From a very young age, Mattapoisett’s native daughter, Darcy Lee, was fascinated by stories that were mysterious, unsolved, or even ghostly. Rather than being terrified by such tales, Lee was intrigued and wanted nothing more than to delve deeper into such events.
“I was always interested in the paranormal, the unexplained, any sort of story with a hint of mystery,” the author explained when The Wanderer recently caught up with her.
Lee is, in fact, the author of a book that was first released in 2018 titled, Ghosts of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Her research would take some 11 years and included many trips to Plymouth to visit private homes, locations, and businesses where ghosts had been reported.
As Lee explained, her natural inclination toward mysterious events was heightened during the years she lived in Plymouth.
“I went on all the walking tours, visited all the historic sites in what was once a small village,” she said.
Lee said the history of Plymouth, as America’s hometown, is rich and full of haunting tales. She said of her book that it was important to her to tie the town’s history with its many centuries of history to the record of historical people and recorded events.
“My book is part history, part ghost stories, and probably even part tourist guide,” she said with a chuckle.
The book has received some critical acclaim, receiving a silver medal upon its release with the Independent Publishing Award in the 2018 Regional E-Book Non-Fiction category. It was a finalist that same year for the Eric Hoffer Book Award and a finalist for the International Book Award in history.
In the foreword, Lee wrote, “Is Plymouth cursed? If you listen to those among us with an intuitive nature, they would suggest that the land holds onto the grief, the despair, the tragedy, the pain, the depravity, the hopelessness and the fear of its earlier generations of inhabitants, from its native people to the Pilgrims…”
If that is the case, then most certainly Plymouth’s former residents are still among the living.
We all know or should know by now that the Pilgrims failed to reach their intended port-of-call along the Hudson River, ending up off the coast of Cape Cod where they spent an agonizing winter aboard the Mayflower. Disease and starvation were the hallmarks of that first year, with suffering beyond measure and death an ever-present reality. Much has been written about the Pilgrims and their interactions with the native people, whose populations had already been decimated by earlier English travelers and whose bones laid upon the open ground. Accounts written at that time noted the gruesome reality.
Yet enough immigrants survived, thrived even, with the aid of the indigenous peoples and the grit of one whose mantra could easily be “Never say die.”
Today, Lee said, Plymouth is a vibrant, big town, the largest town in the Commonwealth with approximately 134 square miles, which equates to 92,000 acres. But in those early years, when the Pilgrims fought a battle against illness and the environment, all they longed for was a warm hut and a mouthful of food.
Lee believes that the very ground we tread can hold onto dramatic events experienced with equally dramatic emotions. To illustrate that point, she told the story of the Spear family.
“People have reported seeing a Victorian couple walking up and down Burial Hill, but they disappear at a specific grave,” Lee began. She said the grave the couple stops at is marked as belonging to a child named Ida Lizzie Spear, whose parents were Thomas and Elizabeth Spear. “People who have seen the couple believe it is the parents of the child,” she said, explaining that the parents are eternally trapped at the moment of their most horrific, grief-stricken moment, forever going back and forth to their little child’s grave.
As tear-jerking as that account is, others are, well, a bit more playful.
Lee met with homeowners who told her they believe their home is haunted by a child, most likely a little girl. And while an apparition had not been seen, items in their home inexplicably were moved around. At first, it was merely a box of paperclips put in an unlikely location, or things would go missing. But after a bit of interior remodeling, which included the removal of a wall, unexplainable goings-on got a bit more aggressive.
Inside the wall, they found children’s shoes that were dated to the 1800s. Lee said some superstitions and traditions arrived with immigrants from Western Europe, including placing old shoes inside a building to ward off evil spirits. The spirits were apparently trapped in the toes of the old shoes. Lee shared that shoes have represented fertility and good luck for centuries; consider the old shoes tied to the back of newlyweds’ cars.
When the family did not move the shoes to another hidden location but instead removed them altogether, that’s when the real fun— well, hauntings began. Banging doors, dirt or dying flowers on the coffee table and long black hairs were found that did not belong to a family member. The residents installed a camera to try and catch an image of what they now thought was not a friendly ghost but a poltergeist. After two weeks of surveillance, nothing was found. When the camera was removed, things started happening again. Lee said an EMF meter, a device that measures electrical fields and is commonly used by ghost hunters, spiked red when the residents talked about what was happening.
“How do we know ghosts are real?” Lee questioned aloud, saying, “We don’t know, but maybe people believe, hope there is an afterlife.”
Lee said that 90 percent of all paranormal activity could be rationally explained. Still, the other 10 percent could be energy from those who have shed this mortal coil but refuse to leave altogether.
“They are stuck, so they are making themselves known,” she said.
When asked if she had ever experienced such happenings herself, Lee said that when she was living in a small cottage near Boston, there came out of the blue a tapping sound— eight uniform taps in a row over and over again. The landlord sent in plumbers and the handyman to try and find the origin of the noise. Nothing was ever found and, as quickly as it began, the tapping stopped.
As for Lee, she continues to enjoy all that is mysterious, but thought that, perhaps, her next book might be something historical yet rooted in visual documentation.
“A book of historical pictures from the region, to help people see the way things were versus how they are today,” she suggested.
Ghosts of Plymouth, Massachusetts, can be found on the SAILS library network and in bookstores.
By Marilou Newell