west bridgewater

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Massachusetts’ paranormal “hot spot”

“Low-flying UFOs, Bigfoot creatures, cattle mutilations, Indian curses and ghostly apparitions. These are just a sampling of the wide range of paranormal phenomena that are constantly occurring in the area of Massachusetts known as the Bridgewater Triangle. First described by researcher Loren Coleman in the 1970s, the Triangle is an area of about 200 square miles that includes the towns of Abington, Rehoboth and Freetown at the angles of the triangle, and Bridgewater, West Bridgewater, North Middleboro, Segreganset, Dighton, North Dighton, Berkley, Myricks, Raynham, East Taunton, and Taunton inside the triangle. Unexplained phenomena are also common in the towns just outside this region.

The center of this mysterious area is the Hockomock Swamp. Its name comes from the Native Americans, who called it "Devil’s swamp” or “Place where spirits dwell”. At 5,000 acres, this swamp is one of the largest of its kind in the entire northeastern U.S. Some parts are considerably remote and it is not difficult to imagine how some of the strange things reported there could continue to elude detection through the years. Many residents of local towns report having strange feelings about the swamp, and there is a strong local superstition that evil paranormal or satanic activity goes on there.

The first documented UFO sighting in the Bridgewater Triangle took place on May 10, 1760. At 10 o'clock that morning, a “sphere of fire” was observed over New England. According to historical records, the UFO emitted light bright enough to cast a shadow in bright sunlight. The sound made by the object “oddly enough was heard sooner at the middle of the course it took than at the beginning”. In Massachusetts, the light was seen in Bridgewater, as well as in Roxbury. Bridgewater was again visited on Halloween night 1908, an incident that was well documented in the local newspapers. Two undertakers were driving a carriage from West Bridgewater to the center of Bridgewater when the incident occurred, shortly after 3 AM. They described the object as looking like “an unusually strong lantern… about two and a half feet in diameter”, illuminating a large object resembling a balloon bag. They watched it for at least forty minutes, and other witnesses saw it, too. It was seen to hover at times, and to keep a straight, steady course at other times. Though one newspaper reported that “all of the balloons in which ascensions are made, in this State, were accounted for”, some people who had not seen the object believed that the UFO had been a hot-air balloon. To counter this suggestion, one of the undertakers wrote, “I claim that a hot-air balloon could not move in a circle or perpendicular, as this one did.” He also wrote that the object “moved up and down seemingly at the will of some individual”.

There were many UFO sightings in the area during the mid-1960’s, and reports continued to come in through the decades. Two huge UFOs were seen landing near Route 44 in Taunton in December 1976. On March 23, 1979, two newsmen from WHDH saw an object shaped like a home plate on a baseball diamond emit a mysterious green substance at the junction of routes 24 and 106 in Taunton. Also, in January 1991, a green flying disc was seen in Bridgewater moving slowly and silently at an altitude of about 50 feet, illuminating a large area with a powerful spotlight. This is just a small sample of the reported UFO sightings in the Bridgewater Triangle. In late November 1997, a law enforcement officer working the night shift in Bridgewater saw a very large triangular UFO with 3 white and 2 red star-like lights. On December 10, 1998, a witness near Route 44 in Middleboro saw a strange, brightly lit craft with numerous red, green and white lights maneuvering over Assawompsett Pond in Middleboro. The object split into two, and then the two UFOs flew geometric patterns at high speed around the sky, displaying spectacular colored lights. The craft then joined into one again and disappeared. Air Force planes were seen over the pond immediately following the incident, apparently searching for something. Also, most recently, in the summer of 1999, 20-year-old George LaCasse saw a UFO in his home town, Bridgewater. According to the local newspaper, the Sunday Enterprise, LaCasse saw a distant red light. He stated, “It was moving all around. It was moving in shapes planes don’t move.”

Cryptozoological mysteries also abound in the Triangle, particularly in the Hockomock Swamp. Bigfoot in particular has been seen and reported many times, usually entering or exiting the swamp, or creeping along its edges. In 1970, many people saw a hairy seven-foot-tall monster, sometimes standing upright, but sometimes running off on four legs. Footprints were found in the mud, and for two days and nights, Bridgewater police and Massachusetts State Police with attack dogs staged a hunt for a giant bear, even though bears have long been extinct in the region! On April 8, two policemen sitting in their cruiser had an especially terrifying Bigfoot encounter. One of the men stated that “without warning, something began to pick up the rear of our car. I spun the car around and got my spotlight on something that looked like a bear running on the corner of a house”. Needless to say, no bear was ever found. Bridgewater resident Joseph M. DeAndrade has been instrumental in investigating and publishing these reports. Since 1978, he has collected sighting reports and gone into the swamp searching for evidence of the Hockomock monster. One person told him that some years ago, while hunting, his uncle had shot an animal that looked like a bear. After the shot, the boy and his uncle heard a cry that seemed half-animal and half-human. The animal disappeared into the woods, but they later found blood and long brown hair on the leaves. The same witness claimed that he and a family were picnicking near a pond when they heard a loud splash like a large object falling into the water. When they went to the water’s edge, the family saw several dead fish floating on top of the water. DeAndrade also published a report by a West Bridgewater woman who looked into her garden one night and saw a very tall bipedal creature, covered with dark hair, eating a pumpkin it was holding in its hands. It looked at her with reddish orange eyes then ran into the woods, taking the pumpkin with it.

Joseph DeAndrade himself caught a glimpse of the elusive creature in the winter of 1978. He saw a “big, tall and strange-looking creature” very slowly walking down a small hill about 200 feet away. Because he viewed the creature from behind he was unable to see its face or legs, but described it as at least six feet tall, weighing no less than 400 pounds, and covered with long dark brown hair. In subsequent expeditions into the area’s swamps and woodlands, DeAndrade heard some strange noises, but never again saw the monster. He later wrote two books about his experiences and started a group called the Paranormal Investigation Organization (387 High St., Bridgewater, MA 02324).

One of the many Bigfoot witnesses in the Bridgewater Triangle is John Baker, a trapper from West Bridgewater. Late one cold night in the early 1980’s, Baker was in his canoe running trap lines when he became aware of something watching him nearby. He told the Boston Herald, “Something was following me and I knew it was big. So I took the boat down a small creek to a dry hill and it kept moving.” Baker could hear the ice in the swamp cracking as the creature came within a few yards of him. The Herald described the monster as a “shadowy, hair-covered giant.” Baker said, “I knew it wasn’t a human because when it passed by me, I could smell it. It smelled like a skunk- musty and dirty. Like it lived in the dirt.” Baker has spent over 30 years working in the swamp but never had another similar experience.

Bigfoot reports continue to surface. While I was doing research for this article, I was contacted by a former Taunton resident who told me that some years ago, “There were a few times I thought I saw things walking in the woods there [along Route 138]. Especially around 6 AM…”

Other strange animals are said to live deep within the swamp. More than one witness has reported seeing a huge black prehistoric-looking bird with a wingspan of between eight and twelve feet. Interestingly, the oldest reported sighting (from 1971) occurred at a place in the swamp known as Bird Hill! Some of the more unusual sightings are a 1984 report of two of the creatures fighting each other as they flew over some trees, and a Taunton sighting of a bird with a 10-12 foot wingspan from 1992. Once it was described as looking like a man with wings! Mystery phantom dogs that disappear have been known to show up from time to time, sometimes with disastrous results. In 1976, an Abington man watched as a huge ghostly dog with red eyes ripped the throats out of two of his ponies. The dog was said to be as big as the ponies it killed! Big black panthers, giant turtles and tree-trunk-sized snakes are also said to take advantage of the swamp’s remote and inaccessible nature.

Ancient mysteries, legends and curses also figure into the enigma. Within the triangle is a mysterious forty-ton trapezoid-shaped boulder known as Dighton Rock. It is on the bank of the Taunton River, 30 miles from the sea, directly across from the Grassy Island burial grounds. On one face of the stone is a dense mass of very ancient carvings, inscriptions and hieroglyphics that baffles archaeologists. For hundreds of years, scholars have been trying to solve the mystery of the carvings’ origin, but no consensus has ever been reached. Variously, the pictographs have been attributed to the Phoenicians, Native Americans, Portuguese, or Viking explorers, but nobody really knows the answer.

Near Dighton Rock lies a small rock outcropping with a very peculiar feature. From a nearby hill, one can clearly see the distinctive silhouette of a Native American face looking out from the stone. This was noted long before the white man came to the area, and the Wampanoag Indians (who still have a reservation nearby) considered the area to be a sacred site. Any visitor to the mystical site can easily envision archaic ceremonies going on in the little caves at the base of the outcropping. But not far away lies an area about which the indigenous population has a different belief altogether. The Hockomock Swamp, they say, is cursed, or haunted by evil spirits. For as long as the elders can remember, the Native Americans avoided the swamp completely after dark, and many were afraid to hunt or fish there even during the day. Joseph DeAndrade was told by a Native American chief from Raynham that his people had cursed the swamp centuries ago because of the poor treatment they received from the Colonial settlers. Whether or not this is true, there is evidence that the swamp was not always considered to be evil. Several years ago, a team of Massachusetts archaeologists discovered a burial ground on Grassy Island in the swamp. Incredibly, when the ancient human remains were unearthed, the red ochre surrounding the skeletons bubbled and inexplicably dissolved, and all of the photos taken to document the excavation failed to develop properly!

One of the sites associated with ancient Native American activity in the Bridgewater Triangle has earned a reputation for being haunted in modern times. Along Route 44 in Rehoboth lies the boulder known as Anawan Rock. Located in a swamp, it was here that the Wampanoag chief Anawan surrendered to the colonists, thus ending King Philip’s War. According to local belief, the angry spirits of the warriors captured that day continue to haunt the spot. Witnesses report frequently seeing or smelling smoke in the area, despite the fact that no fire can be located. One pair of visitors to Anawan Rock saw a bonfire blazing atop the rock, which disappeared before their eyes. Another individual was scared away from the site by a loud angry male voice shouting, “Iootash, iootash!” Later, it was found that this word is an Algonquin term meaning “stand and fight”. Recently, ghost hunter Courtney Chadwick visited and photographed the site. When the pictures were developed, one showed what appears to be a cloud of smoke obscuring part of the image. Nothing unusual had been seen when the photo was taken!

Another paranormal manifestation found in the Bridgewater Triangle is cattle mutilation. Within the past few years, Freetown police have on more than one occasion been called out to the Freetown/Fall River State Forest to investigate mutilated animals believed to be the work of some sort of cult. Local television stations reported two specific incidents in 1998, one in which a single adult cow was found butchered in the woods, another in which a group of calves were discovered in a clearing, grotesquely mutilated, or “sacrificed” as the police termed it. Despite the police’s insistence in the reality of some sinister elusive cult, no cultists or solid evidence to support their existence has ever been found, and a detective working on the case confessed last year to TV station Fox 25 that the mutilations remain a baffling mystery. Likewise, no explanation has been put forth to explain where the cows came from in the first place!

So-called “ghost lights” or “spook lights” are also commonly reported. Allegedly, these strange, glowing balls of light are often seen floating over the ground at the dog track in Raynham. In 1968, 5 people saw a strange ball of light floating among some trees in a wooded part of Rehoboth. When they shouted a warning at it, they were terrified to see it suddenly expand to about five feet in diameter, and they fled when the orb began to move towards them. In another Rehoboth incident from about the same time period, a man looked out into a snowy field near his home and saw what appeared to be a Christmas tree brightly burning from the bottom up. He thought that some vandals had torched the tree as a prank. Imagine his surprise the next morning, when a search of the field revealed no ashes, or even footprints in the snow!

Most recently, the bizarre and poorly understood phenomenon known as the “black helicopters” has started to appear in the Triangle. This aspect of the weird was brought to light by investigator Joseph Trainor in his weekly e-newsletter “UFO Roundup” on July 9, 2002. According to the article, investigator Mary Lou Jones-Drown began hearing “very loud helicopter noise” in Rehoboth on June 25, 2002. No helicopters were apparent in the air when the noises were heard. She was able to locate and interview witnesses who told her that mysterious helicopters “equipped with spotlights” were seen flying over the Palmer River School on the north side of Route 44 (a common place for paranormal phenomena). Some reports described helicopters of the typical black variety; others exhibited different colors. According to the “UFO Roundup” report, “A farm owner in South Rehoboth told Mary Lou that ‘two black helicopters with spotlights were flying in formation above the trees. The choppers came from the southeast, from Mount Hope Bay in Swansea.’ Another witness told Mary Lou about sighting a strange helicopter on Friday and Saturday, July 5 and 6, 2002, described as "it was like grey camoflage or a striped helicopter type.” Then, from August 7-9, and again on August 15, 2002, mysterious black helicopters flew over Rehoboth again. Cats and goats were said to have appeared “nervous” while the choppers were overhead. The copters were said to resemble the one in the TV show “Airwolf.” And on August 28, the helicopter activity was described to be “non-stop”, even at night. Jones-Drown said, “You could see their headlights."The investigator was unable to determine the origin of these noisy and intrusive aircraft. Mysterious helicopters have been closely associated with UFO lore since the 1970s.

Some of the bizarre encounters that have gone on in this haunted area simply defy categorization. There was one report where a strange entity was seen ducking down in an empty car on Elm Street in Bridgewater. It was described as having an almost skeletal face, white as a sheet of paper, without hair, eyebrows, lips, or a protruding nose! An alien being? A ghost? A demon, perhaps? It remains a mystery. And some say that a mysterious redheaded hitchhiker who terrorizes motorists haunts a stretch of Route 44 in Rehoboth. According to the story, the specter is seen on dark, lonely nights, and it is claimed that he commits frightening acts. And there is more. One area resident told me that one night he looked into an old barn window and saw "a small black thing that looked like a midget” high up on a wall. The form seemed to disintegrate and move toward the witness, like a mist. He fled, and returned later, but saw nothing. However, he heard “weird screeching noises like a pig." A more commonly reported vision is that of some sort of phantom in the swamp near Route 138. This entity is sometimes glimpsed briefly, and described as a "weird figure.” Other people hear what sounds like a person moving around deep in the swamp off the trails, sometimes in areas made impassible by water. Strange sounds and voices are common. And I heard a second-hand story that a teenager and his father were on a dirt road in Bridgewater and saw what looked like a little kid in a costume sitting on a brick wall. The kid got up and ran but its arms and legs seemed extremely strange- in fact, it looked as if the bones in his limbs had been broken. Of course, most of these sorts of reports are undocumented, and must be regarded as rumors or legends.

Clearly, it cannot be a coincidence that all these different paranormal phenomena occur with such regularity in such a small geographical area. There must be a connection. For some reason, a small part of Massachusetts seems to be a sort of “window”, a gateway for the bizarre and inexplicable. I do not to profess to know the source of these manifestations, whether it is another dimension, or some sort of otherworldly intelligence. All I can say for certain is that a strange presence seems to have taken up permanent residence in the Triangle- a mysterious “something” that continues to defy explanation. For the curious, I strongly recommend a visit to this area. Who knows, maybe you will catch a glimpse of the next unexplainable visitor to the Bridgewater Triangle.“

 Flashforward to December, 2014…

"A dark cloud has cast an evil shadow over the Bridgewater Triangle in the shape of what looks like a local serial killer. The terror started when the remains of two women were found in a heavily wooded area on the Brockton/Abington line on the outskirts of Ames Nowell Park at the end of December. Local papers reported that the women’s remains were "stacked” atop one another, the top being the dismembered body of  20-year old Brockton woman, Ashley Mylett. The remains that lie beneath Mylett were identified as a 51-year old Linda Schufedt,  living in nearby Quincy at the time of her disappearance last July.

This story that sounds like an episode from “Dexter” broke on Sunday December 28th when a local man walking his dog in the woods not far from his house stumbled upon a pile of severed body parts, including a foot, a calf, and an arm. On December 30th, The Brockton Enterprise reported the following:

 BROCKTON – A 27-year-old Brockton man was walking through the woods behind his North Quincy Street home Sunday afternoon when he saw something out of place.“I was cutting a path so I can walk the dog and I go hunting out here,” said Peter, who asked that his last name be withheld because of the gruesomeness of the incident. “I saw something pink. I thought it was a dead animal because there’s a lot of poaching back here or maybe insulation because it was pink and lot of people dump trash back here.”What he saw when he looked closer shocked him. It was the dismembered body parts of a woman – a foot, a calf, part of an arm – that were cleanly cut and had appeared to have been put there recently.Officials announced Monday that the gruesome discovery was the remains of two people that had been placed on top of one another. One set of remains had been there significantly longer than the other.Peter walked out into the woods with an Enterprise reporter and photographer Tuesday to where he made the discovery. He showed three photos on his cell phone he took Sunday of some of the body parts. The Enterprise obtained one of the photos and is withholding the image because of its graphic nature.He pointed to a wet part of the ground surrounded by briar patches, downed tree branches and a stone wall about 50 yards away from his backyard Tuesday morning.“When I saw it, I didn’t want to stay around here that long because there was no rot to it. It was all chopped up, you could see the limbs, how nice and neat they were cut,” Peter said. “The guy that put it there put a fold-up chair on it and then put a bunch of wood on it so you can’t see it from the main path.”“All I know is I didn’t want to touch anything. I went in the house and told my sister and I dialed 911,” he said.

 Police responded immediately to the scene and began the arduous task of careful excavation of the site, further revealing the skeletal remains of a second body directly underneath the severed body discovered by the man called “Peter” in the article cited.

 Acting swiftly, investigators identified the newer remains as 20-year old Ashley Mylett–last seen by her mother around four weeks before–within days; and one week after the discovery of the older skeleton remains, forensic specialists were able to identify the body as belonging to  51-year year old Linda Schufedt, a woman with Brockton ties who had recently moved to nearby Quincy. Schufeldt disappeared last summer, sometime between late June and early July

Even though almost thirty years separated these two woman, both shared a life of living on the outskirts of society and were prone to “disappearing acts,” a common denominator the killer surely knew. Both women had a history of substance abuse, particularly heroine. Did these woman become so lost in their addiction that they turned to prostitution? Is that how he got them? Is he a drug dealer, or just someone who hangs around the sections of Brockton where people go to get high looking for people he knows will get into his car with him? Speculate is all we can do right now. I do know that the area where these poor women’s bodies were dumped is a place of dark energy, occult worship and mystery with its strange rock walls and chambers. Raccoons and dogs have been found skinned and hung from trees. Another time, a deer was found skinned and dismembered, something Abington police even admit was “odd.” Hiking that land with a friend last fall left me sick. I felt horrible, overwhelmingly evil energy there. I felt like like I couldn’t breath…like my lungs were being crushed. Even though the area is archaeologically fascinating….I would never go back.  I was horrified to learn of the murders and dumping of these women. And chilled to the bone when I looked at a map of where we hiked last fall and noticed how close we were the spot where these two innocent women who should still be alive today were so carelessly discarded. I wish evil didn’t exist. But it does. And right now it could be wearing the mask of the nice guy next door who takes your trash barrels out for you every week. Scary times here in the Bridgewater Triangle.“