WHAV’s ‘Man Who Weighed Souls’ Item Inspires Travel Channel Segment

David Goudsward during a sound check for the Travel Channel’s “Mysteries at the Museum.”

Dr. Duncan MacDougall.

A WHAV Haverhill Heritage Series article about “Haverhill’s Man Who Weighed Souls” was the inspiration for a segment on cable television’s Travel Channel next month.

WHAV Historian David Goudsward tells the story of the “Man Who Weighed Souls” during an episode of “Mysteries at the Museum,” scheduled to air at 9 p.m., April 10. Locally, the Travel Channel airs on Comcast channel 54. Dr. Duncan MacDougall (1866-1920), whose home and medical practice was located on Main Street at the corner of Fountain Street, set out in 1901 to prove scientifically the human soul does exist.

“It was fascinating to see how an episode of this program comes together,” said Goudsward, a Haverhill native now residing in Florida. “And it’s nice to be able to give Haverhill some awareness on an international platform.” Goudsward said the largest challenge was finding an artifact to serve as the anchor of the segment.

“His house in Haverhill was torn down to build the Social Security office, and the Cullis Consumptives’ Home, where he conducted experiments in Roxbury, is long gone,” Goudsward explained. The Travel Channel, however, did locate a scale similar to the type MacDougall used to weigh people before and after death. A Fairbanks platform scale was used to determine if any weight loss at the time of death might be attributed to the soul departing the body. The scale was found at the Dayton Historical Depot Museum, Dayton, Washington.

Goudsward travelled to South Beach, Fla., last fall to record the television segment. “Mysteries at the Museum” host Don Wildman “takes viewers across the United States, delving deep into the vaults of the nation's most revered institutions and unearthing wondrous treasures from the nation’s past,” according to the Travel Channel.

Goudsward, raised on the summit of Scotland Hill, brings his New England sensibilities and respect for historical perspective to his work. He is the author of many books, consisting of primarily of New England topics. His latest book, co-written by his brother Scott T. Goudsward, “Horror Guide to Massachusetts,” is a map to geographical locations, real and fictional, utilized in horror tales set in New England. It is available for purchase here.

Haverhill Heritage Series: This program is supported in part by a grant from the Haverhill Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.