Murder, mystery and molasses: A Pye Family Christmas in Boston

Last week Stephen and I finally made our much-anticipated trip to visit my brother and sister-in-law and their precious little Pye family up in Boston. We packed a ton of activity into our week, and no Pye trip would be complete without a good historical tour, so you know I heard my fill of stories about dead people 💀 Here’s a brief roundup of our most murdery highlights:

The packing pregame

This is an oldie, but last year I devoured the MFM-recommended Stranglers podcast, which serves as a great overview of this classic, complex and still unsolved series of murders, and it would’ve been a highly appropriate preamble to this trip. (I actually listened to this on the flight out but haven’t gotten very far yet.)

For me, the real pregame was a family dinner at our apartment the Sunday night before Christmas Eve, when we all settled in to watch Bird Box.

I understand the feelings people have about Bird Box are complicated, and I generally agree with many of the negative reviews I’ve encountered. But I also like to enjoy not-great things and I got a kick out of this movie because it reminded me of The Mist and Annihilation and probably A Quiet Place. So many beloved actors in this one: John Malkovich, B.D. Wong, Sarah Paulson and Trevante Rhodes who won my heart in Moonlight. What did you think, was it fun or nah?

Also, before we departed, Ronnie, my sister-in-law and our hostess, recommended that I look into notorious local cases such as Charles Stuart (whose murder of his wife was featured on a kind of recent MFM episode!) and the Craigslist Killer, Philip Markoff, whose case I need to research further. Thanks, Ronnie!!

Boston bound

Once we arrived early on Christmas Eve morning, we settled in to enjoy lots of family time and nonstop eating.

My adorable niece Lily showing Uncle Stephen her “boss face.”
Zoe, my mini murderino 🔪

On Wednesday after Christmas, we took the train into the city to explore!

The view from Boston Common.
The gilded dome of the Massachusetts State House.

The Freedom Trail Tour

My parents and sister really enjoyed taking this historical tour on one of their first trips to Boston and they were happy to do it again for Stephen and me. The tour met in Boston Common and wound through some of the oldest sites in the city, including my favorite stop: the Granary Burying Ground established in 1660, before the word “cemetery” even came into use.

While there are 2,345 graves and tombstones, no one knows exactly how many bodies are buried there.
Across the street from Old City Hall.
Our old pal Benjamin Franklin!

Afterward we wandered toward the North End to grab pasta for lunch, then continued sightseeing on our own.

The quaintest coolest strip of shopfronts.
Cheerful holiday decorations in Beacon Hill.
Boston Harbor and the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship still afloat in the United States.

Tour highlight: The Great Molasses Flood

My sister Dana led the afternoon segment of our unofficial tour, and she shared this almost unbelievable story with us while we stood at the old site of the Purity Distilling Company in the North End.

Dana dropping some knowledge.

On January 15, 1919, a massive storage tank filled with molasses collapsed and unleashed a wave of molasses that towered as high as 25 feet above the street level. The molasses swept through the surrounding neighborhood at a speed of 35 miles per hour, toppling buildings from their foundations and drowning people in its path. More than a hundred people were injured, 21 died and countless animals and livestock perished in the flood. Apparently many of the dead were so glazed over with molasses that they were difficult to recognize.

This is the only evidence of the flood that still remains!

It wasn’t a completely morbid day, though.

Cheers to a great day of exploring! 🍻

Stone’s Public House: Ashland’s local haunt

My brother and his family live in Ashland, an adorable suburb west of Boston bursting with quaint New England charm, and this historic local watering hole on Main Street might have been my favorite stop of our trip.

We prefer to visit haunted establishments at night.

Upon hearing a railroad would be built through his land, John Stone opened his Railroad House in 1832 to accommodate travelers. He wasn’t the innkeeper for very long though, and legend has it that he murdered a traveler over a lost game of poker and buried his body in the basement. According to several psychics who have visited the property, Stone’s spirit and those of the six or seven people who witnessed the murder are forever tied to the building.

Stone’s Public House now operates as a restaurant and bar, where patrons sometimes report feeling someone tap them on the shoulder or squeeze their neck with a cold hand, only to find no one behind them 👻

Imagining who else has sat at this bar over the last 180+ years.
The corner of the sign warns that the ghost of John Stone is watching 👀
Upstairs we discovered this handsome portaint of Stone himself.

Stone isn’t the only famous ghost that haunts the place. Several young girls are also said to have perished there, including a 10-year-old who was struck by a train on the tracks across the street in 1863. Her bloodstained dress hangs at the top of the staircase.

Apologies for the terrible photo quality.

If you visit Stone Public House, I hope you experience a more haunted time than we did. And if you have more haunted recommendations for my next trip, I’d love to hear them!

That’s all for now, Boston — we can’t wait to come back!

What are your favorite sites, spots and stops in Boston? Which local cases are your favorites?