The Bridgewater Triangle
The Bridgewater Triangle is an area of about 200 square miles (520 km2) within southeastern Massachusetts in the United States . Since colonial times the area has been a site of alleged paranormal phenomena, ranging from UFO and "black helicopter" sightings (including many with multiple points of corroboration including police and a local news team), to poltergeists and orbs, balls of fire and other spectral phenomena, various "bigfoot" sightings, giant snakes and "thunderbirds", as well as the mutilation of cattle and other livestock.
November 14th, 2010
Although known for centuries as an area of unusual and unexplained activity, the specific boundaries of the Bridgewater Triangle were first defined by paranormal researcher Loren Coleman in his book Mysterious America. The Triangle encompasses the towns of Abington, Brockton, Rehoboth and Freetown at the points of the triangle, and Norton, Bridgewater, West Bridgewater, Middleboro, Dighton, Berkley, Raynham, Easton, Lakeville, and Taunton inside the triangle. A similar but lesser-known area exists in neighboring Vermont called the Bennington Triangle.
Central to the area is the mysterious and largely untouched Hockomock Swamp, which means "the place where spirits dwell", and which was called "The Devil's Swamp" by early settlers. The Triangle also contains several Indian burial grounds, as well as significant sites used by both natives and colonists during King Philip's War, which is said by some to be the source of several curses on the nearby land. According to one tale, the Native Americans had cursed the swamp centuries ago because of the poor treatment they received from the Colonial settlers.
Also found within the boundaries of the Bridgewater Triangle is the Dighton Rock. The source of great controversy, the rock contains a number of inscriptions by possibly pre-Columbian visitors ranging from Vikings, to Portuguese to Phoenicians (characteristics of each of these languages can be found on the rock.)
Freetown-Fall River State Forest
Another area of unusual activity within the Bridgewater Triangle is the Freetown-Fall River State Forest. The forest land and that forming the town of Freetown was purchased from the Wampanoag Tribe in 1659, and many Native Americans have claimed that the odd and evil events which transpired over the preceding 350 years are the result of a tribal curse. For decades the Freetown State Forest has reportedly been the site of various cult activity including animal sacrifice, ritualistic murders committed by admitted Satanists, as well as a number of gangland murders and a high number of suicides.
Paranormal activity in the Triangle Common to most of these areas is a mix of reported phenomena that includes reports of UFOs, mysterious animals and hominids, ghosts and poltergeists, animal mutilations, as well as in more recent history reports of clandestine military activity including mysterious unmarked helicopters. What is perhaps most notable about the Bridgewater Triangle, however, is that this reported activity for the most predates that of other areas, dating back to colonial or pre-colonial records.
The area within the Triangle, centering on the Hockomock Swamp but also including developed areas of neighboring towns, offers the odd mix of paranormal phenomena associated with other areas of Native American historic significance. Similar reports have been made of areas such as Uintah County, Utah, the San Luis Valley, Yakama Indian Reservation, Elbert County, Colorado and Sedona, Arizona. Common to most these sites, the several areas within the boundaries of the Bridgewater Triangle were the locations of some of history's bloodiest battles during King Philip's War.
- 300-year History of UFO Sightings: The first UFO sighted over Bridgewater was in 1760, described as a "sphere of fire" that cast shadows in broad daylight. Another was sighted on Halloween night in 1908 by two undertakers. Dozens more UFOs have been seen in the vicinity from the 1960s through the present day. During the 1970s a number of UFO reports originated from the area of the Triangle, including an account by multiple witnesses at Joseph's Restaurant in Rehobeth in 1973, reports from two Boston radio reporters (channel WHDH) on March 23, 1979 and more recently as reported in the Sunday Enterprise local resident George LaCasse saw a red-light flying erratically.
- Bigfoot sightings: There have been several reported sightings of a bigfoot-like creature in the triangle, usually near the Hockomock swamp. Joseph DeAndrade claimed to see a half man and half ape creature entering the woods near the swamp in 1978. Local resident John Baker also reported seeing a large hairy beast in a river in the swamp while canoeing. In an earlier report in 1970, the creature allegedly picked up the rear end of a police car with two officers inside. Local residents refer to the being as the "Hockomock Swamp Monster."
- Thunderbird sightings: For decades reports of giant birds or pterodactyl-like flying creature with wingspans 8-12 feet have been sighted in Hockomock Swamp and neighboring Taunton, including a report by Norton Police Sergeant Thomas Downy.
- Assorted Strange or Out-of-Place Creatures: reports unusual animals date back to pre-colonial times, with more modern reports from a variety of government and other officials have documented unusual animals including alligators, black panthers, giant turtles as well as a giant snake "as thick as a tree trunk" reported by Civilian Conservation Corps workers in 1939.
- Phantom Dogs: In 1976 an Abington resident reported seeing a large phantom dog with red eyes was seen killing two ponies. The witness, the ponies' owner, said the beast ripped their throats and was almost as big as the ponies themselves. Responding to the incident, Abington Police officer Frank Curran engaged the suspected animal, fired his weapon with no effect.
- Mysterious lights: One of the most common phenomena observed in the area is "spooklights" or the will-o'-the-wisp, sometimes known as ghost lights, a phenomenon typically seen in boggy or swampy areas. Mysterious lights also appear along train tracks every January, and foxfire has often been observed within the swamp.
- Animal Mutilations: Various incidents of animal mutilation have been reported, particularly in Freetown and Fall River, where local police were called to investigate mutilated animals believed to be the work of a cult. Two specific incidents in 1998 were reported: one in which a single adult cow was found butchered in the woods; the other in which a group of calves were discovered in a clearing, grotesquely mutilated as if part of a ritual sacrifice.
- Murders: Among the recorded homicides are over a dozen confirmed murders in the forest over 1978 to 1988. Another gruesome discovery by Freetown police, following the report by the victim of a previous sexual assault at the site, was an underground bunker otherwise hidden from view. Upon investigation police found a number of strange objects, including small chairs with belts or restraints, seemingly made for children.
- Mysterious Tombs: When archaeologists excavated a burial ground located on Grassy Island in the Hockomock Swamp and opened the graves, the red ochre within the tombs mysteriously bubbled and dissolved. Photographs of the site would not develop. (source: A Prehistoric Skeleton from Grassy Island, Edmund Burke Delabarre, American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 30, No. 3 (Jul. - Sep., 1928), pp. 476-480)
- Satanic Rituals: The Freetown-Fall River State Forest (within the Triangle) has been the site of several gruesome murders linked to admitted Satanists or otherwise consistent with Satanic Rituals. Local graves have been disturbed with skulls stolen, in some cases later found in the Freetown Forest. Sites have been found with evidence of ritualistic animal sacrifice. Since the 1980s many instances of sacrificed cattle and goats have been invested or otherwise recorded by the Freetown police.
- Reports of Black Helicopters: Local resident Mary Lou Jones-Drown reported hearing "very loud helicopter noise" in Rehoboth on June 25, 2002. No helicopters were apparent in the air when the noises were heard. She was able to locate and interview witnesses who told her that mysterious helicopters "equipped with spotlights" were seen flying over the Palmer River School on the north side of Route 44. A local farmer reported "two black helicopters with spotlights were flying in formation above the trees. The choppers came from the southeast, from Mount Hope Bay in Swansea." Another report concerning July 56, 2002, described "it was like gray camouflage or a striped helicopter type." Similar reports were made August 7-9, and again on April 1st, 2002. (source: Joseph Trainor, "UFO Roundup," July 9, 2002)
- Indian Curses: According to one tale, the Native Americans had cursed the swamp centuries ago because of the poor treatment they received from the Colonial settlers.
- Ghosts: Visitors to Hockomock Swamp have experienced such haunting activity as the smell of smoke when there is no fire; a bonfire atop a rock that mysteriously vanished and ghostly voices in the Algonquin tongue.
- The Phantom Hitchhiker of Route 44: Many people have encountered the spectre of a long dead hitchhiker along the wooded area of Route 44 while driving from Seekonk to Rehoboth. The man is sometimes well kept, other times he is dirty with his clothes in disarray. A few details that remain constant in every encounter: his hair is always red, and he's always dressed in a plaid shirt. One woman reported running over a man fitting that description late one night. The man seemingly appeared out of nowhere, and the woman, taken by surprise, had no time to prevent a collision. When she jammed on her brakes, and leapt out to investigate, she found no evidence of anyone being in the road at all. She did hear, however, a cackling laugh emanating from the woods alongside her. Frightened, the woman returned to her car and continued on. A few minutes later, the same thing happened again. The man appeared, and once more she hit him. Too frightened to leave her car, the woman rolled down her windows to inspect the road. As before, there was nothing or no one to be seen. The disturbing laugh returned, this time much closer, as if a few feet from the car. Sufficiently terrorized, the woman peeled out at full speed.
What is the Bridgewater Triangle?
Massachusetts' paranormal "hot spot"
Low-flying UFOs, Bigfoot creatures, cattle mutilations, Indian curses and ghostly apparitions. These are just a sampling of the wide range of paranormal phenomena that are constantly occurring in the area of Massachusetts known as the Bridgewater Triangle. First described by researcher Loren Coleman in the 1970s, the Triangle is an area of about 200 square miles that includes the towns of Abington, Rehoboth and Freetown at the angles of the triangle, and Bridgewater, West Bridgewater, North Middleboro, Segreganset, Dighton, North Dighton, Berkley, Myricks, Raynham, East Taunton, and Taunton inside the triangle. Unexplained phenomena are also common in the towns just outside this region.
The center of this mysterious area is the Hockomock Swamp. Its name comes from the Native Americans, who called it "Devil's swamp" or "Place where spirits dwell". At 5,000 acres, this swamp is one of the largest of its kind in the entire northeastern U.S. Some parts are considerably remote and it is not difficult to imagine how some of the strange things reported there could continue to elude detection through the years. Many residents of local towns report having strange feelings about the swamp, and there is a strong local superstition that evil paranoral or satanic activity goes on there.
The first documented UFO sighting in the Bridgewater Triangle took place on May 10, 1760. At 10 o'clock that morning, a "sphere of fire" was observed over New England. According to historical records, the UFO emitted light bright enough to cast a shadow in bright sunlight. The sound made by the object "oddly enough was heard sooner at the middle of the course it took than at the beginning". In Massachusetts, the light was seen in Bridgewater, as well as in Roxbury. Bridgewater was again visited on Halloween night 1908, an incident that was well documented in the local newspapers. Two undertakers were driving a carriage from West Bridgewater to the center of Bridgewater when the incident occurred, shortly after 3 AM. They described the object as looking like "an unusually strong lantern... about two and a half feet in diameter", illuminating a large object resembling a balloon bag. They watched it for at least forty minutes, and other witnesses saw it, too. It was seen to hover at times, and to keep a straight, steady course at other times. Though one newspaper reported that "all of the balloons in which ascensions are made, in this State, were accounted for", some people who had not seen the object believed that the UFO had been a hot-air balloon. To counter this suggestion, one of the undertakers wrote, "I claim that a hot-air balloon could not move in a circle or perpendicular, as this one did." He also wrote that the object "moved up and down seemingly at the will of some individual".
There were many UFO sightings in the area during the mid-1960's, and reports continued to come in through the decades. Two huge UFOs were seen landing near Route 44 in Taunton in December 1976. On March 23, 1979, two newsmen from WHDH saw an object shaped like a home plate on a baseball diamond emit a mysterious green substance at the junction of routes 24 and 106 in Taunton. Also, in January 1991, a green flying disc was seen in Bridgewater moving slowly and silently at an altitude of about 50 feet, illuminating a large area with a powerful spotlight. This is just a small sample of the reported UFO sightings in the Bridgewater Triangle. In late November 1997, a law enforcement officer working the night shift in Bridgewater saw a very large triangular UFO with 3 white and 2 red star-like lights. On December 10, 1998, a witness near Route 44 in Middleboro saw a strange, brightly lit craft with numerous red, green and white lights maneuvering over Assawompsett Pond in Middleboro. The object split into two, and then the two UFOs flew geometric patterns at high speed around the sky, displaying spectacular colored lights. The craft then joined into one again and disappeared. Air Force planes were seen over the pond immediately following the incident, apparently searching for something. Also, most recently, in the summer of 1999, 20-year-old George LaCasse saw a UFO in his home town, Bridgewater. According to the local newspaper, the Sunday Enterprise, LaCasse saw a distant red light. He stated, "It was moving all around. It was moving in shapes planes don’t move."
Cryptozoological mysteries also abound in the Triangle, particularly in the Hockomock Swamp. Bigfoot in particular has been seen and reported many times, usually entering or exiting the swamp, or creeping along its edges. In 1970, many people saw a hairy seven-foot-tall monster, sometimes standing upright, but sometimes running off on four legs. Footprints were found in the mud, and for two days and nights, Bridgewater police and Massachusetts State Police with attack dogs staged a hunt for a giant bear, even though bears have long been extinct in the region! On April 8, two policemen sitting in their cruiser had an especially terrifying Bigfoot encounter. One of the men stated that "without warning, something began to pick up the rear of our car. I spun the car around and got my spotlight on something that looked like a bear running on the corner of a house". Needless to say, no bear was ever found. Bridgewater resident Joseph M. DeAndrade has been instrumental in investigating and publishing these reports. Since 1978, he has collected sighting reports and gone into the swamp searching for evidence of the Hockomock monster. One person told him that some years ago, while hunting, his uncle had shot an animal that looked like a bear. After the shot, the boy and his uncle heard a cry that seemed half-animal and half-human. The animal disappeared into the woods, but they later found blood and long brown hair on the leaves. The same witness claimed that he and a family were picnicking near a pond when they heard a loud splash like a large object falling into the water. When they went to the water's edge, the family saw several dead fish floating on top of the water. DeAndrade also published a report by a West Bridgewater woman who looked into her garden one night and saw a very tall bipedal creature, covered with dark hair, eating a pumpkin it was holding in its hands. It looked at her with reddish orange eyes then ran into the woods, taking the pumpkin with it.
Joseph DeAndrade himself caught a glimpse of the elusive creature in the winter of 1978. He saw a "big, tall and strange-looking creature" very slowly walking down a small hill about 200 feet away. Because he viewed the creature from behind he was unable to see its face or legs, but described it as at least six feet tall, weighing no less than 400 pounds, and covered with long dark brown hair. In subsequent expeditions into the area's swamps and woodlands, DeAndrade heard some strange noises, but never again saw the monster. He later wrote two books about his experiences and started a group called the Paranormal Investigation Organization (387 High St., Bridgewater, MA 02324).
One of the many Bigfoot witnesses in the Bridgewater Triangle is John Baker, a trapper from West Bridgewater. Late one cold night in the early 1980’s, Baker was in his canoe running trap lines when he became aware of something watching him nearby. He told the Boston Herald, "Something was following me and I knew it was big. So I took the boat down a small creek to a dry hill and it kept moving." Baker could hear the ice in the swamp cracking as the creature came within a few yards of him. The Herald described the monster as a "shadowy, hair-covered giant." Baker said, "I knew it wasn’t a human because when it passed by me, I could smell it. It smelled like a skunk- musty and dirty. Like it lived in the dirt." Baker has spent over 30 years working in the swamp but never had another similar experience.
Bigfoot reports continue to surface. While I was doing research for this article, I was contacted by a former Taunton resident who told me that some years ago, "There were a few times I thought I saw things walking in the woods there [along Route 138]. Especially around 6 AM..."
Other strange animals are said to live deep within the swamp. More than one witness has reported seeing a huge black prehistoric-looking bird with a wingspan of between eight and twelve feet. Interestingly, the oldest reported sighting (from 1971) occurred at a place in the swamp known as Bird Hill! Some of the more unusual sightings are a 1984 report of two of the creatures fighting each other as they flew over some trees, and a Taunton sighting of a bird with a 10-12 foot wingspan from 1992. Once it was described as looking like a man with wings! Mystery phantom dogs that disappear have been known to show up from time to time, sometimes with disastrous results. In 1976, an Abington man watched as a huge ghostly dog with red eyes ripped the throats out of two of his ponies. The dog was said to be as big as the ponies it killed! Big black panthers, giant turtles and tree-trunk-sized snakes are also said to take advantage of the swamp's remote and inaccessible nature.
Ancient mysteries, legends and curses also figure into the enigma. Within the triangle is a mysterious forty-ton trapezoid-shaped boulder known as Dighton Rock. It is on the bank of the Taunton River, 30 miles from the sea, directly across from the Grassy Island burial grounds. On one face of the stone is a dense mass of very ancient carvings, inscriptions and hieroglyphics that baffles archaeologists. For hundreds of years, scholars have been trying to solve the mystery of the carvings' origin, but no consensus has ever been reached. Variously, the pictographs have been attributed to the Phoenicians, Native Americans, Portuguese, or Viking explorers, but nobody really knows the answer.
Near Dighton Rock lies a small rock outcropping with a very peculiar feature. From a nearby hill, one can clearly see the distinctive silhouette of a Native American face looking out from the stone. This was noted long before the white man came to the area, and the Wampanoag Indians (who still have a reservation nearby) considered the area to be a sacred site. Any visitor to the mystical site can easily envision archaic ceremonies going on in the little caves at the base of the outcropping. But not far away lies an area about which the indigenous population has a different belief altogether. The Hockomock Swamp, they say, is cursed, or haunted by evil spirits. For as long as the elders can remember, the Native Americans avoided the swamp completely after dark, and many were afraid to hunt or fish there even during the day. Joseph DeAndrade was told by a Native American chief from Raynham that his people had cursed the swamp centuries ago because of the poor treatment they received from the Colonial settlers. Whether or not this is true, there is evidence that the swamp was not always considered to be evil. Several years ago, a team of Massachusetts archaeologists discovered a burial ground on Grassy Island in the swamp. Incredibly, when the ancient human remains were unearthed, the red ochre surrounding the skeletons bubbled and inexplicably dissolved, and all of the photos taken to document the excavation failed to develop properly!
One of the sites associated with ancient Native American activity in the Bridgewater Triangle has earned a reputation for being haunted in modern times. Along Route 44 in Rehoboth lies the boulder known as Anawan Rock. Located in a swamp, it was here that the Wampanoag chief Anawan surrendered to the colonists, thus ending King Philip's War. According to local belief, the angry spirits of the warriors captured that day continue to haunt the spot. Witnesses report frequently seeing or smelling smoke in the area, despite the fact that no fire can be located. One pair of visitors to Anawan Rock saw a bonfire blazing atop the rock, which disappeared before their eyes. Another individual was scared away from the site by a loud angry male voice shouting, "Iootash, iootash!" Later, it was found that this word is an Algonquin term meaning "stand and fight". Recently, ghost hunter Courtney Chadwick visited and photographed the site. When the pictures were developed, one showed what appears to be a cloud of smoke obscuring part of the image. Nothing unusual had been seen when the photo was taken!
Another paranormal manifestation found in the Bridgewater Triangle is cattle mutilation. Within the past few years, Freetown police have on more than one occasion been called out to the Freetown/Fall River State Forest to investigate mutilated animals believed to be the work of some sort of cult. Local television stations reported two specific incidents in 1998, one in which a single adult cow was found butchered in the woods, another in which a group of calves were discovered in a clearing, grotesquely mutilated, or "sacrificed" as the police termed it. Despite the police's insistence in the reality of some sinister elusive cult, no cultists or solid evidence to support their existence has ever been found, and a detective working on the case confessed last year to TV station Fox 25 that the mutilations remain a baffling mystery. Likewise, no explanation has been put forth to explain where the cows came from in the first place!
So-called "ghost lights" or "spook lights" are also commonly reported. Allegedly, these strange, glowing balls of light are often seen floating over the ground at the dog track in Raynham. In 1968, 5 people saw a strange ball of light floating among some trees in a wooded part of Rehoboth. When they shouted a warning at it, they were terrified to see it suddenly expand to about five feet in diameter, and they fled when the orb began to move towards them. In another Rehoboth incident from about the same time period, a man looked out into a snowy field near his home and saw what appeared to be a Christmas tree brightly burning from the bottom up. He thought that some vandals had torched the tree as a prank. Imagine his surprise the next morning, when a search of the field revealed no ashes, or even footprints in the snow!
Most recently, the bizarre and poorly understood phenomenon known as the "black helicopters" has started to appear in the Triangle. This aspect of the weird was brought to light by investigator Joseph Trainor in his weekly e-newsletter "UFO Roundup" on July 9, 2002. According to the article, investigator Mary Lou Jones-Drown began hearing "very loud helicopter noise" in Rehoboth on June 25, 2002. No helicopters were apparent in the air when the noises were heard. She was able to locate and interview witnesses who told her that mysterious helicopters "equipped with spotlights" were seen flying over the Palmer River School on the north side of Route 44 (a common place for paranormal phenomena). Some reports described helicopters of the typical black variety; others exhibited different colors. According to the "UFO Roundup" report, "A farm owner in South Rehoboth told Mary Lou that 'two black helicopters with spotlights were flying in formation above the trees. The choppers came from the southeast, from Mount Hope Bay in Swansea.' Another witness told Mary Lou about sighting a strange helicopter on Friday and Saturday, July 5 and 6, 2002, described as "it was like grey camoflage or a striped helicopter type." Then, from August 7-9, and again on August 15, 2002, mysterious black helicopters flew over Rehoboth again. Cats and goats were said to have appeared "nervous" while the choppers were overhead. The copters were said to resemble the one in the TV show "Airwolf." And on August 28, the helicopter activity was described to be "non-stop", even at night. Jones-Drown said, "You could see their headlights."The investigator was unable to determine the origin of these noisy and intrusive aircraft. Mysterious helicopters have been closely associated with UFO lore since the 1970s.
Some of the bizarre encounters that have gone on in this haunted area simply defy categorization. There was one report where a strange entity was seen ducking down in an empty car on Elm Street in Bridgewater. It was described as having an almost skeletal face, white as a sheet of paper, without hair, eyebrows, lips, or a protruding nose! An alien being? A ghost? A demon, perhaps? It remains a mystery. And some say that a mysterious redheaded hitchhiker who terrorizes motorists haunts a stretch of Route 44 in Rehoboth. According to the story, the specter is seen on dark, lonely nights, and it is claimed that he commits frightening acts. And there is more. One area resident told me that one night he looked into an old barn window and saw "a small black thing that looked like a midget" high up on a wall. The form seemed to disintegrate and move toward the witness, like a mist. He fled, and returned later, but saw nothing. However, he heard "weird screeching noises like a pig." A more commonly reported vision is that of some sort of phantom in the swamp near Route 138. This entity is sometimes glimpsed briefly, and described as a "weird figure." Other people hear what sounds like a person moving around deep in the swamp off the trails, sometimes in areas made impassible by water. Strange sounds and voices are common. And I heard a second-hand story that a teenager and his father were on a dirt road in Bridgewater and saw what looked like a little kid in a costume sitting on a brick wall. The kid got up and ran but its arms and legs seemed extremely strange- in fact, it looked as if the bones in his limbs had been broken. Of course, most of these sorts of reports are undocumented, and must be regarded as rumors or legends.
Clearly, it cannot be a coincidence that all these different paranormal phenomena occur with such regularity in such a small geographical area. There must be a connection. For some reason, a small part of Massachusetts seems to be a sort of "window", a gateway for the bizarre and inexplicable. I do not to profess to know the source of these manifestations, whether it is another dimension, or some sort of otherworldly intelligence. All I can say for certain is that a strange presence seems to have taken up permanent residence in the Triangle- a mysterious "something" that continues to defy explanation. For the curious, I strongly recommend a visit to this area. Who knows, maybe you will catch a glimpse of the next unexplainable visitor to the Bridgewater Triangle.