Saturday, September 25, 2010

High Rock Tower and Stone Cottage, Lynn

Added on May 17, 2011: Decision looms for Lynn's High Rock Stone Cottage.
The stone cottage is in a dire need to be rehabilitated or the worst could happen!

First, he chose a perfect location for his experiments. In Lynn, Massachusetts, there is an elevated piece of land believed to have special spiritual properties. Today, we might call it a “power center.”  -- from Passing Strange
High Rock Tower of 1905 and Stone Cottage

Lynn is a curious place; rock (the mineral one) seems to be the part of residents’ everyday life. Stacked rock wall there may be regarded as something equivalent to front yard lawn. Abundance probably is the reason, but there is some spiritual tone in those stacked rocks...

The King of Lynn Rock: Dungeon Rock

Wait, please keep reading. I’m not the only one obsessing about Lynn. The 19th century Spiritualists acclaimed the place as “nature’s warehouse of infinite magnetic force.” And the epicenter of this peculiar force is so-called High Rock section of the town. I learned about the place from a book “Passing Strange” by Joseph A. Cirto, and believe me,  this is one of the most bizarre stories I have ever heard…


John Murray Spear was a passionate, progressive, and talented Universalist minister.Heavily influenced by the Spiritualism Movement, he began obsessing about creating a new form of life, a machine one! He believed his creation would improve human life.

The blueprint was created during a séance session. In 1853, he and his cooperators began constructing the machine (he called it "Electrical Infant") at Jesse Hutchinson property at High Rock. Spiritualists believed they had seen angels at Hutchinson’s Stone Cottage (yes, this place is charged.) Rev. Spear believed the force of nature abundant in High Rock would aid infusing life into his creation.

Circa 1864, Hutchinson's original tower and Stone Cottage on far right

The description of the machine exceeds my imagination. I picture it would be like the creation of Moholy Nagy, but I don’t guarantee. Nine month later in 1854, the machine was complete awaiting for the final step: infusing life. Needless to say, a woman was chosen as a catalyst. A rather short ceremony began by Rev. Spear holding her hand. The result is curiously obscure and somewhat grotesque:
Already a mother by more traditional means, Mrs. Newton no doubt recognized a familiar indications right away. She began experiencing the symptoms of actual gestation accompanied with “some very singular characteristics,” which, perhaps happily, history fails to record. -- from Passing Strange
And, then...the spectators saw the thing moved! Next few weeks, Mrs. Newton diligently took care of the machine like her own baby...Wait, did “the thing” really move? Citro describes that even the most skeptical one admitted it moved, but “most attributed it to magnetic forces, oxidation, and wind.”

Looking from the tower
The tower sits of a huge porphyry rock

 So what eventually happened? The end was sudden and tragic; one day, a mob of angry men destroyed Spear’s creation. He would never attempt to create his "Electrical Infant" again...

The current tower with an observatory on the hill was built in 1905. The Stone Cottage is still there, but seems to be unwilling to draw history goers' attention. And yes, I have to admit the hill was a dizzily surreal space. It was not creepy or unwelcoming, but once you step into the hill you feel this is a special place that not to be treated lightly.


After writing this and uploading pictures, it occurred to me that my faithful Nikon was acting up when I was taking pictures around the tower: bracketing didn’t work, autofocus seemed to have lost its concentration, help guidance pop up like an overbearing mother telling something irrelevant…Well, if the observatory, which needs delicate instruments, is on top of the tower, it must be me thinking too much, right?

Locate High Rock Tower @ Google Map

Passing Strange by Joseph A. Citro
Hi Rock, Location, History, and Legends
High Rock Park, Tower and Observatory


  1. I love the focus of this blog. Very original. Can't wait to read more. I, too, am fascinated by urban space and ruins.

  2. Thanks Lynn-side Edition,

    I love Lynn. Your town has a great character!

  3. All of us kids hung around High Rock in the 50s and 60s. I never knew it's history then. The tower has been completely refurbished. I'm hoping they do the same with the Stone Cottage.


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