Burial Hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts
By Thomas D’Agostino
This story comes from our latest book, New England’s Haunted Route 44.
If you are looking for somewhere to visit this fall, Plymouth, Massachusetts may be the perfect destination for history and mystery. One of the most visited places in Plymouth is Old Burial Hill where many of the town’s founding families lie in repose; mostly. The graveyard sits on the site of what was once Fort Hill where the Pilgrims erected a meetinghouse and fortress. Many of the graves date back to the 1600s, but most are lost, as they were carved from wood or were in the form of grave rails. These were burial markers that spanned the length of the grave in the form of a rail set on two posts. While strolling through the paths soaking up the history of the burial ground, you might just come across a Victorian couple slowly making their way to visit the grave of their long lost daughter. They appear to be very heavyhearted as they wander down the path past the ancient burials before stopping at a certain grave. The grave is that of Ida Elizabeth Spear who was born September 19, 1856 and died January 23, 1860.
The ghosts of her parents, Thomas Spear and Elizabeth Russell Raymond Spear have apparently never let go of the fact that she is dead and probably do not realize they are as well. The ghostly couple are seen entering the burial yard from Summer Street, solemnly floating up the path to the site of her burial. Witnesses have noted that they are invisible from the knees down. Ida Lizzy Spear is buried behind her sister. She was born on June 1, 1865 and died August 20 in the same year. It was common for parents to use the same name over and over in hopes one of the children would reach adulthood and pass on that family moniker.
Another area of paranormal activity is the monument for the sailors who perished aboard the General Arnold in December of 1778. Although Captain James Magee survived the ordeal, he still requested to be buried with his men when his time came. People report hearing voices and screams in the area of the grave. Some have witnessed the visage of who they think may be Captain Magee wandering around the monument.
One of the legends of Plymouth concerns a descendant of the original Mayflower company, Thomas Southward Howland. In the 18th century, Howland evicted an old woman who was living in a rundown cabin built on land he owned. The old woman, who was thought a witch, by the name of Mother Crewe, placed a curse on him, “Make your peace because you will not live to see another sunset. They’ll dig your grave on Burial Hill.” Although he did live to see the sunset, the next day he was thrown from his horse and killed, and yes, was interred at Burial Hill.
There is a certain tree in the burial ground that cannot be missed. The ancient natural wonder has roots rising from the ground that resemble fingers. Legend has it that this tree is occupied by Native American spirits and anyone who enters the graveyard that is not held in favor of the spirits, become very overwhelmed with a sudden panic and fear, causing them to want to leave at once.
The indigenous ghosts may be those of King Philip. Annawon, and Tispaquin. After the death of Philip, thus ending (for the most part) King Philips War, Philip’s head was brought back to Plymouth where it hung on a pole for about a quarter of a century. A short time after Philip’s head was put in the town square, the heads of Annawon and Tispaquin were also displayed in the same manner. Tispaquin was married to the daughter of Massaisoit and therefore, brother-in-law to Philip. He claimed he was a powwau (wizard) and that he was impervious to bullets and his men also believed his assertion. Unfortunately he was proven wrong when a single bullet felled him during his execution. If the ghosts of any of these three men should haunt a certain area, the town square just below Burial Hill, and its surrounds would be a major candidate for the haunting.
The John Carver Inn near the town square is also rumored to be haunted by some very active spirits. Burial Hill is to the immediate north and west of the inn, but it is the permanent residents of the inn that may make a nights stay a bit more exciting.
Other ghosts continue to roam the graveyard and can be seen any time of day or night. Most are unknown, yet they seem to linger in a place where history continues to live, one way or another.