Scientific, Spooky, Stinking Rich: Return to Hammond Castle

August 10, 2014 — A few weeks ago I visited Hammond Castle for the second time in my life. The first time was for The New England Grimpendium five years (!!) ago. I don’t want to rehash what I wrote in the book, as that would involve me cringing through something I wrote five years ago, so here’s the synopsis in a single, gigantic sentence, the way I wish people would let me write:

Hammond Castle was built in the late 1920s by John Hammond, Jr., a wealthy inventor who pioneered remote control technology and used the wealth gleaned from his 400 patents to build a Gothic castle on an ocean cliff in Gloucester, Massachusetts made out of European tombstones, French building facades, and other materials dating back to the 1500s, where he would walk around in black robes surrounded by cats, holding séances and conducting experiments on mediums and psychics by placing them in Faraday cages and surrounding them with enough gigawattage to send Marty McFly back to Hill Valley circa the Cretaceous period.

I can ignore the wealth of today’s celebrities, but it’s the lives of people like Hammond that make me ache for the fact I’ll never be rich.

You thought I was joking about the black robe.

Anyway, that’s the history, and the ambiance of the place keeps up. It feels just like walking through a medieval castle, with its great room and giant organ and spiraling tower staircases and drawbridge and suits of armor and gift shop and parking lot.

Here are a few items that I don’t feel like artfully weaving throughout this post:
  • Bewitched filmed here during its Salem Saga episodes. 
  • Among many other things of interest from Hammonds personal collection, on exhibit is a crumbling skull bought by Hammond that’s supposed to have been the skeleton topper of one of Christopher Columbus’ crewman.
  • Hammond Castle turns into a haunted attraction there every October. 
  • Tesla once accused Hammond of stealing patents.
  • Hammond himself is buried on the property.
  • Ghost Hunters did their usual “make a green-tinted show about slight sounds” here a couple years back.
You’d think being so close to something so strange and wonderful, that I’d visit it more often and not just when I have family in town who have never been to New England before (This is one of the first places I took them...I wanted them to think the area was called New England for literal reasons), but I never claimed to be a perfect person. Except for when such claims get me out of the doctor’s office faster.

Reading this back over, I probably should have just reprinted The New England Grimpendium entry.

The Great Room, where the Farady cage was set up
and in which you can see...

...said skull of one of Columbus' crewman.

Hammond built this castle on science.

The facades of a 16th-century French village transported
 and turned into a...actually, I don't know what rich people
call this type of room.

See those white blocks? Ancient tombstones. They're everywhere in the castle.

The first time I visited Hammond Castle, Hammond's grave was unmarked.

Elizabeth Montgomery stood here.


  1. I've been to Hammond castle several times, and each experience has been "mixed". While technically a "castle", Hammond really built it to showcase his sometimes eccentric collection of art and furnishings. The building is a mish mosh of styles, and the rooms smaller than might be imagined from the outside. The pipe organ (over 20,000 pipes, one of the largest privately owned, if not THE largest) is impressive, but go there for a tour, and you'll likely get an demonstration with the organist playing a Broadway show tune instead of something befitting the space. The Great Hall, while lovely, is NOT historically correct for a castle great hall, which did not have pipe organs or rose windows in them. Again. The grand piano in the Great Hall, used for concerts, is nevertheless an eyesore, in that it detracts from the Medieval sense of the space, as do folding chairs and other modern niceties that should be kept out of sight when not in use. One memory that stays with me is that of a set of leather covered chairs dating to the 1500's, I believe. Hammond let his cats claw the hell out of them, and the claw marks are (or were) still visible. A visit to Hammond Castle CAN be enjoyable, but expect "the Middle Ages" as it never was.

  2. actually Five years prior to this visit, it was not Hammonds grave. He was entombed to the right of the castle. They ended up selling the land, and placing him in the cat garden shortly after your visit.