In Bellowsfalls, VT (a town I wrote about in the first installment of my 4 part Vermont segment), there is a site that has been host to much controversy over the years.
It's the site of what I like to dub, the Alien Petroglyphs, but many would argue to what the true nature of the petroglyphs (literally translated to "stone carvings") actually is.
There has been much speculation over these curious carvings. Everything from the origin of the petroglyphs, the meaning behind them, and even how old they actually are has been heavily debated throughout the decades.
So here's what we know for sure about this curiosity:
- The petroglyphs are somewhere between 300 - 3,000 years old.
- Today, there are only two known panels of carvings, both just south of the old Vilas Bridge that connects Bellowsfalls, VT and Walpole, NH.
- In the early 1930s, in a well meaning (albeit misguided) attempt to preserve the carvings, the Daughters of the American Revolution hired a stone cutter to chisel out the lost images from the stone, obliterating any hopes of carbon-dating the carvings for a more concrete era they may have been originally carved during.
- Some untouched petroglyphs may exist. In 1890 there were several large rocks dumped on the site to help prevent erosion along the coinciding railroad line.
- David McClure's description of the carving describes only 3 faces. (Click here to see his drawing.)
There are several fantastic articles that go more in-depth on the history of the carvings. (Click here for my favorite!) However, the first written account of the glyphs dates back to 1789 when Rev. David McClure, a philosopher of Dartmouth College, ventured down the Connecticut River to see the carvings locals had been reporting for himself. Upon his observation, McClure was under the impression that the glyphs were marking the site of "evil spirits", in what I like to think of as an ancient "Hey you kids! Keep off my lawn!" fashion. He also noted that, "The figures have the appearance of great antiquity."
McClure referenced settlers in the area 50 years prior to his own journey had reported observing the carvings upon first exploring the area, although it has also been rumored that the Abenaki Native American tribe that widely used the entirety of Bellowsfalls as their stomping grounds were not the carvers of these glyphs, but discovered them upon visiting the area. How much of that version of the petroglyph's story is myth vs. truth is unclear, but it does further the mystery as to what the true age of these glyphs might be.
You can see the petroglyphs for yourself quite easily. They're located at the end of Bridge Street in Bellowsfalls, VT near the Vilas Bridge. In fact, the rocks the glyphs sit on are marked with bright yellow paint, and with a good zoom lens or a nice pair of binoculars you are able to distinguish the glyphs from atop the bridge.
Or! You could follow my lead, and go the more adventurous route, down the "trail" (which is really more of a brush-filled dirt path that leads you on to the steep, often slick, rock. I'd recommend wearing some good hiking shoes if you intend on going this route. While wearing every-day shoes is an achievable feat, you will not have a fun time.... at all. (As indicated by my brother in the photos below.)
The view from within the gorge is absolutely gorgeous! (Pun 100% intended!) And the best part about my brother falling behind? Photos of myself and my father exploring!
That last photo of us is down right where the glyphs are. You can see them for yourself below, and decide. Are they Native American Shamanistic visions? The depiction of antler-clad deer? Feathers being worn by Native Americans important enough to be captured forever on stone? Or something more... otherworldly? No matter what you believe these carvings actually depict, how old you believe they truly are, or even who you believe carved them in the first place, there's no denying they're incredibly cool, interesting and well worth the hike if you're ever in the area.