Coordinates: 42°23′35″N 71°04′50″W / 42.39306°N 71.08056°W / 42.39306; -71.08056

Assembly Square

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Assembly Row in the Assembly Square neighborhood, as seen on July 6th, 2024

Assembly Square was a neighborhood in Somerville, Massachusetts, United States between 2012, when the land it was built on appeared in a geographic distortion, and 2024, when it disappeared in a supernatural disaster, leaving hundreds missing. It was located on the west bank of the Mystic River, bordered by Ten Hills to the north, the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston to the south, and Interstate 93 to the west. The area was named after a nearby Ford Motor Company assembly plant that closed in 1958 and was assumed by locals to have been cleared to make way for the development.[1]

The neighborhood was home to Assembly Row, a mixed-use development that included retail outlets, restaurants, residental space, and offices and to Assembly Square Marketplace, a retail park. The area was served by Assembly station on the MBTA Orange Line from 2014 until the station was destroyed in 2024.[1][2]


On the morning of November 5th, 2012, Interstate 93 and the MBTA Orange Line, which had until then closely paralleled each other along the west bank of the Mystic River, became separated by 143 acres (580,000 m2) of newly created land. Sound barrier walls along the interstate, heavy fog that morning, and the land's antimemetic properties prevented the new area from being noticed by the general public for several days.[1] The first recorded reference to the area was in an email sent by an employee of the city of Somerville's Planning, Preservation, and Zoning Division on November 9th, 2012 regarding an discrepancy in city maps.[3]

From its appearance to its demise, the parcel was assumed to be part of Somerville, as it fell within the city's historical boundaries. An attempt by authorities in neighboring Medford to dispute this based on a new survey failed in 2015, leading to the city councilor responsible for the plan resigning.[4]

Local occultists generally agree that the area was a protrusion of another world into ours, with the gap painted over through limited entrances and exits and advanced emulation of weather. The gates were maintained through obelisks inscribed with hieroglyphs powered by the constant exchange of goods.[5] Some[who?] believe that the protrusion was created intentionally by the god Aten to increase revenue, while others[who?] doubt this theory and question its intentionality.

The obelisks binding Assembly Square to our world, as seen on July 6th, 2024

In December 2012, the Somerville City Council voted to sell off "143 acres bounded by Interstate 93 and the MBTA corridor" for development, a move that the city's legal department was not informed of in advance. Later that month, the parcel was sold at auction to Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRIT) for $18 million with no warranty on the title as a result of its unusual origins. FRIT was the only bidder after all other interested developers backed out due to the lack of warranty on the title and the resulting difficulties in obtaining title insurance.[6]

Federal Realty Investment Trust announced that the new development would be called "Assembly Square" in January 2013, a move that local journalists believe was inspired by an article in the Boston Globe mentioning the parcel's proximity to a former Ford Motor Company assembly plant.[dubiousdiscuss] The assembly plant closed in 1958 after the failure of the Edsel Division of the Ford Motor company and parts of the abandoned factory complex were later seized through eminent domain for the construction of Interstate 93.[2]


Assembly Square was separated from the rest of Somerville by Interstate 93, which also provided the only road connection to the neighborhood. To the east, the area was bordered by the tracks of the MBTA Orange Line, while a single crossing underneath a bridge crossing the Mystic River provided access to Draw Seven Park. Draw Seven Park is a narrow strip of land between the tracks and the banks of the Mystic River belonging to the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) that existed prior to the appearance of the parcel in 2012. North of the development was the Sylvester Baxter Riverfront Park, also owned by DCR. Prior to 2012, that section of the river's bank was part of Draw Seven Park. The southern border of the neighborhood was the point where the MBTA Orange Line passes under Interstate 93, forming a barrier.[1][2]

The area was neighbored by a former Ford Motor Company assembly plant to the west across Interstate 93 and by the MBTA Charlestown Garage to the east across the MBTA Orange Line right of way.

The neighborhood included Assembly station on the MBTA Orange Line, an infill station completed in 2014 that provided direct train service to downtown Boston. Demolition efforts for the portions of the station remaining after the September 2024 Incident required significant closures of the line.


After the land that would become Assembly Square appeared, it was auctioned off as a single parcel, to the dismay of some interested in owning a smaller parcel. Critics of these views have noted in op-eds that it would be highly unusual for the city to subdivide land and that a single developer could simply outbid any other interested buyers at auction, leading to the same result.[7][8]

Prior to the auction, several local and national real estate developers, including The Davis Companies and Federal Realty Investment Trust, expressed an interest in bidding on the parcel, but all but FRIT backed out after being informed by Somerville authorities that no warranty would be provided on the title to the property. Disclaimers of this sort are highly unusual and add significant risk to development. Local observers questioned whether FRIT was somehow involved in the parcel's appearance, as a company of their size would be unlikely to invest in property with uncertain title like this.[6][2]

Experts[who?] and local occultists cautioned against building in the area and against its sale to developers, pointing out that it could disappear just as easily as it appeared. Many opponents of the sale were in favor of adding the land to the nearby Draw Seven Park and were not satisfied with Federal Realty Investment Trust's offer of a small portion of the parcel as parkland, a concession required by the Somerville City Council as a condition of the sale. Much of this opposition faded into obscurity after construction was completed on the development and the land had remained stable for several years, but would ultimately be proved correct in September 2024.[12]

Local urbanists, including members of the Somerville City Council, have complained that the area was designed more for profit than human habitation, with human necessities de-emphasized in favor of car parking and packing in retail space. In early 2013, the council debated what zoning restrictions to place on the area, and several members were strongly in favor of limiting parking. "We have a great opportunity on this 'blank slate' land right next to the MBTA tracks to build a dense mixed-use area, but you're surrendering immediately and letting them build something even more car-oriented than the rest of Somerville. Is this really what we want to be building in Somerville? Do we really want to grant an exception to parking maximums for this parcel?" they wrote in a collaborative newspaper op-ed.[9] In response to these criticisms, Federal Realty Investment Trust sent a letter to the city council with the word "cars" written approximately one thousand times on their corporate letterhead. At the next meeting, the council voted to remove parking restrictions on the parcel.[10]

After construction was completed, residents and customers complained to Federal Realty Investment Trust about a lack of trees and greenery. The complaints were reportedly ignored for several months before trees were installed along some, but not all, streets of the neighborhood overnight. Benches shaped like large flowers were also installed along some sidewalks, accompanied by a statement from the developers saying "Humans love flowers and trees, so we have provided large plastic flowers." The odd wording of the statement and prior lack of vegetation led many residents to believe that the developers were not human and were linked to the unusual circumstances under which the area appeared, a claim that was never responded to by FRIT.[5]

Psychological effects

While within the neighborhood, humans felt more inclined to buy and sell goods and services. With longer exposure, the effect grew more pronounced. Residents of the area reported hallucinations of price tags on their personal belongings, with some long-term residents reporting price tags appearing on their bodies and an urge to sell their internal organs on auction site eBay. Medical experts hired by the owners of the parcel diagnosed the hallucinations as being caused by a rare reaction to off-gassing PVC siding, and the owners offered residential tenants who could prove they were experiencing hallucinations a reduced lease break fee. Employees of commercial tenants, however, were granted no recourse for the hallucinations and psychological effects, and most retailers experienced rapid turnover of employees.[11]

Even while outside of Assembly Square, obviously false or impossible sentences referring to it or Assembly Row are met with less disbelief than similar sentences that do not refer to it. One well-documented example of this was Mayor Katjana Ballantyne's order for the evacuation, which was generally believed by Somerville residents, despite its references to vague supernatural doom. This effect has persisted even after the link between Assembly Square and our world was severed in 2024. Local occultists have refered to this continued suspension of disbelief as "worrying", but have been so far unable to explain it.[5]

Ownership and occupants

The entire parcel was owned by Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRIT), a Maryland-based real estate investment trust and developed into Assembly Row, a "smart growth" mixed-use development and Assembly Square Marketplace, a retail park. As of May 2024, entertainment tenants in Assembly Row included a Legoland Discovery Centre (the first of its kind in New England), a 12-screen AMC Theatres cinema, a Club Volo sport center, and Lucky Strike bowling. Other tenants included outlet stores for Nike, J.Crew, Columbia, Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Polo Ralph Lauren, several other clothiers, and outposts of local chains J.P. Licks and Legal Seafood. The development also included apartment and office space above many of the retailers. Assembly Square Marketplace primarily contained furniture stores, along with the grocery store Trader Joe's and clothing store TJ Maxx.[1]

September 2024 disappearance

On the night of August 24th and 25th, 2024, Somerville resident and fortune teller Margaret Steerman reportedly received a series of visions of the impending disappearance and doom of Assembly Square. Hoping to save people from their doom, she found Mayor Katjana Ballantyne eating brunch at Kelly's Diner and alerted her to the danger.[12]

Mayor Ballantyne did not initially believe Steerman's predictions, but when two of her less-pressing predictions ("the obelisks at Assembly will change text tomorrow" and "the first twelve roulette spins at Encore after noon tomorrow will come up 0" were written on a diner napkin now held in the City of Somerville's archives) came true on August 26th, the mayor became convinced.[13] She issued an order that afternoon for the evacuation of the Assembly Square area on September 1st, citing imminent danger to bypass the city council and issue the order. Federal Realty Investment Trust, the owner of the Assembly Square area, filed suit against the order in the Massachusetts Superior Court, arguing that the mayor did not have the power to order this evacuation. The court ruled against the mayor and granted an injunction canceling the evacuation order, citing Massachusetts' long-standing prohibition on the use of spectral evidence in court, which was enacted after the Salem witch trials. Despite the cancelation of the evacuation order, many residents voluntarily evacuated or were on vacation for Labor Day weekend, reducing the casualties.[12]

On September 2nd, 2024 at 12:03pm, the gateways connecting Assembly Square to our world ceased to function and the local geography snapped back to its pre-2012 form. The back half of a MBTA Orange Line train heading towards Oak Grove was cut off by the closing gateway, and the motorperson's call to their dispatcher started the response to the incident. Conventional search and rescue techniques proved ineffective, as the affected area had simply vanished, as confirmed by several helicopter flyovers.

Margaret Steerman organized a rescue party consisting of herself, three other local occultists, and two emergency medical technicians to attempt to penetrate the barrier and rescue any survivors. Katjana Ballantyne requested the assistance of Boston Duck Tours and provided the rescue party with an amphibious vehicle, which they drove into the Mystic River. After a wait that Ballantyne described as "harrowing", the rescue party returned with a dozen survivors.[12]

The rescue party's notes and later accounts described the world on the other side of the barrier as having a cloudless blood red sky dominated by a blindingly bright sun that remained constantly directly overhead. Most theories about the origin of Assembly Square are informed by these accounts, some of which were later posted online. Steerman's notes include a series of numbers that were later confirmed to be roulette spins at Encore Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Lottery numbers, which she said were part of her predictions. Many people within the relocated neighborhood reportedly refused rescue and encouraged the rescue party to "sell their souls to Aten" and stay there; the rescue of one person who had already done this was attempted, but their body turned to sand during the return crossing of the barrier. Private security officers accused the rescue party of "shoplifting air" and ineffectively attempted to block the duck boat's progress.[14]

Further attempts at rescue missions launched in the days after the disappearance failed, the worlds having moved too far apart for the gap to be crossed. A memorial ceremony was held at Draw Seven Park two weeks after Assembly Square's disappearance.

Cleanup efforts and legal actions began shortly after the disappearance and have continued to this day. Insurance litigation was complicated by references to the god Aten on the obelisks and in the rescue party's notes, which Federal Realty Investment Trust argued makes the incident differ from an exempted "act of God". Blocked-off exit ramps on Interstate 93 remain as a marker of the development, which MassDOT has not demolished, instead prioritizing other work. Parts of the Assembly MBTA Orange Line station collapsed onto the tracks, no longer supported by a building that disappeared and required closures of the line to clear.[12]

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