Growing up studying The Crucible and the witch trials, I was always fascinated by Salem, hence my stop there on my road trip last year. But did you know there are two Salem’s in that same area? They are actually quite close to each other, but one is in New Hampshire and one is in Massachusetts. I have to admit, this created some confusion for me. I got to America’s Stonehenge in Salem, New Hampshire, at the end of the day right before sunset, thinking my Salem Waterfront Hotel would be close by and therefore a nice easy drive after trekking into the forest. But nope, they’re approximately a 54 minute drive away from each other (thanks, google). That 54 minutes would be fine, except it was around 6pm (which I’m assuming is a peak time) and it ended up taking 3 hours and it was pitch black dark and America drives on the other side of the road to Australia. So, a little stressful. That aside though, I loved America’s Stonehenge.
Have you heard of it before? When I mention it, a lot of people tend to go blank. A lot of people also assume it’s just a replica of the main Stonehenge, built by Americans to trap in tourists. I first came across it in a Lonely Planet book, and then looked it up online. It got mixed reviews, some people hated it while some loved it. Like I said above, I’m in the ‘love’ category.
It’s basically a big block of forestry in Salem (New Hampshire) that stretches across roughly 30 acres of land and it is supposedly a spiritual site. It’s full of stone structures and symbols, and they are said to hold energies and spirits from back before our time, although its origin has never actually been fully confirmed, meaning the energies and spirits have never been fully explained. The structures are big enough to be habitable, and the current formation could easily be mistaken for an old village. There is a well on site too, and certain areas are marked off and labelled. The map they provide you shows you areas that they believe were sacrifice tables or weapon sharpening areas or hospice areas. There’s 3 main theories about where it all came from though; the mainly publicised “Mystery Hill” tale which heavily involves William Goodwin, the mostly ignored pre-Columbian European theory, and a less explored (but more realistic to myself sounding) Native American theory.
The first theory, “Mystery Hill”, is the most widely known. This theory, made popular by William Goodwin, stated that the location was the home of the Culdee’s way before Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas. They were a group of monks in the Middle Ages, who were thought to have only occupied Ireland, Scotland and the UK area, but Goodwin was convinced they had ventured further out into the world. Goodwin, an insurance company executive, purchased the land in 1937 and basically tried to prove this theory. He named the area Mystery Hill, a name which stuck until 1982 when the name was changed to America’s Stonehenge reportedly due to the popularity of a news article about it. It’s been argued though, that in trying to prove his theory, he actually changed or re-built much of what is there, and in the process destroyed a lot of what could have been considered ‘historical’. He also has admitted to moving many of the stones to different areas, to try to recreate a Culdee village. That aside, there’s evidence of post-1830 drilling in a few of the stones, which indicates quarrying in the area, which potentially destroyed more of the authenticity.
The theory that the area was occupied by pre-Columbian European travellers has been mostly disproved. It’s been said that if it was, they would have found Bronze Age artifacts. Not only has none been found there, pretty much none have been found in ‘The New World’ ever, none that have specific European origin anyway. If it was the home of an ancient civilization, it’s more like that it was the home of the ancestors of the current Native Americans. Although they couldn’t prove any dates, an archaeologist named David Stewart-Smith discovered chips in the structures that were consistent with early indigenous tools used by local tribes hundreds of years ago. This was found during the 80’s, around the time it went from being known as Mystery Hill to America’s Stonehenge. The charcoal pits on the site have been carbon dated and have given answers of anywhere between 173 BC to 2000 BC. While the charcoal pits seem to have been around that long, it doesn’t mean the structures were though.
The one common theory behind everything there is just that no one really knows where it came from. That doesn’t stop it from being beautiful though. One thing that everyone can agree on, is that it is not related to the one in the UK. There is also an Australian Stonehenge, but due to a farmer getting a little too bulldozer-happy, we probably won’t ever be able to investigate that site to find its true origin. It would be cool to know whether the Australian and American sites were linked though, to me anyway. I would encourage anyone in the New Hampshire area to check this place out though. It was early November when I went, and as you can see from the photos – the colours of the trees were insane! One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever trekked. Some advice though – don’t do it in thongs (flip flops). It was freezing the afternoon we were there, I want to say it was around 2 degrees, and the Australian in me did not prepare for that. I spent about 3 hours all up on the site wearing wool pants, an under singlet, a merino long sleeved top, a leather jacket and thongs. I’m not gonna lie, except for the Esther jacket I was basically wearing my pyjamas. But by the time we made it back to the car, I honestly thought I was in danger of losing a toe or two to frostbite.
Thank you for reading!! Let me know if you’ve ever been here 🙂 or if you’ve ever been to the Australian Stonehenge – email me because I have so many questions!! If you liked this, please subscribe, I generally post something new every Friday 👍🏻