Late in the summer of 1658, a sinister ship appeared in Lynn Harbor. The ship was painted black and flew no flag. Word spread quickly among the citizens of the small town of Lynn, Massachusetts: There were pirates in the harbor! A boat was lowered from the ship, a chest was loaded into the boat, and four oarsmen rowed it toward shore. The boat headed up the Saugus River and landed near the Saugus Iron Works. The next day, workers found a note attached to a door, asking to purchase a supply of shackles, hatchets, shovels, and other tools. The note promised that if the requested tools were manufactured and left at a secret location, then a supply of silver would be left in exchange. The tools were made and paid for as promised.
The pirates made camp in a place now known as Pirate's Glen near the Saugus River. British soldiers stationed nearby heard about the pirates and set off to capture them. Three of the buccaneers were captured and hung but the forth, Thomas Veal, escaped into the woods. It was believed that he took the stolen hoard with him as he headed deeper and deeper into the woods. finally arriving at a natural cave in what is now Lynn Woods. Veal lived in the cave for some time and became a member of the Lynn community. The story says he mended shoes for spending money and lived in relative peace with his neighbors. Suddenly, an earthquake rocked the Lynn area, causing a gigantic piece of the rock to tip forward and permanently seal the cave opening. Poor Veal was either trapped inside or crushed to death with his treasure, locked forever in Dungeon Rock.
The remains of Thomas Veal and his treasure were left undisturbed for nearly two hundred years. In the 1830s, two attempts were made to recover the treasure by placing kegs of powder the cave opening and igniting them. Both attempts failed, and the opening to the cave was destroyed, but no riches were found.
Then, in 1852, a man named Hiram Marble came to Dungeon Rock. Hiram was a member of the Spiritualist Church from Charlton, Massachusetts. Spiritualists believed that they could talk to people in the afterlife. Hiram felt that he had received a message from the ghost of Thomas Veal, telling him that if he came to dig at Dungeon Rock, he would leave a rich man. The Marbles saw this as an opportunity to prove the validity of Spiritualism and become wealthy in the process. He purchased the five acres of land that surrounded the rock and began to dig.
Hiram built a number of structures around the dungeon. You can still find remnants of many of them. The Marbles lived in a two-story wood house located on the flat area just below the cave entrance. The cellar hole and plants from their flower gardens remain visible to this day. On the other side of Dungeon Road, there exists another cellar hole that is the foundation of a never completed rooming house for visitors. A section of wall that also exists may have served as a blast shield or part of a powder storage building. A tool shed was constructed near the tunnel entrance, but no evidence remains of it today.
Once Hiram completed his home, his wife and son Edwin joined him. Edwin eventually became his digging partner. The two dug and blasted through the solid rock at a rate of about a foot per month. First, they would drill a series of holes into the rock face and pack them with powder, then light the fuse and run. After the blast, they would carry the rock from the tunnel in baskets and deposit it on the hillside. The gravel area outside the Dungeon is formed from the rock the Marbles removed from the tunnel.
As the digging progressed, the Marbles began to run out of funds. To help raise money, they gave tours for a quarter and sold bonds for a dollar, promising a share of the treasure to each investor. The Marbles would hold sťances with the help of local mediums to find guidance in their digging. Hiram would write a question on a piece of paper and fold it up into a tight wad. The medium would write down the spirit's reply without reading the question. As you tour the tunnel, you will notice that it makes abrupt changes in direction. The spirits would lead the diggers in one direction and then another, creating a twisting path into the rock. The spirits reassured the Marbles by telling them that, like Moses wandering the desert for forty years, it was necessary for them to toil before they receive their reward.
Hiram passed away in 1868 without ever finding his treasure. His son Edwin dug on until his death in 1880. Edwin's last wish was to be buried at Dungeon Rock. At the top of a set of stairs beginning next to the old cellar hole, you will find a large pink piece of rock. This stone marks the grave of Edwin Marble and the end of the quest for treasure.
It is interesting to note that the Marbles did not seek the treasure for themselves. They labored to achieve two goals. The first was to prove that they could communicate with people in the afterlife. At this they failed. The second goal was achieved, but not in the way the Marbles envisioned. Living in this beautiful setting for so many years gave the Marbles a vision of a free public forest, a park for all to enjoy. Hiram planned to take his pirate treasure and purchase as much land as possible for the people of Lynn to enjoy forever. Hiram got his wish, as shortly after his son's death, the citizens of Lynn purchased this land to help form their new park, the Lynn Woods.