O Lucy, Can You Hear Me?: The Grave of Martha Keyes

September 21, 2017 — If you wander the hiking paths and ski trails of the woods of Mount Wachusett, you may hear it. The ghostly, desperate cry of a single name: Lucy.

You know the ghost story. You probably have a similar one in your area of the country. A woman spends her life wandering the woods where she lost her daughter, calling out her name, gradually going mad over the decades…and she doesn’t stop even after she dies.

In Massachusetts, that story is tied to Martha Keyes.

On April of 1755, Martha’s two older daughters Patty and Anna headed to nearby Wachusett Pond. Their sister, four-year-old Lucy, followed behind. Either she never caught up to them, or they sent her back early, but either way, she disappeared, never to be seen again.

Search parties were immediately organized, but came up empty-handed. The small child had vanished.

Distraught, Martha kept looking for her daughter. For three and a half decades, she searched those woods, calling for Lucy. And when she died at the age of 69, she still didn’t give up. They say her ghost haunts those woods to this day, waiting for a reunion that will never happen. Although Some among the living claim to have seen the child, or her tiny footprints in the snow. Or they’ve heard Martha’s ghost calling Lucy’s name. Or heard her weeping at her own grave.

That grave is in Meeting Hill Cemetery on Mountain Road in the town of Princeton. It’s a small cemetery, and her memento-mori-topped stone is easy to find. There’s no stone for her husband Robert. They say he was too poor to afford one after selling off his land to invest in resources for finding his daughter. Their other children, some say there were as many as ten, moved on and can be found in other graveyards, except for Jonas, one of the sons. His stone is right beside Martha’s, tilted away, as if annoyed at how often his mother gets up when all he wants to do is sleep through eternity.

Her epitaph mentions nothing of Lucy or her grief. Instead, it closes with a hopeful snippet of A Morning Hymn:

When from death’s long sleep I wake,
To nature’s renovating day,
Clothe me with they own righteousness.
And in thy likeness, Lord array. 

And, of course, there’s no stone, no carving of a lamb, no tiny angel for little Lucy, either. There would be no closure for the Keyes.

But there’s closure for us. Those of us who tell or listen to stories can’t live without it. Some say a neighbor confessed on his deathbed to finding and murdering Lucy as revenge for a real estate dispute with the Keyes. It seems farfetched, and certain facts in the case also seem to dispute the story.

Some say that years later, hunters freshly returned from Vermont said that they had found a young white woman in a tribe of Native Americans. The only word she spoke that was understandable to the men was something along the lines of “Wachusett” or “Chusett Hill.” Despite the urgings of the hunters, the woman could find no reason to leave the only life she knew.

In 2005, the Lifetime Channel aired a ghost movie based on the story called The Legend of Lucy Keyes, starring Julie Delpy and Justin Theroux. They filmed scenes at the gravesite in Meeting Hill Cemetery.

The only other artifact from the story, Lucy’s supposed cradle, is on display in the museum of the Princeton Historical Society at 18 Boylston Avenue. It’s only open by appointment and for events.

But you can always visit Martha’s grave. Just follow the sobbing.

Here and below in Meeting Hill Cemetery, two artifacts rare in New England:
Gravestones marking the final resting places of slaves.