August 27, 2010

A Scary Place with A Silly Name

If you knew a place haunted by supernatural terror, you'd probably give it a scary name. Think of some of the well-known scary New England place names: Purgatory Chasm, Dungeon Rock or Misery Island. You'd want a demonic ghost-haunted locale to have a name like that, wouldn't you?.

Unless, of course, you were from Medway, Massachusetts. The townspeople there knew a place where Satan would gather with his witches, but they gave it a very unscary name: Dinglehole. It sounds like an insult from a second grader!

Dinglehole, which was a large swampy depression filled with fetid water of an unknown depth, was feared for three reasons:

1. A ghostly bell could be heard ringing on dark nights and misty evenings. Locals called it the "spirit bell", and the dingling of the bell gave the hole its name. (I guess the word "dingle" has gone out of fashion. Contemporary people would probably name it Jinglehole, which doesn't sound much better.)

2. A headless ghost haunted Dinglehole, and would lead unwary travelers astray with strange glowing lights. Locals claimed saying a prayer would banish the ghost, his lights and the bell, but only temporarily.

3. Even worse than a headless ghost, the Devil and his local witches met by night at Dinglehole near a large twisted pine tree. The witches came not in human form, but as weasels, raccoons and "other little odiferous animals."

A skeptic might say "Of course you'll find weasels and raccoons in the woods. How did people know they were witches?" Well, Mr. Smarty-Pants (to use another second grade insult), because they were invulnerable to normal weapons, as the following Dinglehole story illustrates.

One evening, a Medway hunter was making his way home when he noticed a large raccoon watching him from a tree. Unable to resist such an easy target, the hunter shot the raccoon and hit it squarely in the chest. Nothing happened to the raccoon. It sat there unharmed, but perhaps with a slight smirk on its face. The hunter fired several more shots, each time hitting the raccoon, which continued to ignore the bullets.

Finally, it dawned on the hunter that this was no ordinary animal. He plucked a branch from a nearby witch hazel shrub, a plant known for its magical powers, and fired it from his rifle like a small harpoon. It hit the raccoon, which vanished. Several days later, the hunter learned that Murky Mullen, a local woman suspected of witchcraft, had an unexplained injury on her face. Clearly, she (or her spirit) had been wandering the woods in the shape of a raccoon.

The accounts of the Dinglehole horrors come from Ephraim Orcutt Jameson and George James La Croix's The History of Medway, Mass. 1713-1885 (1886). Dinglehole is now located somewhere in Millis, though, which separated from Medway in the late 1800s. The Federal Writers' Project book Massachusetts: A Guide to Its Places and People (1937) claims Dinglehole is located somewhere north of Union Street, but has been filled in. Perhaps it should be renamed Dinglefield? Does that sound scarier?

8 comments:

Heather Rojo said...

There is a cave in the Lynn Woods Reservation (Lynn, Massachusetts) called the Pirate Cave or Dungeon Rock. Sounds like a scarier cave name than "Dinglehole"

Peter M. said...

Heather - Yes, you're right! It's Dungeon Rock. I have some pictures and information about it here:

http://newenglandfolklore.blogspot.com/2008/09/dungeon-rock-pirates-treasure-and.html

It's definitely a freaky place. But I haven't been to Dinglehole - maybe it's scary too!

Dingle-neighbor said...

Facinating to read history of the Dinglehole. Is the area your describing north of Union St in Millis or on the north end of Union. I live in the neighborhood of what I thought was the Dinglehole, believing it's on Union St (the North end) - but it is not filled in. Like you state it's large, swampy, fetid and of unknown depth. The hole is close to the St (Union) and actually serves as front-yard property for two houses. I wonder if what I think of as the Dinglehole is what your describing - or if there was another that was covered up, now hidden. Next time I walk by, I look out for a large twisted pine. Thanks.

Peter M. said...

Hi Dingle-Neighbor!

Unfortunately, I don't know exactly where the Dinglehole is. To me, it's one of the interesting but frustrating things about the legend. The WPA book says it was filled in, but this Town of Millis Web site (http://millis.org/index.cfm?pid=12334)does not say that, and instead states the hole was believed to be bottomless. And after all, how can you fill in a bottomless pit? If you do go investigate, be careful of headless ghosts and eerie raccoons.

Anonymous said...

The Dingle Hole is indeed at the end of Union Street, at the corner of Union and Ridge. It is not filled in, depsite now having suburban houses near it. Uncanny things continue to happen around it. There was the incident of the deer heads a few years ago. Some say that the whole town of Millis is rotten with witches and witchcraft and that this explains the well known corruption in that town's government and police force. It is because of said corruption and witchcraft that this writer must remain anonymous!

Anonymous said...

They even have a little picnic area just off a trail there. I think it's a nice area actually.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in millis on ridge st.We moved in 1989.My freinds had a house next to the dinglehole on union st.We skated on it in winter and all thought it was bottomless.I do remember big pines on the slope going up to union st.nothing to freaky happened there although we all knew about the witchcraft.Dinglehole is still there on the east side of union st just south from the intersection with ridge st.My dad said dinglehole used to be on both sides of union st but development filled in some of it in the west side of union.My house abutted the westerly side.Dinglehole is the front yard to 2 houses.

Peter Muise said...

Thanks for filling in the details about the location. Very cool! I'm glad that Dinglehole is not filled in.