|The Rose Files
True Scary Stories from Life
| The Legend of the “Werewolf of Dogtown!”
~ Rose Titus ~
Massachusetts is famous for Cape Cod, and Cape Cod is so famous that everyone forgets about
Cape Ann. Well, Cape Ann has the town of Gloucester, and Cape Cod does not, so there! Gloucester
has the famous “Those That Go Down To The Sea in Ships” statue, Gorton’s frozen fish, Hammond
Castle, and – now get this horror fans – a legend of an honest to sweet baby Jesus Sea Serpent known as
the Gloucester Sea Serpent! Well, what else would they call it? The Cape Ann museum, in fact, has a
wood carving of the Gloucester Sea Serpent, which many people claim to have seen long ago. So stay
out of the water!
Gloucester also has a vast forested area known as “Dogtown.” And they say Dogtown has a very
spooky and mysterious history! And that spooky and mysterious history supposedly includes a legendary
“werewolf”! (Okay, so Gloucester has a castle and a werewolf… now you can go ahead and say, “There
wolf, there castle!” Sorry. Couldn’t help it.)*
So what is it with this Dogtown place, anyway?
Let’s find out!
In this century, the area known as “Dogtown” is a forest, but during Colonial times, it was very much
Even before Colonial days, the Native Americans resided there. New England folklorist Robert Ellis
Cahill has stated in one of his books that the Native Americans who lived in the area believed their
ancestors were “dog-headed” creatures. And during Colonial times, there were packs of wolves living in
the area that would steal sheep and chickens from the farmers.
But after the Revolutionary War, Gloucester being a fishing village at the time, naturally had a high
percentage of widows as their husbands went to sea and never returned, or because many men were lost
to the Revolutionary war. And so many of these widows moved to this inexpensive area of Gloucester
(Dogtown was a cheap rent district) and being alone, many of them kept dogs for companionship and
This neighborhood then filled up with poor widows and their dogs and so became famous for having a
multitude of mutts running around. Back then there was of course no “spay your pet” campaign, so
naturally there were roaming packs of feral dogs running all around everywhere – it literally became a “dog
And in those days there were not many ways for a woman to earn a decent living, so many of the
widows became fortune tellers, or sold herbal remedies. Naturally, many of these poor unfortunate women
were accused of being witches. And superstitious folk believed the dogs were their familiars. One of
these so-called witches was said to often wear a necklace with a wolf’s tooth. People back then believed
that witches could transform into wolves (or cats, or ravens) at will.
Dogtown became a community with a bad reputation because the residents were either poor,
downtrodden, or considered to be “witches” and outcasts. People went there to have fortunes read, or to
buy potions, but decent folk didn’t want it known that they frequented the place.
Gradually over time, however, people moved away from Dogtown and the place was abandoned. The
homes fell apart due to neglect, the forest grew back into the area, and the community went back to
nature. Wild animals moved in, and possibly many stray dogs remained and ran wild, in packs, like
In the 1930’s, a man named Roger Babson paid for uplifting words and sayings to be carved into
several boulders that are scattered around Dogtown. These big rocks say things like, “Get A Job,” “Help
Mother,” “Be Clean,” “Kindness,” “Integrity,” “Spiritual Power,” “Prosperity Follows Service,” “If Work Stops,
Values Decay,” “Keep Out of Debt,” and “Never Try, Never Win.” You can walk through the woods in
Dogtown and read all these rocks! And while you walk about seeing the rocks, you may also see cellar
holes left over from homes that existed back in the Colonial era.
But Dogtown, although a historic area and a beautiful forest, is still known as a “spooky place”. There
have actually been murders in the area, and some people believe the place is “haunted”.
There is even a rumor that a werewolf roams around Dogtown at night! There is no proof that there is
an actual werewolf, any more than there is proof that these woods are haunted. But there it is – there is a
legend of a “Dogtown werewolf!”
There have been sightings:
It has been said that in 1879, one “old Amos Pillsbury got a terrible scare.” He claimed that he saw a
“terrible critter in the woods” and described it as a “terrible big critter,” and that “its eyes were like fire
Strange wolf-like creatures have been reported on occasion in modern times. In 1984, during a full
moon, a man named David Myska claimed that he saw “a large beastly creature on the Crane’s Beach
Reservation (not in Dogtown, but not too far away). Four nights after this sighting, a deer was found dead
with its throat slashed, and with deep fang marks, but it was not eaten. That same evening two teenagers
sitting in a car reported seeing a “gray monstrous dog-like animal, running into the woods.” This sighting
was in an area near Dogtown.
What are these strange animals that mysteriously appear? Are they werewolves? Or are they the
ghosts of the dogs that were kept by the (alleged) witches of Dogtown? It can never be proven that there
are ghosts, or werewolves, in the area. There is no proof that the women who once resided in Dogtown
were ever witches, either. They were most likely innocent women trying to earn a living any way they could,
selling potions and telling fortunes, and keeping fierce dogs so that no one would cause them any trouble.
But if you want to walk around Dogtown and see its nature trail and see the rocks that have sayings
carved into them, maybe you shouldn’t go there when there is a full moon. Because you never know!
If you want to know more about mysterious place called Dogtown, or if you want to learn more about
legends of the North Shore, check out these resources:
1. Cahill, Robert Ellis, Things That Go Bump in the Night, Old Salt Box Press, 1970
2. Muise, Peter, Legends and Lore of the North Shore, The History Press, 2014
3. Anderson, Cynthia, “The Mystery of Dogtown: New England’s Most Famous Abandoned
Settlement,” Yankee Magazine, October 2008
4. Sweeney, Emily, “Stranger Things,” The Boston Globe, July 22, 2018
*Borrowed line from the movie Young Frankenstein, for those readers who didn’t already know!