Newport, Rhode Island. This coastal beauty is one of New England’s most frequented tourist destinations, famous worldwide for its Cliff Walk, sandy beaches, and of course, the Newport Mansions. Its gilded facade is not to be taken at face value, though, for it may mask a much darker, much spookier aspect of the city. Being the […]
The haunted White Horse Tavern was a stop on the trip.
Photo Credit : Bethany Bourgault
Newport, Rhode Island. This coastal beauty is one of New England’s most frequented tourist destinations, famous worldwide for its Cliff Walk, sandy beaches, and of course, the Newport Mansions. Its gilded facade is not to be taken at face value, though, for it may mask a much darker, much spookier aspect of the city. Being the self-proclaimed legend-hunter that I am, I decided to investigate this ghostly side by taking a tour with the renowned Ghost Tours of Newport.
My parents and I arrived at the Newport Marriott to meet our guide with an appropriate level of skepticism and excitement. It was to be my first-ever guided ghost tour, and to be honest, I really didn’t know what to expect. Our guide sauntered down the hall wearing a costume tuxedo complete with top hat and carrying a lantern. Greetings were exchanged, a healthy level of Yankee humor was tossed around (our guide was quite a character) and we were off.
First we headed to the waterfront, where we dipped our toes into the legends of Newport…
In the late 1700s, a large ship — entirely too big to navigate Newport’s rocky and dangerous coast — was spotted approaching the city. The townspeople watched in horror as the ship kept moving forward. Surely it would hit the rocks soon. They had seen it happen before. They even started planning how they would make it to the wreckage to claim whatever goods could be saved. But to their surprise, the ship ran aground with no obvious problems. The townspeople figured that the crew would come out for whatever they needed and left the ship alone.
After a day or so had passed with no indication of a crew anywhere, the townspeople indulged their curiosity and voyaged out to investigate. They found many normal things — a kettle being heated on the stove, preparations for dinner already laid out, some spare change in the captains quarters, even a cat and a dog. But one very important piece was missing. There was no crew. The ship disappeared a few days later without a trace.
We journeyed through the cobblestone streets and alleyways (one aptly named “Blood Alley” because of its long history of pirate violence) listening to tales of ghosts on both land and sea. All the while our guide, whose hilariously entertaining prose engaged even the most skeptical participants, encouraged us to take photographs of places where previous guests had captured “spirits” on their cameras. One such place was a monument near the center of the historic district, not far from the site of the old gallows where many a pirate took his last breath. I unfortunately didn’t capture any orbs or spirits, but it was still fun to try.
We passed the site where many have reported hearing the thumping of a drum. Odd sound to hear from a ghost, right? Many years ago, two men thought they had discovered the location of a pirate’s buried treasure. They thought it would be accessible from a hidden tunnel, but the tunnel was much too small for either man to fit through. They hired a poor local boy, who was eager to make some extra cash for his family, to check it out. They told the boy to rhythmically beat a drum in the tunnel while they followed the sound from above. When the boy beat the drum faster, the men would start digging. That was the signal that the boy had found treasure. For a while, the plan worked. All of a sudden though, the beating stopped. The men jumped to the conclusion that the boy had found and run off with the treasure, and raced to the tunnel’s mouth to stop him before he got away. They found no boy, though, and no tunnel for that matter. The tide had come in and completely submerged the tunnel.
Many of the stories were more lighthearted, like the one about an uninvited guest at a costume party. The homeowner didn’t recognize the man when he showed up to her Halloween celebration, but she let him in because he had one of the coolest and most accurate colonial-era costumes she had ever seen. This strange, well-dressed guest made his way straight through the crowd and up the stairs, never to be seen again. Perhaps it was really his home, and the living homeowner was the uninvited guest.
Finally we made our way to Newport’s Old Trinity Church. The stately building was erected in 1726, but the congregation was established as early as 1698. Many of the country’s founding citizens attended worship in its walls while visiting Newport, and the graveyard surrounding it serves as the final resting place for some of Newport’s historical figures. It was the perfect haunted landscape to end our tour on, and our tour guide’s humor had my parents and I laughing all the way home.
Of course, our guide told us about many more stories and places than the few I shared with you. To hear them all, take the tour! Tours last around 90 minutes and walk about a mile.
Check out Ghost Tours of Newport for information about ticket pricing and tour times.