There comes a day in the life of every young man growing up in Worcester’s West Side that goes something like this: A friend’s older brother tells you about a cemetery in Leicester surrounded by multiple barriers, some visible, some not. Cross the barriers in a particular order and you’ll be transported to Hades. This sounds totally reasonable to most 11-year-old boys hopped-up on Mountain Dew, so immediately upon hearing this tale, you and your friends hop on your bicycles and ride to this secret location, trudging through the woods to find a quaint, mostly forgotten resting place. Nobody gets transported to the land of the damned, but one friend accidentally startles the group and everyone runs screaming. You and your friends regroup at Hot Dog Annie’s and gorge yourselves on cheap BBQ dogs, which help soften the blow of finding out your buddies are not as tough as you thought. On the way home, in a weak attempt to reclaim your recently emasculated pre-teen manhood, you all stop at the back side of neighboring Worcester Airport and light a ﬁeld on ﬁre.
The reality of Friends Cemetery in Leicester (Spider Gates to the locals) is more a sober study of early American religious intolerance than provincial urban legend. However creepy the place may seem to visit remains a simple byproduct of location. The cemetery is mostly surrounded by old farmland, so while the woods adjacent to the cemetery are rather old, the woods surrounding that dated growth are much younger. This is something your subconscious picks up on, but unless you’re good at dating live trees, may be passed over as a peculiar sensation that something is off. Rest assured, there’s no hanging tree, no murdered lovers stuffed in a cave, and no secret portal to the final resting place of Saddam Hussein and his vast dildo collection. These silly legends are recycled in every New England town with a creepy forest—except for the dildo collection, that’s only recycled in South Park movies. But this piece of early American history should be discovered and appreciated by all. If you haven’t been there, you should change that. And if you can, take a young person with you to help demystify something they’ve certainly heard of and probably don’t fully understand. The land is private, so an advance call to the Leicester Historical Society or Leicester pd may spare you some hassle. But taking the short trip and sharing this local treasure spares us all a city full of skittish pre-teens with BBQ-scented flatulence, burning down an airport, all while trying to justify the existence of a satanic summer home in the Leicester woods. For those of you upset to hear Leicester is not a gateway to the underworld, I got a guy who told me every Tuesday at 7 in Worcester, Cthulhu can be seen rising from his lair in the realm of 455 Main St. Which makes perfect sense considering neither Worcester nor Cthulhu can be pronounced by the uninitiated. You can’t possibly think that’s coincidental.
From the June 2011 issue of Happiness Pony. Written by PV. Drawing by Grace Duffy. [PDF]