Over 10 years ago, when we had just
begun to delve into the stranger side of
, a unique site that was top on our list was called the Upton Chamber.
We stumbled across it in a book I had purchased from a used book store in Providence, R.I..
chamber is one of the largest underground stone chambers in
six foot high fourteen foot long tunnel leads into the mammoth
chamber. The chamber is twelve feet in diameter and twelve feet high
and beehive in shape, like a large stone igloo.
chamber is an amazing work of
dry masonry with a cap stone weighing several tons. Archeologists
believe it is just a colonial root cellar built in the 1700’s but
there are those that recognized it similarity to early Irish and
Iberic stone chambers and believe it was constructed
over a thousand years earlier. Most archeologists feel this is
fanciful thinking since there has been no evidence of Pre-colonial
foreign visitors other than the Norse at
in 1000 AD.
to discover where the chamber was hidden, we trekked up to the library
and dug through the historical archives. With the help of the lovely
librarian, we were able to find a wealth of information. We began
purchasing copies, like a housewife at a post Christmas sale.
With our arms full and our wallets a little lighter we headed
out to the location of the chamber. We had learned it was located on
the lake side property of an
resident. Being our first time approaching a stranger for the purpose
of asking to look at their backyard, we were a little nervous. I put
on an anxious smile, walked up to the door and rang the bell. There
was no answer. I took a deep breath and once again rang the bell.
Still there was no response. Frustrated I began to peek around the
corner of the house hoping to see a friendly family in the backyard
grilling some burgers, or at the least see the chambers location in
the distance. The property was deserted. Disappointed by our failure
and concerned we’d arouse the suspicion of the neighbors if we
lingered much longer, we jumped back into the car and headed home.
Once we arrived back at my place we found solace in the stack of
Xeroxed literature we had procured from the library. Most of it was
field reports and surveys of the chamber and the surrounding land. We
spent the evening reading through all of the material. Though we
hadn’t found the chamber, we discovered something else, how exciting
the research could be.
now had a new purpose. We had discovered a new side to exploring and
our adventures would no longer begin at the trailhead. From this point
on we began to spend more time in the archives and interviewing locals
than actually on the trail. We began to research places we’ve
already been and place we were soon going to visit. As we would pour
through the books we discovered other places to investigate. It became
the norm to find two or more new leads for every story we looked into.
Lost in our new found capital, we soon forgot about the Upton Chamber.
This was the starting point of what eventually became Strange New
past winter, while dreaming of the warmer days of the coming spring,
the crew and I began to speak not only of adventures to come but days
gone by. Many laughs were exchanged as we exhumed faded memories from
our graveyard of bad decisions. Eventually I found myself thinking
about the chamber. How could we have forgotten about it for so long?
At that moment I made a concordat that this spring I would finally
spending the rest of the winter searching through my apartment for
those Xeroxes made over 10 years ago, on March 2nd I was
back in Upton Massachusetts. It wasn’t long before I found myself
back at the same house. Since my last visit I had gained much
experience negotiating access onto private property. With the
confidence of a politician and the mild manors of a Jehovah witness, I
walked to the door and rang the bell. There was no answer. This seemed
all too familiar. I rang again and listened closely for signs of life.
Not a sound. Spying the surrounding area, I saw a neighbor working in
the front yard. I walk over and inquired about the chamber and
property. The woman was very familiar with the chamber. She informed
me that the property was currently owned but no one lived in the home.
After exchanging a few words she politely offered to walk me to the
chamber on the property.
the back of my mind I had an image of what I expected it would look
like. I had seen
many pictures and illustrations of the chamber but I used my
imagination to fill in all the missing details. It was much closer to
the home than I expected. I had always assumed it would have been
hidden under the steeper slopes along the edge of the pond.
As we approached the chamber it blended in the wall flanking
its left. Once we were close enough I could clearly see that a portion
of that same wall had collapsed close to the entrance of the chamber.
peered into the chamber and was amazed by how gargantuan the structure
was. Though I was well aware of its exact size, pictures and
measurements never seem to actually prepare you for what you will see.
You could feel a light cool breeze coming out of the chamber. Though
the weather had been very warm and dry recently, the entire chamber
was currently flooded with six inches of water. I could only assume
that the very cool interior prevented water from the last snow melt
I entered the chamber, I attempted to wedge myself between the walls
of the narrow tunnel in order to keep dry. This proved to be effective
way to stay above the water but made it difficult to take pictures.
I decided to take off my shoes and roll up my pants and walk
through the mud and cold water. Once I reached the end of the tunnel,
I was again dumbfounded by the magnitude of the domed chamber.
Having worked with a
mason, I was puzzled by the haphazard arrangement of the
stones. It was frightening to think that several tons of caps stones
were being supported by a jumbled mass of stones, without the help of
cement. Most likely, many
of these stones extend much further into the land surrounding the
chamber. The chamber was an outstanding example of human ingenuity.
After three hundred years or more of neglect, this corbel stone
structure still stands strong.
I was preparing to write the story on Upton Chamber, I discovered that
the town had recently purchased the property it resides on. For quite
a while the town had been petitioning to buy the land to preserve the
chamber. The town used Community Preservation Act money to purchase the property
form the owner Gerald P. Guccione of
R.I.. The chamber has now been gated by the town while they work out plans
to develop the 7.5 acres into a public park.
My thoughts on the matter are mixed. I always
believe that sites like these should be owned and preserved by the
towns or states, but fear what will happen when they are made easily
accessible by the general public. I prefer that property like this is
open to the public but known only to those who take the time to search
for them. We’ll just have to wait and see what develops in the near