On the bedrock wall at the base of the Great Falls in Vermont, is a prehistoric petroglyph site. Or maybe not. Are those antennae?
Bellows Falls is home to two clusters of petroglyphs, located about 50 feet south of the Vilas Bridge, which crosses the Connecticut River. The mysterious carvings depict rounded heads with rough, minimalist features - eyes, mouths. Several of the heads have protuberances that look like horns or antennae. Their origin is unknown and various hypotheses place them at anywhere from 300-3,000 years old.
The first known written account of the carvings at Bellows Falls was by researcher David McClure in 1789, who noted that “the figures have the appearance of great antiquity” and ascribed them to the native people of the area - the Abenaki. McClure thought that the etchings marked the presence of evil spirits. But here’s where things get strange. McClure, in his account, mentions only three faces. Today, however, there are 24. Could he have missed so many? Or were they carved after his visit? The only thing we know about additional carving was that in the early 1930s, a local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution hired a professional stone carver to “recarve” the figures. This was not a fantastic move historical-preservation-wise, as it made dating and identifying the petroglyphs even more difficult.
If the Abenaki were indeed responsible for the petroglyphs, the westward orientation of the carvings may hint at their meaning. In Abenaki folklore, a dead person’s soul travels westward when it leaves the body. These faces may have been waymarkers, pointing the way to the afterlife. Adding to this theory, an Abenaki burial ground was found not too far from the site. But no one really knows. Those round faces with their nubby extensions could certainly be extraterrestrial. And if carvings have been added over time, perhaps the aliens are due for another visit.
Know Before You Go
The petroglyphs are located on the Vermont side of the Vilas bridge. Standing on the Vermont side at the end of the bridge, look over the south railing. The petroglyphs are located directly downward by the water's edge (look for yellow paint markers). The visitors center has maps but is closed during the week.