Who Let the Dogs Out?
A Journey to Dog Town
By Ron Kolek
With autumn approaching, it's time to take advantage of the good weather and do your paranormal investigating out of doors. A great place to go is an abandoned village in Gloucester, Massachusetts strangely named Dog Town. It is an awesome place for a hike and a very interesting place to investigate. Late last year a group on paranormal investigators got together to undertake such an investigation. Led by Tom D’Agostino, we put together a loosely form team which I dubbed “The Paranormal Posse”. The team was comprised of Jeff Belanger of GhostVillage.com, Chris Balzano of Mass Paranormal Crossroads, author Tom D’Agostino and his wife Arlene, and Maureen and myself of The New England Ghost Project. With such diverse personalities, it was bound to be an interesting trip.
As the day approached, New England was being pounded by a raging rainstorm and the chances of going seemed slim. But undaunted, we decided to go anyways. With the terrible weather, driving speed on route 93 was reduced to 25 mph, but we were determined to get there. Maureen and I were the last to arrive, being over an hour late (oh yeah, we got lost too), but as we arrived the weather broke and the skies cleared.
Upon arriving, Tom gave us all maps of the remains of Dog Town and we were off on our expedition. As we walked the overgrown trails of Dog Town, Tom told us its story:
It once was a thriving town settled predominately by the sailors of Gloucester. It was built inland to protect its inhabitants from pirates and later the British. The sea and the war killed many off the men from the town. The town soon became a town of widows. Since there were fewer men in town, many of the widows bought dogs for protection. Eventually they moved out leaving the town to the dredges of society and to the dogs, hence the name Dog Town. (The original name for the town was “The Commons”, although it was never really incorporated as a town.)
Prostitutes and witches soon inhabited the town. Many wealthy men who went to Dog Town to abide of its services soon disappeared. The witches of the town would extort money and goods from people passing through the town, threatening them with spells if they did not pay. Eventually the town began to decay. As the houses collapsed its inhabitants took up living in the cellar holes. Finally the town became abandoned. Some years later, a wealthy businessman bought the town to preserve its remains. He researched the history of Dog Town and wrote a book. He eventually hired unemployed stonecutters to carve numbers into stones to preserve each of the cellar holes. He also had inspirational phases (such as “kindness”, “spiritual power”, and others) carved into the rocks.
It was an interesting history but what was the paranormal story behind the history? Chris Balzano soon filled us in on the paranormal goings-on at Dog Town:
Many strange occurrences have been reported in Dog Town. The town seems to be a dead zone where equipment falters and a deadly silence shrouds the forest. (We did experience microphone problems on our trip there and there was also an eerie calm that overtook the landscape). A woman dressed all in black has been seen in the woods, but when visitors chase after her, she disappears. (Is this one of the witches who had inhabited the town?)
A larger than usual black cat has also been seen stalking visitors to the park, but like the figure of the witch, it too seems to disappear when it is approach. It is believed that this ghost cat was once a familiar of one of the witches that lived there or perhaps it is the incarnation of the witch itself, sort of a shape shifter. Whatever it is there are many reports of its presence, although we did not see it or the woman in black on our journey there. What is unusual is that there are no reports of dog sightings in Dog Town.
Another unusual thing about Dog Town is that when hiking its’ trails, you feel as if you are in another time and place (a time slip). Maureen and I both experienced that feeling in our investigation of Dog Town. Maureen also psychically experienced the seediness of the town. She felt the depravity of some of its inhabitants and even felt a woman being dragged through the streets by a jeering crowd. She also felt the death of another woman by stoning or murder. Perhaps what was the most interesting experience of Maureen was the sharp pain she experience in her stomach. We soon learned that one of the inhabitants of Dog Town was a bullfighter and had been gored to death.
Other than Maureen’s flashbacks, little of the paranormal nature occurred on our trip to Dog Town. We did have one interesting experience. While we were going through the boulder trail with all the inspirational phrases carved in the boulders, the “posse” called me to see what they had found. They were all standing in front of a large rock and as I approached they ran from in front of the rock revealing its secret. There carved into the stone was the words: BE ON TIME”. There must be a message there somewhere, but somehow it escapes me.
Listen to Ghost Chronicles Episode 31: http://www.ghostvillage.com/resources/2007/gc_05302007.shtml for more on the adventures of the “Paranormal Posse’s” investigation of Dog Town.
More on Dog Town: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogtown,_Massachusetts
Directions: Dog Town Commons Parking
Take 128 North towards Gloucester. Before you get into the city limits of Gloucester you will pass over a large bridge spanning a salt-water river. Shortly after you pass over this bridge, route 128 will enter a large traffic circle (Grant Circle). Follow these circle 270 degrees around and exit off on route 127 (towards Annisquam). Follow route 127 for about 1/2 mile and it will curve to the right and pass over a small bridge and some salt water. Immediately after you cross the bridge, route 127 will curve around to the left. You do NOT want to follow 127 to the left, instead look to take a right onto Reynard St. Follow Reynard to the end (1/4 mile) and turn left onto Cherry St. Look closely to your right for a small, broken-down (almost a driveway) looking road, with a small sign for Dog town commons at the end. Follow this road to the end until you come to a gate and cannot go any further. Park your car.