Phantoms and Folklore: Ramtail Factory’s Ghostly Tale

Welcome to the latest installment of ROADSIDE RHODE ISLAND. In this edition, we delve into the intriguing history of the Ramtail Factory, Rhode Island’s sole officially recognized haunted landmark. Despite my long-standing desire to explore this location, I had never managed to visit it until recently. On a recent hiking excursion with friends, we serendipitously stumbled upon Ramtail Factory. During our journey there, I regaled my companions with tales of the place’s eerie past, recounting the unfortunate deaths that had occurred and the ghostly legends that surround it, with much of my information sourced from the writings of Thomas D’Agostino.

Back in 2015, I had the pleasure of meeting Tom for the first time. I’ve been an avid fan of his meticulously researched and expertly written books, which cover a myriad of haunted locations in New England. Yet, Ramtail Factory seemed to hold a special place in his heart. During our first meeting, I acquired his book, “Rhode Island’s Haunted Ramtail Factory,” and Tom generously provided me with a map and directions to find the elusive site. Years later, I attended one of his captivating talks about Ramtail, which left me thoroughly entertained and informed.

Our visit to Rams Tail Road in Foster, Rhode Island took place on a beautiful autumn afternoon. The location was easy to locate, with a cemetery to our left, where we parked our vehicles. We were not alone; several other cars, one of them sporting a “Paranormal Investigator” license plate bracket, were also present. The picturesque scenery, with trees ablaze in fall colors, added to the enchantment.

As we ventured onto the path, we noticed a group of people on a small hill to the right. To our surprise, Thomas D’Agostino himself was among them, accompanied by his wife Arlene and a group of young adults who were recording an interview. Despite their busy schedule, Tom graciously spared time to converse with us and answer our inquiries. It was fortuitous, as we had initially mistaken the location, confusing it with Round Farm, a common error perpetuated by various online articles that feature photos of the farm.

Upon closer inspection, the remains of the factory were rather modest, possibly explaining the prevalence of Round Farm images in the media. We discovered foundations, a well, stone walls, and excavated areas containing antique bottles, kettles, and pots. Although I regretted not spending more time at the site, it only intensified my determination to return, perhaps for a nocturnal adventure.

The history of the Foster Woolen Factory, later known as Ramtail Factory, dates back to its founding in 1799 by William Potter. Situated along the Ponagansett River, the factory specialized in cleaning and preparing wool for the production of cloth. Over time, Potter expanded the business, even forming partnerships, including one with his son-in-law Peleg Walker, who served as the night watchman. Each night, Peleg patrolled the grounds with his lantern, and each morning, he rang the factory bell to signal the start of the workday.

However, disputes arose between Peleg and William Potter due to Peleg’s extravagant lifestyle and mounting debts to the business. The nature of their disagreement remains undocumented, but Peleg reportedly uttered ominous words, suggesting that the keys to the mill would have to be taken from a deceased man’s pocket.

On the fateful morning of May 19, 1822, the factory bell remained silent. Workers arrived to find everything securely locked. William Potter broke into the main building, only to discover Peleg’s lifeless body. Conflicting accounts emerged, with some claiming Peleg had hanged himself and others suspecting foul play. Regardless, the keys were found in his pocket alongside his lifeless form.

Several nights later, the village was awakened by the haunting tolling of the factory bell at midnight. When the factory door was unlocked, the bell fell silent, and no culprit was found. This eerie episode recurred the following night. The removal of the bell rope was intended to deter pranksters, but on the third night, the bell rang again, compelling the removal of the bell altogether.

The old well on the path just in front of the entrance to the factory ruins.

The supernatural occurrences escalated when the factory began running on its own, terrifying the workers. Those most frightened chose to leave, and it wasn’t long before the ghost of Peleg Walker, lantern in hand, was sighted making his rounds at the factory.

By 1850, the factory had accumulated considerable debt, making it nearly impossible to find laborers willing to work in a haunted establishment. As Thomas D’Agostino notes, the demise of the factory is credited to the haunting of Peleg Walker, a record documented in the Foster Historical Records Book at the Rhode Island Historical Library. In 1873, the factory was reduced to its foundations, possibly due to the actions of mischievous children.

The wall to the general store across from the factory.

Legend also speaks of two other deaths in the area, which may have contributed to the site’s ghostly activity. Richard Salisbury, residing in one of the dilapidated homes on the property, passed away after excessive drinking. Betsy Grayson, another resident, met a tragic end while attempting to fetch water from the Ponagansett River; she was pulled into the water, struck her head on a rock, and drowned.

The reported hauntings encompass the spectral glow of Peleg’s lantern, the sound of a swinging lantern, and the tolling of the factory bell, a relic long removed. In death, perhaps Peleg is fulfilling his commitment to Ramtail Factory by remaining the eternal night watchman.

The dam wall across the river.

I extend my gratitude to Thomas D’Agostino for his invaluable assistance in creating this blog. The information used is derived from his books, “Rhode Island’s Haunted Ramtail Factory” and “Ghosts of the Blackstone Valley,” both essential reads for anyone intrigued by the supernatural. He also kindly identified the photographs I took during my visit to Ramtail Factory.

For those interested in reading Thomas D’Agostino and Arlene Nicholson’s books or learning more about their “Dining with the Dead 1031” events, please visit their website HERE. Don’t forget to explore my other entries in the ROADSIDE RHODE ISLAND series.

~David Albaugh

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