An article from Wonderland’s series about Miserable Places:
Despite Purgatory Chasm’s dismal-sounding name, most visitors have found the gorge stirring.
“This is a most stupendous place,” W.A. Benedict and H A. Tracey wrote of the chasm in their 1878 “History of the town of Sutton, Massachusetts, from 1704 to 1876.” It “fills the mind of the beholder with exalted ideas of the infinite power of the great Creator of all things, ‘who removeth the mountains and they know it not; who shakes the earth out of its place, and the pillars thereof tremble.'”
Various theories about what formed the quarter-mile-long chasm in Sutton—perhaps the movement of a techtonic plate fault, perhaps a damned-up water that rushed out of an ancient glacier, some devil or other. Regardless, the dramatic vistas have long attracted visitors.
So in 1919, State Legislature established the Purgatory Chasm State Reservation, near Worcester, about an hour’s drive west of Boston. “A large portion of the park, including the beautiful chasm itself, was acquired from the Whitin Machine Works in neighboring Whitinsville,” Chris Sinacola wrote in the 2003 book “Images of America: Sutton.”
Visitors today will find a quarter-mile long trail through a dry chasm stewn with massive boulders. (To prevent the spread of coronavirus this spring, park officials have marked the chasm trail as one-way, which many people actually abide.) Stone walls rise to 70 feet high in spots. People have given some of the tall cliffs names like Devil’s Pulpit and Lover’s Leap. Fat Man’s Misery is a narrow slot atop one ridge that people enjoy squeezing through. A small cave near the end of the chasm has been carved with the words: “Prepare To Meet Thy God.”
Continue on from the chasm to Little Purgatory, a brook that runs out of a smaller gorge, tumbing down small falls as it winds through the woods.
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