Just above Boston in the ancient town of Malden in the mid 19th century, lived a man by the name of Ephraim Graves. A man whose mysterious life was out-shined only by his strange death and the stories that followed...
His large house was measurement of his wealth, and the
presence of a man servant who was not a slave.
At night things were told by passers by,
of noxious and chemical odors, and fumes permeating into the streets.
Peculiar noises, voices and screams came from his supposed laboratory.
And worse were the frightening shadows cast against
his closed curtains, causing enough horror that
two witnesses fainted and were seized with convulsions for weeks, but never were they able to convey
exactly what they saw.
Legend tells that he told his servant and student
that when he died, his body would never rot, for it was not common flesh like theirs, and, by the devil – it would take another form.
So around 1850 when Graves passed away
and was placed in his tomb,
the servant disappeared and was never seen again;
making many wonder what strange secrets did he know,
and we can only guess.
For a time silence and rest seems to have presided
over the passing of the infamous man.
But the townsfolk still whispered the rumors
of Ephraim’s words and promise of his unaging and unrotted corpse.
So temptation worked its frenzy and 20 years later
A group of citizens gathered to reenter the tomb
to see if this body was human and a skeleton.
And to their wretched sight, Grave’s body
was a brown, hideous, hard and unfamiliar shape,
like some demon without wings, and enough to haunt their dreams causing panic and dismay.
The town’s elders asked for help from the college nearby
and so a medical student from Harvard arrived to take the challenge, though grave robbing, embalming, dissection
and messing with a body of the deceased was still against the law.
So on one moonlit night, the student with lantern in hand
entered the vault and proceeded to do his work.
He stretched out the body, severed the head, and placed it
in a bag, so he could bring it home to study.
Then eerie sounds arose from surrounding coffins in the sepulcher.
Footsteps, moans, wails and even screams from
unhappy souls could be heard, then shadows started to form on the moldy tomb walls.
He lost his wits, and threw the bag with the head and ran
and never returned – though he’s quoted as saying
that he doubted whether Graves’ remains were in actuality
photo credit: www.vastpublicindifference.com
As time passed, some psychics and clairvoyants visited the tomb.
Though they too had no pleasant things to share or recall.
Groups of boys would dare their companions to enter
the aging vault and to pick up the severed skull and to show
the rest looking from above, in daylight of course.
But at some point, “It” just disappeared,
Was it just a trophy for some brave adventurer, or…
sitting on the shelf of some doctor or rich collector?
Now the tale gets darker, for like Washington Irving’s
Hessian soldier of Sleepy Hollow
A few residents swore that they witnessed a ghostly shape
rise from his tomb at the stroke of midnight,
and its loathsome body stalk the cemetery for its lost head.
One last story speaks of a man in a nearby river
taking an early morning bath
who claims to have seen a white robed figure walking out of the tomb.
Terrified, he ran naked through the streets shouting
at what he had seen.
But sadly, due to shock, he went into solitude,
withered away and died shortly after.
Enough was enough, for around the turn of the 20th century
the leading authorities of Malden
seemed to put a rest to the ghost of Ephraim Graves.
Workmen arrived and shoveled cartloads of earth
upon the entire tomb and buried it completely.
It no longer visible except for the slightly flattened mound
where it might have been.
I visited Malden’s Bell Rock Cemetery in 2008
with a few close friends
But ironically, never looked around enough to notice
the grave of Michael Wigglesworth,
the author of the biggest selling book in 17th century America second only to the Bible.
An English immigrant, puritan, Harvard Graduate and pastor, Wigglesworth’s poem and book, titled The Day of Doom, was based on the Final Judgment.
Kids memorized it from start to finish.
He was born on my birthday, October 18th, though in 1631,
and shared the final resting place with Ephraim Graves –
alchemist, occultist and immortal beast or demon…
whichever name you choose.
Happy Hallows Eve to Everyone !
photo credit: www.vastpublicindifference.com