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Lucy Keyes, The Lost Girl Of Wachusett

This story is an abridged version from Tom and Arlene's new book “Legends, Folklore and Secrets of New England,” published by History Press.

by Thomas D’Agostino and Arlene Nicholson

As the shadows grow long and darkness begins to cover the hillside of Wachusett Mountain, an eerie voice calling out “Lucy, Luuuucyyy!” can be heard beckoning in the night air. It is the desperate call for a little girl to return home. A little girl who disappeared April 14, 1755, never to be seen again, at least not in mortal form.

Robert and Martha Keyes were married on December 24, 1740. They had ten children. In 1751, Robert purchased 200 acres of land in the town of Princeton from Benjamin Muzzey. It was there that Lucy was born shortly after.

On April 14, 1755, Martha sent two girls, Patty, age seven, and Anna, age 9, to the pond to fetch some fine sand for polishing the pewter. Somehow four-year old Lucy managed to follow them. The girls immediately sent her home and continued on their quest. When the two arrived back at the house, they were astonished to find out that Lucy never returned. Martha frantically rushed out into the wilds of the mountain screaming Lucy’s name, which excited the attention of the neighbors. A search party was assembled to find the missing child, but by nightfall the only clue they had was a few broken twigs at the end of a trail.

Every night for years to come, the distraught Martha Keyes would wander the mountainside calling for Lucy to come home. When Martha died on August 9, 1789, the neighbors knew that the mountains would no longer reverberate with the echo of Martha’s nightly wails for her daughter, but they were wrong. Shortly after, they began to here the ghostly voice of Martha Keyes calling for Lucy to come home. To this day, people of the area or those skiing the mountain at night hear the spine-chilling cry of Martha Keyes. Some have also witnessed the visage of a little girl wandering through the snow. Groomers of the ski slopes have spied small barefoot prints of a child in the snow along the slopes of the Wachusett Mountain ski area. What ever happened to Lucy Keyes remains a mystery but there are some stories circulating.

Legend has it that a man named Tilly Littlejohn was responsible for the deed. According to the tale, he was cheated out of land by Robert Keyes and took revenge by killing little Lucy and hiding her body. He even joined in on the search as so not to arouse suspicion. Records show that Littlejohn never owned any land at the time of Lucy’s disappearance. In fact he was only 20 years old at the time and nine days After Lucy went missing, on April 23, 1755, Young Littlejohn joined Captain Asa Whitcomb’s company in the Battle of Crown Point. He was discharged in October of that year and later married. He and his wife, Hannah had six children, two who survived to maturity.

Littlejohn ended up being a neighbor of the Keyes but it was not until 1759 when Robert was selling off parcels of his 200 acres to pay for his expenses in the search for his daughter. In fact he and Tilly Littlejohn both served together as selectmen for the town in the early 1760s.

Years after Lucy’s disappearance, a party of fur trappers returning from northern Vermont mentioned meeting a “White Squaw” in an Indian camp. Her only English was mostly unintelligible gibbering, but the word “Wachusett” was contained in her phrases. When the fur trappers surmised that it could have been the long-lost Lucy Keyes, they inquired if she would like to go to Wachusett with them but were informed that she was happily married and refused to leave the camp. Either way, Martha Keyes, never knowing the fate of her lost daughter, still haunts the mountainside, desperately calling for the little girl’s return.

If you find yourself on Wachusett Mountain during sunset, listen closely, for you just might hear a voice in the wind crying for the return of the lost child of Wachusett. Or, maybe, if you are fortunate (depending on your point of view) you might spy the apparition of a little girl flitting about among the trees looking for her way home.

If neither happens, you may still see the cradle that Lucy once slept in at the Princeton Historical Society.

Published 9/15/13