The following report chronicles our investigation of an abandoned prison camp in Rutland, Massachusetts over three days.
From 1903 to 1933, the rural west side of the town of Rutland, Massachusetts was the home to around 100 prisoners suffering from tuberculosis. These prisoners were transferred to the Rutland Prison Camp Hospital from their cells in neighboring prisons to participate in a revolutionary rehabilitation experiment. Taking cues from the first public tuberculosis sanatorium in the nation, nearby Rutland State Sanatorium, prisoners were prescribed a regimen of hard work, healthy diet and fresh air in the hopes that their health would improve through the duration of their sentences.
With superintendent William Turner at the helm, the Rutland Prison Camp Hospital strove to be a self-sufficient operation. Prisoners were involved in the construction of the hospital and other buildings on the property, and were assigned the duties of raising livestock and tending crops both for their own use and for sale. Prisoners staffed the 100-bed hospital building; even some of the doctors were inmates.
By all accounts the prisoners were treated fairly and thrived under Superintendent Turner’s care. Many had arrived near death, but regained their strength and health through his unique approach.
In 1934, the State of Massachusetts reclaimed the land as part of the Quabbin Reservoir project, and shut down the Rutland Prison Camp Hospital for good.
An excellent gallery of historical images from the prison camp can be found here.
CLAIMS of ACTIVITY:
The 980-acre tract of land which once comprised the Rutland Prison Camp Hospital is now a part of the Rutland State Forest. Many vestiges of the former Prison Camp remain, including the foundation of the main hospital, a four-cell solitary confinement building, the foundation of the warden’s home, a vegetable storage cellar, an underground drainage tunnel, a small cemetery and several other partial foundations and structural remnants.
The forest is open to the public, and is used as a general purpose recreation area for hikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders and, during the Fall season, bird hunters. There is also evidence that the area is used as a party spot, including graffiti, beer bottles, discarded paper, the remains of campfires and a few spent paint balls.
Of the many visitors each season, some report strange happenings, from feelings of heaviness to outright dread, voices and physical contact. One legend states that a full body apparition has been seen in the vicinity of the foundation of the warden’s home; this apparition is believed to be the warden’s wife.
We first began our research at the Rutland Prison Camp Hospital in October of 2008.
On that beautiful Fall morning, Chris, Rob, Sue and I ventured out along the maze of dirt roads and gated paths off of MA-122 armed with only a GPS and some vague directions obtained from the dustiest corners of the internet. Somewhere along Prison Camp Road there would be a prison, and we had been assured we would know it when we saw it!
After a backtrack or two, we did indeed find it. The solitary confinement building – a rainbow-graffitied white stucco edifice commonly called the “stone house” – appeared on our left, a short way after the intersection of Prison Camp and Intervale Roads. We parked behind it, grabbed our gear, and set off to scout the grounds of the camp.
Our first trip did not yield much in the way of experiences or evidence, but it did leave a powerful impression on us that this was a location to be explored much further. Upon returning home, we retired to our respective corners and commenced on some more thorough historical research.
With new research, maps and a full battery of equipment in hand, we returned the following weekend with a complete crew, adding Aaron and former NESSS investigator Jean to the previous weekend’s lineup. We explored the solitary confinement building first, starting with baseline EMF readings, then performed a communication session within the cells. Aside from Sue’s strange feeling of claustrophobia within one of the cells, we experienced nothing out of the ordinary there. None of our instruments recorded any anomalies or deviations from baseline.
Next we ventured up to the vegetable storage cellar, a concrete building half buried in the side of a hill. We investigated this building as we had the solitary confinement cells, with no anomalies to report. Up the hill from the vegetable cellar, we found another stone foundation, believed to be the remains of the chicken coop. Other than a lost battle with the thistly undergrowth, we experienced nothing worth reporting there either.
Walking back by the solitary confinement building and further down the path, we came upon a concrete platform and several more foundations, once part of the cattle and dairy operation. Our investigation of this area returned nothing of interest.
Directly behind the solitary confinement building, we found the remains of a drainage system in the form of a 30 or so foot tunnel directly under the ground. Intrepid explorers to a man, we ventured below. We found plenty of graffiti and moss-covered walls, stagnant water and rough footing, but alas, nothing out of the ordinary.
We then decided to head up to the main hospital, an immense horseshoe-shaped cellar hole about a quarter mile up Prison Camp road on the right. We investigated several spots around and inside the foundation, taking EMF readings and photos. We concentrated on communication sessions here, since this was the prisoners’ primary residence while imprisoned at the camp . Unfortunately, neither our photos nor our recordings revealed anything anomalous. We noted no deviations from baseline on any other instruments.
A short way back down from the hospital, we found the foundation of Superintendent Turner’s home. It was around this foundation that witnesses had claimed to have seen an apparition of Turner’s wife. We performed our usual communication session and took photos in and around the foundation using several different cameras. Later examination of the photos revealed nothing of interest.
Exhausted, we left the camp for the day and returned home. It had been a long day and we were satisfied that we had thoroughly investigated everything we had set about to see.
Perhaps a lesser group would be deterred by the lack of concrete evidence on our initial trip and give up on such an unyielding location entirely. But we at the Northeast Spectral Science Society have a policy to reserve judgment on ANY location until we’ve investigated and researched it thoroughly. As a group, we felt that we were not done with Rutland, and we hoped that it was not yet done with us. We found the camp to be fascinating and thought that perhaps a change of tactics would bring about a change in luck, and vowed to return under different conditions.
Since the middle of a New England state forest is no place to be during the worst of the Winter months, we put off our return trip to the Rutland Prison Camp Hospital until April of this year. Given the vast area we knew we would be working with, we decided to bring in other investigators to help with our search. NESSS investigators Chris, Sue, Rob, Aaron and I were accompanied that evening by 9 members of the Western Massachusetts Paranormal Meetup. We met beside the solitary confinement building, split into two groups and set off in opposite directions, into the crisp night.
Both teams investigated the major locations in turn, hitting the main hospital, the solitary confinement building and the vegetable cellar. We concentrated on communication sessions and EVP work, since the cold, damp air was unforgiving of flash photography. Though many members of both groups had personal experiences, especially inside and around the solitary confinement building, we came away from the investigation without a whole lot of concrete evidence.
None of the NESSS investigators present obtained any interesting anomalies on our recordings, however one of our guest investigators did come away with one potential EVP. We hope to be able to examine this recording fully in the future, and with her permission, share it with our readers here at a later date.
Some of our guest investigators noted photos of possible interest, but our team has since been able to rule these out as naturally-occurring anomalies, brought upon by the combination of camera flash, breath exhaled into a cold night and a high moisture content in the air.
Several of our guest investigators found that they could not or would not go inside one particular cell of the solitary confinement building – the very same cell where Sue had experienced claustrophobia during our first visit. Though we are not in any position to completely rule out the possibility that a negative entity or force has taken up residence in this cell, an alternate theory regarding our natural, psychological reactions to such a place emerges upon further contemplation.
The particular cell in question is the very cell that has somehow escaped the ravages of time un-breached – the only one of four that has not been outfitted with a ragged skylight by the dual destructive forces of erosion and neglect. This final cell is the one most strongly able to imbue the investigator with a feeling of confinement and the sense of what it must have been like to be sentenced to time in the cold silence of the stone house.
We can not, at this time, definitively state that the Rutland Prison Camp Hospital is haunted. However, we are not yet ready to rule it out either. We were unable to find any natural causes for any of the reported activity, and were unable to replicate it during any of our visits. The wealth of personal experiences during our third visit, though inconclusive, have encouraged us to begin planning a fourth visit. Though we would normally try to replicate the conditions under which these things were experienced as closely as possible, it is unlikely we will be able to go during the evening hours again due to the current unavailability of evening permits.
By a strange mix of circumstances, we were unable to visit the cemetery on the grounds during any of our visits to the camp. This also remains one area we’d like to investigate in the future.
Though the forest is open to the public during daylight hours, we very strongly discourage any other potential investigators from trying to enter after dark without proper permission.