initially investigated Spider Gates with Gary Boston on November 17, 2001, a
crisp, clear autumn morning. First, the cemetery was hard to find and we
did quite a bit of driving around, feeling puzzled. The road maps and
topographical maps show Earle Street to be a public throughway, not a narrow
gated private dirt road. It took a while to sort all this out. The
cemetery is in the woods between the Worcester Airport and the Leicester
Landfill. Earle Street is several hundred feet up Manville Street from
the landfill entrance.
parked near the landfill and proceeded to bushwhack our way through the woods.
This was a mistake because it necessitated having to cross Kettle Brook, a
rather vigorous small river. In any event, we did indeed find Spider
Gates is a beautiful cemetery in a sylvan setting. It is a square
cemetery on a small rise, surrounded by trees. Its walls are aligned to
the cardinal compass points, the gate being in the north wall. We
thoroughly explored the cemetery and the surrounding countryside for anything
to substantiate its reputation as a magnet for unholy powers.
Spider Gates Cemetery
First – and this needs to be made clear
– there is only ONE gate, not eight. There is
just one entrance - the main one with the wrought-iron spider web pattern.
The rest of the cemetery is surrounded by a well-made wall of laid stone.
Whether this truly is the Eight Gate to Hell, I can’t say. Certainly, I
did not experience anything untoward upon entering the cemetery through it.
As far as I know, I did not go to, nor am I in, Hell.
Gary, however, suggested that perhaps I’ve long since gone to Hell, so that’s
why nothing seemed different in any way. Ha, ha, ha, Gary. (But he’s
right, you know.)
Through the Gate in 2001!
The gates themselves are of interest.
They are of an unusual design, and said to be reproductions of originals,
which are often reported on the Internet to be in storage or in a museum
somewhere. Although the pattern of the wrought–iron gates is said to be
a spider web pattern, it is in actually more of a sunburst pattern with
radiating wavy rays. They have a distinct Art Deco look to them.
The Friends Cemetery Trustees Committee tells me that they are unaware of the
location of the original gates of which these might be copied. In fact,
they question the rumour entirely and assure me they know of no gates from
this cemetery that are in storage or in a museum. However, local
residents have other opinions including eyewitness accounts from the 1970's of
the gates being much larger and actually forming an arch that read "Quaker
Cemetery." Other residents have stated that one or more of the gates
were replaced by the Southwicks at considerable expense in the 1980's after
The greatest Spider Gates reaction shot EVER!
the good folk at Absurd Adventures Blogspot
The niece of Albert Southwick recently wrote to say
that in fact according to Albert, one the current gates is indeed an original
and one is a copy. The original was apparently repaired somewhere down
the line by his brother Thomas Southwick. The niece of Thomas Southwick
has also also confirmed this account.
This however does not square with certain eyewitness
recollections from the 1970's that the
gates were of a large arched variety (which the current ones are not).
If so, and if the recollections are to be believed, this would mean that the
present gates are not only relatively new, but are also not exact replicas of
their predecessors. In any event, the debate continues, with eyewitness
recollections of two very different style gates being originals. I tend
to put more weight on the Southwick's version, as they should know.
Immediately to the left upon entering the cemetery is a large oak tree.
Attached to a fork about fifteen feet up is a short length of thick weathered
twine that hangs down about a foot or so. I would speculate that this is
the "hanging tree." There is no official record of anyone ever hanging
themselves here, however, and I would guess it is the twine that gave rise to
the rumour. The twine does not seem bulky enough to facilitate a suicide
and I doubt very much it would have been left up there if such an event did
indeed happen. You would think the relatives or police would have
removed such a gristly reminder.
Other accounts of the hanging tree by local residents place it outside and to
the left of the gates. It is said to have had a length of rusty
chain suspended from it which was used reportedly for hoisting a truck engine.
This tree is no longer to be found, nor is the large flat rock with "cult
symbols" said to be next to it.
As for hangings, long time residents do not recollect any such thing in
conjunction with Friends Cemetery. However, there are recollections of a
nearby event (8/10ths of a mile away) as follows: "There
was a hanging in the 70's in the area on Manville Street heading towards
Paxton Street near the reservoir [Waite Pond] on the left side. A mother
and daughter were out picking pinecones and found him. I don't remember
his name but it was in the paper. He was a local boy and they found him
with his hands and feet bound hanging from a tree."
None of these events - if indeed they exist - ever
seem to appear in the local paper, the Telegram & Gazette. However,
conspiracy minded folk are always quick to point out a link between the
Southwick family and the paper - insinuating that any foul play at the
cemetery is suppressed from the paper to keep any negative publicity about
Friends Cemetery (and thus area Quakers) out of the public eye in the mostly
Catholic community of Worcester. When it comes to Spider Gates, there is
always an answer for everything. . .
In the middle on a gentle knoll, in
a grove of mature white pines, is the raised area called "the Altar." This
is an square raised earthen area about twenty feet large, and maybe six inches
high. At each corner is a granite post, accenting its square figure.
There are no gravestones within. Although it is suggestively called "the
Altar," this is actually where the old Friends Meeting House used to stand.
The flat square area is the footprint of the foundation.
The Altar - View Two
Just over the east wall, and built
up against it, is a small twelve by six foot leveled area. It is defined
by granite posts at its corners. However, it did not appear to be a grave
plot, nor did it have an entrance into the cemetery. I was puzzled as to
its purpose. As this was the area where the runes were supposedly found, I
spent some time looking for them. After examining both sides of pretty
much every likely looking stone, I had to conclude that I did not find anything
that appeared to me to be a carved rune. But I did find some pretty nasty
From here we searched for the place
where the grass is said not to grow and did indeed find it over in the
southwestern part of the cemetery. This is a shallow trench about ten
inches wide, two inches deep, and twelve feet long, and ran roughly parallel to
the southern wall. Moss flourishes in it but not grass. If this were
not a trench, it would appear much more mysterious. I would assume after
the trench was cut, that due to a difference in soil conditions at the lower
level, it was colonized by moss rather than grass.
As for the Satanists having
permission to use the cemetery, I can only wonder where they sign up. Is
there some kind of roster sheet? (Satanists: Twelve Midnight, Friday.)
In any event, I did notice that in one particular row of markers someone had
placed a coin on top of each headstone.
The coins on the headstones intrigued me, and I have
since learned The Legend Of Marmaduke's Grave (Marmaduke Earle's stone is
the one on the left in the picture below.) The legend according to a local
authority is: "If you walk around Marmaduke's gravestone 10 times at
midnight and say 'Marmaduke speak to me,' kneel down and put your head on the
grave stone and listen he would speak to you." My source goes on to say:
"I have been there at night and I can say that you could hear groans of some
sort but there is a house on Manville Street before the dirt road and the people
who lived there are the Grangers. They had cows and when they moo it could
sound like groans and moans." Could they be evil cows?
A second interesting bit of folklore came to light via
a message board post by Poppy Z. Brite where it was noted that it was an ancient
Greek custom to leave a coin in a grave to pay the ferryman's toll across the
River Styx. She went on to note that this is occasionally seen in various
New Orleans graveyards for much the same reason. This caught my eye
because the nearby Kettle Creek is known in "Spider Gates" lore as the River
Styx. Is there a connection? (There is also a modern custom of
leaving a coin on a headstone as an act of respect.)
Coins On Headstones - Psychic Payphones?
A complete investigation of the
cemetery did not reveal any white substance oozing out of the ground.
Perhaps it wasn’t the right time of year for ooze. We did find a blob of
white cement that had been poured out on the ground, probably during masonry
Some visitors report hearing a roaring
from the woods. Others speak of leaves rustling when there is no wind,
and still other claim to have heard "voices." All I can say to this that
the cemetery is literally under the landing approach for Worcester Airport,
and certainly there is the occasional roar, but from above. Neither of
us experienced "voices" or unnatural rustlings.
Our investigation of the immediate
grounds complete, we looked for the cave where the girl was said to have been
killed. We did not find any obvious caves, but did find on the southern
slope behind the cemetery a small overhang of rock.
Ledge Behind Cemetery
Also, not far away the old path of Earle Street crosses a once marshy area
over a Shaker style laid-stone culvert. The culvert was conceivably
large enough to stuff a body in, but again there is the problem that there is
no official record of a girl being murdered in this area.
is actually what is locally referred to as a cave in the near vicinity
- more properly called a colonial root cellar - about a mile from the cemetery
at the end of a dirt road called Sylvester Street. The "cave" is a large
manmade underground chamber large enough to stand up in and walk around.
Note: there was a murder near the cave - a 6 year
old boy from the Nazareth Home for Boys was beaten to death on Sylvester
Street by a 16 year old youth and dumped in Lynde Brook - about 7/10ths of
mile from Spider Gates.
Sylvester Street Underground Chamber
along, the old path of Earle Street runs through a swamp and up a steep hill
to Mulberry Road. Interestingly, it is the base of the hill on Earle
Street, and not the cemetery, that is the site where most of the reports of
frightening encounters and "eerie" feelings have actually originated.
Grown men have been known to run from this spot in
terror and for no known or obvious reason. I, however, did not run from
this spot in terror, and I can only hope this is not a derogatory reflection
on my manhood.
walk back from the base of the hill to the cemetery we noticed an overgrown
and recently burned area on the right that looked like it had once been
artificially squared and leveled. Further investigation has shown that this is
the site of the old Manville School House. The school was still standing
as recently as 1941, but I have no idea what condition it was in and it is
likely to have been abandoned well before that. Correspondence with the
Friends Meeting Trustees Committee shed little further light on the school.
All they were able to tell me is that a Quaker school did exist at one time
somewhere in that area, but they were unsure if the Manville School was it.
However, judging from its close proximity to the cemetery, which is where the
meeting house used to be, and the extensive mill works in the immediate
area (more on this later), it would appear likely that this was indeed
originally the Quaker school site.
investigation reveals local recollections that this was a one room school with
6 to 7 students. Also, the former schoolmistress, Ann Southwick (now Ann
Cutting), reports that the school was maliciously burned shortly after it
closed. When asked about the side area with the granite posts next to
the cemetery, neither she nor her sisters recollect at his time what this area
was for. Ann, by the way, is 90 years old as of this writing, enjoys
exceptional health, and is noted locally for her prowess as a senior league
Kettle Brook in Summer
checked out the "eerie swamp" behind the cemetery, but due to the time of year
it was dry, so we couldn’t really get a reading on it. Not much further,
however, is Kettle Brook, known by rumor to really be the River Styx.
Daringly following it downstream to a bend, we found the ruins of an extensive
stone dam and mill. There are also extensive waterworks and mill ruins
upstream near where it crosses Manville Street. Judging from the
cemetery and the mills, it would appear this area was heavily used in Colonial
times and is no doubt the remains of a once prospering Quaker settlement.
Old Mill - Kettle Brook in Autumn
searched high and low for the second cemetery, the one that can only be found
once. We did locate a cemetery close by at a Catholic home for orphaned
boys. It was a sad melancholy little place. On the way home we
drove by it on Mulberry Road, thus finding it for a second time. I would
imagine this disqualifies it to be the one indicated in the rumor.
There is however, about a mile and a half as the crow flies, the well hidden
and little known 1760's Elliot Hill revolutionary era burial ground which is
tucked away in the woods on the north side of Marshall Street. To get
there on foot from Spider Gates you would have to cross two to three roads
depending on your route. I got the sense from the rumors that crossing
roads to get there is not part of the magic formula of finding the place.
Elliot Hill Burial Ground
Where Earle Street crosses Manville Street it becomes an even less-traveled
dirt road. Supposedly, somewhere along it is a haunted abandoned house.
It is said there is a rusted-out car in front of it that is rumored to "come
and go." On my second visit, John Larochelle and I took the trouble to
look for the house, but it turns out it is not actually on this path.
You need to take your first right, and then a right at the next junction, and
it is about a half a mile or so further on the right, according to the
topographical maps. Recently I have heard that this house has been
bought and is being renovated. I leave the investigation of it to far
braver and nosier souls. In any event, I would imagine if it is being
renovated that the rusted-out car that "comes and goes" is officially "gone."
for nature lovers, the old path of upper Earle Street is lined with some of
the largest and consistently largest trees I have ever seen. It is well
worth the walk if only for this. For those in the know, the west end of
upper Earle Street comes out at Hot Dog Annie's, where the "dogs" are