Summer is here. And if you’ve spent any time at all in the Biggest Little, you know just what to do: hit the beach, buy stock in Del’s, and bring a dozen eggs to the Bristol Fourth of July parade so you can tell the pols just how you feel.
The age-old rituals of June, July, and August are, well, age-old. No need to revisit them in these pages.
We take you, instead, to places a little less predictable and, perhaps, a little less scenic: the gritty streets of Providence, the highway department in Glocester, Route 6 in Johns-ton.
Hell, we’ll even take you to the cemetery.
Sure, sun and surf are great. But they’re so predictable, aren’t they? Here at the Phoenix, we’re urging you to break from the tyranny of sunblock and seafood now and again and do something different — something weird.
And in that spirit, we offer you a guide to the bizarre; a random assortment of Rhode Island oddities; a collection of the kitschy, kooky, and macabre — all begging for a visit.
So put down your beach ball, grab a camera, and throw the Ouija board into the trunk. Away we go.
OH, THE HORROR
Lovecraft's grave, Swan Point Cemetery, Providence
Had enough of the chick flicks and family outings that soak up so much of the summer?
Why not visit the East Side grave of a misanthropic horror writer convinced that life has no discernible meaning?
Providence native H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) — a man whose influence on Stephen King and the like is second only to Edgar Allan Poe — is buried at Swan Point Cemetery off Blackstone Boulevard.
And his biography is not exactly the stuff of a Hollywood confection: he was tormented by “night terrors” as a child, his syphilis-addled father died in an insane asylum when Lovecraft was only seven, and the writer’s own marriage dissolved in financial woe.
No wonder, then, that Lovecraft spent much of his adult life shacked up in his mother’s house, imagining the worst in New England’s dark woods:
Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places. For them are the catacombs of Ptolemais, and the carven mausolea of the nightmare countries . . . . But the true epicure in the terrible, to whom a new thrill of unutterable ghastliness is the chief end and justification of existence, esteems most of all the ancient, lonely farmhouses of backwoods New England; for there the dark elements of strength, solitude, grotesqueness, and ignorance combine to form the perfection of the hideous.
Among the characters appearing in his stories: the protagonist whose heart is devoured by giant rats, the morphine-addicted merchant marine officer who contemplates sui-cide after encountering a scaly monster who portends the end of humanity, and of course the “mad faceless god [who] howls blindly in the darkness to the piping of two amor-phous idiot flute-players.” Gotta have one of those.
OK, so it’s not exactly beach reading. But really, how many times can you thumb through that People magazine?
Smith’s Castle, North Kingstown
If spooky is your thing, you may want to visit Smith’s Castle in North Kingstown. Oh sure, the Colonial-era house looks like a quaint tourist site. There are docents in bonnets. And there is quite a bit of history there.