Gloucester’s Bermuda Triangle of Sketch

I was away camping earlier this week when I got mad texts from my boy Jimmy D.  “Rumor is they found a freakin’ BODY behind McDonalds, dude” he didn’t actually say because usually he speaks like a real adult, but that was kind of how it went. And it ended up being true. I’m sure we all heaved a sigh of relief when there was no foul play apparent, but it’s still a sad day for the city. All lives have value, and Charles Ilges obviously had problems he couldn’t or didn’t get help for.

I was relatively unsurprised at this turn of events, though. I know this area well. Let’s hearken back to ye olden days of 2012 when my daily employment was centered at 50 Maplewood, known colloquially as “the sketchiest parking lot in all of Gloucester.” It honestly wasn’t that bad 99% of the time, despite its reputation. The guy running the Maplewood Carwash is legit one of the nicest, most hardworking folks I’ve ever met. Seriously, go there. His workers are great, and he has worked miracles with my filthy cars for cheap, and he spends a lot of time making sure his carwash is clean. The 7/11 is bright and immaculate inside and also staffed with locals who care. The new McDonalds is pretty decent looking as well, for a fast food joint that sells double cheeseburgers for a dollar.

But while the front parking lot of 5-0 Maplewoodz had its occasional quaint daytime drug deals (so bad that they actually aim a Homeland Security camera at the parking lot), indiscriminate screaming, white people with racist tattoos, and teenagers and adults alike leaving trash everywhere, it’s really what lurks behind that area that’s the most sketch. As of today, the city has contacted the owner to clean it up. But until that actually takes place, this is what we’re dealing with.


The Triangle of Awful

The Triangle of Awful

The above Infographic (by which I mean a google maps screenshot that I then put numbers on in MS Paint) serves to show what a shithole area the Maplewood/MBTA area is.

1. Abandoned Boats For Whatever Reason: Whose boats are these? Apparently there have been people squatting in them, as we all found out. Had no one really noticed or put up a fuss before the events of this week? It’s been like this for freakin’ years. The satellite image shows nine boats and some other large thing. It’s like the sea receded and left a bunch of crap there. We live in a city of fisherman where everyone is up in each othe’s business, you mean to tell me no one knows whose boats those are? No one recognizes any of them? What is this, the boat mob?

2. Tons of cars from the guy running the welding/body work thing back there. Look, he’s a nice enough guy, except that a few of his hangers-on love to speed through the parking lot like this was Dukes of Juggalo Hazzard, barely missing pedestrians. The multiple cars with missing wheels don’t exactly make the place look better. Last I checked, there was a broken-down RV with smashed windows back there someone was legit using as an office.

3. Squatting Homeless Folks.  The upstairs at 50 Maplewood is kind of a mess, and that adds to the problem. Some of the people living there are freeloading on the backs of freinds/family who have legit vouchers to live there though the Gloucester Housing Authority – 4-5 in a tiny studio/one bedroom. Heroin dealers lived upstairs – legit, like “in the police notes” dealers. The tenants had been so sketch that homeless folks had busted open a lock on a boiler room and had been sleeping up there. When we were moving in, we found a syringe above the drop ceiling. Someone overdosed and died up there – thankfully on a day we were closed. I once heard a tenant yelling out the window, “bring the money or you’re gonna get dopesick!” What fun.

4. Marshy Swampland. People dumped bikes and trash there a lot, and there were also random trails leading away from the area by MAC where folks of indeterminate housing status would hang out. The police had gone through a few times looking for folks purported to be living there, but I never actually heard that they caught somebody out that way. It’s not a stretch that people would be living out there, probably on pallets or something away from the damp swamp, since you know, they were living in boats and in the attics nearby.

5. The Gauntlet. There’s a path that cuts through the DMZ back there and into the MBTA lot, which was the fastest way for me to walk home. Unfortunately, it was also an area strewn with abandoned mattresses, chairs, and other detritus. Once in awhile someone would be having their morning public urination session or be fishing half-smoked butts off the ground (hey, free cigarette!) while I walked by. A fun time was had by all. There were also paths through the high weeds there, going to what I can only imagine were beaver-style dens of people awaiting revival by NARCAN.

I won’t beat around the overgrown bushes, it’s a freakin’ disaster back there. But no amount of ignoring it is gonna do a damn thing until the owners are forced to clean it up. I wouldn’t count on that happening soon – sure, the city is telling the owner to do it ASAP, but they have to actually find someone that owns the thing – some guy says it was a trust that he stepped down from years ago.

Until then, if you need a free urine-soaked mattress or boat to live in, well, you know where to go.


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  1. KT, I’m pretty sure that area is where teenage boys set fire to and murdered a homeless guy near the train tracks back in the early 80’s when I was still in high school.

    “John Jones, Convicted Oct. 19 1983

    On the evening of Sept. 30, 1982, the defendant, who was 17, and another juvenile and others attended a party “up on the tracks” in Gloucester. At the party, there was talk between the defendant and the other juvenile about “rolling” or stealing money from Donald Pinkham. In the early morning hours of Oct. 1, 1982, the defendant and the other juvenile found the victim on a path called “Dead Man’s Path” near where they had gathered for the party. The doctor who performed the autopsy stated that the victim suffered from multiple severe fractures in the ribs, head and throat area, bruising and signs of beating on his back and buttocks, a tear in the anus caused by the forceful insertion of a stick and had been consumed by fire. On Oct. 19, 1983 the jury returned a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree, and a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole was imposed.”


  2. Yes, an excellent summation of this No Man’s Land in Gloucester. We and others refer to the nearby Shaw’s Supermarket as “Ghetto Shaw’s”.

  3. I grew up in that “hood”. In, March 64. Out (more or less) circa 79 or 80 and moved to RKPT, then Salem. BTW, Salem has the Point hood which has its own similar events…. The Maplewood area actually has improved a little bit, but I’ve always felt the city sorta could give a shit about this part of town. City blew it when the MBTA depot was being redeveloped and it seems no input whatsoever was given concerning RR Ave and the surrounding area being this a transport hub, but that’s another subject. Folks crapping out up the tracks and at the “rez” was the norm even back in the day. And its always has been a shit hole behind what was once Works Chevrolet now the car wash. Its sad the Charles met his demise there.

  4. Hey Kathy,
    I hope all is well with Mike and the family. First and foremost, I agree with 90 percent of your article. As a Gloucester native and Manager at The Maplewood Carwash I have wanted to see the area cleaned up and have taken daily measures to insure the Maplewood Carwash property is clean all the way to the swamp-line, however, people continue to throw trash as they drive threw to cut over to Washington St. All I can do is pick it up daily. That Homeland surveillance camera overlooks everything from the Maplewood Park for low-income families to 7 11 where there is a lot of drug transactions unfortunately.

    I wanted to touch-up on a subject you mentioned about the upstairs tenants.

    At the beginning of February, Steve approached me and mentioned that one of the tenants were leaving and he offered to rent it to me because it was the first step at changing the situation and also the perception of the city. I jumped at the opportunity and just want to insure the property upstairs as well, as down stairs. The building and area has had a horrible reputation for years and Steve Milan has turned that around like you said on not so many words. I want to personally change the situation upstairs so people can look at this building in a different light.
    Ultimately Kathy, things have come along way since you guys moved to a bigger location. The automotive guy is gone and all of the tire-less jeeps lol, and our property is in good standings. However, I can’t say that for the property where they found Charlie Ilges. I hope all is well and any questions about anything please don’t hesitate to call down the shop. Thanks for your time, Andy

    • Andrew, you are doing a great job. And so is Steve. You guys are both do a huge amount of work to make that spot presentable and believe me, it is noticed. Im so glad the upstairs is in better shape – those tenants were a disaster!

    • Andrew, you run an awesome business and I have my car washed there on the regular. City needs more business people like you. My post seemed to imply it was the car washes “shithole” when we all know better than that. Im sorry if I may have made it sound like that.

  5. Hey Kathy,
    First and foremost, Hope all is well with Mike and the family. I just wanted to clarify a few things regarding your article. Mainly, I agree with you 90 percent. The proper changes are being made as I write this….
    However, I wanted to bring you up to speed on a couple things.
    The property at the carwash is for the most part immaculate, however, we do have the seagulls ripping apart trash and on that main road that connects Maplewood Avenue to Washington Street we have the night time drivers that often throw their trash out the windows into the swamp-line and because of this I have the guys do a daily cleanup of the Swamp-line and walk around the building to make sure it is clean. As the Manager I will say we do our part, can out be hard to keep up with the overwhelming trash? Sure. But we do it without question.

    I will say there is a property line that runs through the back of our parking lot all the way to add those boats were that over time was neglected as everyone can see, and because of the recent outcomes. I believe that they’re clearing out all of the overgrown grass and changing a lot of the landscape.
    Kathy just updating on the situation upstairs as it has drastically changed and continues to change for the better. In Febuary Steve approached me and asked me if I’d be interested in the apartment upstairs as one of the tenants was leaving, he wanted to put me up there to keep and make sure the peace was there and the situation was going to get better instead of worse as the time would go by. As you know I have a 5 year old son so “my tolerance for the drugs and screaming would no longer be tolerated.
    Steve and I had a goal that would better me and ultimately my son, and at the same time change the situation upstairs and also change the perception that people have of the building and the upstairs tenants as new tenants have to have a closely background and credit check. We want families to look at a renovated apartment and think “ya this is a good start”, I’ll tell you something my newly renovated apartment upstairs from the old bike shop is amazing and now, another tenant is out and they’re going to be renovating a second apartment soon, it’s great and has truly changed. I simply just wanted you yo know that the upstairs isn’t the same. Lol. And for the Auto-man with all the jeeps….everyone of them is thankfully gone. 🙂
    Ultimately, I just wanted to write back and clarify a couple of things. One thing is for sure, now, they’re going to have to clean up that lot and all the overgrown grass too. Any questions or concerns about this please don’t hesitate to call me down the shop. Thanks you. -A. Wagner

    • You are doing a great job Andrew! Both you and Steve have done an amazing job keeping that part clean. I hope I didn’t come off that it was any other way. Seriously you go above and beyond. Thanks for all the help making the place better.

  6. Maplewood Car Wash…great business, great workers.

    The City needs to get its act together.

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