By best selling paranormal author Joni Mayhan
The Friends Quaker Cemetery, better known as Spider Gates Cemetery, has been a legendary paranormal hot spot for years. As a paranormal investigator and sensitive, I wanted to see for myself.
The cemetery is hidden deep in the woods in Leicester, Massachusetts. It’s not something you would wander past unexpectedly. Even with maps and GPS, we had difficulty finding it.
As we came upon it, we felt an immediate change in energy. It was as though the ground surrounding it held a reverence, as if the earth itself was holding its breath. This didn’t surprise me because it was indicative of the Quaker lifestyle. Their worship services are often conducted in silence, allowing each parishioner the chance to connect with God directly. It made sense that they would prefer silence in death as they did in life.
I stood in front of the gates and studied the acre of land, feeling the hush like a whisper to my soul. If you didn’t know you were in a sacred place, the land itself was very telling. The cemetery sits on a low rise, the land sloping off gently at the corners and is surrounded on all four sides by a century-old rock wall. The graves are arranged in family groupings, almost like tiny towns with identical headstones. The only difference is the inscription of the names and the dates of their births and deaths. Unlike most other cemeteries, there isn’t a division of wealth. There aren’t any enormous angel statues or family plots with mammoth stones. Everyone’s grave is the same.
Normally, I don’t like investigating at cemeteries. I consider them to be final resting places, locations where the dead can find peace. I was curious about this particular cemetery though. I’ve been hearing and reading about the legends surrounding it for years and wanted to see it for myself.
Some of the legends are astounding. Some say that it’s the eighth gate to hell, that a boy hung himself there in the 1800’s and that people often hear a roaring coming from the woods surrounding it. Other legends state that if you walk around the grave of Marmaduke Earle ten times at midnight, chanting “Marmaduke, speak to me,” that he will respond. The other legends aren’t even worth mentioning, they are so overblown.
I found the supposed “hanging tree” quickly. If someone hung himself from the tree, it wasn’t recorded in local death records and is probably just another urban legend. You can see how the story might have started, judging by the formation of the tree (pictured above to the left of the gates). The other legends fell apart just as quickly.
Because the cemetery is located near a residential area, as well as within proximity to the Worcester Airport, sounds drift and echo through the woods frequently. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone misinterpreted one of those sounds as something paranormal. As for the eight gates of hell? There is only one gate that is molded to resemble a sun with waving rays, something others might misconstrue as a spider web, giving the cemetery its unfortunate nickname. As for Marmaduke Earl’s grave? I’m sure he would be amused at the attention he’s garnered over the years if he were still around to notice. While I didn’t attempt the ritual of walking around his grave ten times, I also didn’t feel any energy to support such a theory.
Legends are a lot like the game “telephone” that children play. Children sit in a circle and whisper a word or phrase into the next child’s ear, passing it down until it reaches the end. What might have started out as “your mother dresses you funny” might end up as “your brother’s nose is running.” As far as I could tell, there is no validity in any of the urban legends surrounding Spider Gates Cemetery.
In his book 13 Most Haunted in Massachusetts, Sam Baltrusis also disproved the legends, but had an experience that left him and his team scratching their heads. He went to the cemetery with Liz Taegel, his videographer and Frank Grace, the photographer who captured the amazing images for his book.
“Taegel, who was lagging behind the team, was filming the trek through the woods and somehow dropped her keys in the grass. A man, who Taegel described as a skeletal-looking figure accompanied by a female companion came out of nowhere and returned her keys. The gatekeeper’s voice was so loud it booked 50 feet or so to the cemetery. “You dropped your keys ma’am,” he said. Taegel recalled later that the gatekeeper enunciated his words with an old-school New England accent. She said that his voice sounded like a turn-of-the-century throwback to another era. As soon as she retrieved her keys, the mysterious duo walked into the marshland, which had no clear path and the videographer said they were gone in a flash.”
We walked around quietly, reading the inscriptions and paying our respects. After a few minutes, I retreated to afar stone wall edging the cemetery and turned on my Spirit Box. This device uses a radio that is altered so that it scans the stations at a rapid rate, creating a white noise that the dead can use to speak through. I’ve had much luck with it over the years and have found it to be a reliable communication tool. I kept the volume on low so it wouldn’t disturb the quietness of the cemetery and just asked if anyone wanted to speak to me.
Several voices came through, but nothing was immediately clear, so I dismissed the sounds as radio interference. Sometimes the Spirit Box will pick up stray blips from radio stations as it scans, so I discount anything that is less than a full sentence. As we began to ask them about their lives, we started getting responses.
We kept getting one male voice consistently, so I asked him what he did for a living. Here it the response.
I asked him if he was married, and a female came through with a startling statement.
Soon after her comment, the same male responded again.
I felt as though I was in the middle of an argument.
We didn’t stay at the cemetery long. I didn’t want to overstay my welcome. What I came away with is this: legends are often disproportionate to the truth, but have some basis in reality. The Spider Gates Cemetery is haunted, but now how you might think.
Joni Mayhan is a paranormal investigator and the author of 13 paranormal books. To learn more about her, check out her website Jonimayhan.com.
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