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Haunted Rhode Island by Thomas D'AgostinoHaunted Rhode Island
By Thomas D’Agostino
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing (December 2005)
Pages: 128 – Price: $12.95 author interview

Thomas D’Agostino has been exploring Rhode Island’s unexplained and mysterious landscape for decades. Haunted Rhode Island is D’Agostino’s first book in which he documents his findings. caught up with Tom to ask him about his work and his book.

What got you interested in the supernatural?

Thomas D’Agostino: I actually grew up in a haunted house. Countless strange things happened upstairs for many years. Weights would roll across the floor in the middle of the night and toys would move or fly off of the beds and bureaus. My brothers slept downstairs a lot of the time. I was intrigued, and of course, no less scared. According to my parents, the upstairs still has activity.

How long have you been looking into Rhode Island haunts?

It really started around 1972 when I was a young lad. We were fishing at Dolly Cole Brook and I saw a woman walk over to a pool and fetch a bucket of water. She disappeared down the path my father appeared from a fleeting moment later. He never saw anybody. I then read a story about how the brook, bridge above, and hill got its name. Dolly Cole drowned in the brook in the 1800s. I later found out that another woman drowned in the same spot I saw the ghost at. She went to get water for cooking and never returned. They found her a few days later downstream. Which one I saw is anybody’s guess?

What is Rhode Island’s most profound haunting and why?

There are a lot of them but the most intriguing is the Ramtail Factory. It sits in the woods of Foster in ruins. Peleg Walker, a former partner who hung himself from the bell rope still makes his eternal rounds as watchman and part owner of the complex. He used to ring the bell to summon the workers to their day shift. In 1823 he had a fallout with his partners and swore that they would one day have to retrieve the keys to the factory from a dead man. That was fulfilled. They buried him but he did not rest. A few nights later the villagers were awoken by the sound of the bell. When they entered the factory all was silent and empty. The bell would toll a few more nights before being removed. One night the townspeople stared in awe as the factory ran full tilt through the midnight hour opposite the flow of the Ponagansett River. That is when they refused to work at the haunted mill. The book on the history of Foster credits Peleg Walker with the reason the factory closed. The 1885 State Census also states on page 36 that the factory is indeed haunted thus making it Rhode Island’s officially haunted site. There are those still alive who have heard the ghostly bell still toll in the midnight hour and many, including myself who have seen the countenance of Peleg Walker and heard the swinging of his rusty lantern as he still wanders to and fro through the ruins of the mill on his eternal vigil. I have been to the site about 45 times and it still makes the hairs on my neck stand tall. More details of the story are not only in Haunted Rhode Island but The Encyclopedia of Haunted Places as well.

When conducting a ghost investigation with Rhode Island Paranormal, what’s your most important piece of ghost investigation equipment?

You, your experience, and your composure. The most expensive equipment in the world is only as useful as the person in control of it. I have seen misuse of valuable and simple equipment rendering it useless. I have seen investigators get all excited over rapid temperature drops with expensive thermal scanners. I can simulate that here with the cracks in the floors and fieldstone foundation of the 19th century house we live in. Equipment may fail or misread but the investigator should always be alert and attentive to the surroundings looking for rational explanations first before jumping to conclusions. Investigators of the early 20th century and before did not have the technology we posses today yet they still witnessed or debunked haunting based on their own senses and experiences.

Though Rhode Island is the smallest US State, why does it have such a great amount of supernatural activity?

It is very old as far as colonization goes. There is a lot of history steeped into the area.
Even the history of the Native Indians comes into play with supernatural activity. New England is the oldest part of The United States and was born of countless perils and tragedies so it stands to reason there will be much residual energy lingering. There is also the fact that Rhode Island has more cemeteries than any other state in the country. People used to bury their relatives on their property before the advent of garden cemeteries which came about in the mid 19th century.

What prompted you to write Haunted Rhode Island?

Being a native Rhode Islander and always visiting and talking about the places, I wanted to share them with others who had the same interests. The book is geared toward all the haunted places in Rhode Island that the public can actually visit. I wanted them to be able to visit the places as well and perhaps witness something out of the ordinary or at least experience a good piece of history. The state is so small that many of the sites can be visited in a single day.

What’s your favorite Rhode Island legend from your book?

The Indian Ghost of Hannah Franke. This one is also special because we live down the road from the site and also live in the house of a relative who found out about the murders.

Hannah Franke was a 19 year old Nipmuc Indian and house keeper of the Warmsley brothers who were also Nipmuc. Vermont peddler, John Burke met Hannah and fell in love with her much to the disdain of the Warmsleys. He gave her gifts on every trip to Burrillville. One was a shell necklace that she cherished. He proposed to her and on September 18, 1831, they packed and readied for a return and wedding in Vermont. The Warmsleys first invited them for celebration. As the two rode off down Log Road, they were ambushed by the brothers at the corner of Log Road and Horsehead Trail. They were badly beaten and then John Burke was beheaded with an ax. Hannah ran for safety but was killed by a shotgun blast. It was not until some time later when Mr. Nichols’s housekeeper, a sister of the Warmsley brothers finally confessed of the deed. The townsfolk buried the two side by side where they still lie today and Amasa Warmsley was hung for the deed on June 1, 1832. He was the first execution by the state. His brother died in a fall from a cart before he could be brought to justice. Since that fateful day Hannah has roamed the woods looking for her love and lost necklace that was torn from her during the confrontation. Neighbors and passer-bys have seen her over the years. I may have witnessed a glimpse of the ghost once while my wife Arlene and I were taking pictures of the area for the book. I heard a whisper in my ear and turned quickly as something disappeared behind me. 

Are you working on any future books?

Yes, Arlene, my wife and photographer for all the books, and I have just finished Haunted New Hampshire and are currently almost finished with one on Massachusetts. They are the same theme. All places the public can visit that are haunts of legend. They are scheduled to be out in 2007.

Thanks for visiting with, Tom!

Thank you very much. It was a pleasure talking about my favorite subject and I hope everyone enjoys the book and visits the places. They certainly are worth the trip.

Click here to buy this book now.

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