If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I like a good ghost story. While some are more macabre and not quite ghost stories, others give you that little chill up your back. Ghost Tours of Newport provides just that. While their website might not suggest much, this walking tour of the city is a pretty fun way to get out and try something new.
Tours leave from Fathoms Restaurant in the Newport Marriott, and if you buy your tickets online in advance you can save $3. The tour guide gives everyone a sticker to put on that says “ghost,” which I think is just so that he can keep track of who paid for a ticket in case random passers-by decide to hope on, and not to convince people that everyone on the tour is a ghost.
The tour includes a mix of historical information and ghost stories, which is helpful to situate the scary stories within the context of this seafaring town with a past of pirates and Gilded Age glory. Also, if you don’t buy the paranormal stories, it’s nice to learn more about the city and some of its historic buildings and areas.
Our guide John shared some great stories like that of the Palatine, a boat that was coming over from Europe but the captain died and the crew took over, abandoning the immigrants on board and setting the ship on fire. At Blood Alley (pictured right) next to the current Brick Alley Pub, he told us about bar fights between pirates gone wrong, ending in murder, and about a drumming boy who went into an underground cave to retrieve treasure but was trapped by low tide.
In the town’s central Washington Square, we learned about the public hangings that took place there and were considered entertainment for the townspeople. One such hanging was that of Thomas Cornell, who was convicted and sentenced to death on the testimony of a ghost.
The stories are pretty interesting, but what gave the tour a little more umph were its interactive portions, and I don’t mean how the tour guide had a family go “ooh-eeh-ooh” when he delivered the creepy ending to each story. Towards the beginning of the tour, he told us a little bit about ghost hunting, a tradition to which Rhode Island lays claim, and encouraged people to snap photos throughout the tour to see if they get anything out of the ordinary. People took a lot of pictures, and it added a new dimension because once one person captured something potentially spooky on film, others started speculating about everything, making the whole tour seem more credible. However, I’m skeptical of some of the face-like things I caught on film in this window, as my sister and her boyfriend also caught the exact image.