NORTH KINGSTOWN – For all those interested in the existence of ghosts and spirits, Smith’s Castle will begin hosting a series of paranormal investigations this month.
Guided by the paranormal group RISEUP, guests will tour the historical building and property, searching for signs of the supernatural. And, according to the Ken DeCosta, RISEUP’s founder and director, the likelihood of running into something unexplainable is relatively high.
“You have quiet nights there. But maybe, 40 percent of the time you might have something [...] that’s profound, something that really grabs you and can’t explain,” DeCosta said, “which in my experience doing this is quite a lot.”
Smith’s Castle, which was built in the 17th century, has a long, storied history, making it a hotspot for the paranormal, ghosts and spirits alike.
Established by Richard Smith, and visited by famous historical figures like Roger Williams, the property was the epicenter for countless, unforgettable and sometimes tragic moments, including the Great Swamp War, a battle between the Narragansett Indian Tribe and colonial troops that left many dead in its wake.
“With the Great Swamp War and a lot of the conflicts between the Native Americans and the settlers, Smith’s was sort of the epicenter for a lot of that type of thing. There’s been a lot of traumatic death, there’s been a lot of tragedy there,” DeCosta said. “And the prevailing theory in paranormal is that sometimes, when those things like tragedy and trauma, leaves an imprint on the environment in a lot of these different places.”
“It all comes down to the history of the place. Smith’s Castle is quite iconic, in terms of what it meant to the state of Rhode Island,” he added.
It is for this reason, he continued, that several guests, investigators and mediums have experienced something paranormal in nature.
“We’ve experienced a lot of doors opening that were latched, that literally unlatched themselves and opened,” he said. “This is something that we’ve seen as the group who handles it but a lot of our guests have seen this same kind of thing.”
“We actually had a reporter doing a photoshoot one day and he went up and saw this himself,” he added. “So he was like, ‘I got more than I bargained for, I think I’m going to leave now.’”
Other happenings and anomalies people have experienced over the years include lights that tend to float and just wander about the room until they vanish and disappear, voices that answer in response to questions and footsteps running around the building.
“On some occasions, quite a few occasion, we’ve gotten a response back from a voice that wasn’t in the room with us,” DeCosta said. “There was a former owner, named Benjamin Congdon, and at one point in the room where it was said he took his life, we had a voice say ‘Congdon’ and we were able to record that.”
He went on to say that even for him, a paranormal investigator, the amount of unexplainable events was surprising.
“Because as an objective person that does this, I always like to figure out the rational explanation before I go and declare anything to be supernatural or paranormal,” he said. “On those occasions I mentioned, those things happened with no rational explanation. We look at that as though, alright, someone’s letting us know they’re here and that’s fine, there’s never been anything malevolent that’s happened there.”
This year will be the fourth that RISEUP will be hosting a paranormal investigation of Smith’s Castle, an effort DeCosta said that he and his group–which is composed of people with backgrounds in the medical profession, engineering and education, among other fields–conduct in order to “reach across to the other side.”
“Essentially, what we’re talking about, is people who lived there, worked there and had ownership of the place and were part of the history of that location,” he said. “You have to understand that you’re talking to someone who was once among the living and are just in a different place.”
And though Smith’s Castle has a higher rate of paranormal activity than most other buildings and properties, DeCosta said RISEUP was objective and unbiased in their research and investigations.
“We try to document. We’re not out looking for ghosts or looking to prove that they exist,” he said. “We’re not afraid at all to say I don’t think anything’s here.”
“We’re not skeptics,” he continued. “Skeptics simply don’t believe in this. We’re open minded, but we’re skeptical. We ask questions, we analyze the data that we gather. We try to be objective on it because we don’t want to show a bias one way or another.”
In order to reach their conclusions, RISEUP uses technology like electronic voice phenomenon (EVP), digital recorders, handheld video recorders, infrared cameras, environmental readings and barometric pressure.
“We go a little deeper than Ouija boards,” he joked.
He also said that curiosity drives the team to find an explanation behind the unexplainable.
“At the end of the day, we’re just trying to find out why people are having these experiences and help them to understand what it is happening to them,” he said.
Gail Shawn Burda, Smith’s Castle’s office manager and bookkeeper, said the reason why they choose to invite RISEUP back each year is because of the way they handle the investigations, which is different than what might be expected.
“They’re very respectful. They’re not a group that finds something and run to YouTube and post it,” Burda said. “That’s why they’re the only group we allow to come in.”
She also recounted several stories that she herself had been told since she started working at Smith’s Castle, including doors suddenly opening, guests seeing spirits and ghosts and more paranormal phenomenon.
And while Burda said that by all accounts the spirits seem “content” in their place at Smith’s Castle, she said she is still a little wary entering the building alone, especially at night.
“I can’t go in the room without saying, ‘excuse me, I’ll only be a minute,’” she said, only half-jokingly.
The paranormal tours will be held from 7 p.m. to midnight on the following Saturday dates: June 15, Aug. 10, Sept. 21, Oct. 26 and Nov. 16 . Participants must be at least 16 years old, and the cost is $35 per person, pre-paid and non-refundable. For reservations, call (401) 294-3521 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The evening visits are limited to ten people.
Smith’s Castle is located at 55 Richard Smith Drive, North Kingstown.
On top of the investigations, RISEUP will also be hosting their annual charity event, the Ocean State Paracon, on July 13 and 14. The event will include paranormal celebrities, artists, psychics and jewelry makers. It will be held at the Assembly Theatre in Harrisville from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days, with tickets going for $12 per day, $20 for the weekend and $5 for kids under 12.
All of the proceeds will go to Friends Way, which offers open-ended groups for children ages 3 to 18 and their families following the death of a significant person in their lives.