Ram Tail Mill was founded in the 1813 by William Potter, Peleg Walker, and several other partners. The mill was powered by the nearby Ponangansett River, and mechanically spun and wove woolen cloth. Wool comes from sheep which is why it was called the Ram Tail Mill.
William Potter's two sons managed the operations in tandem with Peleg Walker. Walker was supposedly a cranky, disagreeable man, but managed to find his niche as the mill's night watchman. He would patrol the mill buildings with a lantern in his hand, and then ring the bell after sunrise when it was time for the workers to start their day. Things went well for several year and a small village formed around the mill.
There was always tension between Peleg Walker and the Potters, but at some point it erupted into a major argument. Neither legends or historical records indicate what it was about, but it was bad. It ended with Walker shouting, "You'll have to take the key to this mill from a dead man's pocket!"
His warning came true. On the morning of May 19, 1822 the bell did not ring. When the puzzled workers arrived from their houses they found Peleg Walker hanging dead from the bell rope. The key to the mill was tucked into his pocket. Walker was 35 years old.
The locals assumed Walker was a suicide and buried his body nearby. Operations resumed at the mill, and with the cranky night watchman gone the atmosphere at Ram Tail was much calmer. But one night the workers and the Potter family were awakened by the mill's bell ringing wildly. They ran to to investigate but found the mill was empty. The bell was ringing on its own.
The mysterious ringing happened on several other nights (usually at the stroke of midnight) until the Potters took down the bell rope. Maybe the rope was just blowing in the wind? This didn't help - the bell still would ring late at night. They finally removed the bell itself.
This brought peace for a short while, but other strange things started to happen. The water wheel moved backwards, against the flow of the river, and the mill's machinery would run by itself late at night. Even worse, someone could be seen walking around the mill at night carrying a lantern. It looked suspiciously like Peleg Walker...
Fearing that the mill was cursed, the workers began left to find other jobs. Without anyone willing to work there the Potters were forced to shut it down. The little village was abandoned and became a ghost town. No one lived there anymore, but Peleg Walker could still be seen wandering through the empty buildings late at night.
The mill burned down in 1873 but kept its reputation as a haunted location. In fact, the 1885 Rhode Island census lists the Ramtail Mill as haunted, making it the only officially haunted place in the state.
We did not see Peleg Walker's ghost, but we did have one weird thing happen to us. As I was taking a photo of the trail that leads directly to the ruins, my phone's camera went a little haywire. The screen just turned blinding white. This happened to me one other time that day. The same thing happened to Tony, but he didn't notice until we got home that some of his photos were all white. Supernatural phenomenon or just a camera malfunction on a bright sunny day?
|One of my all white photos!|
The conservation land is very beautiful and has some amazing stone walls that run along the main trail and into the woods. The walls are covered in lichen, as was the ground at a nearby historic cemetery where we found the graves of some members of the Walker family. (Peleg Walker is buried in another cemetery about a mile away.)
DIRECTIONS: I've read some accounts online of people having trouble finding the ruins, but we got there relatively easily. Take Route 6 west from Providence until you reach Foster. Go south on Rams Tail Road. You'll know you're going the correct way because you'll pass a cemetery on the left. Rams Tail road becomes a dirt road for a while, but when it ends take a left on Central Pike. A short way down the road you'll see the trail entrance with a fire gate on your left. There is space for one or two cars to park.
Follow the path until you reach a four way crossroad. Go left and follow the path as it curves along the water. When the path splits like a T, take the right and follow the path up along the hill. The ruins are at the top of the hill.
My sources for this post: Joseph Citro and Diane Foulds's Curious New England, Rory Raven's Haunted Providence, Michael Bell's Food for the Dead, and Rhode Island's Haunted Ramtail Factory by Thomas D'Agostino and Arlene Nicholson.