Boston is a unique combination of modern skyscrapers and classic brick architecture. It is home to the nation’s biggest marathon and iconic coastal dishes. It’s also steeped with history and a lot of mysterious happenings.
As an old colonial town, Boston has seen its fair share of mystery. Playing an integral part in all of the nation’s wartimes, the harbor city is no stranger to death and tragedy. In fact, Boston is known as one of the most haunted cities in the country.
One of the most famous Boston’s spirits is The Lady in Black. Her tale is full of mystery and irony and the events leading to her death are violet and tragic. A love story gone terribly bad, The Lady in Black is one of the most notable figures in haunted Boston.
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The History of Fort Warren
At the entrance to the infamous Boston Harbor sits the nearly two centuries old Fort Warren. The large expanse of grounds that sit atop George’s Island were fortified during the beginning of the Civil War as part of a seacoast defense strategy. The fort took The Army Corps of Engineers over sixteen years to build.
The idyllic stone structure is named for Joseph Warren, the Patriot that enlisted Paul Revere and sent him on his iconic ride to warn of the British during the Revolutionary War. A physician, Warren was a leader of the Boston-area Patriots at the time. Later, Warren would later die in action at the Battle of Bunker Hill.
The Fort Warren grounds served as a training camp and a prison throughout The Civil War. It held military officers, political prisoners, and others fighting the Union. Its strong walls and heavy armory made it a secure place to house these prisoners. However, its weapons were never used other than for training exercises.
Fort Warren also played a large part in both of the World Wars. It was a command center of The Harbor Defenses of Boston during World War I. Then, throughout World War II, it was again a key strategy in the defense of Boston Harbor. Fort Warren stood tall, ready to protect the water from enemy forces.
Finally, after 1950, Fort Warren was rendered permanently inactive and officially decommissioned. The grounds were owned by the US Government until 1958 when they were turned over to the state of Massachusetts as recreational grounds. Today, the historic fort is open to the public to explore its rich history and impressive workmanship.
The Story of Melanie Lanier
One of the most infamous stories of Fort Warren’s history is that of Mrs. Melanie Lanier. Her husband was a Confederate soldier that was imprisoned at Fort Warren. The young Lieutenant Lanier was captured during a battle in North Carolina early in the war and taken to the wartime prison for holding.
The soldier’s beloved wife caught wind of his whereabouts. Some believe that he was able to stealthily smuggle a letter to be mailed to her from the island prison. However, the letter was never recovered. Regardless, the adoring Melanie made it her mission to be a heroine and set her fiance free from Fort Warren’s walls.
One evening, Melanie put her strategic plan into motion. She boldly boarded a boat that would take her to George’s Island where she would free her husband. It’s been rumored that she found a Confederate ally that housed her near the prison during the days before she could reach her husband and lead him to freedom. She used this time to mysteriously and clearly communicate the escape plan to him from outside the prison walls.
Melanie boarded a small boat, along with her trusty pistol and rope, the tools she toted to free her husband. She also carried a pickaxe she planned to use to dig him and other prisoners to freedom. Quietly, she sat floating in the darkness towards her prison, not realizing this was the last time she would experience freedom herself.
Melanie patiently waited offshore in the stormy darkness at their designated meeting spot. Her husband waited for the perfect moment to signal her. Suddenly, she heard her beloved through the darkness, whistling a popular Southern tune. Melanie knew that her husband was now ready to set their plan into motion.
Disguised as a man, Melanie stealthily approached the prison walls. The plan was to use the rope to hoist Melanie’s small body over the imposing walls of the fort. The breach was a success and she was so overjoyed to see her beloved husband once again. The two reunited and quickly went to work with their co-conspirators.
The couple, along with several other prisoners, began the tough and tedious task of tunneling out of the prison underneath the thick, stone walls. Using the pickaxe, they carefully cut through the dense earth. They planned to create a tunnel directly into the armory and weaponize themselves to overthrow the guards and escape.
However, their seemingly well-concocted plan was ultimately foiled. Their relentless digging was loud enough to catch the attention of one of the Union guards. He, of course, quickly alerted the other guards and a riot began. Melanie found herself in a standoff with a Union soldier, brandishing her weapon to bravely protect her and her husband.
Finally, running out of patience, the Union soldier lunged forward, attempting to grab the pistol from Melanie’s hands. The gun fired wildly and when Melanie looked up, it had struck her cherished husband. Tragically, the beloved husband she was attempting to save died right there before her very eyes. Melanie’s heart shattered as she watched the life drain from his body.
Melanie was swiftly arrested for trying to aid her husband in escaping. She was sentenced to death by hanging for the crime of treason. Her destiny quickly went from freeing her husband to heading towards the gallows.
Still donning her masculine disguise, Melanie had just one request before her execution. She wanted the dignity of dying in women’s clothing. With no women living at the fort, the guards were only able to find a simple black gown to cloth Melanie in for her last moments.
The body of Melanie Lanier was buried on the grounds, still wearing that black dress. Leaving the world knowing that she was the person that caused her husband’s death likely tortured her soul. Her spirit remained restless with the guilt and frustration of her failed attempt and fateful accident.
Countless other bodies are said to be buried on the island. With such a tragic and tumultuous past, it’s no surprise that many mysterious sightings have occurred in and around Fort Warren.
In the weeks and months following Melanie’s death, her image was seen aimlessly walking about the fort. Witnessed still clad in the same black frock, she longingly moved about, mourning her husband. Soldiers saw and felt her spirit amongst them, stricken with a severely broken heart and reliving the day when her plan went horribly awry.
Over time, the sightings of Melanie’s spirit only increased in frequency. She eventually became known famously as The Lady in Black. Her dark, heavy gown swaying in the harbor breeze before her apparition vanished into thin air.
To this day, the ghost of Melanie has been spotted around the island and roaming about Fort Warren. She’s been seen, standing atop the impressive entrance arches, staring down at those entering. Her immense anger over her husband’s untimely death has even spurred her to chase unsuspecting soldiers from the fort.
Melanie’s spirit can’t seem to escape the fort, just as her husband couldn’t on the last day of his life. Ironically, the events on that day led to the end of both of their lives. A fact that will surely torture Melanie’s spirit until the end of time.
Visiting Fort Warren
Fort Warren is now part of the National Parks Service. It’s open to the public for visitors to explore and check out the historic scenery and architecture. A short, breezy ferry ride will take you out to George’s Island from Boston to begin your adventure.
There is an educational visitor’s center and there are rangers that patrol the island. They also offer guided tours and can tell you about the history of the fort as you explore within the tall stone walls. You can also choose to explore the fort on your own. Pack a picnic and enjoy your lunch under the shadows of the fort’s soaring walls.
Make sure to stop by check out the fort’s museum. Located in the old mine storehouse, it contains many interesting relics from the history of the fort. The exhibits will give you a glimpse into the past as you imagine the events that took place within the walls over the centuries.
Boston Harbor’s Islands
One of the best ways to explore the Boston area is to ferry hop around to all of the harbor’s unique islands. After exploring George’s Island, take some time to sail to the other islands in the harbor. Each has a bit of history and checking them all out is a great way to spend a day out on the water.
Little Brewster Island is nearly ten miles out but it is well worth the trip. The rocky, little island is the setting of The Boston Light, the country’s very first lighthouse. Finding a ferry tour that includes Little Brewster Island will give you the amazing opportunity to tour this lighthouse.
Spectacle Island is truly a nature-lovers dream! With its diverse activities, there’s something for everyone. Spend the afternoon on the sandy beaches or exploring the many hiking trails. Trek to the top of North Drumlin and take in the stunning views of the Boston skyline.
A visit to Peddock’s Island can give you another glimpse into the history of the Boston area. The island used to be home to Native Americans and was also used for military fortification. It is now a recreational area full of wildlife and mini eco-systems. There is also a campground and rentable yurts for the perfect opportunity to spend the night out on the water.
Other Boston Haunts
After your possible encounter with The Lady in Black, don’t miss your chance to explore some of Boston’s other famous haunts. The city has a great deal of eerie locations that are waiting for you to explore.
A trip to the Pilot House, near the harbor, can give you a glimpse into the sea town’s interesting past. Ironically, the old inn and tavern also has a resident woman ghost, only she’s wearing white. Sounds of the rambunctious guests of the past have also been heard inside.
The Granary Burying grounds is the oldest graveyard in the city. Passerbys have witnessed mysterious lights and orbs floating amongst the headstones here. It’s even said that the spirit of Paul Revere has been spotted riding his horse on the grounds.
Looking for a unique place to stay in the area? The Omni Parker House hotel has a history like none other. A former hangout of Charles Dickens and John F. Kennedy, a night here gives you the chance to experience a favorite place of legends. You might even get to hear the mysterious sounds or witness the eerie sights that have been reported, especially on the tenth floor.
Boston’s Historic Mystery
Boston is a beautiful city to explore and learn about the past. It’s a historian’s playground with many sites and landmarks to take in. From the Freedom Trail to the stunning Beacon Hill, there’s no shortage of historic scenery in this harbor town.
However, few landmarks have as much history as George’s Island. Fort Warren is a true chance to get a glance into the past. It’s also a great opportunity to experience a supernatural occurrence.
The story of Melanie Lanier makes Fort Warren unique and special. It’s a tale of irony and tragedy wrapped in unconditional and undying love. There’s a reason that The Lady in Black’s spirit seems unwilling to leave Fort Warren, where her story ended.