Haunted Cemeteries in Central Mass

Massachusetts is ripe with history, and its cemeteries are no exception. There are stories of apparitions, inexplicable occurrences and violent murders. Central Massachusetts boasts a handful of cemeteries with tainted pasts. Whether they are haunted remains a mystery. What we do know is the stories are fascinating and need to be told.

Spider Gates

Satanic rituals, violent death and paranormal activity, oh my! Spider Gates Cemetery, officially named Friends Cemetery when it was erected by the Quaker community in 1740, has a rich and mysterious history. In Central Massachusetts, the probability of hearing legends surrounding the historic cemetery growing up is as likely as learning nursery rhymes.

Given the vast history of Spider Gates and the swirling suspicious events that have happened there, we decided to discover what’s really lurking among the trees and tombstones at Spider Gates cemetery. Are there apparitions haunting Spider Gates? Is the history of spilt blood the reason grass refuses to grow in its center? You be the judge.

The main gates, resembling the design of a spider’s web, are called the eighth gate to hell. According to legend, on the grounds of the cemetery, satanic rituals and sacrifices were performed in the worship house that once stood where four cinder blocks now remain, marking the foundation of the alter. While the sun shines on this patch of land, the death and bloodshed has left the ground barren and unable to support new life.

Spider Gates is frequented by locals, and many come to see if the lore surrounding the haunted cemetery is true or simply a New England folk tale. When you approach Spider Gates from the rear entrance, you must trek a long dirt road to reach the cemetery ‑ the seclusion of this space is daunting enough. Many who visit the cemetery report it is a quiet and meditative space and that the grounds for its haunted history are unfounded.

Cherie Velez, a Leicester native, describes her visits to the cemetery, “I’ve been on multiple occasions and, sorry to report, no strange activity. I have brought my kids; more than half the cemetery is my dad’s family. This is still a working cemetery, so everyone should respect the grounds and people buried there.”

Unfortunately, due to vandalism at the cemetery, it is now closed after dusk and monitored closely by the police. Renee Veroneau recounts visiting the cemetery with her mother before she died, “I have been twice with my mom; it is a nice and quiet graveyard. That’s it.”

While many people have used Spider Gates as a quiet refuge, others have experienced eerie and inexplicable phenomenon within its borders. William DeMalia, a former Worcester Public School teacher, remembers visiting Spider Gates as a teenager. “Senior year in high school, I went with friends, hopped several fences to get there, and another group of city kids were fighting and a gun came out. We all split ‑ immediately! As I got to the gate, running away from the gun, it felt like something lifted me over the 8- to 10-foot fence … only way to describe it. I didn’t climb it; I didn’t pull myself over it. I ran, jumped and was pulled over that fence as if gravity didn’t apply in that moment! So freaky! I’ll never forget that weightless feeling! I had a friendly ghost looking out for me that night!”

While Spider Gates is the most notorious of Central Massachusetts’ haunted cemeteries, creating a stir among locals who can’t agree on whether the cemetery is simply a serene burial ground or haunted graveyard, there are other cemeteries that have mysterious pasts which are equally intriguing.

Hope Cemetery

Our journey through the haunted cemeteries of Central Massachusetts continues at Hope Cemetery in Worcester. As the sixth cemetery of Worcester, all the graves from the previous cemeteries were moved into its borders once it was established. Hope Cemetery has more than 20,000 internments, and the oldest is dated before 1750. A statue of Jesus holding an angel towers in the cemetery, and visitors have reported seeing the ghosts of children kneeling before the statue. The children often vanish as soon as they are noticed, but their laughter can still be heard once they are gone.

When you walk into a cemetery, you often regard it as a quiet and peaceful haven of eternal rest for souls who have passed on. When I was a little girl, my Papa would go for daily walks in Hope Cemetery. I often accompanied him regardless of the season. I walked the paved roads of the cemetery feeling a sense of peace; however, there was always a heaviness in the air when we passed the children’s graves. I can’t say I heard laughter when I walked by the statue of Jesus, but I certainly believe the souls of deceased children wander the grounds searching for peace.

Old Centre Cemetery

Old Centre Cemetery, located near Royalston within Worcester County, is a relatively small cemetery, with borders marked by a small stone wall. The cemetery has 1,000 graves dating back to the 1700s, yet the most notable resident of the cemetery is the ghost of a beautiful blonde woman who roams the cemetery. Along with the female apparition, visitors report a dark figure moving quickly throughout the graveyard, cold spots and sensing the touch of unseen hands.

New Boston Cemetery

New Boston Cemetery, located near Winchendon, has a past drenched in natural disaster. Once a small community, the cemetery is now all that is left after the construction of the Birch Hill Dam Project was deemed necessary to prevent further local flooding. The cemetery lies within the serene landscape of Otter State Forest and is home to a rather shy ghost. When visiting this cemetery, you can only see this ghost if you stand with your back against a particular tree within the cemetery. Once you have your back up against the tree, you will have a frontal view of a dead man hanging from a tree.

Dean Hill Cemetery

The final cemetery, located at the top of Ashburham Hill, near Fitchburg, is said to be haunted for a variety of reasons. Dean Hill Cemetery is also referred to as “The Rev” because so many soldiers from the Revolutionary War are buried there. The earliest grave that is legible to visitors dates back to 1791, adding to the awe and ethereal mystique of the small and rustic cemetery. Some community members believe the graveyard is haunted by the souls of brave soldiers wandering through Purgatory.

Despite the honorable task of being the final resting place for America’s greatest heroes, Dean Hill Cemetery has a history of mysterious disappearances. Legend among Fitchburg natives is that four teenagers went to the cemetery but became so frightened they left. Upon reaching their car, it wouldn’t start, and they fled on foot. Two teenagers were left behind, and despite police searches, their bodies were never found.

With the thought of Halloween approaching, and the veil between the worlds of the dead and living growing thinner, stories of such ghostly encounters seem more believable. We have taken a journey across Central Massachusetts and visited some of the most notorious cemeteries within our borders. Are they haunted, or are they shrouded in layers of urban myths?

If you decide to visit any cemeteries this Halloween, please be respectful and follow cemetery rules.

Story by Victoriahope MCAULIFFE / photography by Demet SENTURK

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