Hug for the late Dot Goldman of Salem, New Hampshire
STONEHENGE IN SALEM, NEW HAMPSHIRE
NOTE: We stopped in Salem to visit my distant family member, friend, and fellow genealogist. She lived in a nursing facility and we had lost track of her. In searching we learned she passed on several months ago. She had always suggested we visit Stonehenge in her hometown. This post is written in her memory.
In one fell swoop my husband Monte and I visited both Stonehenge and Salem.
We accomplished this feat in New Hampshire, a short distance from the Massachusetts border, when we visited Mystery Hill in North Salem, New Hampshire, is better known as America’s Stonehenge.
We turned off the main road onto a path where there was another sign with a brief explanation of what we were visiting:
- Located near the summit of Mystery Hill is a massive complex of stone chambers, walls, and large standing stones. Both radio-carbon dating (C-14) and the placement of the astronomically oriented standing stones indicate this site was constructed at least 4000 years ago. Like the Stonehenge of England, America’s Stonehenge accurately plots many solar and lunar events, such as solstices and equinoxes, as well as many ancient holidays.
In the History of Salem, New Hampshire (by Edgar Gilbert) he states “This is a wild and beautiful spot among rough boulders and soft pines, about which the most weird and fantastic tales might be woven…”
Mystery Hill’s summit is covered with 105 acres of exposed bedrock. There is a core complex of 13 stone chambers, several enclosures, niches, stone walls, stoned lined drains, small grooves & basins, and other features cover about 100 acres.
After parking our car we entered the rustic visitor’s center where there were other displays with further explanation and showing the layout:
We watched a 10 minute film, then began our afternoon hike. There had been a warning that a lot of walking would occur, but it was a beautiful early autumn day and we were up for it.
At the beginning (and end) of the path we saw alpacas, members of the camelid family which originated on the Central Plains of North America 40 million years ago but were extinct by the end of the ice age 10,000-12,000 years ago.
It was a self-guided tour, using a guide map, up a well marked path marked with a stone wall on each side.
It was a beautiful day for a hike. Along the way we passed numbered and lettered landmarks, including wells, a clay deposit and fire pit, and a stone shaped like a turtle, which was sacred to Native Americans.
We reached the remains of numerous structures that had evidence of post-colonial occupation. Edgar Gilbert’s book states that Jonathan Pattee “had a house in these woods 70 years ago.” Pattee made some alterations to the original site, which includes a Chamber of Ruins (approximately 9 by 8 by 5.5 feet high), an 8-ton roof slab, chambers.
The guide sheet labeled one structure a “pulpit.” It describes it as a modified remains of a large structure probably used during the 1800s by quarrymen as a central loading area for wagons taking stone from the site. William B. Goodman, the first researcher to purchase the site in 1937, believed this feature was built by Irish Culdee Monks.
We had the most fun at the sacrificial table, where we met another adventurous woman. It is a 4.5 ton grooved slab, and is one of the most controversial parts of America’s Stonehenge. It is believed to have been used for sacrifices, not only for its size and the oracle speaking tube beneath it, but also for the carved channel on the top of the table.
This woman decided to lay on the table to demonstrate a sacrificial victim:
Then, of course, I had to follow:
After this mis-adventure we followed the astronomical trail back to the visitor’s center. Along the way were circles of stone, with one boulder set vertically to mark solstices, equinoxes, and holidays. The picture depicts the winter solstice sunset monolith, the shortest day of the year. It marked the southernmost set of the sun almost 4000 years ago, but is off today because the earth’s tilt has changed.
Our afternoon ended back at the alpacas. We bade them goodbye and continued on our journey.
America’s Stonehenge Tour Guide Map