An Investigation at Ramtail (Keith Johnson)

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It was on a cool, moonlit evening in early June of 2004, that I along with six other members of TAPS set out on a planned investigation to the rural town of Foster, Rhode Island. Included in this investigation would be my wife Sandra, my brother Carl, myself, Brian Harnois, Chris Finch, and Jennifer and Stephanie of TAPS. Our intended destination this evening was the long abandoned mill site known as Ram Tail, which, according to an 1885 census, lays claim to being the state of Rhode Island’s only ‘officially” haunted location!

With the beautiful sunset before us, we drove in three cars along Route 6, through the towns of Johnston, Scituate, and finally into Foster. As Sandra and Chris and I rode in Brian’s car, also affectionately referred to by us as ‘The Bro-Mobile’, Brian suggested, “Well, guys, what say we now psyche ourselves out for the investigation tonight? And we can do that with the appropriate soundtrack!”
“Sounds good to me,” I said. Chris agreed.
“Go for it, Bro’!” Sandra encouraged him.

Without hesitation, Brian then popped in a CD, and began loudly playing the familiar title theme to “GHOSTBUSTERS”, by Ray Parker, Jr. As usual, Brian began rhythmically swaying his head to the beat as he drove along, causing Sandra and myself to involuntarily begin doing the same, right in time along with him.

“If there’s something strange, in your neighborhood…Who you gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS!”
“If there’s something weird, and it don’t look good”, Who you gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS!”

We eventually arrived at the entrance to the wooded path, located just past Ram Tail Road in Foster, and parked our cars along the side of this darkened stretch of highway.

“I ain’t afraid of no ghost!”

After securely locking our vehicles, we spent about twenty minutes or so visiting a small historical cemetery located just down the street, slightly within the woods on the southern side. Within this small historical cemetery are interred several members of the Potter and Walker families, who figured prominently in the Ram Tail legend. Although a few of the photos we took while there showed some orb activity, we were unable to come up with any conclusive evidence, such might be obtained with EVP. We then as a group crossed the street, and, after locating the entrance at the edge of the woods, set out on our long trek along the darkly wooded path in the direction of the abandoned Ram Tail mill site. (Fortunately, we’d thought ahead of time to thoroughly coat ourselves with insect spray!)

As the seven of us ventured on toward our destination, with only the beams of our flashlights to guide us along the uneven, overgrown path, I asked if everyone present was familiar with the legend of the infamous ‘Ghost of Ram Tail’. Since some among our TAPS team this evening were only vaguely familiar with the story, and Stephanie had not heard the tale at all, Carl suggested that I relate the details as we walked along.

“Well,” I began, “the true facts behind this story are that in 1799, industrious William Potter founded a weaving mill which would be powered by the Ponagansett River, which ran through the area. By the 1820’s, the mill was beginning to thrive”, and William Potter offered partnerships in the business to a few of his close family members. Among these partners would be William Potter’s two eldest sons, and his son-in-law, whose name was Peleg Walker. It was therefore agreed that William Potter and his sons would oversee the mill operations during the day, while Peleg would be responsible for the building overnight. As part of his duties, Peleg would of course be responsible for patrolling the grounds at night, as well as ringing the mill bell, which summoned the mill workers each morning. Initially, this partnership proved to be a satisfactory relationship. As time passed, however, Peleg gradually became more and more dissatisfied with his position. Long, lonely nights spent in solitude away from the company of his loving wife Mary gave Peleg ample time to brood over his lot in life. Finally, out of desperation, Peleg decided to personally confront William Potter and his other business partners about his situation. This confrontation took place at the Ram Tail Mill on May 18th, 1822. Unfortunately, the interview did not go well for Peleg. An argument erupted among them, and although history doesn’t record exactly what this quarrel was about, it’s generally assumed to have been over finances.
“What is known, is that before leaving the mill that day, Peleg was heard to issue a stern warning to his business partners, telling them, “One of these days, you’ll have to take the keys to this mill from a dead man’s pocket!’ He then stormed out of the mill, trembling with rage and defeat.

“The following morning at sunrise, the mill bell failed to ring as usual. When mill workers eventually began to arrive, they found the mill to be securely locked from the inside. Finally, one of the workers managed to gain access through a window”, and discovered the lifeless body of Peleg Walker, hanging from the bell rope! From all appearances, the 35-year-old night watchman had done away with himself sometime during the night”, and sure enough, the keys to the mill were found in his pocket! The date was May the 19th, 1822.”

Carl asked, “Were they certain that it was a suicide, and not foul play? I mean, Peleg Walker obviously did have some enemies among his business partners, especially after confronting them.”

“Well, forensics being what they were at the time, there was only so much the medical examiner would be able to tell,”
I explained. “And of course, the ‘medical examiner’ back then would’ve probably been the county physician. Apparently there were no signs of a struggle. And remember, the Potter’s were one of the most prominent families in the town of Foster at the time.”
“Thanks. Please go on with your narrative, Keith,”
said Carl.

“Well,” I continued, “three days later, Peleg Walker was buried in the small Potter family burial ground. That very evening, the bell inside the Ram Tail Mill suddenly began ringing furiously, arousing townsfolk from as far away as Danielson Pike. When curious investigators arrived on the scene, the maniacal ringing suddenly ceased”, and the mill was found to be securely locked and deserted, with no signs of a forced entry. The following evening, the wild ringing started up once again in the middle of the night”, and as before, the mill was found to be locked and empty. The pull rope was promptly taken down. However, the bell itself started to ring during the middle of the next night, forcing the Potter’s to have the bell removed from the mill altogether. But, the problems were only just then beginning.

“Over the next year or so, travelers along Ram Tail Road during the evening hours would report seeing the grim, eerily recognizable apparition of Peleg Walker strolling along the mill grounds completely attired in white. He’d be seen with his lantern in hand, as if still tending to his nightly duties at the mill! Also, the entire, noisy operations would sometimes spontaneously start up inside of the empty mill in the middle of the night, forcing workers to arrive hours before their shift just to shut things down. And on at least one of these occasions, the large water wheel, which powered the mill operations, was observed to be running opposite the flow of the current! This seemingly impossible phenomenon was later verified by dozens of credible witnesses. One by one, terrified workers soon began refusing to return to the mill”, and the business eventually failed altogether. To most of the townsfolk, it seemed that Peleg Walker had finally succeeded in having the last laugh!

“Sadly, poor Mary Potter Walker never remarried. She died in the year 1837 at the age of 44, and was buried beside her husband in the Potter family cemetery, which is now Rhode Island Historical Cemetery # 38.”

Stephanie asked, “Is that the same historical cemetery we just visited earlier tonight?”

“No, although some members of the Walker and Potter families are also buried in that one.” I replied. “Peleg and Mary Walker, as well as William Potter, are buried in a small cemetery which is located just off of Winsor Road. Incidentally, Peleg Walker’s headstone bears a curious inscription, which reads: “Life how short; eternity how long.”
“Ooohh!” Stephanie said with a shiver.
“Sounds kind of prophetic.” commented Brian.
“Yes”, ironically so.” Carl agreed.
“Also,” I said, “an 1885 Rhode Island census for the town of Foster, officially lists the Ram Tail Mill as ‘haunted’.”
Chris then asked, “What about some of the more recent phenomena, which supposedly continues to take place in this area?”
“Actually, a group of us from TAPS came here a couple of years ago, to tape a segment for FOX 25,” I said. “Jenn was with us that night, and we experienced what seemed to be some slightly unusual phenomena.”
“Oh, really? Like what?” Stephanie wanted to know.

Jenn replied, “We did see some sort of light in the distance, through the trees, which seemed to be floating. And Rich who was with us that night, managed to capture on video what appeared to be a floating mist. Plus multiple orbs appeared in photos which I took.”

“Also,” I added, “there’s at least two other paranormal researchers who have heard the sound of a creaking lantern pass by them, sounding exactly like the kind of lantern which Peleg Walker would have carried on his rounds as night watchman. And on one occasion, these same two researchers witnessed an oblong, bluish glowing ball of light hovering over the foundation, of what once the main mill building. Also, there are those who over the years have claimed to hear the sound of a bell tolling, in the area where the Ram Tail Mill once stood.”

When I’d concluded my narrative, Sandra said, “Well, thank you, Keith, for relating that story to us.”
“Yes, thank you very much, Keith,” said Stephanie.

“My pleasure,” I said. “I especially enjoy relating true, historically documented tales of the paranormal, such as this one.”
Following a hike of well over twenty minutes, we finally arrived at our intended destination. “Well, here we are, folks,” I announced. “This is the area officially known as Ram Tail!”

“Great!” Brian said enthusiastically. “Just maybe we’ll even catch a glimpse of o’l ‘Peg-Leg’ Walker himself tonight!”
“Uh, Brian”, that’s actually Peleg’ Walker,” I clarified for him.

Momentarily waxing serious, Brian said, “I know. I was only making a joke.”
Chris asked me, “Why was this area called Ram Tail in the first place?”
“As far as we know, it was because of the wool products which were processed at the mill here,”I explained. “And when the mill business was at its peak, there was even a mini-community which developed here, where the mill workers and their families could live in close proximity to their place of employment.”
“Oh, I see,” said Chris.

After shinning the beam of his flashlight at the few crumbling foundations which surrounded us, my brother Carl commented, “Well, it doesn’t look like very much.”

“Yes, well the deserted Ram Tail Mill was destroyed by fire in 1873,” ;I informed him, “and the rest of the small community houses were left to fall into ruin. What you see here is all that remains. But this large foundation, right over in the woods to our left here, is where the main mill building once stood.”

Stepping forward and shining his own searchlight in the area, Brian said, “And so that’s the spot where Peg, uh, where ‘Peleg’ Walker hung himself, then.”
“Yes, that’s the exact spot,” I said.

We then began bustling about, and setting up our equipment.
Pointing out the largest of the foundations, I explained to the others, “This structure right over here is where the Ram Tail Mill itself once stood. It’s also the exact site where night watchman Peleg Walker apparently took his own life, on the night of May 19th, 1822.”

“So, this is the spot where it actually happened,” said Brian.
Jenn added, “On the night we were here taping the FOX 25 show, one of the investigators who was with us reported that he was suddenly feeling a little off-balance while standing next to the mill foundation over there, and asked if someone could take a picture. So, Renee of TAPS did, and the photo revealed what appeared to be a large orb, encircling his head.”
“Yes, I remember that,” I said. “As I recall, it somewhat resembled a halo surrounding his head. He seemed to be somewhat disturbed after seeing the photo, too.”

About twenty minutes into our investigation, it was Carl who reported our first possible hint of anything unusual. It was after he’d just returned from visiting the area of the some of the smaller foundations, that Carl informed me, “I thought you’d like to know, that while I was over there in that section just now, I overheard the sound of bell pealing evenly in the distance. Although I’m not sure if that holds any significance.”

“Really??” I asked, becoming intrigued. “That could very well be significant, since that’s part of the phenomena which has been reported here! Did it sound like it could’ve been the kind of bell which was used at the mill?”
“Yes,” replied Carl. “But then again, it also resembled the ringing of a church bell. It’s just that I’m not aware of any churches in this immediate area, at least none that would be close enough where you’d actually overhear the bell that clearly from this distance.”

Carl and I then both returned to the exact area where he’d overheard the ringing of the bell only moments before, in the hopes of possibly capturing the sound on audio. Unfortunately, the ringing had now stopped, and it had been far too distant for us to have picked up on the video which Sandra was taping. After I’d thanked Carl for the input, and verbally recorded the incident on audio tape, we rejoined the others and continued our investigation.

The seven of us then meandered a short distance in the opposite direction, on the northern side of the old factory ruins. We’d ventured less than a hundred feet, perhaps, when we noticed a small wooden sign, which had been posted upon a tree immediately to our right. “What does it say?” I asked. “Don’t tell me it’s a ‘No Trespassing’ sign way out here.”
“We’ll find out,” said Sandra. She then illuminated the small wooden sign with the light from her video camera, revealing the words: “WELCOME to the ENCHANTED FOREST!”

“Enchanted Forrest??” asked Brian. “Wonder who the heck could’ve put that up there?”
“It certainly dispels the haunted atmosphere of this place,” I commented.

With a laugh, Sandra added, “It can’t be the Enchanted Forest”, we don’t have Al Tyas with us!”
(Al Tyas, founder of D.C. Metro, a close personal friend and frequent contributor of articles to the TAPS site, is also well versed in ancient Celtic lore.)
We’d been investigating the site for a little over an hour”, taking photos, video, temperature readings and testing for EVP’s”, when our attention was suddenly distracted by what seemed like some sort of wailing sound out in the distance. “Wait!” said Brian. “Did you all hear that?” Within seconds, the mournful sound was heard again, this time a little closer. “There it is again!” Brian exclaimed to me. “What the hell is that??”
“Sounds to be some sort of an animal noise,” I said. “Either that, or someone’s out there having jollies with us.”
As the mournful call came again, even closer, Chris suggested, “Sounds more like an owl. Whatever it is, it seems to be moving up among the trees, so it couldn’t be a person.” Chris then cupped his hands over his mouth, and began calling back to it, by imitating the sound: “Ooooooorrr”, Ooooooorrr!”

The same sound came right back at us, this time in extremely close proximity to the old Ram Tail Mill foundation. “Ooooooorrr!”
Stephanie, who by now was staring to feel just a trifle unsettled, told us, “I’m starting to get a little creeped out by that sound! And calling out to it like that seems to be causing whatever it is to come closer to us.”
“Yeah, but like I said, it’s most probably just an owl,” Chris assured her. Once again, the night bird or whatever it was gave another long hoot”, and again, Chris responded to it in like manner. “Ooooooorrr!”
“That was a Finch, as in Chris,” Carl clarified for the sake of the audio recording.
“Chris, it sounds as though you’re probably responding to its mating call,”I told him. “With that black cloak you’re wearing, it just may consider to be the mate of its choice tonight!”

My attempt at levity did nothing to alleviate Stephanie’s feelings of trepidation. “Ooooooorrr!” the night bird call out to us from somewhere in the nearby trees once again.

Stephanie then asked us how much longer we were planning upon staying there. With a shiver, Sandra added, “Yes, this damp night air is going right through me. We are in close proximity to water, after all. I can’t wait to get back into a nice warm car.”
“Yes,” I agreed, “we’ve been here quite long enough. Plus the fact that we’ve left our cars unattended all this time. Maybe we should start wrapping things up here now, and start heading back. We can always review for possible evidence later on.”
Since everyone else was unanimously in agreement, we carefully packed up our equipment, double-checking to make certain that we’d left nothing behind, before starting to head back along the darkened path leading away from the Ram Tail Mill site. Eventually the hooting sound began to recede into the distance, despite Chris’ attempts to maintain communication with whatever night creature its source may have been.

The seven of us were not quite halfway though our return trip along the overgrown path, with only the beams of our flashlights to guide us along in the darkness, when Brian abruptly called us all to a sudden halt. “Wait, I thought I just heard something,” he announced. “It sounded like a low growl.”

We all froze, and listened intently. Both Jenn and Stephanie turned to face each other with a look of trepidation. Chris asked, “What do you think it was?”

“Shh!” said Brian. “There it is again, only closer this time! What the hell’s out there, Dude??”
“Yeah, I heard it too that time,” said Chris. “It sounded like some sort of animal nearby.” Although Chris shined his flashlight into the darkness of the nearby woods where Brian had indicated, no trace of any nocturnal animal was visible.
“If I’m not mistaken,” said Brian, “that’s the growl of a wild coyote, and there’s more than one of em’ out there, closing in on us. We’re being hunted, my friends!”

“Oooh, God!” said Stephanie, with a tremor in her voice. She and Jenn instantly clasped hands.
“Er, Brian,” Carl started to say, “I don’t think that even a pack of wild coyotes would-”

“SHH!!” Brian cut him off. In a hushed tone of voice, he then told us, “Now listen, everyone, here’s the game plan: We’re gonna try an’ make a run for it. Since Chris has his long knife with him, both me an’ Chris will head off the rear, an’ fight off the coyotes if they charge us and start to attack. We’ll start off slow, an’ when I give the word, everyone start to run. Everyone got that?”
Stephanie nodded, with tears in her eyes.

“Alright, everyone start moving forward, slowly at first,” Brian instructed us.
As a group, we then slowly began making our way forward once again, with Jenn and Stephanie leading the way with their hands tightly clasped for support. Fortunately, Jenn’s flashlight brightly illuminated the path in front of us. Sandra and I doubled behind them, with Carl directly behind us, and Brian and Chris guarding the rear, as planned.
“They’re trailing us, almost right on our heels!” Brian whispered. “Get ready!” Glancing behind us, Sandra and Carl and I saw nothing resembling a feral pack of coyotes. Nonetheless, Bro’ Harnois then shouted the command: “NOW! GO! GO! GO!!”
Once more, Carl glanced in back of Brian and Chris, to see if he could perceive any actual coyotes”, only to be quickly shoved forward by Brian. “RUN, DUDE, RUUUUUUUUUNN!!!”
Now inevitably stumbling over rocks and brush, we all hastened onward”, until finally, the glow of a streetlight came into view, indicating that the road was just up ahead. “Keep goin’!!” Brian shouted from behind us. “We’re almost there! They, they won’t follow us”, into the light!”

The seven of us then emerged from the entrance of the wooded path onto the partially illuminated road, where the safety of our parked cars awaited us. Turning to glance behind, Brian announced, “They’re gone! Just as I thought, the streetlight must’ve scared the pack of coyotes away.”
“Thank God!” said Stephanie, panting with relief.

Carl whispered to Sandra, “I never really noticed any coyotes in the first place.”
“Yes, well, at least we did get our exercise for the evening,” Sandra whispered back. We then all thoroughly checked ourselves and our clothing for wood ticks, before getting into our cars. Sandra and Chris and I climbed back into the ‘Bro-Mobile” once again, all of us feeling exhilarated after our nocturnal sprint. As soon as he’d started his car and pulled away, Brian again switched on the CD player, and began rhythmically bobbing his head to the familiar theme song while singing along: “Bustin’ makes me feel good!”
Back home in Warwick that night, I commented to Sandra, “It seems the only possible phenomena we may have encountered at Ram Tail this evening, was the sound of a bell which Carl heard ringing in the distance. And unfortunately, we weren’t even able to get it on audio.”
“Well,” said Sandra, “even if we didn’t get much in the way of paranormal evidence tonight, at least we did get some excitement, thanks to Bro’!”

“Excitable boy, they all said. Well, he’s just an excitable boy!” Warren Zevon

Just a little over one year after this event, Sandra, Carl, Chris Finch, Russ Brissette and I returned for a follow-up investigation at the abandoned Ram Tail Mill site in Foster. We were accompanied this time by fellow paranormal investigator Denise Jones, founder of the LIFE Foundation, and her mother. Also with us on this excursion were our friends Tom D’Agostino and his wife Arlene, who themselves have frequently investigated the Ram Tail site. Our main purpose in venturing here this evening, was that Denise was writing an article on paranormal investigation, to be submitted to ‘Ghost Magazine’, and she’d asked to accompany Sandra and I on an actual on-site investigation. We all agreed upon Ram Tail as an intriguing location.
Shortly after our arrival at the Ram Tail Mill site that evening, Sandra set up our video camera on a tripod directly in front of ruins of the main mill building, the very place where Peleg Walker had died at the end of a bell rope on May 19th, 1822. We’d been traversing the area for about an hour or so, and nothing out of the ordinary seemed to be happening. (In fact, without Brian Harnois being with us this time, there wasn’t even so much as a “coyote scare” to at least add some excitement!) Sandra had just returned to the video camera and had begun viewing the night vision footage, when she distinctly heard the crunching sound of footsteps coming up directly in back of her. Naturally assuming it to be one of us, Sandra commented without turning around, “I’m haven’t really been getting anything tonight, so I might as well start packing things up.”When no one answered, she instantly turned around, and saw that no one was actually behind her. At least, no one who could be seen! And yet, she’d very clearly heard the sound of footsteps approaching from behind.

After only a moment of hesitation, Sandra quickly snapped a photo with her digital camera. Visible in the photo she’d just taken was a segmented light streak, which appeared to be descending, sharply illuminated against the darkness of the background.
Just before we left the area of Ram Tail that night, five of us (including Denise, her mom, Tom, Arlene and I) also observed a small, round, white ball of light, which seemed to be flitting about in the woods directly in front of us. Although we were unable to capture this illusive anomaly on film, we were at least able to witness it with the naked eye. As previously mentioned, the abandoned Ram Tail Mill site is situated in an area near running water, which was once utilized as an energy source to power the actual mill operations so many years in the past. It would therefore seem at least plausible that this same running water continues to serve as an energy source, for the paranormal phenomena which is known to occur in this area.
And so it seems that the infamous Ghost of Ram Tail is still continuing to make its presence known in the rural town of Foster, Rhode Island”, in one form or another!

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