The Paranormal Investigators: In conversation with Thomas D’Agostino and Arlene Nicholson

Paranormal stories have always fascinated me. I like to believe there is some sort of afterlife and a way for spirits to connect with the living from the great beyond, but I doubt I’ll ever know for certain; however, there’s a beauty to the mystery and to the people trying to unlock the secrets of the unexplained, people such as Thomas D’Agostino and Arlene Nicholson, husband and wife paranormal investigators, researchers, and authors, and founders of Dining with the Dead 1031.

Bobby Forand (Motif): How did you become interested in paranormal activity?

Thomas D’Agostino: I actually grew up in a haunted house. I stayed in college for six days in a haunted house. I had to leave because the activity was so intense, I could not study or sleep. Then, I started researching various sciences from social, physical, and esoteric disciplines to find a clue as to why these events transpire.


Arlene Nicholson: Tom and I were best friends for years. As long as I knew him, he had an interest in investigating legends and the paranormal, which involved researching obscure locations and cool legends. I sometimes went with him on his day trips to take nature photographs. I didn’t have an interest or take an active part in investigating until my first paranormal experience. It happened well after midnight on a moonless night at Ramtail Factory in Foster, RI. I saw light illuminate and move across a trail when no one but Tom and I were there. There was no way that could have logically happened! From then on, I was hooked… and still am.

BF: How do you learn of a local story worth researching?
AN: There are many avenues. Town Hall records, old newspapers and publications, word of mouth, local libraries and historical societies, looking for something and finding something else worth looking into and also our personal library in our home, which contains about 2,000 books on New England, some almost 200 years old.

BF: How much research goes into each investigation? Can you describe your process?
TD: A lot of research. We like to know as much history as possible before visiting a site – what may have existed before and all the characters involved in that site from as far back as possible. We search through records and try to establish some timeline or era that may be pertinent to the alleged paranormal occurrences. Also, any modifications or restorations currently taking place, name, age, and relation of the people affected and the condition of the mental and physical state of the people involved. There is a lot to be ruled out before knowing what to rule in.

BF: What is your favorite part of the investigation?
TD: When something sudden and unexplained happens, that warrants close review. Also when something shows up on the recordings that were not seen or heard at the time of the investigation.

BF: What is it about New England lore that is so special?
TD: New England is the oldest continuously settled region in the country. Many events have
left their psychic scar on the land. Wars, hardships, disease, enemy attacks, wild animals, and starvation due to harsh winters are among the many things that make for lingering energy. Also, the underground streams and vast amounts of quartz seem to create a natural battery that perpetuates these haunts.

BF:  What is the oldest story you’ve researched? What is the most recent?

TD:  One of the oldest stories goes back to about 1655 when the Mowry Tavern was in Providence. There was a man named Clawson who was killed nearby and cursed the family responsible for the deed. The curse lasted for many generations.

One of the most recent and strangest was the reappearance of who is believed to be the ghost of Annie Trask. She drowned in the Clear River in 1904, and when the exact same storm took place in 2006, several people, including first responders, saw a strange woman in the water before vanishing underneath. No one was ever reported missing or found. It became apparent to the witnesses after a massive search that they may have witnessed a ghost. We researched the event and discovered the sad fate of Annie Trask in 1904 and were able to link it with the strange event of the present.

We have had many more recent investigations in private homes, but they are confidential.

BF: What part of your career are you most proud of? What was your favorite investigation?
TD: Being able to help people with their concerns, whether it turns out to be rational explanations or something else. To be able to give them peace of mind, knowing they are not crazy or alone, helps them feel better and makes us feel like we have really achieved something more than just “chasing ghosts.” We do not charge for our investigations. We do it to help those who are in need of our specific experience.

Our most remarkable investigation was not planned, and happened live on a CBS Boston morning news program. This may have been the first time a ghost voice was recorded live on TV. On October 28, 2022, we were asked to discuss the ghosts of Concord’s Colonial Inn briefly. While demonstrating the ghost-hunting equipment we use during our events, a ghost voice chimed in during a live interview with the host of the program. When the host asked if the inn is called Concord’s Colonial Inn, or The Colonial Inn, a voice came over the ghost box and said “Both.” The host also jokingly said that the ghost was camera shy, then the word “Sorry” was heard on the ghost box.

BF: What are you currently working on? 
TD: Right now, we are working on our newest book, Ghosts of King Philip’s War. Our latest publication, New England’s Haunted Route 44 by Arcadia History Press just came out in August.

BF: What are some myths about paranormal research?
TD: Lights Out. We only use lights out if the situation calls for it. If the activity happens in the daylight, then we investigate at that time. If the activity happens at night when lights are on, then we recreate that. If it happens late at night when the lights are out, then that is what we will do.

The lights out on TV are mostly for theatrics and add a spooky element to the segment.
Another misconception is that someone is “an expert” in the field. Every new investigation presents another opportunity to learn something new. One may be well experienced in the field but the only experts are the ones we are trying to communicate with.

BF: How do you fact-check a paranormal story?
TD: We fact-check a paranormal story by researching every possible avenue, including going back as far as where the story may have originated. Usually, that is the brass ring as to how authentic or legendary the story is. Sometimes it takes weeks, but determination and the will to find the facts drive us. It can take days researching just one name to find out why it is mentioned somewhere in a story but not in a retelling of the same story by someone else. The deeper we dig, the more we find. 

In one example, we found out who built the Seabird, the famous ship that came into Newport with no one on board, by [researching] a furniture receipt. Looking up the names of prominent merchants of the time and the deduction of who made major purchases from merchant profits led to the answer.It may seem tedious to some, but to us it is like opening a new doorway into the history and haunts of our region.

BF: Please add anything else you feel may be important.
TD: I have been doing this for almost 42 years, Arlene for at least 25 years. We have seen a lot, but we will never know definitively what happens or why until we can go to the other side and return. Or have a real ghost sit down to dinner and divulge what transpires on the other side of the veil. We can only take what we experience from our side of that veil and try to come up with answers or at least a hypothesis scientifically. It is a massive puzzle that we have only a few pieces to at present. You do not need to be a seasoned investigator to find the answers. Anyone can experience something that may be another piece of the puzzle we call the paranormal.

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