, Salem, MA


October 9, 2012

McAllister: The North Shore's spooky past

Hidden in the pages of the many books written about the North Shore’s remarkable history are occasional tales of strange and mysterious happenings and characters. And true or not, such stories are a part of our region’s long and colorful past.

There are, of course, the old standbys, like the Screeching Woman of Marblehead. There are many variations to this tale, but the gist of it seems to be that a noblewoman being held captive on a pirate ship tried to escape — or maybe was taken ashore — when the vessel stopped in Marblehead’s Lovis Cove to gather provisions. Once on shore, the woman was murdered by her captors, and terrified area residents who chose to ignore her cries of “Lord save me. Mercy. O Lord Jesus save me” and their future generations were supposedly forced to relive the horrible event on stormy nights when the cries for help could once again be heard emanating from the dark.

Beverly Farms was home to a pair of much more benign shadows of the dark. In her charming “When I Lived in Salem,” Caroline King recalled that her summer neighbors in mid-19th-century Beverly Farms included an “uncanny old black woman” who lived all alone in a nearby cottage and was looked upon as the local witch and a possessor of a third eye. It turns out, King says, the woman was quite benevolent. More frightening to a child was “Heady,” a local ghost who carried his head under his arm. Heady, the author claims, was occasionally spotted by members of the King family and their neighbors as he roamed through the local “Witch Woods” and roadways of Beverly Farms.

At Witch Hollow Farm in Boxford, the ghost of Mary Tyler supposedly still roams freely on the property. Mary was accused of witchcraft during the horrible witch delusion in 1692 and, like so many other accused witches, saved her own life by confessing to the charges brought against her. Since her death, Mary’s shape can be seen roaming about the farm property, traveling from room to room and between buildings.

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