304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
A caseworker on the midnight shift of a detention center, once an orphanage, learns the dark secret of the building’s tragic past — and why a mischievous orphan’s ghost still lingers Buildings that have been the sites of great misery, anguish, trauma and sadness are often haunted by the spirits of people who suffered there. Unfortunately, to humanity’s profound disgrace, in the 19th-century orphanages were sometimes these kinds of horrible places, and the ghosts of children have been found to linger in surviving buildings. Mickey C. was a social worker in one of these former orphanages, where he encountered the spirit of a small boy. This is Mickey’s story…
Buildings that have been the sites of great misery, anguish, trauma and sadness are often haunted by the spirits of people who suffered there.
Unfortunately, to humanity’s profound disgrace, in the 19th-century orphanages were sometimes these kinds of horrible places, and the ghosts of children have been found to linger in surviving buildings. Mickey C. was a social worker in one of these former orphanages, where he encountered the spirit of a small boy. This is Mickey’s story…
When I was 27 in 1981, I took a job in North Chelmsford, Massachusetts as a case manager in a maximum-security juvenile detention center. The buildings on the grounds were built circa late 1800s as a state-run orphanage.
The main building was used as administrative offices, chapel, and classrooms. The buildings were abandoned in the late 1960s, then purchased in the late 1970s by the Robert F. Kennedy Action Corps, which renovated the main building as a detention center that housed teen offenders deemed too violent to be in conventional correctional institutions.
It was a large building, and all the windows were covered by heavy steel mesh screens to prevent cutting or prying. Every room was securely locked and needed a key. The rec room comprised half the second floor and had a vaulted ceiling with twelve windowed eves. Originally, it was the orphanage’s chapel.
When I was hired, I was assigned as one of three night case managers or, basically, caretakers. One of our responsibilities was to vacuum the rec room. This was fine at first, but then I started getting an uncomfortable feeling while up there.
I always had the sense that someone was watching me. I even could tell where this “person” was – in one of the window eves. When I would turn to look, it seemed that I just glimpsed someone ducking into the eve before I could see him clearly. I don’t know why, but I sensed that it was a boy and that he was “playing” with me.
Then strange things began to happen. I would be vacuuming and the vacuum would just stop. Defective vacuum, right? It only did this in the rec room. I had to do hourly security checks, and as I was walking down the hall I could hear someone walking behind me, taking steps when I did and stopping when I did. I could sense sadness, but also the mischievousness of a kid.
I finally expressed these creepy feelings at one of the weekly staff meetings. Later, my supervisor took me aside and told me that when renovations were taking place, many weird things were reported. Lights would go out then come back on.
The electronically locked cell doors would spring open. Footsteps without people were heard. They were all dismissed because it was an old building going through renovations.
My supervisor said she suspected something supernatural and did some research on the orphanage. She found that it was a terrible place where the kids were abused, mistreated and housed just for state funds. The kids were numbers, not names.
She also found out about death there. A nine-year-old boy supposedly hung himself in the chapel – now the rec room where I had my strange experiences. My super asked me to show her where I felt this “person” I spoke of. I took her to one of the eves and told her that this is where I sensed the boy’s presence. She said that this was the window where the boy supposedly hung himself.
After this, I wasn’t fearful anymore. I started talking to him when I was up there. It actually seemed to get comfortable when I was there. My super warned, however, that she feared many spirits were in the building and that it was a bad choice for the Corps to house a detention center.
She was right.
One night I reported for my shift. Not to be melodramatic, but it was an eerie night. A thick fog had settled on the grounds. On report, I was told that it was a rough evening. The kids were agitated and very unsettled.
One kid was in the “time out cell,” which is a cell, empty and padded from floor to ceiling. She was restless and pacing. She kept murmuring incoherently and we couldn’t settle her down.
One of the other kids was beating on her cell door, complaining that her room was full of big black bugs. During the midnight shift, we were not allowed to open the cell doors unless it was an emergency.
But she kept insisting that big black bugs were everywhere in her room! Well, I hate bugs and would not want to be locked in a room with them. I got the other two workers and we followed procedure.
We handcuffed her and backed her out of her room. The other two workers held her against the wall and I searched her room. I couldn’t find any bugs. One of the other workers also searched and could not find any bugs. We put the kid back in her cell.
I kept checking on her because I felt bad. I sneaked her in a few candy bars and asked that she try to go to sleep, and she told me she would. At around 2:00 a.m. everyone finally settled down and went to sleep. The other two workers and I were sitting in the office and talking about how weird the night was. We just completed a cell check and everyone was asleep.
There was a secret stairway leading from the first floor lobby to the director’s office. It was behind a wall, but we all knew about it. We started hearing someone walking up the stairs and banging on the door to the director’s office.
I went up the stairs and checked, but of course there was nothing. I unlocked the office and everything was fine in there. I went back to our office.
Suddenly, “someone” started banging on the mesh screens covering the windows. It came from everywhere! Boom! Boom! Boom! It was like someone was trying to rip the screens off the building.
We all jumped up. I ran to the room of the girl who saw the bugs, my coworker ran to the time out room, and the other worker flash lighted the remaining cells… but everyone was sleeping.
Yet the booming continued and we couldn’t figure out from where. I grabbed a spotlight and had one of the workers let me out of the building. As soon as I stepped outside, the booming stopped. I walked the perimeter of the building, but there was no one.
The first floor of the building was actually one story up, so no one could have been banging on the screens from the outside without a ladder.
I don’t know what happened that night. Eventually, I was put on day shift eventually and given a caseload. Unfortunately, funding was lost after a year and the center eventually closed. The buildings are still there. The last I heard Lowell State University bought the compound for dorms.
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