THE STRANGE TALE OF ASA SNOW

Asa "Popcorn" Snow was born on Cape Cod in Massachusetts in the late 1790's. Sometime around 1840 Mr. Snow moved to a farmhouse near Dana, Massachusetts. Mr. Snow got the nickname "Popcorn" from the fact that he was a vegetarian whose diet consisted mostly of popcorn and milk.

It seems that Asa was quite eccentric in many areas in his life. This may have pushed his first wife Isabelle to suicide in 1844. It has been reported that Mrs. Snow had been deranged for a few years before hanging herself with a piece of cloth torn from her dress. Isabelle accomplished this last act in the barn near the families home. Asa had Isabelle buried in an old graveyard close to his house and when his young daughter died about a year later he buried her next to her mother. In the late 1860's Snow built a large family tomb. He had his wife and daughter exhumed and placed in the new vault. Before he buried them however, he showed his wife's remains to anyone who was interested in seeing them. Apparently the second Mrs Snow did not approve of this exhibitionism and arranged to be buried somewhere else.

Asa was a "loan shark" of sorts. He often lent money to his neighbors at high interest rates. When he died his estate was quite small and many people believe that he buried his money somewhere on his property. More than one person likely combed the place, shovel in hand, after Asa departed.

In his failing years Mr. Snow made preparations for his death. Among those preparations was overseeing the construction of a metal casket. Metal caskets were quite rare at the time but Snow's casket was doubly odd because it had a window. This window was rather large and was fitted into the head end of the coffin. Snow arranged with an undertaker to visit him for seven days after his death. The undertaker was to look inside the coffin to make sure that Snow was truly dead.

In November of 1872 Snow was carrying a dressed pig carcass into his home. Asa struggled with the pig, no doubt cursing the meat eaters who would devour it when he keeled over and died. The undertaker dutifully visited Asa for three days when Snows second wife Eunice released him from his obligation. She told the undertaker that she felt that if he wasn't dead when he was placed in the box he was surely frozen to death by now. Perhaps Eunice feared that Asa was still alive and couldn't bear the thought of more popcorn and milk.

Snow rested quietly for a short time before a curiosity seeker violated his tomb. Over the years a number of people entered Snow's tomb to look through the coffin window. In 1912 a newspaper reporter did a story on Snow's tomb. The story reported that Snow's body was perfectly preserved. His hair and beard were the same color as the day he died and that his clothing showed no sign of decay. On top of Snows coffin was a decayed box which contained the bones of his first wife and his daughter. It is rumored that someone from Springfield had decorated a watch with some of the teeth from Isabelle's skull.

The newspaper article stated that many people in the area claimed that every year on November 15th Snow's ghost would leave his tomb and travel to his wife's grave and then return to his own. People avoided the area on that night.

Two men from Boston, upon hearing of the ghost stories decided to have a wager. One made a bet with the other that he could spend an entire night inside the tomb. The two men made the long trip from Boston and on the decided night the bettor tied his horse to a tree and entered Snow's tomb.

Not long after going inside the man heard his horse stamping and making fearful sounds. The man rushed outside but his horse was gone. Many hours later the man found the horse trembling and perspiring in fear. The bet was paid, probably after hearing the ghostly tale and the man who received the money said that he wouldn't do it again for any amount.

After this tale and others like it someone broke the window on Snow's coffin. This caused Snow's body to quickly wither. A rumor indicating that Snow had jewelry on his body probably lead to the desecration. Local authorities once again sealed Asa's tomb and it remained undisturbed until 1944 when the Metropolitan Water Commission relocated the bodies to a new cemetary built for the dead from the four lost towns. This interesting graveyard is located on Rte. 9 in Ware, Massachusetts quite near Quabbin's Winsor dam.

Snow's tomb was destroyed by the authorities and his home was bulldozed into the ground. The cellarhole is still visible just outside of Gate 40 off Rte 32A in Petersham, Massachusetts.

Although the tomb is gone it is still rumored that Snow walks the area in November. Many say that Snow (like other Quabbin ghosts,) is angry at the demolition of graves and homes to provide water for "the easterners."

Much of the credit for information about Asa Snow goes to J.R. Greene's book "Strange Tales from Old The Quabbin."

J.R. Greene's books can be ordered directly from him.

J.R. Greene 26 Bearsden Rd., Athol, MA 01331 - jrg01331@webtv.net

 

Atlas of the Quabbin Valley & Ware River
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