Moll Pitcher, the fortune-teller of Lynn and Marblehead - By Sidney Perley, published March 1899 in the Essex Antiquarian “Moll Pitcher,” the famous fortune-teller of Lynn, has no birth record. So the place of her first appearance in life cannot be thus determined. The tenement house, known as the ” Old Brig,” situated at the junction of Pond and Orne streets in Marblehead, is the reputed birthplace. The … Continue reading Moll Pitcher, the fortune-teller of Lynn and Marblehead
Peg Wesson witch of Gloucester Peg Wesson, the Gloucester witch - An old legend about the Gloucester witch Peg Wesson is often mentioned, but never was it told in such detail as in this story, written by Sarah G. Daley and published in the Boston  Evening Transcript, October 14, 1892. It was carried in papers throughout the country. It was March, 1745, and the company raised in Gloucester to join the … Continue reading Peg Wesson, the Gloucester witch
Haunted houses of Ipswich - These ghost stories were shared on Facebook. A friend of mine mentioned that a few years ago a realtor was getting ready to go out the front door at the Jonathan Pulcifer house on Summer Street, when he noticed a stack of old publications sitting on the bottom step, and oddly enough, on top was … Continue reading Haunted houses of Ipswich
The Witchcraft Trial of Elizabeth Morse of Newbury, 1680 - Elizabeth Morse of Newbury was accused and found guilty of being a witch. She was initially sentenced to be hanged, but the execution was never carried out and, after spending a year in the Boston jail, Elizabeth Morse was sent home to live with her husband on the condition that she was forbidden to travel … Continue reading The Witchcraft Trial of Elizabeth Morse of Newbury, 1680
The Legend of Goody Cole, 1680 - In Myths and Legends of our Own Time, Charles M. Skinner wrote the following story, based on two poems by John Greenleaf Whittier. Goodwife Eunice Cole, of Hampton, Massachusetts, was so “vehemently suspected to be a witch” that she was arrested in 1680 for the third time and was thrown into the Ipswich jail with a chain … Continue reading The Legend of Goody Cole, 1680
A romantic tale from the Great Snow, Feb. 12-24, 1717 - Joshua Coffin’s history of Newbury recounts the romantic tale of Abraham Adams who walked three miles to visit his new wife Abigail, snowbound in her parents’ home during the Great Snow which began on the 21st of February, 1717.
“A Good Heat,” a short tale from Newburyport - From Reminiscences of a Nonagenarian, by Sarah Anna Emery
Dogtown, its history and legends - Dogtown is an area in central Gloucester of about five square miles, or 3600 acres, stretching from the Riverdale section of the city, north of Route 128, into Rockport, and including the Goose Cove and the Babson Reservoirs. Development is banned in this protected municipal watershed.
Wreck of the Hesperus, January 6, 1839 - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem was inspired by the Blizzard of 1839, which ravaged the North Shore for 12 hours, starting on January 6, 1839. Twenty ships and forty lives were lost during the storm. The probable subject of the story is the schooner Favorite, which sank on a rock called Norman’s Woe off the coast of Gloucester, … Continue reading Wreck of the Hesperus, January 6, 1839
Col. Doctor Thomas Berry, “Last of the Ipswich Aristocracy” - Thomas Franklin Waters wrote that in the first half of the Eighteenth Century, Col. Thomas Berry was the most conspicuous citizen of the Town, “Autocrat of his time, Magistrate, Military leader, Physician and Statesman.” Born in Boston in 1695 and a graduate of Harvard, he married Martha Rogers, daughter of the Rev. John Rogers of Ipswich in … Continue reading Col. Doctor Thomas Berry, “Last of the Ipswich Aristocracy”
Drunkards, liars, a hog, a dog, a witch, “disorderly persons” and the innkeeper - As the young boys who arrived with the first settlers of Ipswich approached adulthood in the mid-17th Century, they developed a fondness for hard liquor and rowdiness, which frequently landed them in court. The words of accusers, witnesses and defendants in the Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County provide a bizarre but most entertaining narrative. Mark Quilter: drunkard, temperamental, and … Continue reading Drunkards, liars, a hog, a dog, a witch, “disorderly persons” and the innkeeper
A tragic story from old Gloucester - In 1821, the Annisquam woods was the scene of a murder. Gorham Parsons, while chopping wood, struck and instantly killed a boy of 10 years, named Eben Davis, the act being done with a hatchet. The boy had given offense by singing a song. After committing the deed Parsons took the boy on his back … Continue reading A tragic story from old Gloucester
The reluctant pirate from Ipswich, Captain John Fillmore - John Fillmore was born in Ipswich in 1702, the son of mariner John Fillmore Sr. who died at sea in 1711. His widowed mother was Abigail Tilton, whose two brothers Jacob and Daniel famously overcame and killed several Indians who took them hostage after boarding their fishing schooner in 1722. After sailing the ship back to … Continue reading The reluctant pirate from Ipswich, Captain John Fillmore
The Amazing Story of Hannah Duston, March 14, 1697 - Hannah Duston of Haverhill was born in Ipswich on High Street in 1657 while her mother was visiting her relatives the Shatswells. In 1879, a bronze statue of Hannah Duston was created by Calvin Weeks in Haverhill in Grand Army Park, honoring her escape from Abanaki captors.  The following are excerpts from an article by H.D. Kilgore in 1940. … Continue reading The Amazing Story of Hannah Duston, March 14, 1697
The proof was in the Kettle - Mark Quilter made his living as a cow-keeper in the common land on the north side of town and seemed to always be in trouble. He was called before the court in 1647 and reprimanded for “sleeping in the barn” rather than watching the cows during his evening shift. He had a reputation in Ipswich for … Continue reading The proof was in the Kettle
Haselelpony Wood, November 27, 1714 - Haselelpony Wood’s tombstone is located at the Old North Burial Ground, just a short distance on the left starting from the front gate. John Gee was lost at sea on Dec. 27, 1669, a sad Christmas surprise for his wife and five children. He left a 35-year-old widow bearing the extraordinary name of Haselelponah, a … Continue reading Haselelpony Wood, November 27, 1714
The Spectre Ship of Salem - Cotton Mather related the tale of a doomed ship called “Noah’s Dove” which left Salem during the late 17th century for England. Among the passengers were “a young man and a passing beautiful girl pale and sorrowful, whom no one knew and who held communion with no one.” Many people in Salem supposed them to be demons … Continue reading The Spectre Ship of Salem
The Spectre Leaguers, 1692 - This story of apparitions was told by so many sources that it suggests that the colony was suffering from mass insanity. The following was written by Thomas Franklin Waters. In the midst of witchcraft accusations in 1692, a new and unique outburst of Satanic rage revealed itself. Gloucester was invaded by a spectral company of Indians … Continue reading The Spectre Leaguers, 1692
Great Storm of 1815 Jane Hooper, the fortune teller - This story is adapted from the Reminiscences of Joseph Smith and Reminiscences of a Nonagenarian and brings together no less than four incredible old tales. Jane Hooper was in 1760 a Newburyport “school dame” but after she lost that job she found fame as a fortune teller and became known in our area as “Madam Hooper, the Witch.” The Madam had very bright … Continue reading Jane Hooper, the fortune teller
Old Graveyard 1680, Essex MA The Body Snatcher of Chebacco Parish - The Old Burying Ground in Essex was established in 1680 for inhabitants of Chebacco Parish, the former part of Ipswich which broke away and became the town of Essex in 1819. It was in that year that people in the parish began noticing lights moving about at night in the graveyard. It was soon discovered … Continue reading The Body Snatcher of Chebacco Parish
High Street - Thomas Franklin Waters wrote in Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony that in past times High Street was also called Hill Street, Great Street, Broad Street, Long Street, Bay Road, and The King’s Highway. The section beyond the Old North Burial Ground was “the West End,” a tradition long forgotten, but going in the other direction … Continue reading High Street
Sea Serpent, Cape Ann MA The Cape Ann Sea Serpent - The earliest recorded sighting of a Sea Serpent in North American waters was at Cape Ann in 1639: “They told me of a sea serpent or snake, that lay coiled up like a cable upon a rock at Cape Ann; a boat passed by with two English on board and two Indians. They would have shot … Continue reading The Cape Ann Sea Serpent
Adrift on a Haystack legend Rowley Adrift on a Haystack, 1876 - A remarkable northeasterly storm on the 4th of December, 1786 caused most of the salt hay along the North Shore to be set afloat and lost in the tide. Samuel Pulsifer and Samuel Elwell, both of Rowley were digging clams on the flats in Plum Island Sound and got caught in the storm. The Rev. Ebenezer Bradford … Continue reading Adrift on a Haystack, 1876
The Devil's Footpring, Ipswich Ma The Devil’s Footprint, 1740 - Imprinted into the rocks in front of the First Church in Ipswich is a xenolith, confirming that 400 million years ago, Town Hill was part of a chain of volcanic islands. Hellish as that may seem, for the people of Ipswich it will always be the footprint of the devil, left there forever in a legendary encounter with … Continue reading The Devil’s Footprint, 1740
Harry Maine house, Ipswich MA The ghost of Harry Maine - Featured image: Harry Maine house by Arthur Wesley Dow Harry Maine — you have heard the tale; He lived there in Ipswich Town; He blasphemed God, so they put him down With an iron shovel, at Ipswich Bar; They chained him there for a thousand years, As the sea rolls up to shovel it back … Continue reading The ghost of Harry Maine
The Trouble with Mugg - King Phillips War spread into a series of battles in Maine known as the Eastern War. On October 12, 1676 about 100 Indian warriors made an assault on an English settlement at Black Point near Portland, Maine and took a number of captives. A couple of weeks later an Arosagunticook chief named Mugg Hegon visited General … Continue reading The Trouble with Mugg
Great Ispwich Fright, John Greenleaf Whittier The Great Ipswich Fright, April, 1775 - Capt. Jonathan Burnham with the Hampton company arrived in Ipswich on the morning of April 21, 1775 after an all night march, and found the town panic-struck. The town was nearly defenseless, as more than three hundred of its men had marched off with their Ipswich captains to fight the British regulars at Concord and Lexington. A rumor had spread … Continue reading The Great Ipswich Fright, April, 1775
Legend of Heartbreak Hill, Ipswich MA The Legend of Heartbreak Hill - When the lands of Ipswich were apportioned among the settlers, the summit of Heartbreak Hill was designated as a planting lot because the Indians had cleared it for corn. Perhaps some settler was “heartbroken” to receive such an inaccessible and rocky field. The 1832 Ipswich map gives the name “Hardbrick,” and perhaps the name evolved from “Hardbrick,” which referred to the hill’s abundance of clay … Continue reading The Legend of Heartbreak Hill

Legends of the North Shore tells stories from the oldest English settlements in New England. Witches, sea serpents and pirates have amazed and terrified residents of Massachusetts’s North Shore for over 300 years.

Legends and Lore of the North Shore

From Boston to New Hampshire, Massachusetts’s North Shore is filled with remarkable stories and legendary characters. Join author Peter Muise and discover the North Shore’s uncanny legends and tales of the paranormal.

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