Real-Life Haunted Places in Rhode Island
You could visit a staged haunted house, or you could track down spirits or watch movies inspired by local spots that are downright disturbed.
Editor’s note: This has been updated from a previous version that originally published in 2015.
1. Chestnut Hill Cemetery, the grave of Mercy Brown
This is perhaps the best known haunted place in Rhode Island. Mercy Brown’s grave is nestled in the Chestnut Hill Baptist Church Cemetery, flowers and trinkets adorning her well-worn tombstone. When Mercy Brown died in 1892 from tuberculosis, it was nothing abnormal. But as more and more people began to die from the dreaded disease, suspicion arose that supernatural powers were to blame. Mercy’s mother and sister were dug up for inspection and after seeing sufficient decomposition to the bodies, were deemed safely dead. But Mercy, whose body was being stored in an above ground vault due to the frozen ground, seemed almost alive with blood still red in her heart and liver. Precautions were taken and Mercy Brown’s heart was cut out and burned, ending her supposed vampire activity. Take a trip to the graveyard for a chance encounter. Chestnut Hill Cemetery, 467 Ten Rod Rd., Exeter.
2. The Ladd School, Exeter
Founded in 1908 by a eugenics doctor, the school was created in an attempt to cleanse society of its “undesirable” inhabitants, including “the simple minded,” criminals and the “sexually immoral.” Like other similar institutions of the time, it was full of cruelties. Whether it was brutal forced sterilizations or the 1955 murder of a severely disabled child, this school was definitely not fun and games. The school converted into a “center” in 1978 before closing for good in 1994. The last of the campus’ ruins were demolished in 2014, but plenty of ghost stories still surround the sorry site once shrouded in scandal. Learn more at the theladdschool.com.
3. The Conjuring House, Burrillville
This stuff is way too freaky to be real, right? Relive the real-life horror of the Harrisville house by watching the acclaimed movie, The Conjuring. It’s the 1970s, and a normal family moves into an unassuming home in the boonies. Only, this was the former property of a deceased Satanist named Bathsheba who killed her own daughter to appease the Devil. The house was sold earlier this year, and the brave-hearted are welcome to explore the property and see what all the fright is about for themselves. Learn more and book your spooky tour at theconjuringhouse.com.
4. The Graduate (f.k.a. the Providence Biltmore)
The Graduate may seem like a lovely place to stay, but with Stephen King and Robert Bloch (Bates Motel) drawing inspiration from its hellish tales, there’s much more than meets the eye. Back in the day, the hotel was built with the backing of a Satanist who performed various rituals in its halls and was the scene of murders galore during Prohibition — think moonshine-induced brawls. Once known as the Biltmore, the one-hundred-year-old hotel now goes by the Graduate, and employees and guests alike still tell tales of unexplained phenomena. Curious if it’s actually haunted? Check in if you dare. The Graduate, 11 Dorrance St., Providence, 401-421-0700, providencebiltmore.com.
5. Seaview Terrace, Newport
Built in 1907, Seaview Terrace (a.k.a. Burnham-by-the-Sea, a.k.a. Carey Mansion, a.k.a. the creepy manor facade seen in ABC’s “Dark Shadows”) is the largest privately-owned Gilded Age estate in Newport. Local legend has it that the original owner’s wife, Mrs. Bradley, was quite fond of the home and so her ghost has taken up residence and made it her afterlife address, as well. In October 2020, “Ghost Nation” visited Seaview Terrace for a paranormal investigation. Stars of the show claimed to hear footsteps, whispers and knocking. Learn more about the storied property in our 2021 House Lust profile here.
6. City Hall, Providence
The Creative Capital’s city hall is often said to be visited by the ghost of a former mayor — no, not Buddy Cianci, but rather Thomas Doyle (1864-1869), whose body laid in state at the building following his untimely death. Staff have reported self-moving chairs, unexplained whispers and footsteps in empty rooms and lingering smells of cigar smoke. (It also was the subject of a “Ghost Hunters” season eight episode titled “City Hell” back in 2012).
7. Cumberland Monastery / Cumberland Public Library, Cumberland
Though no one succumbed to the flames of the monastery’s devastating fire in 1950, there are whispers of a lone phantom monk that roams the halls and frequently moves books on the library’s shelves. But that’s not the only other-worldly connection: A monument on the library’s grounds named “Nine Men’s Misery” also marks the spot where nine colonists were captured and killed by the Wampanoag during King Philip’s War in 1676. Many locals have claimed the nearby trails are plagued by the spirits of the slain men. Check out what else the monastery/library has to offer at cumberlandlibrary.org.
8. Nathanael Greene Homestead, Coventry
Once home to the American Revolution army general, Nathanael Greene, this homestead dates back to 1770 and as such has amassed a number of paranormal claims throughout the years, including apparitions, disembodied voices and more. Some have even sworn they heard the horse-lead carriages galloping towards the property. The homestead is open for tours through October 31. Learn more at nathanaelgreenehomestead.org.
Plus one just over the border: Lizzie Borden House Bed and Breakfast
“Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.” So goes the catchy rhyme that is a brief slice of the complicated and horrifying story of Lizzie Borden. Lizzie was acquitted, but locals still wonder: Did Lizzie kill her stepmother and father with an axe on that fated day in 1892? Intrepid guests can stay the night to figure it out for themselves. 230 2nd St., Fall River, Mass., 508-675-7333, lizzie-borden.com