Dungeon Rock in Lynn, Massachusetts

Dungeon Rock is a historic rock formation in Lynn, Massachusetts that features a cave where a pirate was reportedly buried alive with his treasure during an earthquake in 1658.

The pirate’s name was Thomas Veale and it was believed that he was hiding out in the cave while trying to avoid authorities, according to a book published in 1829, titled the History of Lynn, by a Lynn writer and publisher named Alonzo Lewis.

Lewis states that Veale and three other fellow pirates found the cave some time before when locals saw them anchor off shore in their ship one evening and row up the river in a small boat. It is said that they landed somewhere up river and then disappeared into the Lynn Woods.

The following morning, the pirate ship was gone and no trace of the pirates could be found. That same morning though, a mysterious note was found at the local Iron Works requesting that an order of iron shackles, handcuffs, hatchets, and other items be made and left in a secret location in the Lynn Woods in exchange for an amount of silver.

The iron workers made the items in a few days and left them in the designated drop spot. The following morning, the items were gone and the money had been left in its place.

Lewis states that the pirates disappeared but returned four months later and built a small hideaway at a place in the Lynn Woods called Pirate’s Glen, where they built a hut, made a garden and dug a well. The pirates hid out there for a while until they were discovered by authorities and three of them were arrested and sent back to England.

Veale managed to evade the authorities and escaped to a cave at Dungeon Rock, about two miles north of Pirate’s Glen, where it is believed the pirates had previously buried their treasure.

Illustration of Hiram Marble's excavation at Dungeon Rock, Lynn, Mass, circa July 1860
Illustration of Hiram Marble’s excavation at Dungeon Rock, Lynn, Mass, circa July 1860

Veale lived there for some time, and even worked as a shoemaker and occasionally came to town to purchase good and supplies. Then in 1658, the earthquake struck and the mouth of the cave collapsed, trapping Veale forever.

Where exactly Alonzo Lewis found out about this story is unclear since there isn’t any evidence of these events actually happening. According to author James Newhall, in his 1865 book The History of Lynn, he even confronted Lewis directly about the origins of his story but Lewis refused to answer:

“Without any desire to obliterate the glowing impressions which a fond credulity loves to cherish, it seems a duty to inquire as to the foundation on which these stories rest. No recorded evidence has been discovered respecting the persons and transactions so circumstantially brought to view. Among the records of the various courts, which abound in allusions, at least, to matters of even the most trivial significance, nothing is found. And none of the gossiping old writers who delighted especially to dwell upon whatever partook of the wonderful and mysterious make any mention of these things. The alleged abode of the pirates was almost within a stone’s throw of the Iron Works, which were in operation at the time; and yet we find no evidence that any about the Works even suspected the neighborhood of the outlaws. I once directly questioned Mr. Lewis as to whence he obtained the information; but he declined answering. It has, however, been understood that he simply claimed the authority of tradition; and is said to have remarked that his inquiries on the subject were induced by the same sort of evidence that induced his inquiries concerning the Iron Works” [Newhall 245.]

Lewis’ book was published in 1829 and it sparked public interest in the cave and the possible riches buried there.

In the 1830s, two attempts were made to recover the treasure by placing kegs of powder at the opening of the cave and igniting them. The efforts failed and the opening to the cave was destroyed.

In 1852, a spiritualist named Hiram Marble purchased the land where Dungeon Rock is located from the city of Lynn and began excavating it with his son Edwin by digging a tunnel into the rock to try and access the cave.

Marble, a member of the Spiritualist Church in Charlton, claimed that he was receiving instructions from the ghosts of two of the pirates, Thomas Veale and Captain Harris, as to the whereabouts of the reported treasure buried in the cave.

Marble stated that he received his instructions on where to dig directly from the ghosts by writing the words “I wish Veale or Harris would tell what move to make next” on a piece of paper. He would then fold the paper multiple times and then call a medium into the room to feel the piece of paper and then write the ghost’s response.

The excavation proved to be difficult though and actually went on for decades. In addition to the tunnel, Marble also built a number of structures at the site, such as two story house to live in as well as a tool shed, powder storage structure, a blast wall and a guest house that was never completed.

After only a few years, Marble’s savings of $1,500 was depleted and he opened the site up to visitors as a tourist attraction, called Pirate’s Glen, to raise funds for the excavation. Marble charged a quarter for tours and also sold bonds for a dollar with the promise of a share of the treasure to investors.

Hiram Marble's excavation at Dungeon Rock in Lynn, MA, illustration from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, circa August 1878
Hiram Marble’s excavation at Dungeon Rock in Lynn, MA, illustration from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, circa August 1878

In 1861, Alonzo Lewis died and Marble claimed he contacted him through a medium and received words of approval and encouragement from him, which Newhall pointed out as odd seeing that Lewis clearly stated in his book that he was against the idea of anyone excavating Dungeon Rock.

By 1863, the tunnel Marble was excavating was 135 feet long and was seven feet wide and the height of an average person. The opening to the tunnel was created to the immediate right of the collapsed entrance to the cave and Marble’s plan was to dig a tunnel parallel to the cave and then turn left and dig into the cave from the side.

For some reason, Marble didn’t do this at all and instead veered the tunnel away in the opposite direction of the cave. He stated that the ghosts told him to do this for reasons they didn’t explain, as can be seen in a message he claimed he received from the ghost of Tom Veale through a medium:

“My dear charge, You solicit me or Captain Harris to advise you as to what to next do….As to the course, you are in the right direction, at present. You have one more curve to make, before you take the course that leads to the cave. We have a reason for keeping you from entering the cave at once. Moses was by the Lord kept forty years in a circuitous route, ere he had sight of that land which flowed with milk and honey. God had his purpose in doing so, notwithstanding he might have led Moses into the promise in a very few days from the start. But no; God wanted to develop a truth, and no faster than the minds of the people were prepared to receive it. Cheer up, Marble; we are with you, and doing all we can. Your guide, Tom Veale” [Newhall 247.]

Marble continued to dig his tunnel until he passed away on November 10, 1868, at the age of 65, without ever finding the treasure, and was buried at Bay Path Cemetery in Charlton, Mass. Edwin continued the excavation until his own death in 1880.

Since Edwin’s final wish was to be buried at Dungeon Rock, a grave was dug for him next to the rock and a large pink rock was placed there to mark his grave.

In 1881, the city purchased the land where Dungeon Rock is located and made it a part of a newly formed 2,200 acre park called Lynn Woods Reservation.

The 174-foot-long tunnel that Marble dug still exists and is guarded at night by an iron gate. The gate and tunnel are open to visitors Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00am to 2:30pm.

Sources:
Lewis, Alonzo. History of Lynn. Boston: J.H. Eastburn, 1829.
Lewis, Alonzo and James R. Newhall. History of Lynn, Essex County, Massachusetts: Including Lynnfield, Saugus, Swampscott and Nahant. Boston: John L. Shorey, 1865.
Ames, Nathan. Pirates’ Glen and Dungeon Rock. Boston: Redding & Company, 1853.
“Lynn Woods Reservation.” City of Lynn, lynnma.gov/departments/lynnwoods.shtml

About Rebecca Beatrice Brooks

Rebecca Beatrice Brooks is the author and publisher of the History of Massachusetts Blog. Rebecca is a freelance journalist and history lover who got her start in journalism working for small-town newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire after she graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in journalism. Visit this site's About page to find out more about Rebecca.

2 thoughts on “Dungeon Rock in Lynn, Massachusetts

  1. Laura Eisener

    Very good account of this mysterious and intriguing episode of Saugus and Lynn history. I grew up in Saugus and am the president of the Saugus historical society. Dungeon Rock and Pirate’s Glen continue to fascinate people of all ages.

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Beatrice Brooks Post author

      Hi Laura, thanks for the comment. The story of Dungeon Rock really is so fascinating. I really enjoyed researching it and writing about it. I was thinking how great it would be if someone continued excavating it to find out if the story of the treasure is true but then I realized that maybe it’s more interesting if it remains a mystery. By the way, thank you for the work you do with the historical society! It’s not an easy or glamorous job but it is so important!

      Reply

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