Enjoying a taste of normalcy in New England

June 4, 2021 | G. Michael Dobbs

As I stood on a wooded hill in Acworth, NH, swatting mosquitos, part of my “normal life” had returned.

No I wasn’t camping. I had a few days off last week and I used one of them to see two of my closest friends, Joe Citro and Steve Bissette, both of whom live in Windsor, VT, just south of White River Junction.

We call ourselves “The Three Old Men” and we go on tours. I go up to see them and they come down to see me.

Joe is the author of many books, acclaimed horror novels, as well as books that explore New England folklore as well as puzzling structures and artifacts. The next time you’re in Barnes and Noble, pick up a copy of “Weird New England.” His latest book is a new edition of “The Vermont Ghost Guide (A Second Conjuring).”

When I go to Windsor, Joe and Steve will arrange a tour of some of these places. I find it absolutely fascinating. When they come here I do the same thing.

You might say, ‘What is odd around here?’ How about the Barney Mausoleum in Forest Park? It’s a surprise to many to see an ornate and huge faux-Egyptian tomb in the middle of a beautiful city park.

Joe and Steve have taken me to see many historical and inexplicable things and to do it again was wonderful. Joe is a skeptic, but has an open mind about the possibilities of the origins of these puzzles.

This time the destination was one to which Joe had never been before: the “beehives” at Acworth, NH.

We started out with an appetizer: the mounted mountain lion or catamount at the Weathersfield (VT) Historical Society. This beast was killed in the 19th century and mounted for all to see. It has become a symbol for the town as well as a reminder when mountain lions prowled the state. Although considered extinct by some, Joe himself, along with many others, have seen them alive and well to this day.

As Joe wrote in 2004, “History tells us the last big cat – catamount, mountain lion, or whatever you want to call it – was killed in Barnard in 1881. That proclamation, long accepted as fact, was impossible to prove. Who can say the “Barnard Beast” didn’t have a mate lurking among rocks nearby?

Anyway, scattered panther sightings continued after 1881, but no one paid much attention. After all, catamounts were extinct, right?”

Acworth is a tiny town of less than 1,000 people not far from Claremont, NH. Joe had heard of the mysterious structures and had arranged for a local resident to show the way to one of them.

Many of these stone structures I’ve seen with him and Steve are nowhere near any house or building. They were already long built when colonists came to New England, and native people did not claim them as part of their history or culture.

This “beehive” is on top of a hill, with the nearest known structure quite a distance away. It is about six feet in length, made completely of unhewn stone carefully and expertly arranged. There are no signs of mortar being used, which is typical with many of the structures I’ve seen.

I’m not sure why the name “beehive” was used, as the structure has a large open doorway at one end of it. To my uneducated eye, it clearly looked like an overnight shelter for someone traveling through the countryside.

Our guide said there was another such structure in town, but it has collapsed with age. I asked if anyone had mapped the position of the two “beehives” as the logical idea was they were both on a some kind of trail. She did not know.

According to the New England Historical Society, Massachusetts alone has 105 of these mysterious structures.

There is an essay written by the former Police Chief of Acworth, William Raymond, that reads in part, “In 1947, Dr. James Whittall visited Kennedy Hill (the Acworth site) and found them very similar to the stone structures built by the Celts in northern Spain and Portugal. This goes along with William Goodwin’s theory that Mystery Hill, Acworth and similar sites in northwestern Massachusetts and eastern Vermont were built and inhabited by Irish Culdee monks fleeing Norsemen or Vikings. Goodwin theorized that monks tried to Christianize the Algonquian natives living in New England in the ninth and tenth centuries.”

This stuff is fascinating to me. Was I seeing the handiwork of Irish monks centuries ago? Was this a refuge for monks working their way through the New England countryside?

I don’t know, but boy am I glad I had the chance of seeing it.

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