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Boston roads were laid by cows or men? Tales from America’s past

Boston has its share of rich history and it has close connections with some of the most well known tales from America’s past. Not all of Boston’s interesting anecdotes can be traced to the past though. There are a few urban legends from the 1900s that add a touch of mystery and  suspense to this city.

The Boston Cow Paths Legend

There are many who believed back in the 1930s and 40s that Boston streets were not actually designed by men, but by cattle! How? Well, they said that cows wandering about the town walked down the same paths day after day and made these pathways which were later laid down as roads. While the story is quaint, it is far more likely since Boston was a small hamlet, there was scant attention paid to urban planning as the city developed. The hilly topography and the forest covered terrain made planning and development very tough. This could be the reason why roads were laid as and where they were absolutely necessary. The many one-way streets and the difficulty that newcomers face in navigating keep this urban legend of cow paths alive though.

The Molasses Flood Legend

This one is perhaps the winner when it comes to unusual legends. The story goes that a flood of molasses killed many Bostonians. What really happened was that a tanker truck carrying molasses exploded owing to the unreasonable heat on January 15, 1919. The 2.5 million gallons of molasses spilled out and covered the surrounding streets, in some places reaching a depth of 8 feet. 21 fatalities were recorded and 150 people were hurt in the mishap which the United States Industrial Alcohol Co called ‘an act of sabotage’. To add to the story, there are many who claim that the smell of molasses still pervades the streets on hot summer days.

Was Boston the First Haunt of Bloody Mary?

This one has its basis in a true-blue horror story, that of Bloody Mary, a vengeful spirit that is summoned through a mirror. When the Boston Latin School was opened in the city, it enjoyed an enviable reputation of being the first school in the New World. However, a not-so-pleasant reputation also dogged this school. People claimed that Bloody Mary could be seen in the mirrors of the school’s bathrooms. Students described her as being draped in bloody clothes with rusty chains hanging about her neck and shoulders.

This legend probably originates from the fact that there is a grave behind the school where several women were hung after witch hunts. In fact, old trial transcripts show that Mary Bloodsworth was hung to death with a rope around her neck after 11 of her neighbors claimed that she was a witch!

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