AMERICA'S STONEHENGE (MYSTERY HILL)
Updated: Apr 21
AMERICA'S STONEHENGE (MYSTERY HILL)
DATE(S) VISITED: NOV 5, 2017
LOCATION: SALEM, NH
America's Stonehenge is a privately-owned archaeological site which consists of a number of large rocks and stone structures scattered around roughly 30 acres. Located within the town of Salem, New Hampshire, it is open to the public as part of a recreational area which includes snowshoe trails and an alpaca farm.
A number of hypotheses exist as to the origin and purpose of the structures scattered around the site. One such viewpoint is a mixture of land-use practices of local farmers in the 18th and 19th centuries and construction of structures by owner William Goodwin, an insurance executive who purchased the area in 1937.
Some claim that the site has a pre-Columbian European origin, but there are theories that the structures are just a result of an early-20th century hoax. Archaeologist David Starbuck has said: "It is widely believed that Goodwin may have created much of what is visible at the site today." Goodwin, who became convinced that the location was proof that Irish monks (the Culdees) had lived there long before the time of Christopher Columbus, and he sought to publicize the concept. Goodwin and others who wanted to move the stones to what they considered to be their original locations.
The site was first dubbed Mystery Hill by William Goodwin. This was the official name of the site until 1982, when it was renamed America's Stonehenge, a term coined in a news article in the early 1960s. The rebranding was an effort to separate it from roadside oddity sites and to reinforce the idea that it is an ancient archaeological site. The area is named after Stonehenge in England, although there is no evidence of cultural or historical connections between the two.
More fanciful origins have also been proposed, but artifacts found on the site led archaeologists to the conclusion that the stones were actually assembled for a variety of reasons by local farmers in the 18th and 19th centuries. For example, there is a so-called sacrificial stone which contains grooves that some say channeled blood, but it closely resembles lye-leaching stones found on many old farms that were used to extract lye from wood ashes, the first step in the manufacture of soap. Other Theories include that the stone was carved by Native American's for use in elaborate water and crystal ceremony's.
In 1982, David Stewart-Smith, director of restoration at Mystery Hill, conducted an excavation of a megalith found in a stone quarry to the north of the main site. His research team excavated the quarry site under the supervision of the New Hampshire state archaeologist and discovered hundreds of chips and flakes from the stone. They concluded that this was evidence of tool manufacture, consistent with American Indian lithic techniques, although no date could be ascertained. Archaeologist Curtis Runnels stated, "No Bronze Age artifacts have been found there. In fact, no one has found a single artifact of European origin from that period anywhere in the New World."
In 2019, the site was vandalized with power tools, with police saying the person may have been trying to re-enact a scene from a fictional work. On March 4, 2021, NH State Police arrested a member of the online group QAnon and charged him with criminal mischief.
American horror writer H. P. Lovecraft was an enthusiast for New England megalith sites, and he visited Mystery Hill sometime between 1928 and the 1930s. The site is popularly attributed as inspiration for his story "The Dunwich Horror". Scholars, however, place Lovecraft's visit too late to have inspired the 1929 story.
The Watch House.
Sunken Ceremonial Unit Partially Roofed Enclosure.
South Facing Storage Chamber.
Triangular Storage Chamber.
East/West Chamber. This was apparently the final chamber that was built on the site and is a simplified version of the Oracle Chamber.
The Mensal Stone. Tilted Roof Storage Chamber. The U shapes mark out drill holes in the stone.
Square Storage Chamber.
The Oracle Chamber is the most complex and sophisticated chamber found in Northeastern United States. It features an alcove entrance (once covered with roof stones) leading into an elongated north-south roof. On the west side of the room is small room. A speaking tube extends from inside the north-south room to underneath a pecked grooved stone. On the north end of the north-south room is a louvered roof opening and triangular / trapezoid petroglyphs. On the east side of the north-south room is an opening into the east wing. The east wing has multiple niches, an under-structure drain, and petroglyph.
Summer Solstice Sunrise Alignment Stone.
Equinox Alignment. This alignment is accurate for both Spring and Fall Equinox sunsets.
Winter Solstice Sunset Monolith. This was the first monolith suspected to be a solar alignment. Robert E. Stone photographed it at sunset on 21 December, 1970. The principal stone marked the southern most set of the sun at about 2,000 B.C., but today has changed because of changes in the earth’s tilt.
February 1st Sunset Alignment. This standing stone is aligned to the setting sun on the February 1st. It also lines up with the northern edge of a stone circle 25ft. to the west, off the trail system. It has been determined to be a lunar minor alignment. Another lunar alignment passes through the center of the Watch House.
November 1st Stone. This stone is aligned with the November 1st sunset, a date that has considerable importance in many ancient calendars.
Large Curved Wall. This wall that is aligned to true north is similar to post colonial walls that were used as rock dumps, but additional research is required. The May 1st sunset alignment crosses the northernmost end of the wall.
Enclosure & Collapsed Walk-In Chamber. The enclosure section has filled in and the chamber’s roof has collapsed.
Summer Solstice Sunset Monolith. This is similar to the Winter Solstice Monolith but lines up with the summer solstice sunset, the most northerly setting of the sun about 2,000 B.C. at the Salem, New Hampshire latitude.
Eye Stone. The stone is badly weathered but contains an unknown carving. It appears to be another lunar alignment for the 18.61 year cycle of the moon as viewed from the observational center.
Multi-Standing Stone Wall. The wall is still mostly in its original condition. A number of standing stones are slightly leaning and resemble the teeth of a shark.
Equinox Sunrise Stone. At the spring and autumn equinox the sun rises over this fallen monolith.
November 1st Sunrise. A fallen stone that is aligned with the November 1st sunrise. There is a V-shaped notch at the edge of what was the top of the stone. In this way it is similar to the Bert Stone, one of the two stones aligned with the Winter Solstice Monolith.
A petroglyph is an image created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrading, as a form of rock art. Outside North America, scholars often use terms such as carving, engraving, or other descriptions of the technique to refer to such images. Petroglyphs are found worldwide, and are often associated with prehistoric peoples. Below are some of the petroglyphs that have been found at Mystery Hill.