Interpretive/Nature Trails

Fall River Bioreserve’s true story

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FALL RIVER — There are ghosts in Fall River’s woods, but they’re not invisible.  

They’re in the stone walls snaking through the dense woods of the Watuppa Reservation, centuries-old outlines that divided what was once cleared farmland. Ghosts linger in the Native American names you’ll find all over the Bioreserve: Copicut, Quanipaug, Watuppa, Massasoit. They’re in the old Yankee names that followed them: Dr. Nathan Durfee’s Mill Pond, Clint Davis Trail, Miller Lane. The spirits of the past are inside the timeworn stones that carry hikers across streams, the paths someone cut through the wilderness untold decades ago, the foundations of houses now consumed by thick moss and forest. 

The ghosts are Fall River’s history, and in the city’s vast eastern woodland, you can touch them, see them. They live still. 

Fall River Water Department intern Luis Estrella, left, and city forester Mike Labossiere are part of the crew that stewards the city's 5,000-acre share of the Southeastern Massachusetts Bioreserve.

More:5 easy places to start exploring Fall River’s Bioreserve, and how to get guided tours

‘The devil worship place’

I’m meeting city forester Mike Labossiere for a hike through the woods off Quanipaug Road, an unpaved dirt lane deep in the Southeastern Massachusetts Bioreserve that runs along the north shore of the Copicut Reservoir. Unless you have a four-wheel drive or a mountain bike, you should drive through Dartmouth to get there. Just as I’m slinging my backpack over a shoulder, my sister calls me, and I tell her I have to go — I’m meeting a guy in the forest. 

“The forest?” she says. “You mean ‘the forest’ forest? The devil worship place?” 

“Mm-hmm,” I say. 

“Be careful.” 

Street signs mark the intersection of Copicut and Quanipaug roads in the Southeastern Massachusetts Bioreserve.

Satan worshippers aren’t often found performing their fiendish blood rites at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday, but her reaction is common around here. We’ve watched the recent Epix channel documentary series “Fall River” about the so-called “Satanic cult murders” from 1979 and 1980, where the remains of two young women were found in Fall River’s woods. Both were much more likely the victims of abusive, drug-addicted criminal psychopaths than sacrificial lambs to appease Lucifer — but spooky legends about killings, corpses, curses and pukwudgies have dogged Fall River’s woods ever since. It’s kept too many people from hiking in Fall River’s eastern half, a huge expanse of square mileage packed with history and natural beauty. 

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