Named after the Native American tribe which once inhabited the territory, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in New England, United States. Also known as “The Bay State”, the coastline of Massachusetts is largely dominated by its three bays – Massachusetts Bay, Cape Cod Bay, and Buzzards Bay.
Home to one of greatest beach holiday destination in the world, Cape Cod, Massachusetts is regarded as one of the most popular travel places in the country.
One of the oldest states in America, Massachusetts is ripe with history, culture, and heritage.
The birthplace of a great many things in the United States such as the first American University (Harvard) and the first public beach in the country (Revere Beach), the state is also home to one of the creepiest events of humankind – the Salem Witch Trials of 1692!
Thus, it is not a surprise that there could possibly be several amazing hidden gems in Massachusetts. Let us explore some of the finest ones.
1. Danvers Hospital for the Criminally Insane, Danvers
With such an intense history of witchcraft and all related things, it is only apt that a hospital for the criminally insane is the first on the list.
Established in 1878 to cater to a few hundred mentally unstable patients, Danvers State Hospital for the Criminally Insane was as famous for its program as it was for its gothic-inspired building structure. While the initial vision was to extend love and care to the mentally ill, by the 1930s, the hospital started getting overcrowded. Shock therapies and lobotomies became the usually accepted methods to treat patients.
Adding the criminally insane to the list of residents at the hospital soon made everything difficult, and in 1992, the State Hospital closed for business.
The Hospital’s gothic architecture and eerie history inspired H.P. Lovecraft’s 2013 movie, Arkham Sanatarium, and Batman’s Arkham Asylum.
Currently, most of the structure has been renovated into modern buildings, but, the original cemetery still exists.
2. Warren Anatomical Museum, Boston
Dr. John Collins Warren, a distinguished American surgeon and the third president of the American Medical Association, believed in gathering anatomical and pathological samples to support his studies. When he retired in 1847, he left behind a collection of over 15,000 unusual and intriguing specimens to Harvard University.
Though most of Warren’s collection are unaccounted for or hidden away, the Countway Library displays a handful of them for the public.
Included in the collection are a collection by Johann Gaspar Spurzheim including a cast of his own skull, Dr. William Thomas Morton’s ether inhaler which was the first of its kind to be used for surgical anesthesia (during Warren’s surgery), and above all, the skull of Phineas Gage, the railroad worker who lived to tell the tale of how a 13-pound tamping iron blew through his head.
3. Forest Hills Cemetery, Boston
Home to several notable personalities from the history of mankind, the Forest Hills Cemetery, set at the end of Boston’s MBTA train system, is a fine example of natural and man-made beauty.
Spread over 275 acres, the graveyard stands next to a soothing lake and houses several graves, of which some are adorned with beautiful architectural details. Man-made sculptures, such as a miniature village and a family of dressed-up trees, add a sense of light-heartedness to the otherwise grim ambiance of a cemetery.
A major “peculiar’ attraction in the area is the miniature concrete home of Ralph Martin, a wagon-driver, who met his maker in the Great Molasses Disaster – Boston’s most unusual.
Among the famous figures buried here, Anne Sexton, Eugene O’Neill, and E.E. Cummings are some.
4. Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery, Salem
Perhaps one of the only man-made horror piece in Salem, Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery, the brainchild of James Lurgio, is a full-blown display of about 50 different horror characters from the movies.
Mostly created by some of the finest craftsmen of the movie industry, the Gallery has tried to maintain creepiness as best as it could. Spookily lit collections, creepy decorations, and some terrifyingly dramatic corners enhance the vibe of this movie monster museum.
A combination of classic and modern-day characters, the Nightmare Gallery follows a chronological order of display. Highlights include but aren’t limited to the Count Orlok from the classic 1922 German silent film Nosferatu, Universal monsters such as Alfred Hitchcock, Vincent Price (House of wax), and Linda Blair (The Exorcist).
5. The Ether Dome, Boston
While the ether inhaler of Dr. William Thomas Morton, the first to make history in the field of surgical anesthesia, lays safely on display at the Warren Anatomical Museum, it is here in Ether Dome, a functional operation room where the history was created in 1846, when Dr. John Collins asked Dr. Morton to administer anesthesia to a tumor patient before he performed the minor surgery.
Upon waking up, the patient claimed he felt no pain. The news of the procedure spread like fire, and, thus, the fate of medicine was changed forever.
Nestled within the still working General Mass Hospital, the Ether Dome comprises a combination of an artistic copper dome with windows to allow natural light, an Egyptian Mummy with a set of perfect white teeth that rests in a glass case, a skeleton, and various vintage surgical equipment.
The most prominent attraction, however, is a huge painting display of the surgery from 1846.
6. The Mysterious Witch Bonney, Lowell
The Witch Bonney Statue, on Bonne Avenue in Lowell Cemetery, is created after its more prominent sister. Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge. Designed in 1841, the statue was dedicated by George P. Worcester.
There are several legends and rumors to the infamous Witch Bonney Statue, of which the most common are that either she was Mill Girl during Lowell’s Industrial Revolution, or, that she was a witch who was hanged during Salem witch trials. The marker on the statue lists the names of her entire family, two men and two women, including Bonney and her husband Charles.
The statue itself reeks of uncanniness – her outstretched hands clutching on a veil, eyes that look like dark holes staring into oblivion, and a black teardrop under her left eye. The local high school students claim that her toga-style dress starts falling off of her shoulders starting every October until her breasts are totally exposed on Halloween.
7. Dogtown & Babson Boulder Trail, Gloucester
With a history that dates to 1693, Dogtown was once a farmers’ community which was abandoned during the 1812 War. It is believed that families in the town slowly started fleeing to other parts of the country, leaving their dogs behind (hence, the name) and wives and widows of seamen.
By 1839, Dogtown was completely deserted except for the dogs. It was much after that artist and millionaire Roger Babson decided to establish a path of over 30 enormous boulders, now known as the Babson Word Rocks, each of which was carved with an inspirational quote by Babson.
The project was brought to life by local masons and supported by Babson during the Great Depression.
Walk the trail and etchings such as “Never Try Never Win”, “Loyalty”, and “Use Your Head” keep you company during the hike.
8. Museum of Modern Renaissance, Somerville
The Museum of Modern Renaissance was established in 2002 by Ekatrina Sorokina and Nicholas Shaplyko, Russian artists, who referred to the site as “Temple of Art”.
The artists, in their whimsical attempt, created an enthralling gallery filled with their own sculptures and presented it to the world as a different dimension of the existing world.
Using a style that the artists like to call “Mystical Realm”, the interiors of the museum are covered with mystical paintings and mythological themes. The primary attractions are the fresco-like Russian mythological and religious paintings at the great hall and the façade which is made to resemble an Incan Ruin.
Tours are by appointment only.
9. Author’s Ridge, Concord
If there is a place on earth where you could find the likes of Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Louisa May Alcott all under one roof (or under one ground), it is at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery’s Author Ridge.
Situated in Concord, Massachusetts, Author’s Ridge is a quaint corner of the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery which provides a resting place for many notable authors in history. The cemetery which was once a hotbed for creative thinkers became the burial grounds for quite a few of them.
A literature lover’s paradise, Author’s Ridge is covered in memorabilia left out by admirers – pens, notes, poems, and other souvenirs.
10. Eyrie House Ruins, Holyoke
Established in 1861 by someone named William Street, the Eyries House was one of the most prominent hotel properties during the time and saw over hundred visitors each day from all around the world. Staying at the hotel was a status symbol of a sort. A croquet field, a picnic area, and an elegant restaurant formed parts of this wonderful compound.
As competition grew, Street started construction work for two new hotels to replace the old Eyrie hotel. Unfortunately, for him, he was left with none. On April 13th, 1901, a foolish attempt to single-handedly start a funeral pyre for two of his deceased horses resulted in the whole mountaintop to catch fire, and all that was left of it were the cellar holes and the stone understory.
All that stands now are the Eyrie House Ruins surrounded by the Mt. Tom Reservation.
11. Echo Bridge, Newton
The second longest of its kind at the time of construction, Echo Bridge was established in 1877 and is a picturesque archway that unites the two banks of Charles River. The hemlock-lined architectural craftsmanship not only serves as a great spot for taking in the stunning surroundings but also as a charming acoustic anomaly.
Found at the bottom of the set of stairs that led you underneath the bridge, the platform was built specially so visitors could play around with the echoes and vibrations of different sound they make. The archway is known to return around 15 reverberations of a calm, usual human voice and up to 25 for sharp sounds such as a gunshot.
The echo, as it is believed, is caused when the sounds bounce between the arch and the water, but, some claim that it is the shape of the arch which is just built in the perfect angle to direct the sound inside and creating a ‘whispering gallery.’
Whatever may be the reason, it is a lot of fun for sure.
12. Dungeon Rock, Lynn
The story of Dungeon Rock took shape in the mid-1600s when Thomas Veale, a pirate, presumably took refuge in a cave with his wealth at the present-day Lynn Woods Reservation area. After a while, a disastrous earthquake destroyed the pirate and covered his loot permanently.
Also known as the Pirate’s Dungeon, it wasn’t until 1852 when a spiritualist named Hiram Marble bought the land and came to live with his wife and son in the area. He claimed to have received apparitions from Veale’s ghost, who apparently directed him towards the treasure. Hiram and his son, Edwin excavated the area with dynamites and digging tools, but, nothing could ever be found.
The Cave still exists and so does an iron door which is open every day for a while. The caves are dark, cold, and wet, so bring a torchlight and wear proper clothes.
Some of the fragments from Marble’s original wall still exist and it is under a big pink rock that his son, Edwin, rests.
13. Art of Jack Kevorkian, Watertown
Are you ready to walk into a room full of death? Ready or not, here it comes.
Born in 1928, Jack Kevorkian aka Dr. Death was a Michigan born pathologist who graduated from the University of Michigan in 1952 and went on to assist over 130 suicides until 1999. After a disturbing video of him taking the matter into his own hands on a suicide, he was stripped of his license and charged with second-degree murder (it wasn’t the first time he was charged though).
Dr. Death finally fell to his death in 2011, but, not before leaving a gory collection of his artwork and paintings which are displayed at the Armenian Library and Museum of America.
Though most of his work is displayed on and off, only four have been on permanent display -“The Gourmand”, “The Broken Scales of Justice”, “Genocide’, and “Fa La La La La.”
14. Ponyhenge, Lincoln
Aptly known as “Ponyhenge”, the small piece of pasture in Lincoln, MA, has been a refuge for all the world’s ponies and broken-down rocking horses. No idea where these come from, the park started being a common ground for these figurines since 2010.
A solo lobby house was the first occupant and soon followed several others – plastic, wooden, and metal. The residents in the neighborhood have no idea how it started but some believe that is a leftover Christmas display.
More strangely, every now and then, the horses change places. Sometimes they can be found standing in a circle, sometimes scattered and tossed like they had a rough night, and sometimes in a row like they were practicing for a race.
Obviously, the landowners like this little mystery in their backyard since they never tried to clear out the area.
15. Franklin Park’s Overlook Shelter Ruins, Boston
Frederick Law Olmsted, regarded as the ‘Father of Landscape Architecture’, has been known to set the standards for the development of public parks and many other architectural landmarks. Among his greatest works is the Franklin Park which was once regarded as the “Emerald Necklace” among the chain of parks designed by Olmsted in the area.
However, the Park sits lonely, overgrown, and overlooked amongst the many parks designed by Olmstead, including his prized possession, the Central Park in Manhattan.
Nonetheless, the ruins of Franklin Park were once one of the first structure designed by the famous Architect and was visited by several athletes of the time. The beautiful gardens were decorated to maintain a rustic feel and housed water fountains, stone steps, benches, and an archway.
The Popular concert ‘Playhouse in the Park’ by Boston activist Elma Lewis continues to be hosted in the park since 1966, but, the puddingstone ruins remain ignored.
16. Kelleher Rose Garden, Boston
Largely unknown to visitors and residents of Boston, the James P. Kelleher Rose Garden remains as one of the oldest of its kind in the city and has been there since 1932.
With over 1,500 rose bushes, the Rose Garden was awarded the Massachusetts Horticultural Society Award for Excellence.
The English-style architecture of the Kelleher Rose Garden was commissioned by the then Mayor of Boston, James Michael Curley and designed by Arthur Shurcliff, a notable Boston landscape architect who had previously worked under Frederick Law Olmstead.
Allegations claiming that the Rose Garden was a cheap obtrusion to Olmstead’s ideas took over and the reputation of the park was lost in history.
Located within proximity to Fenway Park, Kelleher Rose Garden largely remains Boston’s “secret garden.”
17. Rutland Prison Camp, Rutland
Occupying 150 acres of a 914-acre wide expanse of Massachusetts’ Rutland State Park, Rutland Prison Camp was established in 1903 as a means to provide shelter to minor offenders and put them to work on the prison farm that grew potatoes and cultivated poultry.
An initiative to keep the likes of drunkards and such petty criminals, Rutland’s prison farm was known to produce enough milk to sell to Worchester.
Aside from the farm, the Prison Camp also housed cell blocks, staff quarters, a water tower, and a tuberculosis treatment center which was added in 1907.
Unfortunately, the Prison was constructed on a drainage area for the water supply in the area which led to its closure in 1934. All that remains now are the dilapidated ruins of what used to be the famous Rutland Prison Farm, but, the area is still is great for explorers and hikers.
18. Becket Land Trust Historic Quarry and Forest, Becket
Once known as the Hudson-Chester quarry, the mines of Becket Land Trust Historic Quarry and Forest were functional between the 1860s and 1890s. However, the mining suddenly stopped and all that was left behind were tools and machinery that were used by the quarry workers in the area. Over time, nature took over the abandoned land and transformed into a picturesque ruin protected in the arms of natural beauty.
A new mining company tried to establish the quarry in 1999, but, the surrounding community bought the land and put it into a public trust, thus, disrupting any mining and excavation plans that may have disrupted the beauty of the forest.
Now a nature park, the history quarry, and forest displays what’s leftover of old autos, building constructions, and dredging derricks.
19. Skinny House, Boston
You would think a structure like this on the streets of Boston would be hard to miss, but, it is exactly the structure of the skinniest apartment in Boston that makes it easy to overlook, or simply not notice!
The Skinny House stands in a row of Boston’s small and narrow apartments, but, is the narrowest of them all. Only ten feet wide and 30 feet deep, it is reported that the original owner of the house built it out of spite for his brother who lived just behind the apartment so the house saw no sunshine!
Also known as the Spite House due to the strange story of its construction, the house is privately owned.
20. Mµseum – The Tiny Museum, Somerville
Dedication and hard work of Judith Klausner, a curator and an artist from Somerville, put three years of her life to create what she and many others claim to be the world’s smallest museum. At only eight inches deep and 16 inches wide, the Mµseum is Klausner’s attempt to show her appreciation of all things small.
The artist believes that unlike large displays, something this small will have the full attention of its spectator and provide a more intimate experience as compared to the highly intimidating enormous exhibits all around the world.
The Greek Letter “µ”, symbolizing the scientific figure “micro”, was a visual pun created by Klausner.
21. The Bulb River, Sandwich
The creation of Les Lutz, Director of Horticulture and Facilities Management at Heritage, the Bulb River is an assortment of 35,000 grape hyacinths that flows like a bright purplish-blue river amidst the Heritage of Museums and Gardens.
Like any typical river, the Bulb River is also complemented by “eddies”, which, in this case, are 1,500 vibrant yellow daffodils strategically set at both sides of the river as it streams down a gentle hill surrounded by trees and bushes.
The Floral comes to full bloom around Mother’s Day (bring your mother for a free entry to the park).
22. Bancroft Tower, Worcester
George Bancroft, an American Historian and US Secretary of the Navy, was an illustrious personality who was known to encourage to secondary education in his town, Worcester, as well as establish US Naval Academy.
Bancroft, because of his stature and involvement in the society, had a close relationship with several notable people from different walks of life. Among those was his childhood friend railroad industrialist Stephen Salisbury II. After Bancroft passed away, Salisbury’s son (Salisbury III) built the Bancroft Tower as a remembrance of his father’s dear friend.
Some say that it was just an attempt to exhaust the family wealth ($15,000), but, be that as it may, the edifice stands 56 feet tall and is crafted out of large boulders and cobblestones.
Though mostly gated, a visit to the celebrated naval officer and educator’s memorial is worth every bit of time and effort.
23. Modica Way, Cambridge
You may or may have never noticed this piece of art when you walked past it all those times, but, this graffiti-covered walkway in Central Square that connects the City Parking Lot 5 to Massachusetts Avenue is way more than just another boardwalk.
Partially decorated with a colorful plastic canopy resembling a “stained glass”, the Richard B. “Rico” Modica Way is a public pathway as well as a 24-hour open-air art gallery.
Simply known as the Modica Way, the gallery, on one side, houses a black and white pictorial collage of people and places around Central Square – an installation by the city.
The other, however, is set aside for graffiti artists who are free to spray paint the walls with their creativity and imagination. In this part of the world where street art is not vandalism but freedom to express, the walkway sees brilliant, bright new paintings every now and then.
Modica Way is also home to the work of internationally celebrated artists such as Enzo & Nio and Shepard Fairey.
24. Rebecca Nurse Homestead and Graveyard, Danvers
Also known as the Nurse Graveyard, Rebecca Nurse Homestead and Graveyard stands by the Massachusetts Bay reminiscing the hardships that the city underwent during the adversities of the 17th century.
Not far from the infamously famous Salem Village Witchcraft Victims Memorial sits a large monument right over the final resting place of Rebecca Nurse, a victim of the witch trials, who was hanged to death in July 1692.
As the story goes, the 71-year-old woman was accused of witchcraft by the local Putnam family who had a longstanding land feud with the Nurses. Rebecca was found not guilty at first, but, a reconsideration made the judge change his verdict and sentence her to death.
The mother of eight received a proper Christian burial by her family and was buried on the land, which is now the burial ground for several witchcraft victims in the area, including George Jacobs who was accused and executed exactly after a month from Rebecca.
25. Burnt Hill Stone Circle, Heath
Burnt Hill is not our usual tourist detention. It is, in fact, a way off-the-beaten-path small hill outside the insignificant town of Heath. However, there is something that makes this not-so-attractive hilltop fascinating as it is inexplicable.
No one knows the origin of the creation, but, the set of 21 small and big boulders, some as heavy as 500 pounds, inhabit the northern side of Burnt Hill. Initial assumptions speculated that the stones were left as property markers by some unknown 19th-century farmer. But, studies of the boulders claimed that they were at least a few hundred years old.
Other suppositions claim that the top of the hill may have been used as an observatory and the stones point to surrounding hills in a manner to gage sunrises, sunsets, and other planetary movements.
Whether they are a farmer’s marker, astronomical setting, or put together by ancient Native American Tribes, the area is definitely one to spark the imagination.
26. All Saints Way, Boston
Tucked away in an alley between 4 and 8 Battery Street in Boston, Massachusetts, All Saints Way depicts a man’s undying faith and devotion to all the saints known to mankind.
What started as a childhood hobby of collecting trinkets, figurines, postcards, and souvenirs representing the saints has become a life-size street-side exhibition. Peter Baldassari, now around 63-years-old, has been gathering all the memorabilia since his early days, and though the collection is on his private property, offers private tours of his prized collection.
The brick-walled sanctuary is guarded with an unimposing black entrance and a “featured” saint which is usually the newest one to his assemblage.
Feel free to donate something “saintly” if you have and Peter will be happy to put it along with his collection.
27. Dighton Rock, Berkley
With a history older than that of the country of the United States itself, Dighton Rock has been the subject of study for people from all walks of life.
Speculations made of the origin and mysterious inscriptions on this large coastal boulder have taken several different faces over the last few centuries. Around 1783, Congregationalist minister and academic Ezrz Stiles along with others in the era suggested that the rock was a work of art of Ancient Phoenicians. This later resulted in the theory it may have been the early Portuguese explorers who made the engravings.
Among the many Native Americans, Norse, Phoenicians, and Portuguese that supposedly crafted the rock, the latest and the most unlikely are the Chinese! The 2002 book “1421: The Year China Discovered America” claimed that Chinese discovered America way before Columbus did so it may have been their rock and their inscriptions.
Originally found by the shores of Tanton River, the Rock now rests at Dighton Rock State Park’s museum and continues to intrigue explorers and visitors who come to visit.
28. Pooh’s House, Cambridge
For decades, a tiny, painted door at the base of a tree stub within the camps of Harvard University has been the local residence of Pooh. With a history that hasn’t always been all sunshine and rainbows, Pooh’s House has been a fixture of the University for a really long time.
Pooh’s wasn’t the only residence in the area though. Once upon a time, Rabbit and Piglet shared the living space with Pooh. Mostly noticed by children, the foyers of Rabbit and Piglet mostly seemed empty (may they went over to Pooh’s for high tea!).
However, during the futile renovation plans of 2012, the trees were cut and transformed into chairs and other furniture. What remained was just a bare stump. A while later, there appeared a foyer atop the stump and a new door with “Pooh” written just over it. Looked like Pooh was back from his holiday and decided to take matters into his hand!
Today, the skeletons of Pooh’s House remain, withered from a rainstorm, wood chipping, and other natural occurrences.