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America's Stonehenge | A Historical Site Shrouded in Mystery

In the heart of the woods atop a granite-studded hill in Salem, New Hampshire, stands a site shrouded in legend – America’s Stonehenge.

This collection of stone structures dubbed America's Stonehenge remains a puzzle.
Photo/Art by Photo/Art by Alyson Horrocks
Nestled in the woods in Salem, New Hampshire, this collection of stone structures dubbed America’s Stonehenge remains a puzzle.

Once known as the roadside attraction Mystery Hill, America’s Stonehenge includes mysterious rock formations, a warren of man-made caves and chambers, and stone walls that stretch across the hilltop. The origin and purpose of the structures has been hotly debated among scholars and amateur sleuths for years, raising far more questions than answers.

The sign provides some background information on America's Stonehenge.
Photo/Art by Photo/Art by Alyson Horrocks
The sign provides some background information on America’s Stonehenge.

We visited America’s Stonehenge two days after their annual summer solstice celebration to explore the ancient mysteries locked deep within this site.

Several conflicting theories have been put forth about this mysterious site. Several conflicting theories have been put forth about this mysterious site.

Could this winding maze of stone structures have been built by an ancient culture for ceremonial purposes? There’s no doubt that a native civilization made use of this area, as fragments of bowls and stone tools have been uncovered during archeological excavations. Evidence of large fire pits, possibly used in the manufacture of pottery, have also been uncovered, and carbon dating suggests parts of the site may have been constructed 4000 years ago.

The watch house.
Photo/Art by Photo/Art by Alyson Horrocks
The watch house.

Or perhaps pre-Columbian, migratory Europeans constructed this place for religious rituals and ceremonies. The Celts, Norsemen, Mediterraneans, and other European populations have all been considered as builders of this stone oddity. While no hard evidence has been found to support this assumption, it does spark one’s imagination.

And then there’s the sacrificial table. One of the most curious relics at America’s Stonehenge, this slab of granite, weighing over four tons, has a groove scored into its perimeter to collect liquid and drain it off the side. Did an ancient people perform sacrificial rites here? Or was this simply a colonial device, used to press fruit or make lye soap?

The main attraction -- the sacrificial table.
Photo/Art by Photo/Art by Alyson Horrocks
The main attraction — the sacrificial table.

Just below the slab, a speaking tube – a narrow channel carved through stone – links to a cramped chamber. Could someone have once crouched there and used the tube to project his voice out from beneath the sacrificial table in a deity-like fashion?

The oracle chamber.
Photo/Art by Photo/Art by Alyson Horrocks
The oracle chamber.

And what about the giant astronomical calendar made of standing monoliths? The stones appear to align with solar and lunar occurrences that could relate to either farming or ceremonial events. Some scholars have said the alignment is a coincidence, while others claim it truly is a calendar.

The astronomical chart at the site plots the stones.
Photo/Art by Photo/Art by Alyson Horrocks
The astronomical chart at the site plots the stones.
The summer solstice sunset monolith.
Photo/Art by Photo/Art by Alyson Horrocks
The summer solstice sunset monolith.
The summer solstice sunrise stone.
Photo/Art by Photo/Art by Alyson Horrocks
The summer solstice sunrise stone.
The true north stone.
Photo/Art by Photo/Art by Alyson Horrocks
The true north stone.

A peaceful, undemanding hike with panoramic views of lush forests and hills fading into the distance, the walk around the astronomical trail was my favorite part of the day. I paused to linger at each stone, consumed in thought about the generations of people who have passed over the rocky surface of this hill on which I stood. I pondered the lives of native people thousands of years ago, painstakingly forming vessels out of the clay deposits nearby. I wondered when Europeans first gazed out on this same view.

A goddess molded from clay lay near the summer solstice sunrise stone, her arms still cradling the spent blooms of floral offerings, remnants of the gathering.
Photo/Art by Photo/Art by Alyson Horrocks
A goddess molded from clay lay near the summer solstice sunrise stone, her arms still cradling the spent blooms of floral offerings, remnants of the gathering.

The myths and legends surrounding this place are conflicting and fanciful. The enchantment of this hill is that certain answers will likely never come and our imaginations are free to conjure another new tale to add to those already existing. The magic is in the mystery.

AS - climbing signSo what is the true origin of America’s Stonehenge in Salem, New Hampshire? We can’t answer those questions, so you’ll have to decide for yourself. Be sure to share your favorite theory section in the comment section below!

Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Alyson Horrocks

Author:

Alyson Horrocks

Biography:

A New England lifestyle blogger and freelance writer, with a passion for photography, Alyson Horrocks spends most of her time traveling the six-state region chronicling all that New England has to offer. From quintessential small towns and farms to the hustle and bustle of Boston, her site is stuffed with images that convey the connection she feels to the area.

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8 Responses to America’s Stonehenge | A Historical Site Shrouded in Mystery

  1. Betty-Ann July 10, 2014 at 9:51 am #

    This place will definitely be on my “bucket list”. I never even knew it was there. It seems almost magical.

  2. Eletha July 26, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

    These are great pictures. I would love to visit that place.

  3. Bob July 29, 2014 at 9:28 am #

    I once read that some of the most archeologically interesting formations will never be known because they were chopped up to make curbstones for Lowell, MA.

    Sigh.

  4. RoseAnn July 29, 2014 at 6:50 pm #

    Visited for the first time a few months ago. Wear good walking shoes. We enjoyed our time walking around Stonehedge NH. Kids will love exploring. The pictuers are perfect. Hope to go back another time.

  5. Karen February 25, 2015 at 9:07 am #

    This brings to mind another new england stone structure in Mass, Goshens Park stone caves & tunnels where they were hoping to find elements of giants, a race of people over 8 feet tall, maybe why the fire pits so big! More stories of the search for these people on History channel.

  6. Michelle Therese March 26, 2015 at 6:13 pm #

    Interesting! It resembles Skara Brae over here in Orkney. I am originally from MA/NH but live over here now with my Scottish husband. Someone should compare Skara Brae and this mystery place!

  7. Beth Kilmarx May 14, 2015 at 9:27 am #

    There is no mystery to this made-up site. It is the result of 18th and 19th century activities, and William Goodwin, who purchased the site in the 1930s because he believed the site was evidence that Irish monks had lived in the Americas hundreds of years before Columbus. The site has been modified and “re-created” by stone quarrying, Goodwin and others who have moved the stones to where they think were/are the stones original locations.

    The presence of prehistoric tools and signs of habitation only prove that Native Americans once lived at the site. There is no evidence that they or any other group used the stones.

  8. John S May 15, 2015 at 6:52 am #

    Having been born there, to me the rock walls look no different than the other thousands of miles of 17th century stone walls that crisscross the New Hampshire woods.

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