Google the terms “Worcester catacombs”, or something similar, and nothing comes up. Well, almost nothing.
Long time Worcester resident and first time author, Charlie Longeway, Sr. recently self-published “Worcester’s Forgotten Catacombs: History of Worcester’s Underground World”, and the link to his book on Amazon is the only reference we could find when searching the internet for the catacombs. According to Longeway, there are a series of rooms some 40 feet underground. The catacombs are located beneath the site of the former Bay State Hotel, now the Ritual restaurant. But why are they there, who built them, and when? These are questions Longeway has been trying to answer for about 50 years.
According to Longeway, the catacombs were uncovered in the early 1900s. “The discovery was in the news for a while, but then were forgotten again”, he said. “I was about 13 when I first heard about it. I have been researching it on and off ever since” said Longeway.
As he looked into the origins of the underground rooms, Longeway began to sense there was more to the story than he initially believed. He ended up with more questions than answers as a result of missing information and strange occurrences. “Throughout my research, I ran into multiple dead ends” said Longeway. “I started to feel as if something was purposely being hidden.”
While he doesn’t want to give away too much of the book, Longeway did share one strange situation relating to the historical records.
“I had visited the Antiquarian Society to reference a book of historical records. I made some notes from the section covering the time period. When I went back some time later to reference the same book, about 10 pages had been removed. They had been cut out, like with a razor. When I went back looking for the book a third time, it was gone.”
Longeway went to what was then called Worcester State College, where he earned a B.S. in education. He spent much of his working career as a civil engineer, including working for the state. Once retired, he decided it was time to compile all his research into a book.
“It took about 3 ½ years to write” said Longeway. “I would never do it again. With this kind of book, there are so many sources and quotes. You have to be careful about attributions. Just a lot of work.”
Longeway hopes this book will inspire other local historians to continue the pursuit of answers about the catacombs. “I’m probably done. I’m too tired” he said.
As for the mystery of the underground rooms, Longeway says, “In the end, I had to settle for a hypothesis that dealt more with human nature than written historical records”.
What is that hypothesis? “Well” he says, “you need to read the book to find that out.”
The book, “Worcester’s Forgotten Catacombs: History of Worcester’s Underground World” can be purchased on Amazon for $11.99. It is not yet available locally, but Longeway hopes it is soon.