Smith’s Castle Investigation 7.15.2016
The 2016 Ocean State Paracon was held July 16 and 17th, but the evening of the 15th they hosted paranormal investigations at two locations; the Paine House Museum and Smith’s Castle. I couldn’t go to both locations that night, so settled on visiting Smith’s Castle. It was a fantastic step back into Rhode Island’s history, something I wasn’t aware of when I booked my spot on the investigation!
Early Rhode Island residents were the Wampanog Tribe to the North and East bay of the state, including the islands, the Narragansett Tribe which settled most of state on the west bay, and to the south the Niantic Tribe. In the early years of the English settlers, this area was known as Cocumscussoc and a trading post built by Rhode Island founder Roger Williams was established at the site of the current house. Richard Smith purchased the land and the trading post 1637, but the post was later burned down during the King Phillip’s War. In 1678 by Richard Smith Jr., built a new salt-box style house on the property which also served as a trading post. The house you see standing today has been modified from it’s original appearance however. It is one of the oldest homes in Rhode Island.
Two years prior to the house being rebuilt, this site saw the only case of a Colonialist being hanged, drawn, and quartered in America. Joshua Tefft, an English colonist, was found guilty of treason for fighting with the Narragansett Tribe during the Great Swamp Fight.
Smith’s Castle’s property also houses the Cocumscussoc Archaeological Site, a number of artifacts have been discovered on the site. Also, 40 men are buried on the property, soldiers who died during King Philip’s War (1675-78). The men are still buried there.
Richard Smith Jr., turned the property into a large plantation after the wars. However in in 1692, Smith Jr. died, and with new heirs the property passed to his nephew Captain Lodowick Updike and his wife Abigail Newton Updike. The Updikes made the plantation one of the biggest in 18th century New England, with more than 3,000 acres during its heyday. Being stock and diary farmers, the Updike plantation produced a great amount of cheese, agricultural crops, and a breed of horse known as the Narragansett Pacer.
Around 1740, Daniel Updike (Lodowick’s son) extensively remodeled the Castle into the structure you see today. The plantation stayed in the family until about 1812 when a large portion of it was sold off. The 300 acres around the Castle stayed intact however. In the 1870s there was a series of short-term owners of the property. The Fox family acquired the property in 1919 and turned it into a modern-day farm. In 1937 with Mr. Fox passed away however, the herd was sold off and the farm closed. In 1948 concerned citizens purchased the property in order to preserve it and use it for public education. In 1993 Smith’s Castle was designated a National Historic Landmark.
The Ghost Stories:
Docents at Smith’s Castle Museum willingly admit that the property is haunted. One of the common ghosts to encounter at Smith’s Castle is that of Elizabeth Singleton. Her portrait hangs in the front stairwell of the building (picture to the left) and is said to roam the halls and spacious rooms of the Castle at night. According to Nate Fuller, a former president of the Cocumscussoc Association in an interview for the Standard Times describes:
“She was a distinguished Newport lady. She attended many balls here, fell down the stairs and died, probably had too much rum. It is rumored that she is buried on the property in an unmarked grave. She did attend balls here, her dress caught in the stairs and she fell to her death. The noise heard could be that of a lady falling down the stairs delicately and breaking her neck.”
A well known ghost story out of Smith’s Castle originated in the 1970s when the curator of the museum called the cops after hearing noises in the building during the early hours. When a police officer arrived to do the rounds in the building, he was greeted by a male figure in colonial clothing walking up the stairwell. When ordered to stop, the figure aimed a ghostly musket at the officer and fired at the officer, forcing the officer to drop his weapon as he ran from the house. Perhaps it is one of the men who fought during King Philip’s War?
Hannah Robinson, niece of Abigail Updike, is said to haunt the second floor along with her husband as well as a former slave at the plantation. Faces have been seen staring out of windows at visitors to the property (this I can attest to, but more on that later.)
Finally, according to legend, the cows on the Updike and Fox dairy farms would never graze at the site of where the 40 men are buried.
Going to Smith’s Castle for the first time, I made sure not to look up the history of the place. I like to go into new locations knowing very little, just in case I pick up on something. I can describe what I pick up to people who know the place well, usually docents, and they can either confirm or refute what I’m picking up. It’s a good system. .
When walking around taking photos of the property before the event started, I got the distinct feeling of being watched from a window on the first floor of the house (fourth from the left end in the picture.) I could see in my mind’s eye, a woman watching me, unsure of what this stranger was doing on her property. The lady was in her late 40s, just starting to gray in her hair but already had wrinkles around her eyes and forehead.
Later, when I went upstairs to the master bedroom (also known as the “green room”) I walked into an interesting scene. It wasn’t a time slip, but the former owner of the four-poster bed was sitting in it, tucked in with his nightshirt on, and looking at me with a face of bewilderment. I had surprised him, and we just stared at each other for a moment before he just disappeared. Funny thing is, I wasn’t the only person to run into him that night! A camera woman for Andrea Perron also experienced the same situation as me!
What is interesting to note is the feeling that things aren’t in the right place, throughout the house. Many of the pieces of furniture are not original to the home, but rather, donated from families around New England. The pieces of furniture and other artifacts are from Colonial Times, but are not from the Updike plantation or trading post themselves. The four-poster bed is an example, and the ghost that went with it also wasn’t from the home.
Andrea Perron also ran into the same woman I had seen in the window, and I was fortunate enough to be with her during this time. We both saw the apparition of this women in the room with us, the room she had been watching me from turned out to be an old pantry. It was amazing to interact with this spirit with Andrea around.
Sometime in the future I plan on visiting Smith’s Castle again. If you are interested in visiting, it is located at 55 Richard Smith Drive, North Kingstown, RI 02852. http://www.smithscastle.org/