While hiking on the island in Spot Pond populated only by nesting cranes, many a Bostonian has come across this cryptic stone marker and wondered what it could mean. Clearly carved into the stone are the words “WHERE SHUTE FELL”, which seem simple enough until one discovers that no one alive today, or for that matter even 100 years ago, is at all sure what they might mean.
A Boston Globe article from 2016 and one from 1884 both try to unravel the same mystery, but the story of Shute and his fall is surrounded with so much fable and misinformation that reporters have never been able to definitively get to the bottom of it.
One rumor has it that the tablet marks the spot where, when Spot Pond was home to a debauched hotel, a drunken picnicker stumbled and fell in front of his friends, who decided to mark the spot as a joke. A 1915 article published by the Medford Historical Society claims this is more likely than the often-repeated tale of a duel that occurred on Great Island, killing a colonel named Shute.
The 1884 Globe article, however, seems to provide the most likely story of all, albeit still based on hearsay. According to a local boatman, the eponymous Shute, an unbeaten wrestler, suffered his first and final defeat on that spot in the island. The boatman, who spoke to a reporter, claimed to have rowed the wrestlers out to the island where Shute had his last stand. Another local tale contends that Shute was a colonel killed in a duel held on the island, memorialized by his grieving friends.
At any rate, the monument has been in place since well before the article was published in 1884, since it was already described as “exposed to the weather of all seasons for many years.” Whatever the backstory of this lonely slab of granite, its appeal comes from its mystery. The stone is so shrouded in layers of myth that its true origin may be lost to history forever.
Know Before You Go
A boat is required to visit the island, and as Spot Pond is a reservoir, no private boats are allowed. Visitors can rent a canoe, kayak, or sailboat from Boating in Boston, located at 4 Woodland Rd, Stoneham, MA 02180. The monument is on the southwest side of the island, roughly between the rocky outcrops on the west and south corners of the island visible on satellite imagery.