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Dogtown

The strange history of an abandoned colonial settlement-turned-wilderness.

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Usually, if they want to see ruins, Americans get on a plane. Author Elyssa East headed for Massachusetts’ Cape Ann. There, 40 miles north of Boston, she explored roughly 3,000 acres of an abandoned colonial settlement-turned-wilderness – loaded with stories about witches, pirates, and Puritans, with a landscape of blueberry bushes and boulders that inspired artists, poets, and at least one economist.

In its modern incarnation, Dogtown still inspires stories: of hikers who just disappear, and a 25-year-old murder that shocked residents of Gloucester and changed the way many viewed the idiosyncratic forest in their backyard.

Drawn to the dual nature of the place, East began researching her detailed and involving new narrative history, Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town. “Why had the land been abandoned in the first place? Did some places have a propensity for tragedy the way that others brew their own dust storms?” Or, she wondered, had the murder itself colored residents’ perceptions of Dogtown?

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