May 27, 2018

The Ghostly Nuns of Dudley Road

Haunted roads. Doesn't that phrase sound magical? There's just something really evocative about combining those two words. There's real synergy there; the whole is greater than its parts.

Haunted roads are appealing because they remind me of my adolescence, driving around aimlessly with friends waiting for something to happen. The lure of a haunted road has stuck with me into adulthood, and I've been to a few different haunted roads recently: Route 44, Albino Road, and Ghost Road. But just recently I went to what is supposed to be the most haunted road in Massachusetts: Dudley Road in Billerica.


There are several legends associated with Dudley Road, many of them focused on nuns. The most lurid story claims that back in the 19th century a group of nuns from a local convent decided to worship Satan. They would sneak out of the convent at night and gather in an abandoned house for their sinister rituals. Eventually the locals figured out what was happening and hanged the nuns in a nearby field.
St. Thecla's Retreat Center, run by the Sisters of St. Paul, is on Dudley Road
Apparently the spirits of Devil-worshipping nuns don't rest easily, because according to local legends they have been seen wandering around the road at night, and in particular haunt the field where they were hanged. Since their deaths the house where they celebrated the Black Mass has slowly been sinking into the ground. Is it descending to Hell? Strange smells and sounds emanate from the building at night.

Creepy stuff! There are also other legends about ghost nuns. One claims that a nun was hit by a car late one night while walking home to the convent. She was killed instantly when the impact knocked her into a tree, but her ghost still haunts Dudley Road. Some say she can be seen lurking under the tree her body was thrown against, while others say that she wanders the road at night asking for directions back to the convent. She is, quite literally, a lost soul.

Is this house sinking into the earth?
Another legend claims that a nun from the convent became pregnant after having an affair with a priest. She hanged herself in shame and her ghost can still be seen haunting the tree where she died. These stories share similar elements - ghosts, nuns, trees, hangings - but are all slightly different. Everyone seems to agree that something bad happened but the legends differ over what it was.

Not all the ghosts are nuns. A man dressed like a farm-worker is also said to haunt the road at night. He stands by the side of the road just under the trees, his face perpetually hidden in shadow. Don't stop if you see him. Just keep driving.

When Tony and I drove down Dudley Road I was surprised how nice it was. There are a lot of large well-maintained homes and quite a few horse farms, but I guess even upscale neighborhoods have ghosts. Parts of the road seemed new but other parts were older. The older parts were narrow and quite twisty with Colonial era homes and bordered by lichen-encrusted stone walls. I can easily see how creepy legends could get attached to this street. We only visited during the day - I imagine it is much spookier at night.

The stories about Dudley Road seem to be at least several decades old. Commenters on this post claim they heard the stories at least thirty years ago, and others say they were told the story by their parents. A few commenters even say the stories are true and that they have seen some of the ghosts.


I am not a debunker; people may very well see strange things on this road. However, I don't think the story about the hanged nuns is corroborated by any historical records. The last people executed for witchcraft in Massachusetts were hanged in Salem in 1692, so it's very, very unlikely that anyone was  killed in the early nineteenth century for Devil worship. And the house that is supposedly sinking into the ground looks a lot like a storage building to me. It also has big "No trespassing" signs posted on it so please stay away.

So if the nun legend isn't true why do people see ghost nuns? I don't know for sure, but I do think New England has it's own psychic landscape which is influenced by history, the people living on it, and the land itself. New England has it's own folkloric personality. Some people might find old houses, stone walls and dense woods charming, but other might experience them as creepy, particularly at night. A commenter on that post claimed that his teenage son went to Dudley Road with some friends on a lark, but things didn't go quite as planned. He returned home terrified and in tears. Was it all in the boy's head, or did he encounter something that only manifests to people who have the right mindset?

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments. I would love to hear from some people who have seen strange things on Dudley Road.

49 comments:

Sue Bursztynski said...

It looks very pretty by day, but I’m not sure I’d want to be on that road late at night. No lighting, for a start! I think you’re right about the psychic landscape. New England has been settled by Europeans for a very long time and I have no doubt they also got a lot of scary stories from the Native Americans when they arrived. Much of this also sounds like urban(rural?) legends like those of phantom hitchhikers, it’s always something someone told you they heard from someone else!

Anonymous said...

Interesting article, but very difficult to read the light print. Can you darken it to make reading easier? Thanks!

James120756 said...

I would have loved to read this article but the font is so tiny I don't know how anyone could.

Tamie said...

Thank you for writing this article. I found it very interesting. I have no complaints about the font nor the colors. :D

Unknown said...

I have gone this road 3 times. No sightings. Wierd feelings tho

Peter Muise said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Muise said...

Hi Dylan! Thanks for sharing your personal experience. Did you go during the daytime or at night? Just curious.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Peter Muise said...

Sorry unknown commenter! I accidentally deleted your comment. Ugh. Sorry about that! Pease repost if you are able.

Unknown said...

OMG as soon as I saw "Nuns" and Dudley road I knew you were talking about Billerica. Growing up in a Massachusetts small town I knew of many stories. But it wasn't until my boyfriend(Billerica native) took me there one night. Now my friends and I were like you . We had to check it out . But without a doubt #DudleyRoadBillerica will make your hair stand up.

Anonymous said...

Please visit the following link to see confirmed history of the property at 77 Dudley Rd (the current Retreat House property):

http://www.bedfordmahistory.org/newsletters/September%202009.pdf

Anonymous said...

Wow when I was 16-17 I went with 4 other friends crammed in a car to look for the nun tree...we definitely saw the farmer; I didn't even know that he was an urban legend until reading this.

Rori said...

Notice how there is a foundation where the house meets the ground...I do not feel that this house is sinking, just looks that way because the house does look like it was squashed. I would like to see more proof of it being sunken.

thychan said...

Took girls for a ride there every weekend nights when I was a teenager. Way before they fixed the roads there. Used to be a narrow and bumpy dirt road. Creepy as heck but never saw anything. All the girls were scared sh*tless though.

Roger said...

I used to do Landscaping there inside and outside of that place. I find it very creepy.

Unknown said...

This place is no joke, be careful lot of pure evil spirts are thier. I use to go their almost every day at night when I was 25 , seen a bunch of creepy stuff, caught evp, ghost in cam, even had friends change into something different. I went back about a year ok same creepy feeling but a bunch of new houses were built and the dirt rd is now paved and all the houses have lights pointing to the road wish is kinda odd. But believe me this place is no joke ,

Glths2010 said...

I went down that road when i was a tewn with an ex gf and we would smell gasoline and hear screams at night theres a story that someone got doused with gas and set on fire weve seen it and smelled it at night time thats not the real story everyone sees diffrent and smells diffrent stuff there!!!

Anonymous said...

My friends & I have gone to Dudley Road back in 1994-1996. None of those beautiful houses where there. Just a long narrow dark road with a white blg and water well at the very end. We have gotten out of the cars, walked and chased back to them by god knows what. It was scary & entertaining at our age. We seen all of the haunting ghost.

Tasha said...

We drove down the street and our car literally died right outside of the house. My sister jumped out of the car lifted the hood and the car started again. It was enough to scare the shit out of me.

Unknown said...

I live on this road. I've lived on this road for years. There's no ghosts. The nuns are extremely nice and polite. The only thing you'll find is a bunch of idiot f**king kids looking for a creepy story. If you want to be scared, you're better off watching a scary movie. And yes, I'll call the cops on you.

Connor said...

Wow you’re such a loser�� “I’ll call the cops on you” for what? Walking down the road? You’re so lame and clearly have nothing better to do with your time.

Unknown said...

Unfortunately there have been cars full of idiot kids who have decided it would be a good idea to pull onto our property, drive around our farm, and even enter our barn with the horses. Passively driving down the road is one thing. But if you're acting suspicious or driving like an idiot, you better believe the cops are coming.

Lisa Frazier said...

I have no experience on hauntings but I was a manager at Kmart in billerica before it closed. The Daughters of St. Paul (current nuns living on Dudley rd.) Would tell me all the the of people going to their home just to destroy it, this broke my heart! Ghost stories or not, please teach your children to respect the nunnery and not destroy it!!

Lyssadoll1020 said...

Same! Always questioned whether it was sheer coincidence that my car died there....as soon as we entered the dirt road part right in front of the walking trail into the woods. I've had many encounters on Dudley Rd. some of which I have no doubt were paranormal.

Anonymous said...

I worked at the bee farm house for two days replacing the windows very nice place nothing very spooky. I've known about this road scince I was young and while in high school a few people and I decided to go on a blunt cruise down the road I made the driver stop and I got out. I had the blunt and I told my friends to come with me if they wanted to continue smoking. And I started my little walk. Everyone was too scared to follow so I ended up smoking on my own. I dont know if I was just really stoned and paranoid but I couldn't shake this creepy feeling that someone was watching me and following me. I went back to the car and gave my friends the roach. It's a fun little folklore to take a girl on a ride and try to impress her by shutting off your lights and walking into the woods for a minute.

Anonymous said...

I live on this road the.only hauntings are the.morons driving around and trespassing on private property

Anonymous said...

They do not. I still chase people off from across from my house

Anonymous said...

Had a great time as a kid riding up this road with friends. Creepy but never saw anything. Grew up one town over.

Anonymous said...

When I was a teenager (~2002), my friends and I drove down Dudley in a few cars including mine. We didn't see anything, but it was dark and terrifying. The next day, I got in an accident that totaled the car due to a tire blowout. Likely it was from driving down the then entirely unpaved road, but it seemed extra eerie given where I'd just been with the car.

e said...

Your a dick

Jay said...

I grew up just down the street from here and new about these legends as a kid (I’m 32 now) I’ve been down that road a few times and even walked it one night. It’s definitely wicked creepy at night. I have a few creepy stories from the couple times I’ve been there. Definitely recommend checking it out! Watch out for the police tho. The locals are tired of kids going down there and WILL call the cops on you!

Andrea said...

I grew up on the next street over and these stories were being told at least 40 tears ago when I was a kid.
As teenagers in the 80's my friends and I drove down there at night. I was scared out of my mind but nothing happened, we didn't see a damn thing.

Kathy Skou said...

I was one of Andrea's friends lol. I grew up a few streets over. We used to go all the time to see if we could see any ghosts... never saw one.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you in live here on this road as well and I swear the trespassers are a pain in the ass. I tried to call the cops they said at least they were not stealing street signs

Brooke vaughan said...

Went there tonight with 2 of my friends, (me and my friend that was sitting in the front seat right next to me can feel spirits energy and so can I) and saw him standing under the trees on the right side of the road about 15 ft in front of us. I kept driving and made sure I didn’t slow down and I acted as if I didn’t see anything to make sure my friends remained calm. He disappeared about 3 seconds after I saw him and when I passed where he was standing I could still feel his energy. Not too friendly. When we hit the smooth pavement of the road I told my friend upfront what I saw and she asked me where I saw him and I explained where and she then told me how she felt something in that location and saw a figure for a few seconds. Creepy. My friend in back who was also looking out the front windshield didn’t see or feel anything.

Unknown said...

Ya exactly. I'm a cop caller so stay away from my horses", I go down that road alot. Apparently you do have nothing to do with your life then bother cops on a bogus call.

Unknown said...

You're retarded then. It's a road that anyone is able to drive on. People shouldnt be getting out of their car.

Unknown said...

Cuz they like to bother cops and say "teens are driving on my street and I'm scared for my life!"

Unknown said...

I grew up a town away and went to high school in Billerica. So as a teen, a few friends and I went. It was winter, snow and ice, all over, and it was night time. My car got stuck in the road, in the snow, so I see a guy coming out, dressed as a farmer, but he carried a shotgun and I was scared shit. The guy yelled and shot his gun, and i yelled back "I'm just stuck in the snow i need some kitty litter",lol. He did help me, so maybe he just lived there, but damn I was scared of getting shot that night. It is definitely creepy, theres a noose hanging from one of the trees as well. You can see that during the day. I've been down the road alot in the past to meet my guy and I think it's still creepy during the day.

Anonymous said...

In the 80's I worked at a farm on this road as an artist's assistant for years... I've also house sat & baby sat for a few people on this road as well. Funny, but i never heard any of these stories before! Yes the road is narrow & bumpy in spots, and yes it's not well lit, but that's about it. I've been there in the day as well as the night & never really felt anything off. I used to wave to the Sisters as they worked on their property & it always upset me when I saw damage done. I have seen & heard "spirits" many times in my life, but none here. If you do go for a drive there to check it out, please be respectful to the people who live there.

Anonymous said...

I lived a town over in Tewksbury circa 1999. The stories were very much alive then and some people still talk about them now. A lot of us would visit there, but i dont recall anyone destroying property. Usually it would be midnight and a group of us would be messed up and think it was a good idea to go there for kicks. There were times nothing happened, but it still felt foreboding. I remember I climbed a tree, because that's just something I would do and jumped out of it after hearing an unholy shriek, not like an animal, others I was with heard it too and we got out of there as fast as possible. One time I had a feeling of dread and wouldn't leave the car, even pleading with my friends not to go and nothing happened. Not sure if it was the lure of it all, but at night, the place was spooky. It's a shame people couldn't be more respectful like we were, but the few always ruin it for the many.

Ais said...

I grew up near this road, several things about it have changed in more recent years it’s more manicured looking, all of the houses are now occupied, and if memory serves it’s all paved now. Growing up I heard a lot of stories about Dudley Road, And its connection to various stories about nuns. Some of them were darker than the ones you have told, but we were kids with fairly dark imaginations and ideas about how the world works. We used to pile into my car, And drive down occasionally shortly after midnight. I was the oldest among my group of friends. We didn’t ever see any ghosts with several strange things did happen. Once while we were driving down the narrowerpart of Dudley Road Sometime around 1 AM, a tricycle rolled out from the side of the road into the middle. No one in site.

Mike Thibodeau said...

I used to live in nearby Wilmington and I used to go out there once in a while with my teenage friends. One night my friends Uncle Mel dared us to walk the road at night all the way through. He was waiting at the other end. We were almost done and we heard footsteps behind us. We all took off running...something was chasing us. As we ran past uncle Mel screaming something hit him hard in the chest and knocked him to the ground. He was a big guy.
There was a piece of rope hanging from one of the trees overhanging the road. One of us climbed up there to get it. It has been there a long tome, the tree was growing around it. He had to cut it to take it. One of the girls with us had it in her room for years.
Another night I was driving through and my headlights shut off and I lost my radio reception at the same time. I do believe there is some spirits out there.
What I heard when I was a teenager was there was a insane asylums at one end of the road and someone escaped from there and hung three of the nuns from a tree overhanging the road.

Nick O said...

The road has been paved and a bunch of houses are on it now, but before it was an overgrown shitty dirt road, we used to drive down it often because it was creepy. One day we were driving down the road and we saw a nun in a blue and white outfit walking down the road (there are no sidewalks or anything) so when we turned around I wanted my friend to stop so I could ask her about what happened there, we couldn't see her, then out of nowhere just like in a horror movie, she steps out from the overgrown bushes and in front of our car, we had to slam on the brakes and she never even looked at us, she just kept walking in front of us and down a path out of our sight. We left with our blood pumping because it startled us, later we came back and went down the path she walked, it just led to an open field with nothing as far as you could see. It was so bizarre and we can't quite explain what happened to us that day.

Nick O said...

The road has been paved and a bunch of houses are on it now, but before it was an overgrown shitty dirt road, we used to drive down it often because it was creepy. One day we were driving down the road and we saw a nun in a blue and white outfit walking down the road (there are no sidewalks or anything) so when we turned around I wanted my friend to stop so I could ask her about what happened there, we couldn't see her, then out of nowhere just like in a horror movie, she steps out from the overgrown bushes and in front of our car, we had to slam on the brakes and she never even looked at us, she just kept walking in front of us and down a path out of our sight. We left with our blood pumping because it startled us, later we came back and went down the path she walked, it just led to an open field with nothing as far as you could see. It was so bizarre and we can't quite explain what happened to us that day. (sorry for the duplicate post, i wasn't signed in on my last one)

Unknown said...

I have walked down there 3 times now with my friends at night. Kind of sketchy but i never really saw anything. I knew there were ghost stories about the road but I actually looked it up after i went. Didnt see anything except one time the bushes started shaking on the opposite side of the road from nun building. I think it was just squirrels though.

Unknown said...

Went there tonight ya the building does look like just a storage barn road is creepy though plan on going alot more my jobs on 13 mins away and my shifts always over around 3 am but the area is very nice

Unknown said...

I deliver to a horse farm on Dudley road every week and I will say that the old nun building is creepy but I have never seen anything! I do all my deliveries during the day though...

Fr Scott Bailey, C.Ss.R. said...

The legend is total BS. Spend some time with Google and you can find the truth. The nuns have only been there since the 70s at the earliest. Before that it was a seminary built in the 30s or 40s. Just a bunch of ignorant anti-Catholic hate mongering.