Paranormal Investigators Discuss Local Hauntings

When you’ve had your fill of traversing Benefit Street on ghost tours lit by lantern light, or having teenagers in masks leap out at you from haunted corn mazes, there is a more relaxing and scholarly option to get into the Halloween spirit this October. It takes place in a library, a setting where certainly nothing spooky has ever happened in any movie, ever.

On Wednesday, October 25, Ocean State Paranormal will present “Haunted History” at the Warwick Public Library. The event, free to the public, will be held from 7 to 9pm and will explore historically significant hauntings and paranormal investigations throughout New England — with an emphasis on Rhode Island’s own ghost stories.

So how haunted is Rhode Island? Enough that 29 paranormal societies (according to, which keeps a national directory of these sorts of things) call our state homebase. Another 100 organizations throughout New England list themselves as available for service within the state.

Buddy Thayer, who co-founded Ocean State Paranormal in 2012 with Jarris Chrissos, says he’s been asked before about the seemingly high concentration of investigators for a state with such small land mass. “I don’t know what it is,” he says. “We do have a lot of cases. Sometimes it ends up being nothing, but there just seem to be a lot in Rhode Island.”

Thayer first became involved in the paranormal in 2009, after a series of unexplained phenomena in his mother’s home. This week marks Ocean State Paranormal’s fifth anniversary. “What we do isn’t so much in terms of  ‘catching’ something or not catching something. What we do is give people the peace of mind that this isn’t in their heads,” Thayer said. “That’s the main reason we do it.”

On an investigation, Thayer explains that what Ocean State Paranormal does first is emphasize confidentiality with any clients who contact them to visit their residence. “We only talk about our clients online in terms of case numbers. A lot of people fear what other people will think,” he explained. “That they’ll think, ‘They’re calling the Ghostbusters,’ or people will think they’re crazy.”

Once on location, Thayer and his team focus on the history of the location — meaning future conversations, like the upcoming Haunted History event, are rich in detail. The history of the home, the land and the previous residents and their occupations are all examined.

Investigations can and have led to strange occurrences. Thayer notes an investigation in Woonsocket, which led to an audio capture of a male voice. “The home was originally built in 1880 by a Civil War Veteran, whose cavalry was slaughtered,” said Thayer. “He was one of only 30 guys who survived.”

One of the sites that will be discussed during the Haunted History lecture is the history of SK Victorian Mansion in Gardner, Massachusetts. Built in the 1880s by businessman Sylvester Pierce, the guest list of the mansion has, through the years, included everyone from former US presidents to Bette Davis to P.T. Barnum. When Sylvester and both his first and second wife died — and after the Great Depression affected the family business — Sylvester’s youngest son turned the mansion into a boarding house. The home was said to have been a brothel, and it’s been reported that a prostitute was strangled and died within the home. Another guest was burned alive in his bed.

Ken Watson, curator and contractor for the restoration of the mansion today, said in an interview with WCVB 5 earlier this month that at least 13 ghosts are in the house. The mansion is currently under restoration to be turned into a haunted bed and breakfast, in the ilk of the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast in Fall River.

Ocean State Paranormal was part of an investigative team this June and will be sharing their experience and the history of the mansion.

As part of the Haunted History talk, Ocean State Paranormal will also discuss — among other locations — the Ladd School, Smith Castle in North Kingstown, Kent County Jail and Varnum Memorial Armory in East Greenwich.

“It’s a phenomenal place with an incredible history,” Thayer said of the Armory. Construction for the Armory began in 1913 and today it houses weapons and artifacts from as far back as colonial America.

While Ocean State Paranormal has given lectures at the library in past years, the group is mindful to keep lectures fresh and share details from cases not previously covered. Next month, Ocean State Paranormal will hold a discussion at the Oak Lawn Branch Library in Cranston, built in 1895, where they’ll share their findings from multiple evenings spent investigating the location.

Oops. Maybe libraries aren’t a thrill-free Halloween destination after all.

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