When Grant Tullison returned to Boston from his voyage to the Pacific in 1770, his contemporaries noted a drastic change in his demeanor. By all accounts the venture was a success, bringing a vast fortune to the aging merchant. Rather than using some of it to fund another successful trade mission, he withdrew from society, friends, and family.
Some people blamed the withdrawal on a curious box he carried off his ship. Draped in a velvet cover, he wouldn’t tell anyone what he carried inside. He simply marched the thing from his ship to his house without saying a single word. Indeed, if some notable contemporaries hadn’t seen Mr. Tullison disembarking with it, nobody would know the thing even existed.
In the following years, Mr. Tullison’s behavior grew strange. He fired all of his servants the minute he stepped across his own threshold. He reduced the number of people he did business with. He worried his neighbors by staying up late into all hours of the morning, sometimes howling with madness.
His family lamented the loss of his conviviality as if they lost the man himself. Despite their best efforts, Grant would not entertain visits from anyone unless it was absolutely necessary. Thus, they had to resort to collecting gossip from those few witnesses they could find.
The most detailed account of Mr. Tullison came from a grocer who delivered food once a week. On one particular delivery, the master of the house answered the grocer’s call wearing nothing but a dirty smock. He threw open the portal with a grimy hand and looked around to make sure the grocer was alone. “Do you hear it?” he asked the poor fellow.
“Hear what?” the grocer asked, moved to pity at Tullison’s display of open madness.
Tullison breathed a heavy sigh of relief. “Perhaps I finally found a suitable resting place for it then. I had to work without rest to do it, but that thing is now in the foundation, buried as deep as I could manage it. Are you sure you do not hear anything?”
Straining his ears, the grocer admitted nothing grabbed his attention. Tullison hugged the man and paid double what he owed for the delivery. The grocer left, hoping the old salt might finally be coming around to sanity. Sadly, that night Mr. Tullison died under the most peculiar circumstances.
For many years, the house changed hands rapidly. With each conveyance, the memory and rumors of the box grew more obscure. After two centuries, the house became listed as an historical landmark, requiring the entire structure to be preserved as it was. Buyers happily agreed to such terms, since the house itself stood the test of time reasonably well. The only real problem anyone noted was the constant leaking of melting snow and ice into the basement. Still, the water only mildly eroded things, which meant buyers could pass it on without having to always fix it.
After the last winter, a new family moved to Boston from California and purchased the estate from an elderly couple. This family had a young son who fancied himself as an urban explorer. Having an old house to examine, the boy grew determined to uncover all of the structure’s secrets. He really hoped he would find a secret passage leading to Boston harbor.
A week later, the boy discovered a piece of the foundation peeling away in the basement. With his own small hands, he picked away at the dirt until he came upon a ratty piece of velvet cloth wrapped around a large box. He excavated the thing from its tomb, running a hand over the garishly painted wood. Surprisingly, the nondescript item was warm to the touch. His curiosity got the better of him, and he opened the front clasp to peer inside.
And then he screamed.