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Goshen mystery

02/02/06 12:00AM By Joe Citro
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(HOST)Commentator Joe Citro loves a mystery, and he's found another one, made of stone and complete with underground chambers.

(CITRO) I often enjoy pondering the many puzzling stone structures scattered throughout New England.

Of these, my favorite megalithic mystery seems to be unique. Nothing like it has ever been discovered anywhere.

Located in Goshen, Massachusetts, not one of the town's 920 residents can tell you what it is. It has been an enigma since it was discovered "sodded over", in the late 1800s. Its function and the identity of its builders have left historians, and archeologists, scratching their heads ever since.

There is no mention of it in the town records or in the diaries of the town's founding fathers. How the origional settlers could have missed it compounds the mystery, suggesting the underground structure long predates Goshen town.

As of this writing, no one has a clue what it was built for. When. Or why.

Briefly, what is universally called "The Goshen Mystery" is a cleverly designed underground stone tunnel, built without mortar. The main shaft is three and a half feet wide, descending - straight down - for fifteen feet.

The knee-jerk assessment is that it is a well, but look again. There's no water. And it was dug in dense clay hardpan where no water would be expected.

Perhaps most vexing, and to further deep-six the notion of a "well," there are horizontal tunnels radiating from the sides of the main shaft.

One, at the bottom, leads eastward for nearly seventy-five feet! It's about 3 feet in diameter.

A higher tunnel, about waist level in the main shaft, has a larger diameter but extends only about fifteen feet.

This one may have been longer because it seems to have been truncated by a cave-in. What lies beyond is anyone's guess.

But one thing is certain: this unbelievable oddity was constructed in the days of hand-tools. Cutting and placing the innumerable tons of stone would have required countless hours of slow, backbreaking labor. The horizontal shafts would have been especially difficult to engineer and build.

How could it have been created without the first settlers taking note? And how did it escape notice for so long, hidden away under its camouflage of sod?

But the essential question remains: What is it?

Theories include a den for thieves or counterfeiters. An underground railroad stop. A root cellar. A place to store ice. A hideout from Indians. An abandoned treasure pit. But all these theories have been weighed and discarded.

Whatever it is, or was, the people of Goshen, Massachusetts say "it's always been there."

And I say it will always be a mystery.

This is Joe Citro.

Novelist Joe Citro is a native Vermonter. He lives in Burlington.
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