A Definitive Creepy Boston To-Do List

The most disturbing ways to spend your time in the city.

One of the many dead-end tunnels on Fort Warren. Photo by Madeline Bilis

Who needs haunted houses when you live in one of the oldest cities in America?

While it’s hard to fathom how many creepy/spooky/weird/strange stories and places have been buried in Boston’s history, there are a few remnants that make for some eerie outings.

Tour the Ether Dome

A visit to the circular, former operating theater known as the Ether Dome is a reminder of the not-so-distant past of medical procedures—a time when anesthetic was little more than a hard whack on the head. More than 8,000 operations were performed in the Ether Dome at Mass General between 1821 and 1868, but things changed in 1846 when medical history was made there. A Boston dentist administered inhaled ether anesthetic to a patient before the dean of Harvard Medical School removed a tumor from the patient’s neck. The patient attested to no pain, thus changing the way surgery was performed from then on.

Tours of the theater are available for free everyday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., where visitors can see antique surgical tools and artifacts, a painting of the famed first ether surgery, as well as an Egyptian mummy and a skeleton.

55 Fruit St, Bulfinch Building, 4th floor, massgeneral.org.

See the basement crypt of the Old North Church

“One if by land, two if by sea” might not be your most memorable quote from the Old North Church after taking a behind-the-scenes look at it. The 30-minute guided tour allows visitors to see two places where few other living beings frequent: the bell-ringing chamber and the crypt.

While the chamber where Paul Revere worked as a teen is indeed mesmerizing, the basement crypt is downright spooky. Visitors walk underneath the floors of the church along rows of tombs—37 of them—placed there between 1732 and 1860.

$6, tours run every half hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 193 Salem St., for more information visit oldnorth.com.

Find the Lady in Black on Fort Warren

George’s Island can become considerably less sunny and warm once summer has ended—more notably so with the presence of the Lady in Black. She’s said to haunt Fort Warren after being hanged for trying to help her Confederate prisoner husband escape the fort.

While many have attested to the presence of the Lady and her black robes, the only way to know for sure is to navigate the dark tunnels of Fort Warren yourself.

Ferries operating through Columbus Day, schedules and fares available at bostonharborislands.org.

Experience the Warren Anatomical Museum

The epitome of creepy is probably a century-and-a-half old museum filled with skeletons. Founded by Dr. John Collins Warren in 1847—the same doctor who performed the first ether surgery in the Ether Dome—the Warren Anatomical Museum contains more than 15,000 artifacts. The most famous is the skull of Phineas Gage, a railroad worker who survived having a large rod pierce through his brain. The incident destroyed the majority of Gage’s frontal lobe, but helped the medical community in understanding the importance of the frontal lobe in forming behavior and personality.

Other weird items include photos of President James A. Garfield’s vertebrae and the skeletons of fetal conjoined twins.

10 Shattuck St., harvard.edu.

Eat (somber) brunch at the Paramount

Chances are you know about the savory brunches at the Paramount in Beacon Hill. But you might not know that in the same building—in apartment A—the thirteenth victim of the Boston Strangler was murdered there. Mary Sullivan was the final victim of the serial killer, identified as Albert DeSalvo.

44 Charles St, paramountboston.com.