joseph's Restaurant on Park Street in Rehoboth experienced a Close Encounter of the Second Kind. After suffering a brief power failure the owners were surprised to find two perfectly formed circles in the dirt behind the establishment. Is this the first case of a flying saucer stopping to pick up some take out?

    Ain't Afraid of No Ghost?

  • The Phantom Hitchhiker of Route 44 - Many people have encountered the spectre of a long dead hitchhiker along the wooded area of Route 44 while driving from Seekonk to Rehoboth. The man is sometimes well kept, other times he is dirty with his clothes in disarray. A few details that remain constant in every encounter: his hair is always red, and he's always dressed in a plaid shirt. One woman reported running over a man fitting that description late one night. The man seemingly appeared out of nowhere, and the woman, taken by surprise, had no time to prevent a collision. When she jammed on her brakes, and leapt out to investigate, she found no evidence of anyone being in the road at all. She did hear, however, a cackling laugh emanating from the woods alongside her. Frightened, the woman returned to her car and continued on. A few minutes later, the same thing happened again. The man appeared, and once more she hit him. Too frightened to leave her car, the woman rolled down her windows to inspect the road. As before, there was nothing or no one to be seen. The disturbing laugh returned, this time much closer, as if a few feet from the car. Sufficiently terrorized, the woman peeled out at full speed.

  • Rehoboth Village Cemetery - Many Rehoboth residents have reported seeing a strange and disturbing apparition in this graveyard's southwest quadrant. The manifestation has been repeatedly described as an elderly man, with a large hooked nose and a strange grin dressed in period clothing. He has been spotted both praying and alternately crying and laughing near one grave. He's also been known to make suggestive gestures with his hands towards female witnesses, and in one case even chased a woman out of the cemetery while yelling, "Catherine, Catherine, you bitch!" The woman, whose name is not Catherine, retreated to her car and quickly exited the cemetery. As she made her way out she witnessed the entity beating a ghostly young woman who was kneeling at his feet. Seconds later, both apparitions vanished completely.

    Monsters in your Backyard?

  • April 1970 - Cryptozoology's favorite son, Bigfoot, has also been seen skulking around the Bridgewater Triangle. In April of 1970 Bridgewater area residents complained of a huge "bear" walking upright around their houses and in their backyards. Local farmers even reported cases of shredded livestock. Tracks were also found on April 8th after a sighting of a seven foot tall creature. The police investigated these accounts time and time again to no avail. One officer, while on a stakeout for the monster, was taken by surprise when something picked up and then violently dropped the rear of his patrol car. The policeman turned the car around to investigate and witnessed a huge bipedal "bear" running off between houses.

  • 1976 - For several weeks the town of Abington was terrorized by a real life hellhound. Reportedly a huge black dog was spotted mauling two ponies on a local farm. When firefighter Phillip Kane arrived on the scene he witnessed the dog standing over the animal carcasses, chewing on their throats. The hound eventually bounded off into the night, and eluded an exhaustive police search for many weeks. Following the sighting Abington Police were flooded with calls from people claiming to catch a glimpse of the beast. The last known sighting of the phantom pooch was by Police Officer Frank Curran, who spotted it along some railroad tracks. Curran fired at the dog, but missed. Unconcerned, the hound turned away from the officer and slowly walked into the nearby woods. It was never seen again.

  • Summer 1971 - While driving home late one summer's night, Norton Police Sergeant Thomas Downy was confronted by a prehistoric creature on a stretch of road near "Bird's Hill" in Easton. The Sergeant reported seeing a six foot tall bird with a wingspan of at least eight to twelve feet standing in the middle of the street. Downy brought his car to a stop, and watched amazed as the bird flew straight up (like a helicopter, and similar to the sightings of the Mothman in Point Pleasant), and disappeared over a nearby wooded area. The woods were searched by Easton police, but no large birds were to be found.

    My aim for this site is to provide a forum where local people can share their encounters with the paranormal and learn more about their haunted homeland. Here you will also read about my experiences in haunted New England, focusing mainly on the Bridgewater Triangle. Do you live in New England and have a strange and unexplainable story to tell? Share your experience! Don't waste another minute, I'm dying to hear from you (pun intended).


    Sources: Myserious America by Loren Coleman, What is the Bridgewater Triangle by Christopher Pittman, UFO Roundup Volume 2 Number 41 edited by Joseph Trainor, UFO Historical Review Issue #4 by Barry Greenwood, and The New England Ghost Files by Charles Turek Robinson.

  • Monday, April 11, 2005

    A Kvetch about Spirit Photography

    The most common form of spirit photography posted on the internet today generally falls under the umbrella of what folks in the paranormal world like to call orb phenomena.

    Image hosted by Photobucket.comIf you have even the slightest interest in ghost hunting or the supernatural you've probably seen scores of these little white orbs dotting images of supposedly haunted locales. Sometimes a single vibrant orb is captured, other times many fill the frame. The folks who take these photos usually argue that these little white blobs are evidence of paranormal activity.

    These images are also some of the most boring instances of spirit photography I've ever seen. Seriously, have you ever sat through a slide show or a gallery on someone's website of these things? There's only so many white splotches I can look at without my mind wandering guiltily to the stains on my bedsheets.

    When it comes to orbs, I'm just not impressed. And I'll tell you why.

    Troy Taylor, author of the Ghost Hunter's Guidebook and President of the American Ghost Society has written an extremely interesting article detailing some of the major problems with orb photography. He lists several tried and tested ways for you to capture your very own orb on film. In fact, you don't even have to go to a cemetery or a local haunted house. You can take orb pictures in your very own back yard.

    Most orb images are the result of three natural factors: 1) Light refracting on the camera lens, 2) dust, pollen, or kicked up dirt, or 3) light reflecting off moisture in the air.

    ghost hunterBefore arguing against point number one, it is important to remember that light can reflect off of anything, not just shiny objects. Have you ever put a vibrant red couch against a bright white wall [author's note: I actually own a vibrant red couch, and yes I am a weirdo]? If you have you'd notice that the wall near the couch will give off a faint red hue. This is because light is literally bouncing off the couch and reflecting against the wall. Light bounces off everything. Hell, if it didn't we wouldn't be able to see anything. It's how your eyes work, and subsequently it's what makes photography possible.

    If light is reflected towards a camera lens in the right manner it can refract causing perfectly round circles to appear on your image. The phenomena is also described as lens flare. If you wear glasses you're probably familiar with this. I've seen orbs appear many times on my own lenses while driving down a road beaming with setting sunlight.

    Have you ever seen a photo flooded with orbs? That location must be teeming with paranormal activity, right? Unfortunately the more benign (and sadly less interesting) explanation is that the person taking the picture decided to go ghosthunting on a day when there was an extremely high pollen count (a common occurrence in New England) or on a night where the air was thick with humidity. If you decide to trot out to a haunted graveyard to snap some spooks on film then it's probably a good idea to check the pollen count or relative humidity before you go as it might aversely affect your images.


    Image hosted by Photobucket.com
    Whoa! Look at that paranormal activity fly!


    Please don't misunderstand: I'm not saying that all orb photos are ingenuine. What I'm saying is that for every real photo capturing strange objects on film there's scores of others that are false positives. In Troy Taylor's article he gives a few tips as to how you can tell if your orb is the "real deal" or some monster mosquitoes caught in your camera flash.

    Is your orb faint, partly transparent, and pale white? Most likely you're the victim of dust particles or refracted light, as this is how those factors generally appear on film.

    However if your orb is solid, blocks out the objects behind it, or is in motion, than it's a good chance that you've caught a glimpse of something paranormal. Some folks call it psychic energy, or ectoplasm. Other people claim that they are sentient multi-dimensional beings.

    You say multidimensional sentient beings, I say white splotches. You say toe-may-toe I say toe-mat-oe.

    Either way I just don't find these images all that interesting.
    You want to see impressive?


    I'll show you impressive.

    Image hosted by Photobucket.com
    Yikes.


    Now that be some tasty evidence.

    The above photo is probably one of the most compelling examples of possible spirit photography ever captured on film.

    joshua ward houseThe image is purported to be that of a malevolent witch that haunts the infamous Joshua Ward House in Salem, Massachusetts [located outside the Bridgewater Triangle, but still very much haunted]. What makes this picture so remarkable is the conditions in which it was taken. In the early eighties Carlson Realty had bought the beautiful brick mansion at 148 Washington Street with the intentions of using it as their main real estate office. At Christmas time, realtor Dale Lewinski began taking photos of each staff member for inclusion on their door wreath display. Each picture was taken using a Polaroid camera, and each one was shot using head and shoulders ID style framing. When it came time to take staff member Lorraine St. Peter's picture something strange happened.

    The resulting Polaroid is what you see above. Notice there is no trace of St. Peter in the image at all. In fact the only object visible besides the apparition is the door that Lorraine was standing in front of, albeit out of focus. It is almost as if at the time of the film's exposure the ghost rudely stepped in and took Lorraine's place.

    haunted happeningsPolaroids are also notoriously difficult to fake, as the developing process happens in camera and is nearly instantaneous. Of course there's always the odd chance that the folks at Carlson Realty were having a laugh at everyone's expense. It's entirely possibly that they dressed a woman up in dark garb, teased out her hair like a Jersey mall chick, and then proceeded to take an out of focus blurry photo. When this image was first published in Haunted Happenings by Robert Ellis Cahill he described St. Pierre as both genuinely frightened embarrassed by the picture. As he was the former Essex County Sheriff, I assume that Mr. Cahill is a good judge of character and that he was assured of both Lewinski's and St. Pierre's sincerity. A hoax is possible, but unlikely considering the wealth of other paranormal occurrences that take place within the Joshua Ward House (including phantom strangulation, poltergeist activity, and even an actual sighting of the woman from the Polaroid).

    Gives you goosebumps doesn't it? You can tell this ghost is bad news just by the way she styles her hair, and her fashion choices. Why is it that villains never seem to own a comb and have a penchant for dark clothing?

    My point here is that you have to pick and choose your battles. Arguing vehemently over white splotches is really going to get you nowhere in the eyes of a skeptic because there are so many variables that can cause orb phenomena to happen naturally. Unless there's some corroborative phenomena occurring while you were taking these pictures (ie noises, a recorded temperature drop) I think arguing over their validity seems like a waste of time, especially when there are so many other interesting and unexplainable photos (like the Joshua Ward House Witch) to argue for.

    If you bought a digital camera to go ghost hunting, and you're perfectly fine snapping pictures of orbs and the like, then God bless ya, and I wish you the best of luck.

    Personally I didn't drop three hundred bucks to take pictures of white blobs. I bought a camera to take pictures of ghosts.

    Comments? Criticisms? Arguments? I'm open to them all. If you think I'm totally out of my gourd and have no idea what I'm talking about I'll be more than happy to engage you in friendly and polite discourse. If you have an interesting story or a compelling photograph to share feel free (as always) to drop me a line.

    Saturday, April 02, 2005

    The Dreaded Swamp Gas of Old Hockomock

    Most people my age spend their Saturday nights at dance clubs consuming copious amounts of alcohol while concocting nefarious plans to work their way into the pants of a member of the opposite sex. I spent last Saturday night in a swamp.

    Scary SignI figured the best way to kick off my investigation into Fortean phenomena in the Bridgewater Triangle would be to start at its exact center, and its apparent source of paranormal activity - the cursed Hockomock Swamp. Currently designated as an area of critical environmental concern, the swamp is home to around a dozen rare and endangered species, including some weird blue spotted salamander thingee. In his 1983 book Mysterious America, famed crypto zoologist (and former Mass native) Loren Coleman described it as "a place where people vanish and creatures like giant snakes, Bigfoot, Thunderbirds and phantom panthers are seen." It also smells probably as bad as a Sasquatch fart.





    With my friend and fellow investigator J. by my side, I entered Hockomock last Saturday from its southern Raynham edge.

    Let me take a few minutes to describe my partner in crime so you can fully appreciate my situation:

    abbott!J. is the man who knows no fear. I've been on ghost hunts where I've been overcome by intense dread, and generally have to fight the urge to spin on my heels and run away with my tail between my legs. In these situations J. almost never shows any outward signs of being afraid. He's the Abbott to my Costello. While I'm busy panicking and rationalizing extremely good reasons to flee, he's telling me (in so many words) to stop being a fucking pussy. His iron will forces me to tread deeper into haunted locales than I normally would if I were by myself. He quite simply does this by walking further into the haunted area, and me, being too scared to limp back to the car alone have no choice but to follow him.

    He's also a great person to have by your side if you're tramping through graveyards late at night. He seems to have a silver tongue whenever he's confronted by a police officer who questions our motives for being in a cemetery past moonrise. Thanks to J.'s quick thinking, and quick tongue, I have yet to be arrested for trespassing while seeking out the paranormal.

    According to demonologists and occult theorists, the wetlands surrounding Hockomock would probably be considered a "Window," or "an area routinely visited by Fortean events". Every state seems to have one or two, be it Devil's Lake in Wisconsin, or Point Pleasant in West Virginia. On a cold March night, while trudging through frigid mud puddles, I found myself wondering if it was just my luck that the one closest to me had to be in a swamp.

    radiation!We parked my car (lovingly called the Mirth Mobile) on a dead end street not too far from Hockomock's entrance. What really struck me was how close some houses actually are to the swamp. We left the car near one that had to be less than a hundred yards for its entrance. I can't even imagine what it would be like living so close to a paranormal hotspot. It must be like living a hundred yards from a nuclear power plant. You're never sure exactly what kind of horrible mutation is going to file out of there. I began wondering if the houses suffered from residual Fortean effects the same way a house near a nuclear plant may suffer from residual radiation. Do they have problems with poltergeists? Are their home appliances affected by the electro magnetic fields coming from the swamp? What kinds of strange beasts and weird occurrences have they witnessed throughout the years? If it hadn't been close to midnight I probably would've knocked on a few doors and asked.


    After a few minutes of trudging through snow and muck, we were confronted by this:

    haunted swamp


    Pretty spooky, eh? Keep in mind that this is the place where folks have encountered all sorts of critters. While I was staring down this pathway I immediately recalled a story I had read online just before we left. Apparently there had been unsubstantiated claims that a Bigfoot -like creature had once startled a patrolling police officer by lifting up the back of his squad car and dropping it violently while he was parked near the Hockomock Swamp.

    BigfootGhosts are scary, sure, but there are very few cases of a ghost causing bodily harm to an individual. If I was confronted by an apparition, I'd probably observe it, freeze in terror, and just wait for it to dematerialize or evaporate. If I was confronted by a crypto zoological oddity, like Bigfoot, I'm not sure exactly what I 'd do. Running would probably be at the top of the list but what chances do I have of outrunning a creature whose leg span is probably three times my own?

    Challenged with these thoughts, and the visual above, I did what any God fearing (and Regis Philbin loving) person would do. I phoned a friend.

    regisI called T., my only other friend besides J. who would understand the gravity of my situation (and who would hopefully be more sympathetic. To quote J. at the time: "You're really scared? Come on!"). For a Fortean hotspot, Hockomock has surprisingly good cell phone reception.

    "I'm in the middle of the Hockomock Swamp, and I'm scared shitless!" I told her. T. was understandably jealous as her interest in the paranormal is probably as intense as my own. I assured her that if she could see what I was seeing right now she would be far from envious. I also told her that if she didn't hear from me after tonight it would probably be a good idea to send a search and rescue team out here. I was sure they would find a few of my teeth or even my glasses in a huge pile of Sasquatch dung. I unfortunately had to cut my phone call short as I had just stepped into a gigantic frigid mud puddle that soaked my socks.

    "I was trying to tell you to watch out for the water but you were too busy gabbing on the phone," J. politely informed me.

    red eyesWe continued on, despite my protests and hints that I wanted to turn back ("Man, my socks are really wet...!") The fear I was feeling wasn't of the supernatural variety. I don't think it was associated with any negative energy coming off the swamp. It was most likely just a product of my own over active imagination. The area was so dark, and so inclusive, my brain was on high alert, expecting attack to come from any direction. My greatest fear was that I would shine my flashlight forward and be confronted with two glowing red animal eyes.

    "You're really gonna hate what we're going to do next," J. said.

    "What?"

    "We're going to turn off our flashlights, stay real still, and just listen."

    "Great."

    We stood in complete silence without the benefit of any light for about five minutes. Our ears strained to hear anything out of the ordinary. The closest we came was the sound of two small objects falling from a distant tree and landing with a thud in rapid succession. My heart skipped a beat for a moment, certain that the sound was actually some ravenous animal now heading towards us. We later determined that the noise was probably a few falling chestnuts or pine cones.

    We both took numerous digital pictures that night with none yielding any positive results. We eventually gave up and headed disappointedly back to the car.

    So the only thing I have to report is that we saw nothing to brag about. I sincerely wish I had something juicer to relay but sadly I don't. I didn't have to wrestle Bigfoot nor did I have to ward off a phantom panther with my camera bag. The area definitely deserves a return visit, solely because of its reputation and the sheer amount of eyewitness accounts associated with it. J. and I vowed to come back when the weather was a tad warmer, and the ground was a wee bit drier.

    For now, all I have to show for our trip to the 'cursed' Hockomock Swamp is a pair of mud-encrusted Chuck Taylor's, some dark digital photos, and a set of clothes that reek of Sasquatch fart.

    Do you live near Hockomock and have a strange or bizarre story to tell? Drop me a line, and share your experience!