Stone's Public House, Ashland, MA
Many thanks to David Retalic, Cliff Wilson of the Ashland Historical Society, the PIRO team, Amy Connelly, Carl Johnson, Christina Ottman, Michelle Mowry of NEPR, Beth Towne, and my brother Mike. And a special thanks to Ben Stoezel and the whole crew at Stone's. Thanks for staying up late with us!
The Stone's Public House is located in Ashland, Massachusetts. Since the 1980's when the property was being renovated by former owner Leonard "
Cappy" Fournier, patrons, employees and even law enforcement officials have reported unexplainable happenings. On August 4th of 2008, several researchers from various teams in New England converged on the Public House to conduct an investigation into the claims of paranormal activity. For a full recap, check out the video published by David Riley of The Metro West Daily News below.
To check out Stone's Public House, go to their website here.
Built in 1832 as “The Railway House” by John Stone as a hotel on the first railway from Boston to Albany. It opened its door on September 20, 1834. It was a major rest stop on the line, and travelers spent nights there for food, entertainment and gambling. It was so successful that Stone turned the operations of the hotel over to his son Napoleon Bonaparte Stone who managed it for many years after. John Stone passed away in 1858.
There are three distinct stories that have some corroboration as far as the haunting of the Public House goes.
1.) One story is of the infamous poker game murder. A traveling salesman who was identified by hypnotist Ralph Bibbo ( founder of ECHO - Education Concerning a Higher Order) as Mike McPherson, was staying at the hotel and bought his way into a poker game with John Stone and some other gentlemen. He had a winning night, and ended up cleaning Stone and the others out of a purported $3,000 in winnings, and the local men accused him of cheating. Stone was rumored to have ordered some people up to the salesman’s room to club him over the head and take him outside, and retrieve their lost money. During the act, McPherson was accidentally clubbed too hard and died from his injuries, and Stone ordered the body buried in the cellar of the hotel to cover up the deed. This story varies somewhat here, as one report does not name Stone as the man who ordered the robbery and also does not have any information of the burial of McPherson in the cellar. Regardless, this story seems to have some credence as it has been passed down through the history of the house.
This story alone supposedly accounts for five ghosts out of seven who have been "identified in the Public House". These ghosts are:
Sadie, the maid at the time
Mike McPherson, the murdered salesman
Sam Thompson, the cook at the time
Will, the bartender at the time
John Stone himself
It is presumed that Sadie, Sam, Will, and Stone haunt the Public House out of remorse for their actions, with Stone watching over the operation of the business still. McPherson, for obvious reasons, wouldn't be too happy, either.
2.) Another story involves a ten year old girl that was injured close to the hotel and was brought inside by horrified patrons for help. A ten year old girl listed as Mary J. Smith is recorded in town records as having been “struck and killed” by a car on June 11, 1862 (aged 10 years, 8 months, and 18 days old). Since there were no automobiles at the time, the car in question would have had to have been a train car. Considering the proximity of the train tracks to the Public House, this could very well be what transpired.
In one version, the little girl is playing near the tracks when she is struck by the train. People in the inn witness the accident and rush out to assist her, bringing the badly injured girl inside for help. A doctor is called for, but by the time he arrives at the inn the girl had passed away from her injuries. A girl’s dress, approximated from that time period, is still in the attic of the inn, and is rumored to have blood stains on it.
A completely different account reports that the girl was actually the daughter of one of the employees. While with her mother in the inn, she was standing at one of the downstairs windows as a train passed. The vibrations from the train caused the window she was at to shatter, mortally wounding her by the falling shards of glass. This story has no evidence to corroborate it, however.
3.) Another suspected spirit is a former patron by the name of Burt Phillips. Burt reportedly had a bit of a passion for drinking, and the inn was his favorite watering hole. While consuming his favorite spirits there in 1890, old Burt unfortunately became one, and is assumed to have died in the inn as a result of his imbibing far too much in his cups. No evidence supports anyone named Burton or Burt Phillips living in or near Ashland at this time.
And lastly, perhaps, the spirit of former general manager John Dubois is still hanging around the inn. On March 31, 1984, 34 year old Dubois and three others were helping push a car off the railroad tracks during a blizzard, and was hit and killed by a passing Amtrak. According to reports, Dubois had seen the ghost of John Stone only a few nights before his untimely death while he was in the inn's basement. There has been no confirmed report that Dubois's spirit inhabits the inn, but due to the sudden nature of his demise he could definitely be a candidate.
As the times changed, the inn began to change itself. Once having been a rest stop for travelers along the Albany/Boston line, it became a sort of house of ill-repute for the railway workers who would spend their paychecks there enjoying all sorts of excesses. The building began to deteriorate through the years, until it was purchased by Leonard “Cappy” Fournier in 1975.
It was during this time that a walled up room was found in the basement. There are different ideas on what this walled up room was. Some believe it to be a part of the underground railroad that helped hide runaway slaves from the south that were fleeing to Canada. Ashland, as many towns in this area, was involved in the abolitionist movement, so this is entirely possible. Another hypothesis about the room's origins is that is was part of a livery outbuilding that at one time was attached to the inn. Maps of the area (Town of Ashland 1875) do show that an outbuilding was attached to the building, so possibly this room was part of a hidden delivery route that servants would follow to stay out of the view of guests. The only real enigma with this idea is there is no entrance or exit from the hidden room besides the entrance through the dismantled wall, and was probably filled in after the livery burned down in 1899. It is also speculated that there was an underground tunnel system leading from the inn to an actual railway station in town, but there is no way to link this to the actual history of the inn. After interviewing a gentleman who operates a business near the Public House, he insisted a tunnel led from the Public House to the former train station across the street.
According to “Haunted Happenings” by Robert Ellis Cahill, paranormal activity was first recorded by Fournier in 1975 after renovations to the inn began. He reported that he and the carpenters would lock up at night, and find the inn unlocked in the morning, with doors and windows sometimes opened, and faucets throughout the building would turn themselves on.
Butch Adams and Robin Hicks, both former employees of the Inn were the first to encounter the spirit of the little girl in the area near the upstairs office. One night while working in the office around 9:30pm, they both heard what they thought to be the sound of a rubber ball being bounced in the hallway outside the office, accompanied by a girl’s voice singing, “La la, la la la”. Butch went to investigate, but the noises stopped as soon as he entered the hall. After finding no explanation for the noises, he returned to the office where both he and Robin heard the noises start up again. This time both of them did a search of the entire Inn, and after finding nobody else in the building with them, hurried back upstairs, finished their work, and locked up and left for the night.
The next morning, Butch was approached by an Ashland police officer who asked why the entire building had been lit up around midnight. Butch informed him that the building was locked and empty at that time, but the officer said that the night before he had seen the entire Inn lit up, and that Butch’s daughter was seen looking out of one of the windows. Not only had the inn been empty, but Butch and Robin had no children. Butch also heard at times the crying of a little girl near the bar area or from upstairs while he tallied the days receipts.
Bartender Pat Kittredge reported to Robert Cahill that, “I’ve personally heard laughter from a little child coming from the basement.”, and waitress Peggy Bache reported, “ more than once have I heard a ghostly laugh of a little girl coming from the basement. It gave me the chills.” Judy Jackson, another waitress, reported to Cahill, “It was enough to drive us mad. But even more haunting to my mind is the little girl ghost, seen in the little alcove in the kitchen, looking out the window towards the railroad tracks. The people living in the house on the other side of the tracks report to us that they see her often, just staring out, as if in a daze. One of our chefs reported seeing her by the kitchen window several times when he came in the morning. A little girl with a sweet, innocent face and curly brown hair, she would turn to him, smile, and then disappear. It blew his mind. One morning Cappy (Fournier) the owner came in to find that alcove window in the kitchen broken, but strangely it was broken from the inside and not the outside.”
Hicks and Bache, along with some of the Inn’s customers reported having seen the ghostly girl in the doorway to the downstairs dining room, looking out at the train tracks.
Another interview with Robert Cahill garnished an even stranger anomaly. Fournier told Cahill that one day the entire building began to shake as if an earthquake had hit for almost four minutes. No earthquakes were reported, nor were any of the passenger or freight trains that use the train tracks coming by at that time.
Waitresses during Fournier’s tenure told of how they would light the candles on the dining tables, only to return to find them all snuffed out, or vice versa.
A boyfriend of one of the waitresses told of seeing the entire third floor completely ablaze with lights. He was informed that it couldn’t have been the third floor but the second floor he had seen, but the man was certain it was the third floor. At that time, there was no electricity on the third floor.
From the third floor to the basement we go, where employees reported seeing the shadow of a man, and occasionally finding furniture and other things stored downstairs in a state of disarray. A bartender reported having been held in place by “invisible hands” as he was in the ice hopper in the basement. The hands held him for a few seconds, then let go. Others had reported translucent figures and ghostly voices from the cellar.
A diner who was eating at the Inn while under Fournier’s ownership had reportedly been joking about the ghosts in the inn. Out loud, he taunted the ghosts, asking it to show itself. A cracking was heard on the table the diner was at, and he and the people at the table with him looked down to see a glass ashtray on the table split into equal halves.* Another report emailed to me was from the boyfriend of a former bartender. one night while at the bar visiting his girlfriend at work, the gentleman saw the handles of the sink behind the bar turn on by themselves.
Adams also reported hearing the voice of a woman shout “Nooooo, help me! Help me, please!” from the front dining room. A news article from around 1884 states that George A. Scott, son of former owner W.A. Scott attacked a chamber maid on one of the staircases in the hotel. He also stabbed a man who was sent to investigate the attack after her screams were heard.
Other incidents involve glasses and bottles being moved in the bar area, water taps being turned on or off by themselves, puffs of cigar smoke even though the bar is smoke free, shadows moving in that vicinity, and patrons feeling someone tap their shoulder only to find that nobody could have touched them. It is thought that this spirit is the spirit of Burt Phillips, still enjoying his favorite watering hole long after he has passed on. A report from a woman who dined at the Public House told of how, while dining in a corner seat, felt hands around her neck, almost as if she was being choked. The sensation did not last that long, but left a lasting impression on her.
During one of my first meetings with local paranormal researcher David Retalic of Framingham (check out Dave's article on the Public House here , MA, I captured a possible EVP in the attic (sample in attached video below). As to not detract from what is in the recording, I will only say that this sample does correlate to what David and I were discussing at the time in regards to the attic, and research into the property did verify what we believe was said.
Multi-team investigation results
On August fourth of 2008 this investigator, along with members of PIRO, New England Anomalies Research, David Retalic of Framingham, MA, Amy Connelly of Pioneer Valley Paranormal Society, and my brother, Michael Francis, all conducted one of the largest investigations into the claims of paranormal at the Public House.
I was informed that night by one of the neighboring tenants in a building behind the Public House that a tunnel once led from the left front corner of the building across Main Street to the area where the original train station was located. In doing more historical research into this, Cliff Wilson and I found an old news article detailing a drainage tunnel that was dug from the Public House to allow for sewer drain connection to the Main Street line. It's very possible that this construction would have utilized an existing tunnel, and the fact that both were reported in the same area does give the original idea of a tunnel used to move slaves from the train station to the old hotel very plausible. A later interview with the nephew of the Boudoin brothers told me that he was informed by some "old-timers" that slaves were kept in the hotel, but were secreted in off the trains at the time, and moved to the attic. He noted that this was relayed to him as a teenager.
David Retalic also reported that while in the basement, he was hit on the head by what he thought was a rock thrown in a tight area between the main room and the area near the old walled up room. After reviewing the area, there were stones that could have fit the bill to be sure, but nothing was captured on video (the area it was said to have occurred is a narrow, low path between the more open sections of the basement under the dining area and the bar above - because of the limitations and size of that area a video camera was not present). He did have a good egg and small cut on his scalp,though. There are many things in the basement one could hit their head on (pipes, wood beams), but in the area Dave was there were no real obstructions besides an air duct running the length of the walkway. The bump on his head was towards the front, and I could see nothing there to account for it. He was conducting a tour with members of the CT team when it happened, and in that area he would have had to contort himself in such a way that he was facing up into the flat air duct to hit his head like that. He was also wearing a baseball cap, and whatever struck him did so coming from up and under the bill of the hat. He was visibly shaken when reporting the incident to me.
Amy Connelly, while in the second floor storage area (where our base station was located) claimed to feel somebody lightly brushing her hair briefly, and I also felt somebody tap my left shoulder. In both instances, neither of us had anyone standing behind us within reach of us.
A walk through of the building showed no extremely high areas of EM pollution at all, barring the usual suspects such as digital appliances and microwave ovens, which were all powered down that evening as the restaurant was closed for the night. I could find no active power in the third floor or attic at all. The plumbing is extensive, as well as duct work for the forced air conditioning and heating, but none showed signs of creating any major noises at all. NOTE - On a return visit I conducted in September to record audio from the third floor verified the duct work doesn't make any noises whatsoever, even when forced cool air was flowing in the system. However, it was determined that when the toilets were flushed above, a loud hissing noise was recorded by the audio recording equipment we had placed in the basement - a possible EVP sample recorded that night below the bar and outside the small, "hidden" room picked this hissing noise up just before the sample was recorded. I have included that sample still below, as the supposed EVP comes after that noise was recorded, but it should be noted so it can be considered if and when any future audio recording experiments are conducted in that area.
Update: July 5th Return to Stone's Public House
While in the 3rd floor, a small compass was physically moved several inches from where it was securely set to check for fluctuations in magnetic fields. This was witnessed by investigator Elizabeth Towne, happening between she and myself and at a distance of about a foot from each of us. Unfortunately the video camera we were using was not trained on this spot at the time the compass was moved, but repeated tries to recreate the movement, even by pounding hard on the small chair mattress the compass was placed could not elicit the same result. There was no environmental data collected at that time to corroborate the event.
Residential Case 2008-01R Upton, Massachusetts
On December 23rd, 2008 I began research into a residential claim of paranormal activity (the address and names withheld). The home is occupied by the father, mother, daughter, and son. A list of the claimed activity includes:
1.) Voices heard in various rooms of the home.
2.)The daughter had first experience, claiming a little boy was "bugging her" as she was trying to go to sleep.
3.) Antique lift latches on two doors in the home appeared to lift on their own.
4.) An apparition of a man was witnessed going through a drawer, and appeared to stop to look at the witness.
5.) Shoes, which were left near a rear door, were found lined up in the kitchen arranged from smallest to largest.
6.) One witness heard a whisper in his ear while in bed, saying "Get out". He has also witnessed shadows and objects moving in his room.
7.) A relative staying with the family heard footsteps, as if on a wooden floor, approach the area they were sleeping in the basement. The basement is now carpeted with concrete underneath.
8.) The mother has felt a heaviness/pressure on her chest while in the daughters room (she was alone at the time).
The activity is reported to occur at anytime of day or night, all lasting a short duration.
Intensive historical research conducted by Carol Blomquist of the Upton Historical Society has dated the home to 1829 and was built on property owned by B.W. and deeded to his son P.W. An 1851 record shows that the house was added to and the original saw mill industry on the site was changed to a farm with addition of 17 acres of land and a barn.
The home remained extensively in the W. family from 1829 until 1895 when the property was left to two nephews of C. W., widow of E. W., who was son of P.. Between 1895 and present, there have been 13 different owners.
Previous owners have relayed to the current owners their own experiences with paranormal phenomena, most notably the apparition of a woman in period dress in one of the 3rd floor bedrooms. It is unclear at this time, but it seems construction on the the upstairs dormers alleviated any activity that the previous owners may have experienced. Still, the phenomena are claimed by three family members, including the wife and both the daughter and son (repeated attempts to contact this family to verify this information was futile).
Major renovation in the kitchen area has drastically altered the original floor plan of the second floor. All plumbing and electrical has been updated.
The first segment of research was conducted while the family was gone for Christmas. A previous walk through of the home showed no high readings of AC electromagnetic fields at all. One wire strung through the first floor powering overhead lights registered a bit high, but the field was contained to only a few inches around the wire itself. The fuse panel was also registering high, following a pipe over the boiler in the home where the water is connected, and a grounding wire was found following this pipe to a grounding spike near the furnace. Again, the field generated did not encompass but a small area around the pipe and wire.
Closed circuit and hi-8 recordings were concentrated on the upstairs bedrooms belonging to the son and daughter. Unfortunately 26 minutes into recording on the second series of discs, the power to the house must have gone out and half of all video taken was lost. Remaining footage from the son's room did show that, with the door closed or open, no passing cars created any strange light reflections. The only instance of headlights creating reflections at all was when my wife pulled her car from the driveway.
In a separate recording concentrating on the closet door latch in the daughter's room, footage showing the two paper spheres suspended from the ceiling spinning extremely slowly, and in opposing and like directions for over an hour with nobody present in the home. No other observations were made to support or deny the claims of the owners at that time*.
This case is on-going.
(Names have been omitted to secure the privacy of the owners)
*Case Update- Case 2008-01R
A return visit was conducted to measure the areas near the decorative hangers (see photo to left) for static and magnetic field fluctuations as well as for drafts and temperature fluctuations that may have caused the spinning captured during the first taping.
Temperature readings were consistent with the first investigation, with no noticeable changes in temperature measured over a half hour period. Temperatures were taken with an AccuRite Home Weather Station with corded temperature probe run directly through the center of the globe at far left.
A Trifield Natural Meter was set near the globes to read for static field fluctuations. No anomalous bursts of field activity recorded in the half hour period . An AC magnetic field probe was also placed beside the globes and ran into Cool Edit Pro on a laptop to measure for and fluctuations in AC field or RF fluctuations. Over the half hour period no changes were measured at all in temperature or in any static/magnetic fields and no movement was recorded.
Walking past the globes did move enough air to cause the globes to swing; however, once movement was restricted in the room, they would quickly stop moving. In the original video, the spinning began fifteen minutes after I had left the room and closed the door. Neither cat was present in the room during filming of night one.
Locking the cat out of the daughter's room was also monitored to see if the cat could manipulate the lift latch from the outside. Over a twenty minute period, the cat would only bat under the door, and had no influence on the latch at all.
Regarding the reported lifting of door latches, I spoke with the daughter again and she has agreed to document if any of the door latches in her room lift on their own again. I instructed her to note the time and date and anything else she may observe.
All audio recorded has been analyzed with no distinct speech patterns recorded while the home was empty. Most noises such as bangs or knocks are either attributed to the expansion of heating elements throughout the home or pet activity.
A friend of mine also spent a night in the home while the family was on vacation. She reported being woken up while sleeping in the basement during the early morning hours before daylight. She saw a male figure standing in front of her which moved towards the staircase and up them. She followed, but did not see this person in the kitchen. However, she watched the back door handle move as if someone was trying to open the door. No readings or supporting data were taken at the time to support this claim, but the individual is honest and not known to relaying false information at all. I have no reason to discredit her experience at all.