Dogtown Common is a ghost town on a hilltop near Gloucester, Massachusetts with a long, sordid history that begins in 1693. Despite not being suited towards agriculture, its inland location afforded protection from pirates, and many of the well-off families made the area, then known simply as The Commons, their home. By about 1750, pirates were no longer a concern and the wealthy families moved out to the coast. The new residents were the “scourge” of society: gypsies, war widows, former slaves, the poor. Many of the unmarried women kept dogs for protection and companionship, and as the owners died off, the dogs roamed the town – hence the name.
A number of the women in town were rumored to be witches. The most famous, Thomazine “Aunt Tammy” Younger, told fortunes, entertained “buccaneers and such-like lawless men,” and was said to make men do her bidding. Tammy’s aunt, a witch named Luce George, was said to have cursed carts to not hold onto their goods unless some of it was turned over to the witches. Another woman, Peg Wasson, was said to have flown over a camp of soldiers in the guise of a crow. The crow was shot with a silver button fired from a gun – and that same button showed up in Wasson’s leg.
Dogtown grew more decrepit and residents died or left. The last inhabitant of Dogtown was discovered, half-dead, in a cellar hole in 1830. He was taken to the poor house and died shortly after. The town remains empty to this day.
Well, almost empty. It is a not-too-popular hiking spot that is poorly mapped and easy to get lost in. Over the years, there have been many spooky sightings: werewolves, or human/canine hybrids; huge black cats that were thought to have been familiars to the witches; a mysterious lady in black who disappears when approached. In the early 1980s a popular schoolteacher was bludgeoned to death in the woods; a homeless man was found beaten to death; and a man buried his dead friend in Dogtown. It has also become a popular place for suicides.
In August, a woman named Sarah Laskow and her husband recorded what is possibly the weirdest, creepiest chapter in Dogtown’s history. Acting on a tip from her uncle, Laskow discovered a variety of stuffed animals arranged in cultish formations. None of the few hikers Laskow encountered on her trip knew anything about the toys, and a web searched turned up no other mention of these Satanic critters.