The Pictorial Language of Rocks

On the shore north of Boston, in woods near Lynn, an outcropping of boulders is piled where, in an ancient age, the bedrock scraped off the bottom of a receding glacier, captured from it the huge stones it had been carrying, and left them.  Among the irregular stones was formed a natural cave.  A legend described how, sometime after 1650, pirates had sailed up the Saugus River nearby to avoid capture, secreted their boat in the brush along the shore, made their way through the woods above, found the cave, and hid themselves there with their treasure.  The legend said that while they were hidden, an earthquake shook the rock and buried them along with their gold.  After that, the locals called the stone outcropping surrounding it Dungeon Rock, by 1850, decades of treasure-seekers had explored the cave to test the truth of the legend, with no results except a few reports of pirate ghosts haunting the place, and still trying to protect their gold.

Over the years, many trance seers and diviners visited Lynn’s Dungeon Rock.  They gave hints about where the pirate treasure was hidden.  They followed in the prophetic traces of Lynn’s own seeress, healer, and witch, Moll Pitcher, who at the beginning of the 19th century, had declared that “The day will come when the rockbound secrets of Dungeon Cave will be revealed and the world will be astonished at the priceless gems discovered.  There are also the gold coins of all nations in boxes.  There will be found ransom and riches enough to purchase and empire.”  Only a seer would be able to locate it, through reading “the pictorial language of crags, cliffs, and rocks of ages.” [Ellen M. Griffin, Moll Pitcher’s Prophecies; or the American Sibyl.  Boston: Eastburn Press, 1895.]

Jesse Hutchinson of the Hutchinson Family Singers bought land in Lynn on which to build a house, but also bought the property around Dungeon Rock.  His brother John explained why:

Soon after he began to believe in the spiritualistic philosophy, Jesse conceived the idea that there could be no more convincing proof of its truth than to find that supposed treasure through spiritual guidance.  He therefore went at the work with drill and powder, seeking light from mediums in his effort.

—John Wallace Hutchinson, The Story of the Hutchinsons. Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1896.  2:273.

Jesse spent months at work, consulting with local mediums for guidance on where to dig, and then in a mighty effort at excavation that came up with nothing.  After this, Jesse decided to head out to California to look for his fortune there (but as a merchant and supplier to the gold fields, not as a miner), and he sold Dungeon Rock to a man named Hiram Marble, who spent the next couple of decades in pursuit of the supposed treasure, guided by spirit mediums.  A reporter from the Boston Post found Mr. Marble at work one day in the cave he had blasted out of the rock:
The interior, illuminated by a single lamp, was gloomy in the extreme, and the son of Mr. Marble and another man employed in the drilling, looked wild and weird-like in its rays.  The ragged points of rock were black with powder, and wet from the rains that trickled through the invisible veins in the rock, and the atmosphere was damp and heavy.  Mr. M. was asked if the air ever became so bad as to be dangerous, and he replied, that when it became so they usually made up a fire in the cave and burnt it out.  Mr. Marble informed us that he was directed in every instance where the drill should be placed by the spirits.  His hand would be compelled, often, to place it where his own opinion was that another place would be better, and showed the party the position of the next two-days’ blast.  [. . .] Mr. Marble is a genuine specimen of the Yankee.  He is a plain, unpretending man, of some fifty years of age—practically intelligent, with an eye that sees and a memory that retains everything—communicative and free in his conversation—laughing with the laughers at the apparent absurdity of his position, and yet, with an unswerving faith, pursuing the course marked out for him by what he conceives to be a superior intelligence.  He disavows all predisposition to be credulous, and avows his belief in the matter only through the most stubborn evidence.

New Era (Boston), December 9, 1854 [reprinted from the Boston Post]

Marble eventually created a little visitor center at the Rock, displaying spirit pictures drawn in trance, bits of iron and interesting stones found in the excavation, and plans for a Spiritualist center to be built with the treasure when it was found.  His son Edwin helped his father at the work for many years.
A party of people from Charlestown and Boston, who had lately become interested in the place, were there on a visit, when a medium, being entranced, purported to speak from the spirit of Sir Walter Scott, and requested a lady who was present to make Mr. M. a present, such as he (the spirit) would dictate.  It afterwards came in the shape of a flag-staff, eighty feet in length, which was firmly planted in the place formerly excavated by the Hutchinsons.  Then a flag with the appropriate inscription, “Thy faith is founded on a rock,” was raised upon it by the lady’s own hands.

—Enesee [Nancy Snow Emerson], The History of Dungeon Rock. Boston: Bela Marsh, 1856:64.

[Emerson was a medium who worked with Hiram Marble.  She wrote the book to raise money for his project.]

Excursionists often stopped by to tour the place, and pick up some of the uncanny atmosphere around Lynn, which had developed a reputation, not only for spirits, but also for labor radicalism and sightings of sea serpents.  Lynn seems to have had a relation to Boston at the time similar to that which Berkeley had to San Francisco a century later—Think Berkeley crossed with Atlantic City:
We should have said before that this is considered a kind of Mecca for those who hold to the Spiritual faith.  There are several buildings which seem to have been dropped down without much order, and a large platform furnished with plank seats.  An entertainment had been furnished, though for what purpose or by whom we knew not.  There was some fine singing, in solos, duets, and quartettes, and a slender little girl showed a good lip, large lungs, and nimble fingers on a silver cornet, out of which she fired repeated volleys of sputtering jigs at the over-elated spectators.

—Frank P. Harriman, “Dungeon Rock, Lynn,” The Bay State Monthly (Boston) 1:4 (April 1884):236.

As far as anyone knows, no treasure has ever been found at Dungeon Rock.

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