{ font: $(body.font); color: $(body.text.color); background: $(body.background); padding: opx; $(body.background.override) } expr:class='"loading" + data:blog.mobileClass'>

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Castle By The Sea ~ Hammond Castle

Gloucester, Massachusetts:  Hammond Castle.  I love Gloucester.  Gloucester was my home for close to a decade, and to me, Gloucester is Heaven on Earth.  Being currently "land-locked", I miss the ocean, my friends, the saline smell, the boats around the harbor, the beaches and the rocky coast.

The last time I visited Hammond Castle [by the sea] was in 2007.  It was a stormy morning, and fortunately, there were not a lot of tourists lurking about on this day.  One could peer out of the castle windows and watch the waves crash against the rocky coast below, spraying mist high into the sky.  You could hear the mighty crashing, and the wind howling through the windows and walls.... It made for a perfect tour!  (At the time of my last visit, I lived across the harbor and could see Hammond from my kitchen and library windows!)


"Hammond Castle was built from 1926 to 1929 by John Hammond, making the castle just short of a century old, but it has all of the flavor and relics of a grand European castle.  John  Hammond was a very important inventor of this time.  Some compare his inventions "on par" with Thomas Edison."

"John Hays Hammond, Jr. built his medieval-style castle ...to serve both as his home and as a backdrop for his collection of Roman, Medieval, and Renaissance artifacts. The castle was constructed as a wedding present for his wife Irene Fenton Hammond to prove how much he cared for her."

 "His adult life was shaped by childhood experiences. When his family moved to England, Hammond fell in love with castles and life in earlier times. In South Africa, he saw his father's work as the mining engineer of Cecil Rhodes's diamond mines.

When the family moved to Washington, D.C., Hammond met Thomas Alva Edison, who introduced him to Alexander Graham Bell. Under Bell's direction, Hammond worked as a clerk in the United States Patent Office. Hammond attended Lawrenceville School, invented, and studied at Yale University, graduating in 1910."

Rare photo of John Hays and Irene Fenton Hammond          building the castle
"He experimented with radio controlled boats, and started the Hammond Radio Research Corporation in 1911. In 1914 he successfully guided an unmanned forty-four foot ship from Gloucester to Boston and back, a round trip of 120 miles, using his patented “System for Radio Control of Moving Bodies.”

He developed a radio controlled torpedo system and submarine sound transmission for the navy. Hammond developed the "dynamic multiplier" (today's stereo), and was an FM radio pioneer. He had 437 inventions and held over 800 patents.

In 1926 he began building his castle home in Gloucester, Massachusetts, for his wife, Irene Fenton. The castle included a laboratory where Hammond continued to work. For a time Nikola Tesla lived on Hammond's estate.

Hammond received the Elliot Cresson Medal from Philadelphia's Franklin Institute which named him the “father of radio control.” He also received the Medal of Honor from the Institute of Radio Engineers in 1962 and 1963."  (bio by: rjschatz/FindAGrave)

The Eccentric John Hammond

Hammond was quite a local character in his day. An inventor by trade, he expressed his eccentric streak in a number of unusual ways. He once sent a pilotless, remote controlled fishing boat zooming around the harbor, scaring the fishermen.

Invention Room

Another view of Invention Room
His eclectic collection of art, antiques, and curiosities include the skull of one of Christopher Columbus’ crewmen, numerous tombstones and grave markers from Europe. Hammond used to wander the grounds in a long monk’s robe with the cowl drawn up over his head.  He was a frustrated writer who had been steered away from publishing by his domineering father. Hammond wrote numerous horror stories and bawdy plays that were performed by his guests during wild parties.

Antiquated doorway in the Castle

On your way down to the basement level, don't miss this skeleton behind bars, which is permanently
entombed at the side of the staircase.  There is but a small window to peer through (often a red light shines
over the skeleton).  It is actually easy to miss if you aren't looking.

Medieval Fresco
Hammond's wealth allowed him to not only indulge his taste in art, but also some of his other eccentricities. For example, pictured below is the castle's indoor pool, which Hammond enjoyed diving naked into from a second floor balcony. The pool is surrounded not only by Medieval storefronts he brought from Europe, but also a Roman sarcophagus and some other Roman funeral monuments.

Roman sarcophagus

Above, Photographs of the indoor "pool" area
Hammond's parties were probably a lot of fun, but I wouldn't want to be his overnight guest. The doors in one guest room are covered with wallpaper to blend seamlessly with the walls, and Hammond could shut them remotely from another room. He had a good laugh when his guests panicked at not being able to find their way out of the room, but let's just be happy there wasn't a fire.

The Hidden (invisible) Door
Main Staircase 
Hammond the Spiritualist

Hammond's taste for the macabre and creepy didn't stop at funerary art and hidden doors. He also owned the skull of one of Christopher Columbus's crew men, and kept it in a Buddhist manuscript container. If you visit the castle and want to see the skull, it's in the Great Hall tucked in an alcove near the piano.

Skull in alcove
Even though he was a scientist, Hammond had a strong curiosity about life beyond the grave. He and his wife loved cats, and would have elaborate funerals for each of their pet cats when it died. He frequently said he wanted to be reincarnated as a cat. After his death in 1965 a large black cat appeared in the house and would often sit in his favorite chair. 

The Faraday Cage
An avid spiritualist, Hammond was fascinated with the occult. Terry L. Milner, in his December 27, 1996, MindNet article, “Ratting Out Puharich," Hammond conducted frequent séances in the Castle and invited psychics to the Castle to participate in scientific experiments designed to prove that psychic energy really existed and to enhance it if possible.

Psychic, Mrs. Garrett
While they were alive the Hammonds also experimented with Spiritualism and tried to contact spirits of the dead. Hammond even built a Faraday Cage to block electric currents and asked psychic mediums to contact the dead from inside the cage. The intention was to limit interference from the living world and enable them to more more purely contact the spirits. The floor of the castle's Great Hall has a permanent bleached spot from the cage's electromagnetic current.

Investigations Into the Occult

The circular library was one of Hammond’s favorite places and he spent a lot of time in there. He owned an extensive collection of books on the occult, which are still on the shelves. Caretakers have reported finding these books opened and lying on the desk or carelessly thrown onto the furniture. Disembodied voices are often heard in here, as well as throughout the rest of the castle.

Hauntings in the Castle

Hammond secretly married local divorcee Irene Fenton in 1926. 

Irene suffered frequent depressions and gradually became reclusive and unhappy in the marriage. 

An accomplished artist, she painted the walls of her bedroom with lush scenes of animals, trees, and flowers - and then painted a wide railing over it showing how trapped she felt. 

Guests often see her gazing out through a window in the Italian villa front that overlooks the Roman pool.

4 Photos above:  Different views of the Hammond Organ

Harpsicord in Hammond Castle
Today the castle is often the setting for weddings. These weddings are often attended by unknown and uninvited figures that circulate among the guests, vanishing when anyone tries to get close to them. Additionally a shadowy figure frequents the balcony above the organ.

Irene died in 1959. After her death, she was interred in the Fenton family plot in Gloucester's Mount Pleasant Cemetery rather than in the above-ground mausoleum that Hammond had built for himself. In 1965, Hammond died and was buried in the sepulcher, whose steps run from the tomb’s door down directly into the sea. He was interred with some of his Siamese cats which had been preserved in formaldehyde; visitors to the tomb have reported hearing the muffled sounds of crying cats. Guests touring the castle have reported feeling a small animal brush up against their legs.

Sepulcher built for Irene Fenton Hammond - She was never laid to rest here.  She is buried at  Mt. Pleasant Cemetery

In 2008, against Hammond’s express wishes, his body was removed and re-interred in a bronze vault inside the Cat Garden, a walled enclosure which is part of the immediate Castle grounds. According to an article in the Gloucester Daily Times, the mausoleum property will be sold off to pay for Castle upkeep. It remains to be seen what effect this move will have on paranormal activity at the Castle.
Sources:  Suite 101/New England Folklore

Statuary and miscellaneous art around the Castle



Burmese Buddhist Manuscript Case - a gift from Henry Sleeper (Beauport, Gloucester, MA) - This case was displayed with a light inside of it to show case the beautiful glass work  Please note:  I plan to post soon about Henry Sleeper.  Another Gloucester eccentric, with a fabulous home by the sea.

At Hammond Castle there is also a Blacksmith's Shop, which is not open to the public:

Inside the Castle:  

Castle Library 
Castle Dining Room

Servant's Room

Another view of Servant's room

A Servant's Quarters
View of Great Hall

Great Hall Fire Place

Medieval Bedroom

Pictures of Hammond Family (Genealogy) 


Sitting Room which overlooks the harbor

Another view of the kitchen and collections

Sitting area, with ocean view

Looking up into the Tower

Medieval chair with stained glass back ground

Sitting Room

Small Dining Room

Early American Bedroom

Grand bell which has its own quarters outside of the castle

Medieval shutters