It may be a tiny state, but that doesn't mean there aren't many haunted places in Rhode Island. Inhabited first by the indigenous Narragansett people and colonized in the 1600s, the Ocean State's spirits range from ghosts in Gilded Age mansions to phantom monks. So whether you take a ride on a haunted carousel or wander a rocky seashore where spirits roam, you'll find plenty of ghosts all throughout the state of Rhode Island.
Governor Sprague Mansion
The Sprague Mansion in Cranston is one of the Cranston Historical Society's properties and serves as its headquarters. Will Sprague built the house in 1790 and rose in wealth through cotton mills, banks, and railroads. In 1844, Amasa Sprague's body was found halfway between the mill and the mansion. However, no one attributes any of the hauntings of the mansion to him. The Civil War devastated the Sprague empire, leaving the family with just the 28-room mansion. The paranormal activity at the mansion is varied and bold.
Charlie, a butler, had high hopes of his daughter marrying his boss's son. Charlie is still upset the match never happened and claims the mansion and land as his. He likes to creep people out by touching them with his cold, icy fingers. Volunteers renovating what was known as the Doll Room experienced several frightening encounters. The dolls were removed after volunteers captured photos of one of the doll's eyes moving. If that wasn't scary enough, there was something else that made this even more impossible-the doll's eyes were painted on!
Glowing spirit orbs float about the wine cellar, while the apparition of a woman haunts the cupola and sometimes appears on the staircase. A spooky white milky ghost leaves a freezing cold spot in its wake. If these ghosts don't make you nervous when touring the mansion, then the apparitions in the ballroom mirror most certainly will.
Colt State Park
The 464 park acres in Bristol offers you a great escape with seaside walking/hiking trials. Colt State Park is a beautiful retreat, but it also has a creepy dark side that long-time visitors know about firsthand. The spirits of several people who died in the park are very active. They aren't discriminatory and attempt to frighten park rangers and visitors alike. The spirit of a farmhand who died in the old barn is blamed for the haunting in the park office. He opens and closes doors and announces his presence by turning the lights on and off. Along the park trails, hikers often freak out when the little girls' disembodied voices giggle behind them and, of course, when they turn around, no one is there. Their giggling spirits drift over the "Suicide Hill" area of the beach where they supposedly drowned.
Nathanael Greene Homestead
The Nathanael Greene Homestead in Coventry was built in 1770 and today is a National Historic Landmark. This home of Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene was the first school in the area. The General referred to it as the Spell Hall. The staff often find museum items moved, such as a baby carriage that couldn't possibly have moved on its own across a bedroom floor. The sound of a real carriage makes its way up the driveway and toward the back of the house. Door latches open and phantom footsteps move about the mansion. Disembodied voices whisper or carry-on distant conversations. The aroma of baking bread comes from an unused kitchen.
The Cumberland Library in Cumberland started out as a monastery (circa 1902) that was added on to over a 20-year period. A 1950 devastating fire claimed much of the monastery, and the monks built a new one in Spencer, Massachusetts. A phantom monk haunts the library, mysteriously moving books from place to place. Spirits like to make their presence known with loud noises, such as slamming doors, disembodied voices calling out staff and patron's names, and touching visitors with freezing cold hands. Many locals believe that the entire area is haunted by the ghosts of nine militiamen tortured to death by members of the Narragansett Indian tribe. The 1676 memorial, said to be the oldest U.S. Veteran memorial, is easy to find should you brave a night in the area. Known as the Nine Men's Misery, you may hear their disembodied screams ringing out from the woods.
Belcourt Castle in Newport was built in 1894 for Oliver Belmont by renowned architect Richard Morris Hunt. The goal was a bachelor's summer dream house with a single bedroom and the main floor designed for his many horses. Yes, the house was an ostentatious stable. All remained as such until 1896, when Oliver fell madly in love with Alva Vanderbilt. Out went the smelly horses and in came the renovation into a beautiful summer castle.
A hooded cloaked monk used to move about the mansion and walk through walls until his statue was moved to the chapel. He now seems content to hang out there. A visitor saw his spirit in corporeal form and watched as he prepared for mass. A 15th century suit of armor moves at times and frightens visitors. It belonged to a knight who died from a spear piercing his visor. His disembodied cries of agony often startle the staff. If you venture into the ballroom, an angry ghost may tell you to get out. Just don't sit down in one of the two haunted chairs or you may find yourself tossed out before you can sit. There is one spirit that seems to be late for the ball. She's decked out in her gown wandering the second-floor gallery.
The Crescent Park Carousel
What's more fun than a haunted amusement park ride? Built in 1895, The Crescent Park Carousel in Riverside is wood sculpture created by the master carousel designer Charles I.D. Looff to showcase his work to potential buyers. It is listed in the National Register of Historic sites and places, is a State Jewel of American Folk Art, and a National Historic Landmark. In 2021, the park temporarily closed to undergo needed repairs to the carousel. Ghosts turn on the lights and start up the music. Disembodied voices whisper in the ears of carousel riders. A female apparition in a hoop skirt hangs out around the carousel. When you visit, you may hear the phantom sounds of an approaching train. The carousel starts up on its own with the lights and music playing during times when the ride is closed.
Warwick City Hall
Warwick City Hall carries on the legacy of being one of the earliest cities to have police stations. In 1772, when the H.M.S. Gaspee ran aground in Narragansett Bay, 60 Providence men rowed out to the government duty ship and set it on fire. The disembodied cries of a woman believed to have been imprisoned in the old jail ring out at times. Other disembodied voices include those of children that call from the upper balcony area. Inside the council chambers, the aroma of cigar smoke wafts through the room.
Slater Mill in Pawtucket is a National Historical Park. The Slater Mill was established in 1793 as the very first spinning mill in America. Entire families worked in the mill, especially children over six years old. Many of the children were maimed or killed when they had to crawl around the stalled machines to repair them. The spirit of a 9-year-old boy killed in the mill often cries out or scoots around the silent machines. The apparition of man walks about the mill. Phantom sounds of slamming, knocking, and sometimes machinery echo through the mill. Shadow people weave in and out of the frozen machines as though working.
The Breakers Mansion
The Breakers Mansion is now part of the Newport Mansions owned and operated by The Preservation Society of Newport County. The original summer cottage caught on fire and burned to the ground. Owned by Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt's grandson, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, he ordered the new house built without any wood in the support structure. Limestone, marble, brick, concrete, terra cotta tile, and other non-wood materials were used to build the 70-room summer cottage for his family of seven children. The Breakers was completed in 1895.
The family and society tend to downplay the haunting aspect of the mansion. When the spirit of Alice Vanderbilt manifests, there's no question it is Alice. She wanders about the mansion, rearranging furniture when it isn't in its proper place. Eerie and frightening sounds unnerve staff and visitors. Alice suffered great losses with the death of a daughter and two sons, followed by her husband's death from a stroke. Her third son died during WWI. Her fifth child, Reginald, died in 1925. The third floor of the mansion is closed to the public, since the Vanderbilt family still uses it. Alice enjoys moving through the entire mansion, not confining her activity to the third floor. The staff often feel her presence.
Graduate Providence Hotel
Graduate Providence Hotel (formerly The Providence Biltmore Hotel) was built in Providence in 1922. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, Historic Hotels of America, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Graduate Providence has a sinister past, having been financed by a self-professed Satanist and patronized by prohibition mobsters. It had all the makings of a dark and paranormal place. In 2000, the American Hotel and Lodging Association dubbed it as America's Most Haunted Hotel.
The hotel was financed by a self-proclaimed Satanist, Johan Leisse Weisskopf. Age-old rumors claim the hotel was designed to accommodate Satanic rituals and animal sacrifices. There's a chicken coop on the rooftop and secret underground altars. The most famous room was the Bacchante Dining Room where nude waitresses, The Bacchante Girls, served guests. It has long been rumored that six murders took place inside the hotel and were covered up by the police during the mob/prohibition days. Suicide was another common cause of the rising body count. It was a favored hangout for mobsters, with the hotel's speakeasy being accessible to all.
The apparition of a man jumping from the 14th floor room is one of the most well-known residual hauntings. Guests see his body fall past their windows only to find no one has crashed on to the pavement below. Phantom sounds, such as stomping and the sudden appearance of dancing apparitions that glide across the ballroom floor, make the hotel even spookier. The spirits of murder victims roam the halls and other areas of the hotel. The phantom sound of boisterous partying begins around midnight. Guests find their door locks turning by themselves, and ghostly apparitions show up. They awaken suddenly to find an apparition in their room peering down at them, only to vanish.
Providence City Hall
Providence City Hall first opened in 1773. It was a brick two-story building with merchant market stalls on the first floor and the city government on the second floor. In 1797, the first Rhode Island Masonic Lodge added a third floor accommodation. Elevators operate on their own, and unseen spirits move the furniture. Some of the ghostly activity is blamed on the spirit of Mayor Doyle, who was actually buried in the cellar/basement. The mayor's cigar smoke moves from room to room as though he is wandering about. Disembodied voices are a common occurrence.
The White Horse Tavern
In 1673, The White Horse Tavern in Newport opened for business, making it the oldest existing American tavern. It is also the most haunted. An array of people frequented the tavern including colonists, pirates, sailors, British soldiers, and, of course, the founding fathers. Several ghosts reside in the tavern. Phantom footsteps come from adjacent empty rooms. The apparition of a woman hovers around the dining tables. Patrons are tapped on the shoulder, but when they turn around, no one is there. The spirit of an elderly colonial period man hangs out at the bar, while the spirit of a sailor who died at the tavern never left.
The paranormal activity is often horrifying for visitors. The lights flicker, disembodied voices whisper in patrons' ears, and creepy voices call from empty rooms. The aroma of cigar smoke drifts through the tavern. The apparitions of a woman and a young girl wander. The disembodied cries of a young child in the women's restroom are unnerving to patrons.
The Providence Athenæum
The Providence Athenæum in Providence was founded in 1836 as the Athenæum by combining two libraries. In 1850, the name was changed to The Providence Athenæum. This library was the meeting place of fellow poets and lovers, Edgar Allen Poe and Sarah Helen Whitman. The couple were engaged, but Sarah broke off the engagement when Poe broke his sobriety pledge to her. The spirit of Edgar Allen Poe visits the library often, just as he did when alive and courting Sarah. His apparition is seen inside and outside the library. Disembodied whispers, as though in conversation, surprise visitors. Slamming doors and odd sounds reverberate in the library. Shadow people dart and disappear around corners, and the lights flicker, sometimes turning off.
Dolly Cole, the Witch of Foster
Dolly Cole was said to be several things. The first was a 27-year-old mother who used herbs and plants to heal and was accused of being a witch sometime in the early 1800s. Some legends claim she was a vampire, while others insist, she was a prostitute who liked to wear men's clothing. One thing each version agrees on is how she lost her daughter in a house fire that her neighbors set. Frightened that Dolly was a witch, her neighbors set her house on fire, believing she was at home. Unfortunately, Dolly's daughter was the one at home alone. She perished in the fire. Dolly was beyond rage when she came home and discovered what had been done. In agonized grief, she cursed her neighbors and the town.
Another legend is about a woman named Dorothy Cole, whose body was found in the woods near Tucker Hollow Road and Ramtail Road in Foster. This tale became interwoven with Dolly's story. Dorothy was murdered by drowning in a stream. Known as the Woman in White, Dolly's spirit wanders through the woods, appearing to hunters and along the river where fishermen are terrified when they see her ghost wandering along the riverbank. She isn't shy about manifesting in front of groups of people. Each encounter leaves the eyewitnesses terrified. Popular places where Dolly appears include the Hopkins Mill area and the Dolly Cole Hill that was named after her ghost first appeared walking about the area.
Ghosts and Legends in Rhode Island
Rhode Island is rich with legends of ghosts, hauntings, and other strange occurrences. If you've never experienced a ghost, but have always wanted to, why not venture out and experience haunted Rhode Island?