Everyone likes a mystery. The unexplained disappearance, abandoned dwellings, a glimpse of something uncanny, the hint of strange events. . .

I first heard about Dogtown Commons--an abandoned village in Gloucester, Massachusetts--years ago, while living on a remote, mostly uninhabited peninsula with no electricity or telephones and plenty of time to read and explore. The description of the place, with words like "abandoned", "wasteland", "boulder-strewn"; its history, describing its past inhabitants as "smugglers", "witches", "fortune-tellers", was guaranteed to work on the imagination, especially the imagination of someone inhabiting a place also removed from the bustle of modern life.

I did some research, learned more about the place and its inhabitants and--finally--visited the spot itself. My most recent trip, taken with my companion, Eric, (I'm over 18, I cringe at the word "boyfriend") on a rainy weekend in June, 2000, was very productive. Eric brought along his digital camera and we recorded not only the landscape, the abandoned dwelling sites and the "Babson Boulders", but our experience trying to navigate the maze of paths that wind in and out of the rocks and trees.

We pass our research, experiences and practical advice on to those of you who are curious (and close enough) to explore the place yourselves.

Velma Dacron

Apparently he boulders were carved by 35 Finnish quarry workers who were hired by Roger Babson during the great depression. What's amazing to me is that nobody seems to care what the hell happens to them. It was quite a discovery to find the word TRUTH carved in a rock on our first journey to Dogtown. I find it refreshing to see someone who saw through life's bullshit and left a permanent reminder of what is important in life.

What's sad is that everything is starting to get grown over. If you look at the boulder pictures from the 30's, Dogtown looked like you could walk a cow through there! At this point we could only find 16 of the 22 boulders with mottos. I bet Roger never thought that people would have to walk through a friggin' FOREST to see his creation.

Eric "Dacron" Bickernicks

he says she says
The male sense of direction, female squeamishness & other sexist myths. . .
or, Our (mis)adventures in Dogtown.

12/26/05 - OK, I forgot what the hell happened on that day 5 years ago. All's I remember is we got wet and my side kick (no longer refered to "girlfriend") got a case of the major bitchies. See for yourself: ->

OK, so there's a bunch of big rocks with words carved in them. That wasn't the reason I first wanted to go to Dogtown. My initial interest was in the folklore & history of the place--all those witches, smugglers & n'er-do-wells that ended up there. Plus, the fascination of abandoned places.

Hacking your thoughts into boulders. . .let's face it, the urge to vandalize property is mostly a guy thing, right? It's the human equivalent of pissing on trees--a territorial, ego-driven imperative. So, naturally, Eric would be fascinated by the carved rocks. Permanent graffiti--woohoo!

Our initial trip to Dogtown, on an overcast, rainy day was somewhat leisurely in pace--we were exploring. Afterwards, we did some research and found out that there were 24 boulders into which Roger Babson had carved his edifying messages. Eric had pictures of 12.

We went back. This next trip, on a sunny, cloudless day, turned into a grim expedition to Find the Other Boulders. Our pace was similar to those forced marches the army sends recruits on during boot camp. The sun was blazing directly overhead, and the railroad tracks (the "short cut") stretched ahead & behind into infinity. . .

After 45 minutes, I was wilting, having lost most of the water in my body, as it frantically attempted to keep itself cool. I swear I could feel my blood simmering (I have no natural insulation against extremes of temperature). I looked at my watch--1 hour since we left the Babson Museum. Considering we had possibly 4 or 5 more hours of hard hiking ahead of us, I knew that conservation of energy was important.

After some consultation with the map (which, as I might have pointed out elsewhere is NOT in proportion), we left the railroad tracks and went into the woods.