Mystery Hill is often referred to as “America’s Stonehenge.” Why? I have absolutely no idea. Stonehenge is made up of giant monoliths that defy any attempts to find meaning. Mystery Hill is a series of short stone walls, stone structures, and an acre of granite with ruts dug into it. The similarity to Stonehenge ends with the construction materia, and the parallel is a strenuous reach. The stone work is not unimpressive, though. There are table-like structures, altar-like structures, and what looks to be small shelters made of the stone. The fact that they are still standing is a feat in and of itself. Let’s take a look at three of the structures mentioned above. I chose three at random to give you all a feel for the place.
Signs appear to call this structure a “Sacrificial Table.” Which is off-the-wall strange to me. I’ve dug and dug but I have yet to come across any proof that sacrifices of any kind were made here. Some points I’ve seen to “prove” the ritualistic aspect of the table is that 1) it’s a table with 2) marks on it that was 3) clearly maintained and therefore 4) of some importance. On the other hand…why can’t it just be a table? Maybe hunters used the surface to strip down their catches. Maybe it was storage. That seems a lot more feasible to me. I personally don’t see what screams sacrificial about this.
This space does not have a specific name, but the photo struck me. I’m of two minds in regards to what it could be. First, it could simply be a storage space. An ancient pantry for storing food or other goods. That is definitely a shelf of some sort anyway. My second idea of this space is a little more Out There. I could see this being some sort of altar. Keep in mind that while that word evokes images of the occult and ritualistic practices, it could just be a spot of remembrance or reverence. Plenty of cultures have practices that include altars to family members or certain gods – not as part of a ritual, but as a place of worship or appreciation.
Here we have an alcove or man made cave. I’m of two minds on this structure too, though these two minds are more mundane than the altar/storage space mentioned above. First, I think this could be a place of shelter for hunting expeditions. Sure, it’s small, but when you just need a roof over your head during a storm, that doesn’t really matter. Second, again, couldn’t this just be a storage space for food? Rock structures tend to hold cool temperatures, especially if they are underground. Couldn’t this be a primitive root cellar?
I’m not going to dive too deep into the broader theories of what Mystery Hill is because, to be frank, the theories I’ve come across are mostly wild ideas without any proof or logic behind them. Signs advertising the area claim it could be pre-Viking or even Phonncian in origin, while others claim that the site could have been constructed by early Celts. Some have also suggested that it is Native American in origin. None of these theories have been confirmed with archaeological proof, and several have been refuted outright by leading voices in the academic world. On The more practical end of the spectrum, some suggest that Mystery Hill was constructed by farmers long ago, and that it has been blown way out of proportion by people seeking magic and mystery in the mundane. This is the theory that most archaeologists believe based on available evidence. All of the structures can be explained away by mundane and practical explanations, as we explored when discussing individual structures above.
I should also mention that it’s also been suggested that the whole thing is an elaborate hoax. The first known reference came in 1907, in a book about the history of Salem, New Hampshire. The account states that the cave specifically belonged to Jonathan Pattee, leading to many contemporary critics to believe that Pattee himself built the structures. Next in the possible Hoax History is William Goodwin. Goodwin fervently claimed that the site was built by Celtic monks prior to Christopher Columbus’s arrival on the continent. Goodwin is also said to have moved stones into what he believed had been their original places – though how he decided this is unknown. Quarrying also took place at the site in Goodwin’s time, as evidenced by drill marks on the stone. Archaeologists dispute the many mystical origin stories for Mystery Hill – their research and found artifacts at the site have led to the conclusion that Mystery Hill was constructed around the 18th or 19th centuries by farmers.
With all of this being said, it’s still a really cool place. Regardless of whether it’s truly ancient or a hoax, it still draws tourists to explore the structures. People’s minds still run wild with the possibilities of mysticism and magic that the structures evoke. I’m comfortable with not knowing the true origin of the structures. In this case, I’m going to quote the great Shane Madej of Buzzfeed Unsolved (which is a great true crime/supernatural youtube series, if you’re not averse to humor): Let it be a mystery.