making owls cool since 1986

We moved to Arizona to see burrow owls. Where the hell are all the burrow owls?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Lair of the Axeman

My mother grew up on Wixtead Court in Douglas, MA. As a girl, she and her friends often played in a field behind her house. They played sports and engaged in all sorts of fanciful imaginations, even producing plays with neighborhood casts in an old chicken coop. However, their games transpired alongside a fear of a named evil who lurked in the woods surrounding the little dead-end road. The name was the Axeman. Ok, so maybe the Axeman might seem a bit archaic to we denizens of the information age, but kids in the sixties didn't have the luxury of Sony's pixelated SOMA and therefore needed to rely on the adrenaline produced by a good, wholesome scare.

Recently, Erin and I were looking at a map and we noticed that there were allegedly caves in Douglas. These caves, called Castle Caves, were situated near the border of Douglas and Sutton. Astounded, we began asking people if they had ever seen the caves. Almost everyone had heard of the caves, yet no one had actually seen them.

When I brought up the caves to my mother, she told me that, while she never saw the caves herself, she knew of their existence. In fact, those very caves were rumored to be the lair of the dreaded Axeman! She had told me about the Axeman and the idea of finding a connection to some aspect of my mother's childhood really drew me in. Erin, Sean (my brother) and I decided that we would find the caves.

Our attempts were initially thwarted. The two road that lead to the woods where the caves, Brown Street and Caswell Court, were both dead ends with houses and "No "Trespassing" signs blocking our way. Cleverly, Erin thought of going into Sutton and down Whitins Road. A little way into Sutton we found a path, parked the car and headed off the find the caves.

Our trip began with a most promising stroke of luck. Across from the path was a house and there was an older gentleman sitting in the garage. As it looked obvious that he owned the land were planned on trespassing on, we decided to talk to him. He was very friendly and gave us permission to go ahead and he even gave us some directions to the caves! Were were off in grand style.

The hike was somewhat longer than expected. Also, were realized very quickly that we were not really certain of what to look for. The image I had in my head was of a rock with a door shaped hole in it resembling the paradigm of an old caveman cave from the movies. As we walked along we encountered many more paths, turns, junctions, and obsticles. We did find this neat balloon though. It seems that whenever Erin and I go out into the woods, we run into fugitive balloons.

The sun was already setting when we encountered a huge rock face. For those of you familiar with Purgatory Chasm, it was about the equivolent of one side of the chasm. I immediately knew this was our place, yet the actually caves themselves did not stand out and the cliff was really, really big.

We began traversing the face of the cliff, searching for any signs of caves. I went pretty quickly and, as I turned a corner, I spotted something about half way up the face of the cliff. There were spray painted words that read "The Who." Any good explorer knows the vandalism marks the spot. I went back and retrieved Erin and Sean. We abandoned some of our heavy bags and camera gear at the foot of the cliff and started on up. The dry leaves and pine needles made the climb rather treacherous, but up we went. Finally, we arrived at one of the caves.

It wasn't huge but it was pretty deep. I crawled in a little bit and took some pictures, but they didn't come out. By that time it was getting pretty dark out and we didn't want to linger too long on the side of a cliff anyhow, so we decided to set off for home and be out of the woods before dark.

Then something stupid happened. Erin and Sean climbed up to the top of the cliff because that was actually easier than going back down on account of the leaves and pine needles. I went back down a bit to get a camera case and, feeling that at that point I was already committed to descent over ascent, I agreed to meet Sean and Erin on the trail. We had left the balloon on the trail, but within the time it took us to explore the caves, someone on an ATV came by and they must have picked it up or moved it inadvertently. After I picked up the camera case and my backpack, I walked down the rest of the way to what I thought was the trail. The balloon was gone and I had actually stumbled upon another trail. When Erin and Sean didn't show up for a long time I set off to find them, only the trail wound around behind the cliff and I didn't know that. I was calling them and they were calling me and we were all kind of freaking out because it was definitely getting darker when we finally found each other. We hadn't heard the calling because the cliff had separated us. After we calmed down for a second, we booked it out of the woods and made it home before dark.
Well, I'm not sure we can absolutely dispel the myth of the Axeman. Perhaps he just wasn't home or we found a different cave. Either way, Castle Caves proved to be a lot of exercise and a interesting look at something few people have seen.

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Blogger Patrick said...

Nice post. Back in the day, when I was part of the super cool Douglas Boy Scout troop 134, we spent a weekend at these very caves. We cooked over home made Coffee can stoves. Good times.

7:53 PM  
Blogger richardsons said...

sounds like a good adventure. nothing ends a trip into the woods like a good scare that you will be lost forever. Once i was making a scavenger hunt in the woods for kevs birthday and i some how got lost, i had a compass and everything. I ended up a mile away from my house in someones backyard. I almost cried. Ha

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Castle Caves is a very special place as I went there alot as a kid. I grew up accross from Wixted ct. on Cemetery st. and use to hike up there all the time. It is a bit more difficult these dayswith all the new homes popping up. However bein a "townie" I politely ask to cross their yard to pass onto my hiking adventure. It has changed alot over the years for when I was younger so were'nt the trees...I use to be able to see for miles and the view included the tops of all the church steeples...I do remember being warned of the old axeman that lived in the caves which is probbly why at the age of 13 we went anyways..Thank you for this story it brought back some very fond memories! Can't wait to hike on up there to see the view this year...

8:41 AM  

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