Uncanny Erratic: The Spooky Majesty of Agassiz Rock

1870s stereoview, Little Agassiz Rock

“Something weird happened here”–I wish there was a single word to describe that feeling, or a simple explanation of where it comes from. The scientific part of me wants to chalk it up to an eerie atmosphere combined with the unrivaled ability of the human imagination to spew spooky bullshit. The paranormal enthusiast part of me, meanwhile, wants to hide under the covers and spin theories about undocumented slaughters in antediluvian ages.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s look at some cool rocks.

Agassiz Rock, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts

Agassiz Rock, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts


These behemoths live at Agassiz Rock, a public park in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts. They’re prime examples of what geologists call erratics–large rocks deposited by glaciers as the scraped their way across the prehistoric landscape. Indeed, Agassiz Rock is named for Louis Agassiz, the 19th-century Harvard professor who first suggested that maybe New England’s giant rocks were put there by glaciers and not Noah’s flood. (You can guess how well this was received at the time.)

That third photo is a picture of Little Agassiz, the second biggest rock on the hill. It’s more fun than Big Agassiz, because you can crawl under it and take hilarious pictures of yourself holding it up to avoid being crushed. Oh, how your co-workers in the customer service department will laugh when they see it. Cheryl’s photo of her Shih-Tzu in a leotard  will be yesterday’s news. Tough luck, Miffy!

But then there’s Big Agassiz

Big Agassiz, Agassiz Rock, Manchester-by-the-Sea, New England

Truly, this picture doesn’t do it justice–the rock is a lot farther away than it looks, and thus, substantially bigger. Big Agassiz is about thirty feet high and sits in the middle of a desolate-looking marsh. It’s curiously flat on one side, almost as if it’s been planed by God’s own chisel. Atop it stand two or three dead trees, bleached white by the anemic Massachusetts sunlight. You can’t get close to it without getting your feet wet, which is why I didn’t even try.

Another reason I didn’t try: Something about Big Agassiz feels off. Maybe it’s the rock’s uncommonly monumental size, or the fact that it’s so isolated there at the bottom of the hill, but it feels as if it was placed there intentionally. Not by a wayward glacier, but by a long-forgotten culture as part of some unholy ritual. I have no evidence for this, apart from my own misgivings and the fact that my auntie’s dog hates Big Agassiz. My auntie, for her part, thinks the rock may be haunted by the psychic memory of all the native peoples the Europeans slaughtered there four hundred years ago.

Then there’s my husband–he thinks it’s just a big weird rock.

And he’s probably right. Still, there’s no denying the eerie feeling surrounding Big Agassiz. If you ever want to get spooked on the cheap, I suggest checking it out.


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