Legend Tripping: The Haunts of Taunton & Rehoboth

Most residents of Taunton and Rehoboth frown upon the national attention their towns have gained as being among the most active paranormal areas in the country. Try visiting such famed haunted sites as Shad Factory Pond and Palmer River Burial Ground and neighbors will come right out their houses and ask you to leave. Residents will come right out and ask you what you are you doing there. They know exactly what you are doing here. But you feel you have to hide your agenda. You can try to tell them that you are bird watching or from a Historical Society, but they won’t buy it. The police that arrive about 30 seconds after you get to Taunton State Hospital seem a little more understanding of your curiosity, as long as you are polite and honest. But they still will demand that you leave…and in timely fashion.

Next, you want to next visit the famed Hornbine School in Rehoboth, a “haunted” site that makes it’s way into virtually every book and article about the subject of paranormal activity in Rehoboth. As recently as October 18th, ghost tours have visited the famed school. Here is a description of the alleged activity that takes place there from the masscrossroads website (one of the most comprehensive and well-organized sites on The Bridgewater Triangle):

"Rehoboth has several of its own haunted schools. The most notorious is the historic Hornbine School. Originally built in 1845 and enlarged in the 1920’s, the school has not been used to educate youth since the late thirties. The one room schoolhouse was restored in 1968 to celebrate the town’s 325th anniversary. Whether it was the renovation and the import of other desks and materials or just the added people coming in contact with the school, it has now become known as a paranormal hotspot. People hear noises, usually the laughter of children, coming from the area of the school and then find no one there when investigate. On at least one occasion a visitor to the town stopped by the school and watched a teacher dressed in period clothes teach a room full of eager students. When the teacher sensed his presence she turned to him, annoyed he had disturbed class. He then went inside to apologize and found no sign of the children or the angry teacher."

According to The Rehoboth Historical Society, there is no haunting, and a logical explanation for the "sighting." Each school year, grade schoolers attend class at the old school...the class all dressed in period garb. One day a local woman was driving by Horbine School when out of the corner of her eye,she thought she saw movement inside. So she turned around and pulled up to the school. Upon looking in the window, she saw the Rehoboth children on their annual field trip. It was a natural assumption. Especially if the light was right, the windows were dirty...I have no doubt that what this woman saw appeared supernatural.

Later that evening, the woman, disturbed by what she saw, returned to the school only to find it empty. Conclusion? Haunted schoolhouse. And there it is. That is how the legend started. And now, thank to Russell, it can be put to rest and crossed off the list of places to check out in The Bridgewater Triangle.

You have the most luck at Anawan Rock, which sits almost hidden off of Route 44 in Rehoboth. Blink as you are driving by  and you will surely miss it. Luckily, no houses abut the most significant haunted landmark of The Bridgewater Triangle -- the very site that many paranormal investigators holds the key to unlocking the Bridgewater Triangle mystery. On August 28, 1676, the last Chief of the Wampanoag's surrendered to Captain Benjamin Church. Upon surrender, Church took King Philip's sacred belt and presented it to Church. The belt disappeared centuries ago. Some believe that until this belt is returned to the Wampanoag Tribe, the area of the Bridgewater Triangle will continue to be "cursed."

At Anawan Rock, you immediately spot three quick moving beams of light on the dark path that leads to the rock. It's not orbs or anything supernatural, though. It is three people running out the darkness as fast as they can. The first, a man somewhere in his fifties, is covered in sweat though it is September, ten o‘clock at night, and in the low 60s. You ask him if he saw anything. And he answers, “Oh…yeah…we…sure did.” And he waits to catch his breath. A younger man that is with him says, “We were just sitting on top of the rock, when all of a sudden it got real cold and we saw about 100 eyes floating over the rock watching us.” You are in shock. You can’t believe your luck. Adrenaline pulses through you. You ask them if they will go back and show you exactly where they saw the eyes.

They are still breathless from their experience on the rock. They tell you that the would consider going back into the woods, after but after they’ve recovered from their heart attack. They tell you this is not the first time that something supernatural happened at the rock during one of their visits. “We even once got an EVP! (electric voice phenonomen) We didn’t here anything at the time, but when we played back the tape we heard a guy’s voice say something like, 'netomp.' I wish we could figure out what that means."

“I know, I tell them. It is Wampanoag for “friend.” The three of them glare at one other, jaws dropped. “Okay, I’ll go back,” said the young man. “Me too, I’ll go,” said a girl about the young man’s age. A sigh comes from the oldest of the group. “Okay.”

You know the rock pretty well from your research. You know the exact spot where Chief Anawan was captured by Captain Benjamin Church, as he lay sleeping with his son. You are not surprised when the three people tell you that this is where they saw the eyes.

The discovery of The Bridgewater Triangle is attributed to leading American Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, who coined the phrase in the 1970s in his correspondences in researching the area. In 1980, Boston Magazine published the first of many articles about the triangle written by Coleman himself. Rehoboth  and Taunton were both featured prominently in the article.

Why Rehoboth? Why Taunton? The answer could be steeped in the bloody history of the colonial period. These two towns figure prominently in the monstrosities of King Philip's War. The gruesome acts committed here seem to hale straight out of a horror movie.

Picture the scene, June. 1675: The city of Rehoboth is burning, people are screaming. And there is King Philip, sitting peacefully in a familiar chair in the shadow of this horrific inferno, taking in the scene with glee. Just days ago, the chair sat by a cozy hearth in the home of a Rehoboth family who had considered Philip a family friend. King Philip had paid many visits to the home and always chose this one particular chair on which to sit. His admiration for the chair spurned the family to call it “King Philip’s Chair.“

Now King Philip’s chair is far away from that cozy hearth. King Philip’s first order of business when he reached Rehoboth was ordering his men to retrieve the chair from the abandoned house. He sits down in the chair and watches from his front row view, the burning of Rehoboth.

Flash forward. Now it is August 2, 1676. The war will be over in less than a month. King Philip’s wife and son are captured, to be sold into slavery in the West Indies. There is a great battle in a nearby swamp. There is slaughter on both sides.

Weetamoo, Indian Sachem Queen and Philip’s sister-in-law attempts escape over the Taunton River by fleeing across a fallen tree. She slips off into the wild current and drowns. The colonists fish her body out of the river and immediately get to the work of cutting off her head. They carry her head to Taunton, where they raise it upon a pole and parade it through the streets of Taunton. The Indians captured at Hockomock Swamp that day were temporarily imprisoned in Taunton around August 4th of 1676. The colonists took a great pleasure in taunting the prisoners with the once beautiful head of Sachem Squaw Weetamoo.

The Sachem Squaw Princess Weetamoo was a powerful woman--even before she became the wife of Philip's brother Alexander. The union of Alexander and Weetamoo was a very strong one. The strength created in the marriage of the Pocasset and Pokanoket tribes was no secret to the English and no doubt contributed to the suspicions toward Alexander which led to the conspiracy of his death in 1662.

Just before the death of Weetamoo, many of her Pocasset people were taken prisoner out of the Hockomock Swamp where they were taking temporary refuge from the Colonists. They were so frightened upon capture, that they surrendered without a fight. After all, these were not warriors. These were tribe's women, children and elderly. And they were weak from hunger and travel. The prisoners were marched to Taunton where a gully served as their jail. They were then forced to bare witness to the horror of the parading of Wetamoo's head upon a spike back and forth in front of there disbelieving eyes.

Weetamoo, flying with a small remnant of her people, took refuge in a dense swamp near Taunton early in August, but an Indian deserter, in order to ingratiate himself with the whites, carried the news to the people of that place on the 6th, and offered to lead a force to the encampment, which he declared was but a few miles distant. Twenty men immediately set out, and, surprising the encampment, took over a score of prisoners, but Weetamoo herself escaped. Attempting to cross the Taunton River near its mouth, on a raft or some pieces of broken wood, and either "tired or spent with rowing, or starved with cold and hunger," her strength failed and her naked body was brought to the shore by tide or current. Some days later, "someone of Taunton finding an Indian squaw in Metapoiset, newly dead, cut off her head, and it happened to be Weetamoo, squaw sachem, her head, which, placed on a pole and paraded through Taunton, was greeted by the lamentations of the captive Indians who knew her, crying out that it was their queen's head. "A severe and proud dame she was," says Mrs. Rowlandson, "bestowing every day in dressing herself near as much time as any gentry in the land." Such treatment meted out to the dead body of a white woman would have sent Mather searching the Scriptures for a proper characterization of the barbarity and wickedness of the act.

the Rev. Increase Mather, to cloth this sad story in language inhuman and almost devilish. In describing the event, he said, - "They made a most horrid and 'diabolical' lamentation, crying out that it was their queen's head." With all the horrific pain and suffering that was inflicted in the area during the war, it is no wonder it is such a paranormal soup of activity.