Myths and Legends
Mysterious Disappearance of Thomas Sweetser
It was 1790, and young Thomas Sweetser, about 25 years old, suddenly and mysteriously disappeared.
At the time, he was living with his grandfather at the Sweetser Homestead in the area of today’s Main Street and Minot Street intersection. However, on the night of his disappearance, he was spending it with some friends down in Stoneham. It was at a place called “The Office” near Stoneham Square where he was last seen. The Office was a well-known rum and gambling establishment.
All reports were that he was winning big when he decided it was time to head back to Reading. The normal route he took was into what is today Wakefield (It was a part of Reading back then) and onto a bridle path across the northern shore of Crystal Lake. It was called Smith’s Pond back then.
He never made it home.
For days and even weeks, everyone in town looked for him. They couldn’t find a trace. Many townsfolk figured that his “friends” didn’t like the fact that he won all their money and then left with it. Although many people to their dying day felt Thomas had been done in by his gambling buddies, none were ever charged with murder. Slowly, poor Thomas moved to the back of people’s minds. Years later, many of the people who remembered that night had died or moved away. Thomas had been forgotten.
Was he ever found? Maybe. In 1845, while the Boston & Maine Railroad was building a new line from Boston through Wakefield and on to Reading, the workers came across a startling discovery. Right at the north end of Crystal Lake – exactly where the old bridle path had been – they found a skeleton, in a sitting position, underground. It was as if he had crouched into a hole and never got out. The skeleton was fully intact, and the skull was only a foot below the surface.
Was this Thomas Sweetser? Who else could it have been?
The Jaquith House – Home of the Devil?
It is not known when the house was built. It seemed as though it had been there forever. The Jaquith House used to sit on the northeast corner of the intersection of Woburn Street and Washington Street. It had been used as a makeshift church in its early days, as Reverend Richard Brown would ride up from the South Parish (Wakefield) and preach there. It was after Rev. Brown died in 1732 that mysterious things seemed to happen. Many people in Wood End knew it to be haunted by evil spirits. So many apparitions were seen and noises heard that children were afraid to pass directly by it instead of going around it through the nearby fields.
Some people said it was more than merely haunted. The Devil himself lived there.
It is said that sometime in the mid-1800’s old Mr. Daniel Bailey once came running full-speed into Ephraim Weston’s store, which was about a ½ mile away, up by where the Dragon Corner Store stood on West Street. He was badly exhausted and frightened. Once he had calmed down, he told of his adventure:
He had not intended to be frightened by anything until he saw it with his own eyes. As he was passing by the Old Jaquith House, he thought he would find out if the Devil were home. If so, he’d like to see him. He went up to an open window to get a close-up view of him. Just then, the old spinning wheel in the front room began to spin. He saw no one in the room but heard a loud cackling laugh. In an instant, Mr. Bailey’s hair stood on end, pushing his hat right into the air, causing him to have to grab it and hold on as he ran.
Many years later, the house was torn down by Wendell Bancroft and replaced. Apparently, the ghosts, or the devil, or whoever, didn’t come along, for all the stories stopped.
The Green Street Poltergeist
In a house on Green Street (We have been asked not to reveal the address) could be the hauntings of two sets of spirits. The first story goes back many, many years. Legend has it that a somewhat harmless but mischievous ghost has a unique way of welcoming new residents.
Supposedly, on the first night that a new occupant spends in the master bedroom, the spirit pays a visit. The stories are all the same. Sometime after the new resident or residents fall asleep, a faint thumping on the stairway stirs them. The thumping gets louder as the spirit gets closer to the top of the stairs. Then right through the doorway, whether the door is open or not, comes a faint light blue object. The object comes to the foot of the bed and takes on a human form of sorts – still blue and still mostly transparent, and shakes the end of the bed. The ghost gives out a laugh that is more comical than scary and disappears – never to be seen by them again.
The Ghost At The Congregational Church
This story comes to us from a former minister:
Why there should be a ghost in the First Congregational Church, I know not.
However, sometime after coming to Reading, a parishioner, who shall remain anonymous, told me that he had on several occasions experienced a presence. On one occasion, he was going down the east side stairs to the basement when some(one)(thing) came up and passed right through him.
The story had completely passed from my consciousness when one fall mid-afternoon, I was alone in the church office.
The sun was streaming in at a low angle. The temperature was comfortably warm.
Although I was not looking out into the hallway, I was aware that someone (thing) had gone by the door. I heard what seemed to be a footstep on the stair toward the west side exit door. The episode surprised me because I was quite certain I was in the building alone.
The exit door did not open or close, nor did I hear any more steps.
However, I was concerned enough to conduct a thorough search of the building, thinking a transient might be wandering around in need of help. I found no one and went back to work, nevertheless quite certain that there had been a “visitor.”