On April 14 of 1755 little four-year-old Lucy Keyes disappeared in the woods of Wachusett Mountain and was never seen again.
Lucy’s parents, Robert and Martha Keyes, moved to the southeast hill of Wachusett Mountain in Princeton, Massachusetts in the year of 1751 with their three daughters.
On that day in mid-April, Martha was doing spring cleaning and needed to scour the floors of their home. The fine-grained sand on the shore of Wachusett Lake was used for this chore, and she sent her nine-year old daughter Anna and her seven-year old daughter Patty to collect the sand.
Unbeknownst to her mother, Lucy followed her sisters down the path through the woods that led to the lake, and disappeared. Search parties were formed, the woods were combed, and the lake was dragged, but Lucy had completely vanished.
Martha could not get over the disappearance of her child, and she could be heard calling for Lucy in the woods every night until her death in 1786.
Many locals in the area thought Lucy had been taken by the Mohawks, and her father spent most of his money tracking down possible leads, but to no avail.
After the deaths of Martha and Robert, a letter written by a former neighbor of the Keyes, Tilly Littlejohn, was found. In the letter written upon his deathbed, Mr. Littlejohn described his furious state of mind over a property dispute with the Keyes. He went on to say he found Lucy in the woods that day and decided to get revenge upon Robert by killing his child. He hit her on the head with a rock, and then stuffed her body in a hollow log to retrieve later. The text of the letter is included in the archives at Cornell University.
Littlejohn was said to be one of the leaders of the search parties, and was able to lead them away from the body of the child. Later on that night, he went back and took her body and buried it under an uprooted tree.
In 1988, writer/direction John Stimpson purchased property that abutted the property where the Keyes family had lived.
Stimpson became interested in the folk tale about Lucy after learning the story from an employee at the Wachusett Mountain ski area, Jimmy Dellasanta.
Local lore claimed that many people had heard the ghost of Martha calling for her daughter over the years. Apparitions of both Martha and Lucy had been glimpsed by many people over the centuries.
Jimmy’s relating of the tale of Lucy to John included his own paranormal experience in the area. Once after a fresh snowfall, he came upon a small child’s tracks in the snow unaccompanied by animal tracks or adult footprints. He found this to be very strange, and mentioned it to his supervisor who had no doubt the tracks were Lucy’s. Later on that winter, Jimmy was working alone on the mountain one evening and heard a woman talking but no one was around.
Another former resident of the area, Jean Stratton, reported hearing a female voice calling one evening while she was walking in the woods near the place where the old homestead of the Keyes family had stood. She said she heard “this haunting voice…like a mother wailing.”
John Stimpson produced a movie based on the story of Lucy Keyes in 2005 called The Legend of Lucy Keyes. Photographs taken during the production of the movie showed some strange phenomenon. The photos analyzed by ghost expert and researcher Sean Smith revealed ectoplasmic vapor of a spirit in one of the shots, and possibly evidence of a portal “between our dimension and the world of the spirits’ dimension” in the other photograph. These photographs can be viewed at www.ghostvillage.com.
Stimpson attributed other odd occurrences of weather, wind, and sounds during the production of the movie to Martha Keyes as well.
References and further information:
Belanger, Jeff, Mark Moran, Mark Sceurman. Weird Massachusetts: Your Travel Guide to Massachusetts Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. NY: Sterling Publishing Company, 2008.