Friday, May 11, 2012

The History of Massachusetts blog has moved!

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Monday, April 16, 2012

John Hammond Jr Conducted Telepathic Experiments at Hammond Castle

John Hays Hammond Jr in 1922
John Hammond Jr. was a wealthy American inventor and owner of Hammond Castle in Gloucester. The castle housed not only his elaborate collection of ancient artifacts but also served as a laboratory where he and his team, which included scientist Andrija Puharich, conducted various telepathic experiments in the early 1950s.

From 1951 to 1952, Hammond, who had a fascination with the occult but was mostly known for his work with radio waves, conducted a series of experiments on a well-known psychic at the time, Eileen Garrett. During the experiments, Hammond placed Garrett in a Faraday cage, a cage designed to keep out electromagnetic waves, to determine whether ESP used electromagnetic frequencies as a carrier wave.

According to the book “Color Healing: Chromotherapy” these experiments were funded by the Parapsychology Foundation:

“Science was represented by a team of top-drawer electronics physicists, headed up by John Hays Hammond. Parapsychology’s representative was Eileen J. Garrett, president of the foundation. The scientists undertook to devise assemblies of electro-magnetic instruments under conditions that would rule out any possibility of ether-waved telepathic or emotionally-conveyed contact between Mrs. Garrett, as the clairvoyant, and the science team. She was placed in a series of three Faraday cages, one inside the other...A scientist was stationed inside the cages with her. A tape recorder was placed in the inner cage, another was set up outside. A quarter mile away, a random switch to turn on and off an electrical current was placed in a hidden location.”

The Great Hall in Hammond Castle
It is rumored that Hammond conducted these experiments in the castle's Great Hall and that the cage became so hot due to the electrical currents running through it, the prolonged exposure to heat caused the dark stone floor beneath the cage to fade. This faded spot can still be seen today.

According to the book “Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla,” Hammond, who was a colleague and friend of Nikola Tesla, determined that since Garrett could still communicate telepathically with the science team through a series of ESP tests while she was in the cage, it proved that ESP was not transmitted on electromagnetic frequencies.

The Parapsychology Foundation still exists today and continues to fund scientific investigations of psychic phenomena.


The Parapsychology Foundation

"Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla”; Marc J. Seifer; 1998

"Color Healing: Chromotherapy”; Health Research Staff; 1996

"Transcending the Speed of Light: Consciousness, Quantum Physics, and the Fifth Dimension” Marc Seifer, Stanley Krippner; 2008

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The History of Hammond Castle

Hammond castle
Hammond Castle
Hammond Castle is a Medieval-style castle located in the fishing village of Gloucester. The castle was built between 1926 and 1929 by an eccentric American inventor named John Hays Hammond Jr. 

Hammond, who was a protege of Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison, is known as the “Father of Radio Control” because of his groundbreaking work with radio waves. Hammond was the son of the wealthy mining engineer, John Hays Hammond Sr.

Hammond built the castle, which resides on the edge of a cliff overlooking Gloucester harbor, to house his large collection of Roman, Medieval and Renaissance artifacts as well as his laboratory where he conducted many experiments. One of his prized possessions still on display in the castle is a human skull rumored to be from one of Christopher Columbus' crew members.

John Hays Hammond Jr and Sr
John Hays Hammond Jr and Sr in 1922
Although the exterior of the castle is built from granite mined from the nearby hillsides, the windows, doorways and much of the interior of the structure are actual pieces of European castles, churches and buildings Hammond bought and shipped to the United States. The castle includes a drawbridge, several towers, a great hall, a library, laboratory and an inner and outer courtyard. Hammond also added some unique features to the structure such as an indoor pool that can be drained with a flip of a switch and filled with sea water, rooms with hidden doors, secret passageways, a library with a whispering ceiling and an inner courtyard that was once outfitted with special overhead pipes and wiring to simulate rain or twinkling stars. Another feature of the castle is Hammond's large pipe organ that his friend, famed organist Virgil Fox, used to play during visits. Fox held many recording sessions at the castle in the 40s and 50s.

From the grounds of the castle, Hammond used to maneuver radio-controlled boats through Gloucester harbor, terrorizing the local fishermen who thought the unmanned boats were ghost ships. It is also rumored that Hammond, who had a fascination with the occult, held many seances at the castle and filled his library with books about the occult.

Hammond Castle
The back of Hammond Castle
According to an article in the Gloucester Times, Hammond was an animal lover with a number of pet Siamese cats. Whenever one of his beloved cats passed away, he would place the cat in a jar of formaldehyde and drive from his castle all throughout Gloucester in a one-car funeral procession, tying up traffic along the way.

Hammond died in 1965 and left the castle to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. The enormous maintenance costs of the building proved to be too much for the church who decided to sell it in 1975 to Virgil Fox for the price of $68,000. Fox held annual concerts at the castle to pay for the maintenance of the building but eventually sold it when the concerts failed to generate enough money.

Several live-in caretakers of the property have claimed that the building is haunted, possibly by Hammond and his wife Irene, who died in 1959. Hammond was buried on the property, with three of his Siamese cats still preserved in jars, in a mausoleum on a nearby section of land but his body was removed in 2008 and reburied in the outdoor courtyard of the castle after several vandals broke into the mausoleum in the 1980s and stole the cats. The section of land where the mausoleum was located was later sold to raise money for castle's maintenance costs.

The castle is now a museum that is open to the public from spring until autumn. The museum also hosts annual Halloween events as well as private weddings and functions.

The back of Hammond Castle
The Great Hall of Hammond Castle
The inner courtyard and swimming pool

The skull believed to belong to one of Columbus' crew members
The dining room located off of the Great Hall

Schenectady Gazette; Medieval Hammond Castle Offers Change of Pace, Many Surprises; Jim Cassin; Sept 23 1988:,6260704

Gloucester Times; 'Father of Radio Control' Reintered; Gail McCarthy; November 24; 2008:

NPR: When a Man's Home is Really His Castle:

Organ Arts: The Hammond Castle Recordings:

New York Times; Castle is Inventor's Vision of the Past; Annie Driscoll; October 1988:

North Shore Life Magazine; A Mona's Home is His Castle; Volume 1, No. 1; Bonnie Hurd Smith:

Gloucester Times; Essex County Chronicles: Region Boasts Some of the Strangest, As Well As Oldest,; Jim McAllister; August 20 2007:

Hammond Castle:

"Weird Massachusetts: Your Travel Guide to Massachusetts's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets”; Jeff Belanger, Mark Moran, Mark Sceurman; 2008

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The French King Who Lived Above the Union Oyster House

Portrait of Louise Philippe I
Louis Philippe I was the King of France from 1830 to 1845, but spent over 20 years as an exiled prince after the outbreak of the French Revolution. In the fall of 1797, he briefly lived above what would later become the Union Oyster House restaurant in Boston.

Philippe's exile began during the Reign of Terror in 1793, a time of chaotic violence during which many aristocrats were guillotined. Prince Philippe, who was serving as a colonel in the French army at the time, fled France in April of that year and traveled around the world extensively looking for work. His desertion and connection to General Charles Francois Dumouriez, who was suspected of treason, led to the arrest of the prince's father, Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orleans, and his two brothers. While working as a teacher at a boarding school in Germany in November of that year, Philippe learned that his father had been guillotined. The prince's brothers remained in prison but were later exiled to Philadelphia in the United States in 1796.

Philippe continued to travel around Europe, living in countries such as Switzerland and Finland before traveling to the United States in 1797 to join his brothers in Philadelphia. From Philadelphia they traveled to New York before making their way to Boston. The arrival of the princes in New England was announced in the Boston-based newspaper, The Columbian Centinel, on October 21st, 1797. On the day of the announcement, the princes attended the second launch of the U.S.S. Constitution and visited the future site of the Bunker Hill Monument to view a monument dedicated to to Dr. Joseph Warren, the patriot leader killed during the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775.

The Union Oyster House, circa 1920s
Since they were supporters of the French revolution and the execution of their father was widely published in Boston, the princes were welcomed into Boston's high society with open arms. During their time in Boston, Prince Philippe lived in a room above Capen's Silks and Dry Goods Store, which is now the Union Oyster House restaurant, and taught French to the young ladies of Boston's high society. It is not clear if his brothers lived with him or if they stayed elsewhere. The room is now called the Louis-Philippe room. During their stay, the princes also spent many evenings visiting notable members of Boston society such as H.G. Otis, General Henry Knox and Colonel Pickering.

During their time in Boston, they also traveled to Maine. En route to Maine, traveling by covered wagon, the princes spent a few days in Newburyport and then journeyed on to Haverhill, traveling alongside the Merrimack river which Philippe praised as beautiful and declared “Earth has not anything to show more fair.” While on their trip to Maine, the princes stayed for a week at the Martin Farm, near Portsmouth, NH.

After staying in Boston for just a few months, the princes eventually returned to New York and continued to travel around the United States. They did not return to France until the abdication of Napoleon in 1815. Prince Philippe eventually became King of France in 1830 after King Charles X was overthrown. According to the book, "The Rise and Fall of Louis Philippe," shortly after Philippe assumed the throne, flowers were sent to the Tuileries Palace in Paris from the garden at Martin Farm, which Prince Philippe replied to with an autographed letter.


The Lonely Planet: Travel Book Author Finds France in Boston:

"The Rise and Fall of Louis Philippe” Benjamin Perley Poore; 1848

Boston Guide: French Culture in Boston

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Faneuil Hall Weather Vane Stolen in 1974

The Faneuil Hall weather vane
The copper weather vane that has topped the cupola of Faneuil Hall since 1742 was once stolen in 1974.

When the theft was discovered in January of 1974, it made national headlines. Police first speculated that the criminal may have used a helicopter to steal the weather vane and believed the thief intended to sell it on the black market.

According to an article in The Telegraph newspaper, the police detective in charge of the case, Paul Revere Carroll, a direct descendant of Paul Revere, got a phone call a few days after the theft from Robert Fandel, chief attorney for Plymouth county, who said he could provide Carroll with a piece of the weather vane:

Illustration of firemen washing the weather vane, circa 1895
“Carroll met Fandel and other officials that afternoon in Boston's Park Square. Fandel was carrying a paper bag, containing the weather vane's spire...He then led police to the rest of the weather vane hidden by rags in the corner of the [Faneuil] tower.”

It was later discovered that the weather vane was stolen by a man who had been arrested shortly after in Abington on a drug charge. Police learned that the man was a former steeplejack who had previously worked on Faneuil Hall in 1967. Although they didn't know his exact motives, they speculated that he stole and hid the weather vane to possibly ransom it off. He confessed his crime in an attempt to get plea bargain in his drug case.

The weather vane had been damaged during the theft but it was finally repaired and regilded before it was returned to its perch on top of Faneuil Hall in July of 1974.
 Workers placed a locking device on the weather vane to prevent future thefts.

Strangely, this was not the first time the weather vane left its perch. It was briefly knocked down during an earthquake in 1755, then knocked down again in 1889 during a flag lowering on Evacuation Day. It has also been removed several times for cleaning and repairs. The most recent repair was between the years 1990 and 1992, when the public got a rare up-close look at the weather vane in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts while it was being regilded.

The weather vane, inspired by the grasshopper weather vane on top of the London Royal Exchange, was designed by Shem Downe, an apprentice of Paul Revere, and weighs 38 pounds, measures 52 inches long, has glass eyes, a copper interior and gilded exterior.
Modern day Faneuil Hall and its weather vane

Faneuil Hall in 1987
Faneuil Hall in 1920
Faneuil Hall in 1903
Illustration of Faneuil Hall in Arthur's Magazine, circa 1845
Engraving of Faneuil Hall, circa 1789


New York Times; Grasshopper Weather Vane on Faneuil Hall is Stolen; January 6 1974:

New York Times: Stolen Weather Vane Found at Faneuil Hall; January 11 1974:

The Telegraph; Mystery Covers Recovery of Historic Weathervane; Jan 11 1974,1345819

The Telegraph, Grasshopper Weathervane Returns; July 24, 1974:,3755080

"Boston Sites & Insights”; Susan Wilson; 2003

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rare Salem Witch Trial Document Sold for $26,000

Margaret Scott's Marker at the Witch Trials Memorial
A rare document from the Salem Witch Trials sold for $26,000 last week at a New York auction house. The document was a court indictment for Margaret Scott, an elderly Rowley woman who was one of the last victims hanged in the Salem Witch hysteria of 1692.

The document was a part of the Eric C. Caren Collection and was purchased by an undisclosed buyer. According to an article in the Salem news, this was the first Salem Witch Trial document to be sold in almost 30 years.

Margaret Scott was accused of witchcraft in July or August of 1692 by a local teenager named Mary Daniel. She was found guilty on September 17 and hanged on September 22 along with Martha Corey, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Mary Easty, Samuel Wardwell, Wilmott Redd and Mary Parker. These were the last hangings in the Salem Witch Trials.

A month after the September 22 hangings took place, Governor Phips forbade any further arrests and many of the remaining accused were released from jail.

Born in England in 1615, Margaret Scott's maiden name was Stevenson. She married Benjamin Scott in 1642 and had seven children, although only three of them lived to adulthood. Her husband Benjamin died in 1671, leaving Margaret a poor widow. Due to her lack of finances, Margaret often begged for money and food. All of these factors made her an easy target for a witchcraft accusation. According to court documents, Margaret Scott's neighbors suspected her of being a witch for many years prior to the Salem Witch Trials but never officially accused her until the hysteria of 1692.

In 1711, the Massachusetts legislature passed a resolution clearing the names of the convicted witches and offered financial restitution to their descendents. Margaret Scott's family did not wish to be named in the law and did not seek restitution. In 1957, the Massachusetts legislature formally apologized to the victims of the Salem Witch Trials but did not specifically mention any of the victims by name. Finally, in 2001, the Massachusetts legislature passed a resolution officially exonerating five of the victims not mentioned in the previous resolutions: Susannah Martin, Bridget Bishop, Alice Parker, Wilmot Redd and Margaret Scott.


Salem News; Rare Witch Document Expected to Sell For Thousands; Tom Dalton; March 14 2012; Salem Witch Trials Document Sells for $26,000; March 16 2012

University of Virginia; The Salem Witchcraft Papers; Margaret Scott

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Faneuil Hall Was Built with Slave Money

Engraving of Faneuil Hall, circa 1789
It's a little known fact that Faneuil Hall, which has been dubbed the “Cradle of Liberty” since the American Revolution, was financed with money from Peter Faneuil's slave trading business.

Peter Faneuil was a wealthy slave trader and Boston merchant who, in 1738, inherited a large fortune from his uncle Andrew Faneuil, also a local slave trader who owned a warehouse on Boston's Merchant Row where he sold his slaves.

As slave traders, Peter and Andrew Faneuil were prominent in the Triangle Trade. This was a triangular shaped shipping route where merchants shipped fish and lumber from New England to Africa and then shipped slaves from Africa to the West Indies. After selling the slaves in the West Indies, the merchants would then purchase molasses, sugar cane and rum from the local sugar plantations to bring back to the American colonies.

In July of 1740, Peter Faneuil offered to build a public marketplace for the city of Boston using his own money he and his family made off of this triangle trade. At the time, there was no marketplace for peddlers to sell their goods and they often clogged up the lanes and roads with their pushcarts.

After commissioning local artist John Symbert to draw up plans for the building, Faneuil then offered the proposed marketplace as a gift to the city of Boston. Over 700 Boston town meeting members debated whether to accept the gift before finally voting in favor it.

Faneuil Hall today
Construction on Faneuil hall began in 1740 and took nearly two years to complete. The plan for the building included an open ground floor for a meat and produce market and a large assembly room on the second floor. The steeple of the building was topped with a 38 pound gold-gilded grasshopper weather vane that was based on a similar grasshopper weather vane on top of the London Royal Exchange.

Peter Faneuil died of dropsy just six months after the building was completed in 1742 and the city decided to name the building “Faneuil Hall” in his honor.

In 1761, a fire gutted the interior of the building but it was quickly rebuilt. The building was enlarged in 1806 by Boston architect Charles Bullfinch, who doubled its width and added a third floor.

During the American Revolution, the large second-floor assembly room became a hotspot for patriotic speeches and meetings, leading patriot James Otis to dub it the “Cradle of Liberty.”


The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers”; Brion McClanahan, Brion T. McClanahan; 2009 

History of the Huguenot Emigration to America”, Volume 2; Charles Washington Baird; 1885 

Boston Miscellany: An Essential History of the Hub”; William P. Marchione; 2008