(The following text is taken directly from the welcome bulletin board at Purgatory Chasm.)
"This is the most stupendous place, and fills the mind of the
beholder with the most exhalted ideas of the infinite power of the
great Creator of all things..."
Peter Whitney, Worcester County: America's First Frontier, 1793
The Corn Crib, Fat Man's Misery, The Coffin, The Pulpit, Lover's Leap, His Majesty's Cave...the names given to the rock forms in the Chasm attest to a long fascination with its formidable landscape.
For many years, the origin of the Chasm was attributed to wave action or the trauma of earthquakes. Most geologists today, however, agree that the chasm was formed when large volumes of glacial ice melted and were suddenly released. Purgatory Chasm was an escape route for ice fed torrents from Ramshorn Pond, Singletary Pond and Casey Brook on the western part of Sutton. The force of the sudden release broke away large blocks of granite and deposited gravel terraces further to the south in Whitinsville. The Chasm is about one-fourth mile in length, with sheer rock walls rising as high as seventy feet in some places. The ice-worn rocks surrounding the Chasm have long been favorite destinations for picnics and explorations. As early as 1793, historian Peter Whitney wrote that many visitors came to the Chasm to experiment with dropping pebbles, to marvel at the icicles still visible in May or June and to climb the boulders and explore the small caverns. "After all," write Whitney, "no description given of this place, by another, will enable persons to form just and adequate conceptions of it."
The Chasm was designated a state reservation in 1919 and today its 900 acres are under the care of the Department of Environmental Management.