Are we able to will where we go after we die? Or is our ultimate destination up to a higher power? Perhaps our hereafter could be just a matter of happenstance? What if our death had been so sudden that we don’t even realize that we went to the other side? Can our newly released soul go anywhere or is it stuck to the spot where it died? This great mystery of what happens when we die has so many variables and possibilities based on so many factors: religion, personal experiences and biases. If you asked 10 of your friends, you would probably get 10 different answers. For Jake, a young man who perhaps was a casualty of the Revolutionary War, he was blessed to have to somehow found his happy haunting ground. A special place where there is beer, pretty girls, music and excitement. Jake is the resident ghost of the historic Knox Trail Inn in Otis, Massachusetts.
The haunted Knox Trail Inn in East Otis, Massachusetts.
It was the winter of 1775 and the British had seized Boston. For those unfortunate not to be able to flee the city, they were stuck with the enemy quartered in their homes. But a local book store owner, Henry Knox, had an idea. Born and raised in Boston, he cultivated a variety of interests while working at his bookstore including military history and engineering. Eager to be of assistance to the revolutionary cause, he joined a local artillery company. Under General Artemas Ward, he applied his self-taught skills and developed fortifications around the city as well as directed rebel cannon fire at the Battle of Bunker Hill. When General George Washington arrived in July 1775 he was greatly impressed by the work Knox had done.
As the siege wore on, the idea occurred to Henry that the cannons recently captured at the fall of forts Ticonderoga and Crown Point in upstate New York could be of great use to their short-supplied troops. Reaching Ticonderoga on December 5, Knox started what was during his time referred as the “noble train of artillery”. * During this remarkable expedition, he and his troops hauled by ox-drawn sled 60 tons of cannon and other armaments across approximately 300 miles (480 km) of ice-covered rivers and the snow-draped Berkshire Mountains to what is now known as Watertown. Besides the challenge of transporting heavy machinery through a rural winter landscape there was the additional impediment of finding local volunteers as they progressed from northern New York to Boston.
Knox had expected to take just two weeks but it actually took more than six. Finally, they victoriously arrived in Boston on January 27, 1776. Viewed by historians as “one of the most stupendous feats of logistics” of the entire war, it had intimidated the British so greatly that they immediately started to dispatch to Nova Scotia. By mid-March, the British had completely left the city.*
To commemorate Knox’s efforts a series of markers dot the Henry Knox Trail. One of these can be found just a few miles from the Knox Trail Inn on Rt 23 in the neighboring town of Blandford. Although there is no mention on the marker of any casualties, could Jake have been a local boy who was overcome by the elements or illness while involved with the artillery movement?
The restaurant’s website says the building was erected in 1776, however, the town records state that the inn was more than likely built in 1820. There is no documentation to support if there was an earlier structure on that site but since its inception the Knox Trail Inn has been a local mainstay: tavern, inn and proprietors’ residence. According to their website, Jake has been a known spectral celebrity as long as the town can remember and is fondly considered as much a part of the restaurant as the staff and guests. I first stumbled upon the restaurant in the spring of 2017 while researching locations for my meetup, “Fork, Knife and Spook”. During my group’s visit, I was incredibly impressed by the staff’s eagerness to share their encounters. One bartender noted that Jake would switch the lights on and off right around closing time, one server shared with us that he would occasionally play with a jukebox that used to be in the bar area. However, the staff member who impressed my meetup the most was Bethany. She had started out as a part time waitress and quickly became one of Jake’s favorite targets. Although she had the day off, she made a point of joining my event to share her encounters including one particularly astonishing event!
A Knox Trail marker stone in Otis, Massachusetts.
Bethany’s experiences started almost immediately when she joined in 2009 and continued up until the restaurant temporarily closed in 2016. Thankfully, a group of friends purchased the property and started renovations. She speculates the last she time she heard about an encounter was sometime in 2017, soon after the improvements started. And sadly, that event was not remarkable: it was a bartender having her shirt playfully tugged. After that, Bethany noted, nobody has mentioned another experience.
If it wasn’t the renovations per se that spurred Jake to move on perhaps it was something a little bit more specific? According to Bethany, there was a beveled mirror that was placed on the wall next to kitchen door which is located in the older part of the building. Bethany noted whenever she passed by the mirror she would look away. Not for a lack of vanity but the mirror freaked her out. She dreaded looking into it because she was afraid of what might looking back wouldn’t be her reflection! This is the room where Jake was particularly active, where the jukebox and bar were located and the bands would play. Where that mirror’s post-renovation location is uncertain but Bethany is relieved that it is no longer in the restaurant. Perhaps that was a portal for Jake? Does that mean wherever the mirror is Jake is as well?
Jake made his presence known most frequently to Bethany but he did interact with others as well. A lifelong resident of Otis, she has known the current owners as well as the family who
owned the property before. According to Bethany, the family lived in the upstairs area which once served as an inn. It was a small family with each of the children-one son and one daughter-occupying their respective bedrooms which were located across from each other. The children as well as Bethany were never comfortable in the Tim’s bedroom. Once he confided to her that he saw an image of a soldier near his window. Although the image was too indistinct to determine which era it was, he could tell before it faded away that it was a young man in military style dress.
Jake was generally known for the usual pranks that a young man would play to get a young lady’s attention: playing with her earrings, loosening their apron springs or a playful tug on the back of their shirt. However, one time he was so not too cordial with one of the older employees, Judy, a bartender. One afternoon while she was setting up, a shot glass came from the direction of the kitchen door, whizzed past her head and smashed against the wall behind her! It is worth noting that at that time, that eerie mirror was located on the wall next to kitchen door, just a few feet away from Judy. That truly was a remarkable occurrence however, the most notable event happened to Bethany. If there was any possible reservation about the inn having a resident ghost, it was dispelled the night Bethany was passing by a set of heavy padlocked doors during closing side work.
At first, she just noticed this faint metallic jangling which she attributed to the noise created by the large earrings she was wearing-door knockers if you will. But as she made her way to the doors that separated the building, she stopped in her tracks. It was definitely NOT her earrings making that noise. As if moved by unseen hands, the 2 large locks the kept the double doors closed were being lifted and then slowly, deliberately, dropped back down. Stunned, she called out to a nearby co-worker to witness. Initially a skeptic, this other worker was made a fast convert.
Like all good ghost stories, there are many elements of mystery and surprise to Jake’s haunting. And just like in some spooky narratives some of those mysteries may never be solved. Perhaps they really don’t have to be. Granted, the details about Jake’s identity and demise cannot be found as well as the circumstances behind his disappearance. Did he just get bored, did he become frustrated with renovations and decide to cross over? Did the mirror serve as a portal and is he now haunting wherever that mirror may now be?
And like all in good ghost stories, there is a lesson to be learned. We might not know where Jake came from, where he went. We don’t even know if he is actually named Jake. But what we can take away from his story is that regardless of where we are and how we got there, we can make it the Heaven or Hell of our choosing. Jake might have been a young man who found himself in circumstances beyond his control but he certainly made the most of the situation. At least for a little while. Wherever you are Jake, I still hope you are having a good time.
Reference: Journal of the American Rev, Derek Beck, 2/4, 2019 , “The Noble Train”