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The Legend of Purgatory Chasm

Little is said about the origins of this unassuming wonder nestled in Sutton, MA, just southeast of Worcester. But with a name like Purgatory Chasm, how could you not be curious?

The Legend of Purgatory Chasm

Purgatory Chasm State Reservation

Bethany Bourgault

The Legend of Purgatory Chasm

According to legend, an Algonquin Indian woman found herself in a tight spot (pun intended) shortly after she killed a white colonial settler. As she walked away from the scene of the crime, she encountered another settler who asked for her company on a short walk. Naturally, having just murdered one of his people, she was apprehensive and tried to run away. He lunged and grabbed her by the wrist. When she called out to the Native American god Hobomoko to save her, the second settler revealed himself as none other than Hobomoko in the flesh. Morphing into a devil-like guise, Hobomoko grabbed his captive by the waist and flew to Purgatory Chasm.

Colonists said that the devil’s actions on that day formed the chasm. The deep depressions were allegedly the places he stomped and threw his victim. The large, deep cuts in the rocks were the results of a swinging tomahawk.

The Legend of Purgatory Chasm

Visitors are encouraged to squeeze through this deep rivet, appropriately called “Fat Man’s Misery.”

Bethany Bourgault

The Legend of Purgatory Chasm

Guests can walk through this tomahawk strike, called “Devil’s Corn Crib.”

Bethany Bourgault

Historians say that the legend actually served a religious purpose in the colonists’ efforts to Christianize Native Americans. By demonizing Hobomoko and creating a parable-like warning out of the woman’s murder, they cautioned Natives out of their own faith with the hope of bringing them to Christianity.

The Legend of Purgatory Chasm

View from inside the chasm.

Bethany Bourgault

Geologists have another opinion. They say that a mile-high glacier let loose a gush of dammed-up water some 14,000 years ago, leaving the walls intact but carving out the 70-foot-deep chasm.

The Legend of Purgatory Chasm

“The Devil’s Pulpit” is a must-see.

Bethany Bourgault

The Legend of Purgatory Chasm

“Lover’s Leap,” another must-see, is 75 feet high.

Bethany Bourgault

The Legend of Purgatory Chasm

The “Devil’s Coffin.”

Bethany Bourgault

However you choose to explain its origin, Purgatory Chasm is still a magnificent geological wonder. It has inspired novels (Steve Ulfelder’s Purgatory Chasm), poems (Susan Edmonds Richard’s collection, titled Purgatory Chasm), and even a song (Neptune’s Car’s Lover’s Leap: The Purgatory Chasm Song). Families flock from near and far to walk through the chasm itself, explore its surrounding trails, have lunch in the multiple picnic areas (many of which include grills, stone ovens, and water pumps), or to let their children play on the park’s impressive playground. Indoor bathrooms, an informative visitor center, and a food truck near a roofed eating area allowed guests to enjoy nature without fully forsaking modern comforts.

The Legend of Purgatory Chasm

Signs like this can be found all over the park.

Bethany Bourgault

The Legend of Purgatory Chasm

A large field is a great place for kids to run and play.

Bethany Bourgault

The Legend of Purgatory Chasm

One of the park’s many picnic areas.

Bethany Bourgault

The Legend of Purgatory Chasm

Food truck near the visitor center.

Bethany Bourgault

Don’t let the amenities fool you, though. Walking directly through the chasm was not an easy stroll through the woods. Clambering over rocks in the initial descent to the 1/4-mile-long chasm sometimes required both hands and a steady heart. Proper hiking shoes are a must for anyone thinking of making the journey.

The Legend of Purgatory Chasm

This sign warns visitors to take caution on slippery rocks.

Bethany Bourgault

The Legend of Purgatory Chasm

Many rocks were marked with blue arrows or spots along the way.

Bethany Bourgault

Once you’re on the path, a plethora of discoveries that only New England can offer awaits.

The Legend of Purgatory Chasm

A pond near Little Purgatory Chasm.

Bethany Bourgault

The Legend of Purgatory Chasm

Almost blueberry season.

Bethany Bourgault

The Legend of Purgatory Chasm

Wintergreen is a spring staple in New England’s forests.

Bethany Bourgault

If you pay close enough attention, you might even make some new friends along the way.

The Legend of Purgatory Chasm

A chipmunk enjoys a snack on a nearby rock.

Bethany Bourgault

The Legend of Purgatory Chasm

A frog takes a swim in a nearby brook.

Bethany Bourgault

Purgatory Chasm State Reservation is located off Route 146 at 198 Purgatory Road in Sutton, MA.

This post was first published in 2015 and has been updated.

SEE MORE:
Mary Rowlandson | The Legend of Redemption Rock
The Mystery Stone of Lake Winnipesaukee
Madame Sherri’s Castle Ruins | A Legendary Site

The post The Legend of Purgatory Chasm appeared first on New England Today.



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