I read a lot of books about local legends and folklore, and have discovered some weird things. I recently learned there are several bottomless lakes and ponds here in New England. Yes, you read that correctly. There are several bodies of water here that are immeasurably deep. And some have monsters in them...
One of these bottomless bodies of water is Hall's Pond in Brookline. Hall's Pond is located just off Beacon Street, one of the Boston area's busiest thoroughfares, and you can even take the Green Line trolley to it. Very convenient!
The pond is now part of Amory Park, and there is a nice boardwalk that leads you around it. The last time I visited it was teeming with fish, turtles, and birds. Hall's Pond used to be much larger and swampier, and is actually the remains of an ancient cedar swamp. The soil is quite peaty, and creates an oily sheen on the water.
|Hall's Pond in Brookline|
The January 28, 1902 proceedings of the Brookline Historical Society, include the following information about the development of Amory Park:
The town's purchase was about eight acres, which includes a part of Hall's Pond, the dreaded hole and terror of youngsters, which was believed to be bottomless.
The 1954 - 1955 proceedings of the Society include the following reminiscence from one Mrs. Luquer:
The story goes that, in my childhood, one dark night, a man with his horse and buggy went down what he thought was Essex Street straight down to Beacon Street right down into Hall's Pond where there was quicksand and he was never seen again. I remember I often skated on the Pond and always wondered whether I was over the horse and buggy.
It's a grim story, but not as terrifying as the stories told about Dublin Lake in Dublin, New Hampshire. According to a July 26, 2017 issue of the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, in the early 20th century people thought the lake was bottomless. More contemporary legends say it is the home of hideous monsters who live in underwater caves:
Lore surrounding the lake monster dates back to the 1980s, when a free-diver allegedly went missing after a routine dive. The diver was found a number of days later, naked and incoherently babbling about monsters.
Another version of the story states a diver was using a diving bell when exploring the lake’s bottom, but the tether was not long enough as he descended.
After heading down deeper to find the caverns, the diver disappeared. A group of hikers found the diver in the woods naked days later, with the diver once again was babbling about monsters. ("The search for the Dublin Lake Monster," Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, July 26, 2017)
I think the whole "naked diver babbling insanely about monsters" is pretty creepy. Perhaps those monsters are from another planet, because another legend claims there is a spaceship or UFO at the bottom of the lake.
Dinglehole, a small pond in Millis, Massachusetts, is also believed to be bottomless. Much like Hall's Pond, Dinglehole was once larger and swampier. In the 18th and 19th century, legends said it was haunted by a headless ghost who misled travelers. People also heard the ringing of a mysterious bell near the pond, giving it the name Dinglehole. (The bell went "dingle dingle dingle.")
|Hall's Pond in Brookline|
A headless ghost and mysterious bell are bad enough, but the the Devil and his witches would gather near Dinglehole to celebrate the Witches Sabbath. The witches arrived in the shape of weasels, raccoons, and other small woodland animals.
One evening, a local hunter was walking 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. Did the hunter notice a slight smirk on its face? He 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 in the face. The animal then 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. (That story appears in Ephraim Orcutt Jameson and George James La Croix's 1886 book The History of Medway, Mass. 1713-1885.)
Hall's Pond, Dublin Lake and Dinglehole are just three bottomless bodies of water I learned about while researching other things. I assume there are probably others out there in New England. Of course, modern science says a bottomless pond or lake is an impossibility. After all, the center of our planet is hot and molten. If a lake reached all the way down to Earth's molten core it would probably be some kind of volcano, not a nice body of water you can swim in or skate on.
I suspect the idea of a bottomless lake reflects an older view of the world, one in which the universe was filled with water. We now know that our planet is a sphere floating in the void of outer space. Many earlier civilizations believed the world was a flat disc that floated in an infinite abyss of water. For example, in the Babylonian creation myth, the only two beings that exist at the beginning of time are Apsu, the primal god of fresh water, and Tiamat, the dragon goddess of the sea. There is no land. It only appears after Apsu and Tiamat are slain and the god Marduk divides the waters using Tiamat's corpse.
A similar situation is seen in the Biblical Book of Genesis, where God separates the waters from the waters during the creation of the world. There is water above the world, and water below the world.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
So in a traditional Biblical view, the world looks something like this:
The Earth is surrounded by water, both above and below. This is alluded to in the Flood story, where not only are the "windows of heaven" opened to make it rain, but "all the fountains of the great deep broken up" as well. God is letting all the primal waters back in, returning the world to its primal state of chaos.
I think local legends about bottomless bodies of water might reflect this older cosmology, even if accidentally. The ponds and lakes in these stories are not only immeasurably deep, but they are also associated with terrifying things. Dead men and dead horses, lost in the middle of the night. Monsters so hideous they cause insanity. Witches, ghosts, and even the Devil himself. The forces of chaos are lurking just below the surface, ready to drag the unwary down into the fathomless waters. These things are probably just lurking in our subconscious, not in the water, but I'd still be careful. You don't want to wander too far from shore and get in over your head. Who knows what you might find there?
I wanted to give you an update on my new book, Witches and Warlocks of Massachusetts. I got my author's copies the other day, and they look great. I'm really excited for people to read this one.
It's currently available for pre-order on Bookshop.org, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, Amazon, and most other places you buy books. It will be available on September 1, just in time for the fall and spooky season.