Have a weird summer!

By DAVID SCHARFENBERG  |  June 16, 2010

In 1675, about 1000 men from a colonial militia assembled at Smith’s Castle — so called because it was fortified — before marching off to slaughter the Narragansett Indians in the Great Swamp Fight about 11 miles south.

But in that violent history lies Smith Castle’s great secret: it’s haunted.

One oft-seen figure: a ghostly figure with a musket who is said to have fired at a police officer who stopped by the house in the 1970s to investigate reports of odd noises.

Who, precisely, is the musketeer? There are a couple of theories: it may be the ghost of Richard Updike, whose family owned the house after the Smiths and who died in the Great Swamp Fight.

Or, perhaps it is Joshua Tefft, a traitor who met a particularly gruesome end at the hands of the colonial forces. Hung until nearly dead, he was pulled down, disemboweled, and drawn and quartered before his head was placed on a pike as a warning to would-be turncoats.

Neil Dunay, past president of the organization overseeing Smith Castle and a descendant of the original owner, says Tefft may be the only man ever hung, drawn and quartered in North American history.

There were slaves at Smith’s Castle, too. And one previous owner reported hearing the wailing of the departed human chattel. More recently, a resident director of the house saw the apparition of a slave boy sitting on the stone stairs that lead to the cellar.

Then, there is Phebe Congdon. A 19th-century inhabitant of the house, whose husband committed suicide on the site, she stares grimly at visitors from a portrait that hangs on a bedroom wall upstairs.

An artist painting a watercolor outside Smith’s Castle in 2004 claims to have seen a face in the window that looked quite like Phebe. And there have been more recent sightings — at a festival in May and during a tour in recent weeks.

Dunay, who doesn’t much believe in ghosts, says three mediums who recently came to Smith’s Castle on a ghost-hunting expedition sensed Phebe. And one paused beneath a hook where her husband is thought to have hung himself and said someone, in that spot, had made a serious decision.

Serious, indeed.



The rooster at Sollitto’s Liquor Mart, Providence

We take you next to Narragansett Boulevard in Providence, where you’ll find an eight-foot-tall, 200-pound fiberglass rooster standing guard outside Sollitto’s Liquor Mart, a family establishment that dates to 1936.

Picked up at auction by owner Domenic Sollitto for about $200 several decades ago, the rooster is nameless and doesn’t do much squawking. But he expresses himself from time to time.

“Spirits Low, See Sollitto,” the family once etched on the side of the bird. And after 9/11, another message: “USA, Love It or Leave It.” Never mind that a chicken is not generally considered a symbol of resolve.

The bird has since suspended his career as a propagandist. But unadorned, he still serves as a useful landmark. Todd Sollitto, Domenic’s son and manager of the store, says out-of-towners are frequently told to “take a left at the rooster” — though they can find themselves a bit lost if the bird happens to be away for his biennial paint job at Universal Auto Body.

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