One day back in the 1950s, a woman went about her work on the old family farm in Dartmouth. The day was dark and the sky cloudy, and as the older woman worked in the yard by the old ancient torn down stone wall, the rain fell on and around her; nevertheless, she persisted in her labor, probably tossing aside some of the rocks that she could lift and rolling heavier ones over to the side.
One of those stones at the bottom of the falling down wall was a bit more peculiar than the rest. It was odd, the shape of it. She moved in closer and kicked the 16-pound stone over with her foot. It’s unknown when the last time that particular rock saw the light of day before Warren Parson’s grandmother unearthed it over a half a century ago, but the rock was indeed special enough to be on display for years in a local museum and remain in the family to this very day right here in Mattapoisett.
“It’s a family inheritance,” said Parsons. “A strange inheritance.” For how many families do you know that possess a garnet-encrusted granite stone head that likely pre-dates the colonial era of New England?
“My grandmother saw the face of it and she kicked it over and said, ‘whoa!’”
Parson’s ‘gram’ named the stone head she discovered “King Phillip’s Head”, probably because of the location where it was found, Parsons said. But how it ended up at the bottom of a crumbling stone wall is only one of the mysteries surrounding the stone head. There are still other questions, like, where did it originate? Who made it, and why? Whose face is forever sculpted into the coarse surface of this 14-inch tall, seven-inch wide stone, that was hidden away face down in the ground beneath the weight of centuries of time?
Could it be Native American? Or Viking, Parsons wonders aloud. Or maybe it came from South America somehow.
But perhaps the most pressing question was — at least for Parsons and his brother — could this stone head be haunted?
“Back then it was a pretty strange anomaly. It still is!” said Parsons. “I used to take it for show and tell in first and second grade until they put it in the museum.”
The stone head found a temporary home at the old Children’s Museum in Russells Mills in Dartmouth until the location closed and the museum was relocated to Gulf Hill some time in the 1960s or ‘70s, Parsons said.
“When they closed down the museum we got it back and my brother kept it,” said Parsons. “He said it was evil and he wanted to bury it back in the ground. He felt evil in it.”
That’s when Parsons took the stone head for himself and has kept it for about 30 years now.
On March 18, 1999, Geochron Laboratories of Cambridge took samples of the scant remains of some organic paint found within the eyes and mouth of the stone head’s face for a radiocarbon age determination. Later that May, the lab reported that the carbon dating analysis determined the stone head was 400 years old, plus or minus 40 years. Parsons has a copy of the report, which he has kept to show naysayers who doubt the validity of the stone head.
Parsons described the location of the old family farm in the Slocum Road area of Dartmouth as beautiful, overlooking the Paskamansett River valley.
“It was probably a very important site and that was probably why they (whoever they were) put it there,” said Parsons. He also speculated that perhaps the stone head was hidden there on purpose to protect it during subsequent violent upheavals between the Native Americans and the colonial settlers. But his guess is as good as anybody else’s at this point – that is, unless there is someone out there, perhaps someone who has found a similar stone head somewhere and knows more about the history of such seemingly spooky things.
Meanwhile, the mystery of the stone head persists, even as Parsons and the stone head cohabitate in Parsons’ Prospect Street home.
The stone head has a personality that is multifaceted, Parsons says. It stands upright on its own on the floor near Parsons’ television in his living room. And depending on the lighting, the face tends to take on a multitude of different shapes – and some of them are indeed ghastly.
“The eyes darken,” said Parsons. “It shows up in the shadows at night. On the nose it looks like it has a huge scar.”
Parsons is convinced that there is something eerie about the thing. Perhaps paranormal, or maybe it’s evil and cursed, or maybe there’s just some mystical power to the stone head, but the thing’s got “vibes,” he said, and how one interprets them is pretty much chalked up to what kind of person they are, Parsons thinks.
“I light him up at night and he looks at me. I definitely get vibes from him. I think he’s cool.”
Parsons said he has been trying to find a home for the primitive statue, but so far no one wants to put up the old stone dude. He said he brought it to a Native American museum in Middleboro that rejected it, “Because it was an ‘effigy’ figure and they don’t want any effigy figures in their museum.”
“It’s very unusual,” said Parsons. “I’d really like it to go to the appropriate place, to receive recognition (and a little bit of retirement money as well would be nice), but receiving recognition is important.”
But it could be cursed though, he again emphasized. “There’s something weird about it.”
“It’s got some kind of significance,” Parsons said. “What? I don’t know…”
By Jean Perry