It should be no surprise that New England’s stony soil should produce a goodly number of strange rocks. They have such nicknames as the Devil’s Footprint, the Narragansett Runestone and the Man-eating Stone of Glastonbery.
Folktales grew up around some of New England’s strange rocks, like the one about the devil’s footprint in Maine. Scientific research explained some of the others, like the dinosaur tracks named the Connecticut State Fossil.
In some cases, like the Mystery Stone of Lake Winnipesaukee, there has never been a satisfactory explanation for how they got that way.
Here then are six strange rocks, one in each state, along with the stories that go with them. If you know of any others, please share them in the comments section.
The Connecticut State Fossil
In 1802, a Massachusetts farm boy named Pliny Moody came across dinosaur tracks in Holyoke, Mass. That was the first of many discoveries of dinosaur tracks in the sandstone of the Connecticut River Valley.
Eubrontes is the name given to the footprint, not the dinosaur. Edward Hitchcock, the president of Amherst College, studied fossils in Holyoke, Mass., and gave them the name. He concluded, wrongly, the tracks were made by large birds.
On Aug. 23, 1966, Edward McCarthy was bulldozing a path for I-91 in Rocky Hill, Conn., when he overturned a block of sandstone imprinted with six three-toed footprints. The land turned out to be a former lakebed riddled with dinosaur tracks, the largest in North America.
Scientists confirmed the importance of the Rocky Hill dinosaur tracks, which are about a foot long. The highway was moved and the lake bed was designated a Connecticut state park. Scientists found about 2,000 of the three-toed tracks, which have been linked to the Jurassis-era Dilophosauris.
The Connecticut Legislature designated the Eubrontes fossil as the official state fossil in 1991. Other state legislatures were doing the same around that time. They did so in Massachusetts (therapod tracks in Granby), Maine (Pertica quadrifaria,a plant, in Baxter State Park) and Vermont (Beluga whale skeleton in Charlotte).
Dinosaur State Park, 400 West St., Rocky Hill
Next to the meeting house in North Manchester, Maine, lies a cemetery surrounded by a wall with a strange rock in it. The rock, in the corner of the wall, has three imprints said to be the devil’s footprints. One looks like a cloven hoof, the other two look human. Someone conveniently spray painted them red.
There is a story that goes with the rock, which may or may not be true (probably not). Years ago, a crew of construction workers was clearing a path for Scribner Hill Road when they came upon a boulder that could not be moved. One of the workmen exclaimed he’d sell his soul to the devil to move the rock. The next day, the rock was moved and the construction worker gone. The devil left his footprints on the rock as a reminder of the deal.
The North Manchester Meeting House, built in 1793, is still used as a church.
144 Scribner Hill Rd., North Manchester
Dighton Rock has mystified people since before the colonization of America. The rock is an 11-foot-high boulder covered with ancient petroglyphs of an unknown origin. It once rested on the shore of the Taunton River, but it now has its own museum (operated by appointment only) in Berkley, Mass., once part of Dighton, Mass.
Visitors to the strange rock will be in good company as Cotton Mather, George Washington and dozens of scientists have attempted to decode the meaning behind the writing on it.
Some theories: A message left by Norse explorers, Native American symbols and a message from God. So far no consensus exists as to the rock’s significance, and its meaning remains a mystery.
Dighton Rock State Park, Bayview Ave, Berkley
Lake Winnipesaukee Mystery Stone
Seneca Ladd was many things: Piano maker, carriage maker, mill owner, banker (He was one of the founders of the Meredith Village Savings Bank), amateur meteorologist, and geologist.
New Hampshire’s Lakes Region well remembers his legacy. But his most unusual accomplishment remains a mystery. One day while workmen were digging on his property in Meredith sometime in 1872 or earlier they uncovered an egg-shaped object buried at a depth of two feet and encased in clay.
The object, by far the smallest of our mystery stones, is a carved stone bearing markings that remain unidentified. Ladd himself thought his “egg” was Native American in its origins and he displayed it for the curious for much of his life. The egg still baffles scientists as to what exactly it is. Ladd’s daughter gave the object to the New Hampshire Historical Society in 1927, which then displayed it in its Museum of New Hampshire History in Concord.
New Hampshire Historical Society, 30 Park St., Concord
Quidnessett Rock, also known as the Narragansett Runestone, is a strange rock in North Kingstown, R.I., with a somewhat shaky pedigree.
Rhode Island historians first paid attention to the 2.5 ton rock around 1984. The rock bears a series of unusual markings that some claim look like markings made by the religious sect known as the The Knights Templar. This faction claims the stone is a marker, probably documenting a land claim that dates to before the arrival of Christopher Columbus.
However, Edward Brown of Providence came forward to clarify that he and his brother made the markings on the rock as young boys in 1964, though not as a hoax. They did it just for fun, he said.
Others view the rock as a nuisance. A resident of Pojac Point in North Kingstown caused a kerfuffle when he lifted the rock and dropped it farther out to sea to slow the onslaught of visitors to the stone. After someone caught him he retrieved the stone, now on permanent display in Updike Park in the Village of Wickford. It makes as good an excuse as any for a trip to the charming village.
Updike Park, 89 Brown St., Wickford
Man-Eating Stone of Glastonbery
Between 1945 and 1950, five people disappeared on Glastonbery Mountain, four without a trace: Middie Rivers (1945); Paula Jean Welden (1946); James Tedford (1949); Paul Jephson (1950); and Frieda Langer (1950).
Rivers, an experienced hunter, knew the area. Welden, a Bennington College sophomore, disappeared while hiking the Long Trail. James Tedord, a veteran, vanished on a bus exactly three years after Paula Welden disappeared. Jephson, an eight-year-old boy, went missing from the family truck while his mother fed some pigs. And Langer disappeared on a hike near the Somerset Reservoir. Her body was then found seven months later in an area that had been carefully searched.
In 2009, a writer named Joseph Citro suggested an explanation in his book, The Vermont Monster Guide: The man-eating stone of Glastonbery Mountain. In it, he wrote,
“No one alive has seen this dangerous anomaly on Glastonbury Mountain. Native Americans knew of it, and warned people away. We can only imagine it as a sizable rock, large enough to stand on. But when someone stands upon it, the rock becomes less solid, and, like a living thing, swallows the unfortunate trespasser. A number of disappearances have been reported on Glastonbury Mountain. Could all these vanished folks have stepped inadvertently on this hungry stone?”
Citro dubbed the area, part of the Green Mountains, the Bennington Triangle.
Glastonbery Mountain, Glastonbery
To read about the strange rocks that form mysterious stone structures of New England, click here.
Images: Wickford, R.I., By Swampyank at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20433895; Lake Winnipesaukee Mystery Stone By John Phelan – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18574963; Green Mountains From the nek – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22873955. This story about strange rocks was updated in 2022.