, Salem, MA


October 9, 2012

McAllister: The North Shore's spooky past


Another popular North Shore tale is said to have taken place in the Georgetown home of Moody Spofford around 1780. A young domestic, Hannah Hazen, was sifting meal in the family meal chest when she realized that every time she or her clothing touched the wooden meal chest it would move away from her in increments of a few inches. Hannah began having the same effect on other pieces of furniture, and when her clothing touched the door, the latch would rise and fall in an agitated manner.

Crowds gathered to watch the terrified Hannah in action. Eventually, the troubled young lass was sent to live elsewhere, and prayers were offered in the Spofford home in a sort of exorcism. Mr. Moody banned all future experiments and, from that time forward, the furniture “obeyed the laws of gravitation.”

A community exorcism also seemed to have driven a frightening spirit from a home on Water Street in Ipswich. The ghost was believed to have been that of a previous occupant, the infamous Harry Main, who had lived in Ipswich in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. An entrepreneur gone bad, Main became one of a number of New Englanders who made a decent living by luring vessels onto the dangerous Ipswich sandbars, finishing off any crew members who didn’t drown when the craft sank, and salvaging and selling the ship’s cargo.

While the townspeople were seemingly able to drive Harry’s ghost from his house, the sandbars were a different story. Tradition has it that the piratical Main was chained to one of the stretches of sand he used in his murderous game, on Plum Island. It has been said that Harry can still be heard growling and shrieking on the dunes on stormy nights.

Occasionally, a brave soul would attempt to find the vast treasure it was believed Harry had buried somewhere on his property. One man actually hit pay dirt in the form of a gold bar, but at that moment he found himself surrounded by a squad of malefic-looking cats who, mercifully, vanished when he screamed in their direction. His treasure-hunting venture came to an abrupt and permanent halt.


Salem historian Jim McAllister is a regular contributor to these pages.

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