By Katie Lewis
This month’s dare took place in Providence’s newly renovated Arcade, which is located between Westminster Street and Waybossett Street and rumored to be haunted by the ghost of a shopkeeper who dwells on the third floor. My task: to dress as the ghost and haunt … I mean, visit … the new shopkeepers.
To get into character, I consulted Providence’s own Rory Raven, author of Haunted Providence and other books about our state’s ghostly tales. The ghost’s name is Annie, and she and her sisters owned a shop on the third floor called Three Sisters Hat Shoppe. Annie fell madly in love with a man named James who worked just down the street. Her wealthy parents forbade her to see James because he was below her social standing, but no rules of society could steer Annie’s feelings. James used to visit Annie at the Arcade, which was their favorite place because it was safe from her family’s judgment.
James decided that in order to earn the family’s approval, he would need to make more money, so he hopped on a trade ship to seek his fortune in the Orient. Sadly, his trade ship sank for reasons unknown and James never returned. Annie never married or loved another man. Instead, she worked and waited at her hat shop praying that James would come walking through the doors. Annie’s faith in their love kept her going, and she waited in vain till her dying day. This is where it gets creepy. There have been reported sightings of Annie and James strolling the third floor in spectral form – turns out not even death could keep these lovers apart.
To complete my dare, I needed to look the part with a bun at the nape of my neck, a floor-length skirt, a button-up frilly shirt, and of course, a beautiful hat. Dressed in my Victorian best, I popped into the shops, welcoming the new shop keepers to the Arcade, and introducing myself as their new neighbor. I handed out business cards for my hat shop and asked if anyone had seen my beloved. Some people looked confused, but humored me. Others enjoyed playing along with me by showing me the ways of the new world. They even explained to me that it is acceptable in today’s age for women to wear pants and even dresses that show ankle. CRAZY!! I even mistook a couple of men for James and I ran up and hugged them exclaiming, “James, you’re alive! They told me you were dead! I knew you’d come back for me!” All the men I thought were James looked quite confused; however, no one turned down my embrace.
Annie and James, if you are out there, rest in peace, forever entwined in the throes of young love, and please try not to scare your new neighbors too much. Providence, all I can tell you is life is short, so live to the fullest, laugh often and most importantly, love like there’s no tomorrow .