August 10, 2018. Groton, Massachusetts.
The itch was too much to resist. The Delf was getting claustrophobic. The skyscrapers were closing in, as were the perpetually growing mounds of garbage that have not once been collected from anywhere in the city since Ben Franklin invented both Philadelphia and garbage. I needed a breather.
The Girl and I opted for New Hampshire this time around. Our last few jaunts had been to the desert, and while they were about 50% fun, after a while you know what sand looks like. Colorado is on the agenda, but we needed something we could squeeze into three days, and I just did Maine and Massachusetts.
New Hampshire is laughably tiny. Once we set up base camp in Manchester, the suspiciously rustic “most populous city” in NH, we accidentally ranged out across state lines twice.
It was six hours from Philly. Toll roads remain arbitrary, but become much more considerate as you head north. It costs around $12 to get from the bottom of PA to the top. It’s $5 to escape from New Jersey, even if you just wandered in by accident. Passing through the godless snarl of NYC traffic is $15. After that, you plow up into New England and you can stay on the turnpike for hours, tolls will be like $1. One was actually 50 cents.
Really, guys? Like we don’t have it bad enough?
At some point in Massachusetts, we happened on an ambiguous temple “COMING SOON!” It didn’t claim a religion, but the only thing blocking the access road was a length of chain, and golden spires were visible in the trees. We parked and investigated.
It was just rising up in the woods in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t know any of the characters embossed on the spires. I concluded it had something to do with that black sarcophagus full of mummy juice.
I’ve since done a little more research and discovered that this is going to be a shared Muslim and Hindu temple, which I found bizarre. I’m admittedly unfamiliar with the specifics of Hindu scripture, but I’m fairly certain Islamic theology operates on that Judeo-Christian fan favorite about “No gods before me”, let alone a whole pantheon of them. I also seem to remember some strongly worded bits about “no idols nor graven image”.
(Leviticus 26:1-2 if you’re not a tahrif type, Quran 9.5 if you are.)
The shared temple cover story didn’t hold up to scrutiny. That was a spontaneously generating Nyaralthotemple. New England is filthy with Old Ones.
We bailed before we were descended upon by any unknowable horrors from the black spaces between the stars, stopping for the worst coffee in America on our way to Bancroft’s Castle.
Bancroft’s Castle is a deliciously American story. It starts in 1906 with a renaissance man named General William Bancroft, a soldier, politician, and businessman who decides he’s done enough for one lifetime and he’s going to settle down in the idyllic hills of the charmingly named Groton, Massachusetts. He looks at his 401k and says, “You know what? I’m gonna build a retirement castle.”
He badly underestimates how much it costs to build a castle, which makes you wonder how effective a businessman he was. Our man is over budget by the time he’s built the tower and the bungalow.
He lives in his little Iggy Koopa boss tower for 12 years, then sells it to Doctor Harold Ayers. Doc Ayers converts it into a sanatorium, raking in $20 a week per tuberculosis patient (that’s about $900 a month nowadays, adjusting for inflation), which must have pissed Bancroft off immensely.
He maintained that racket until the late 1920s, and when the sanatorium closed it was converted into a social center and lodge for the Groton Hunt Club. This continued until July 4, 1932, when the castle was burnt down by a firecracker. Must have been one hell of a siege.
Perhaps due to how badly and consistently it failed at being a castle, Bancroft Castle was abandoned. Since Groton Hill was used for hangings in the 1600s, and since it’s a ruin in New England, and since it was once a TB sanatorium, it is alleged to be chock full of ghosts.
Despite its inefficacy, I could understand the appeal.
The bungalow had nothing on the tower proper.
In addition to all its other failings, it seemed like it would be pretty easy to scale.
On the way back to the car, the Girl elbowed me in the ribs. Like I wasn’t already bleeding everywhere from my botched superhero landing getting down off the tower.
“Do you see that?”
“Ghosts? Or bears?”
My hands were up. Punching wouldn’t phase either of those things, but damn it, I had to try.
She pointed up into a tree.
our ornithologist friend confirmed it as a red-tailed hawk
I’d never seen a red-tailed hawk that close before. It wasn’t even a little frightened of us or the spectral bears. We gawped up at it for five minutes or so, watching it bop around and ruffle its huge clunky body, scoping for vermin, then the mosquitos got too bad and we got back on the road.
Next stop on our New Hampshire trip: actually New Hampshire.