Boston’s Mysterious Secret Tunnels

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I am not a native Bostonian, but have been residing now for almost ten years just an hour away from this iconic city. One, apparently, jam-packed with history—both legendary and secretive.

Underground tunnels are one of the mysteries of Boston’s history, and I’m not talking about the Big Dig. Local lore documents a series of tunnels that existed—may still exist—under Boston’s North End. Who built these underground passages and why?

History points to a privateer named Thomas Gruchy who lived and operated in Boston’s North End in the 1700s. A tunnel under his Commercial Street mansion connected his basement to the wharves, where it would have been easy to smuggle goods, thus avoiding the British tariffs or taxes. It is even speculated that the four plaster angels decorating the Old North Church, donated by Gruchy, were stolen from a French ship. These statues still stand in the church today.

That seems like a classic explanation for an underground tunnel, but what about the others? Writing from 1817 indicates a tunnel underneath a Lynn Street house, and another on Salem Street has a bricked up archway in its basement. It is said this blocks a tunnel that leads to the Copp’s Burial Ground.

In 1927, fantasy and horror writer H.P. Lovecraft crafted a tale called Pickman’s Model in which the North End secret underground tunnels play a key role. I mean, seriously—what better place to set a spooky story than in an underground tunnel, particularly one that leads to a graveyard?

IMG_0831On the campus of the Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine where I work, underground tunnels still exist between some of the original buildings. These grounds comprised the Grafton State Mental Hospital in the late 1800s and up until the 1970s, when Tufts purchased the property. I’ve been in a couple of these tunnels, some of which have been repurposed for storage and animal containment. Others remain exactly as they were a hundred or more years ago.

Yes, there is a ghost story coming set on these grounds . . . it’s on my bucket list of supernatural suspense novels. I even have the plot and characters sketched out, and the title is “Electricity.” Stay tuned for that book to be released sometime in early 2018.

Although many of my novels are set in my native New York State, it appears there may be more fodder for spooky mysteries right here in Massachusetts than I’d previously suspected. Does anyone know of any other interesting sites I might explore? Please chime in under comments.

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