Rhode Island is a state with an extensive and dynamic history. This also means a lot of bizarre and sometimes inexplicable occurrences have happened here. Here are six terrifying urban legends from the country’s smallest state.
1. Stormalong and the Giant Octopus
It's unclear when this very old urban legend was first told, but there is much evidence that it began in Rhode Island. The story involves a ship sailing through the deepest part of the Atlantic when the anchor was knocked loose into the depths of the sea. After failed attempts to pull in the anchor and continue on their journey, the great caption Stormalong plunged into the ocean. Several moments later he emerged after successfully arm wrestling the giant octopus that was playing a prank on them. The anchor was brought in and the octopus was left tied in knots at the bottom of the ocean.
2. New England Vampire Panic
The New England Vampire Panic is a well documented period of history fueled entirely by urban legend and fear. Rhode Island was at the center of this series of unfortunate events consisting of the exhumation of corpses and burning of internal organs. The myth at the time was that tuberculosis was caused by the dead consuming the life of their surviving family members. The people of this time period thought the only way to stop the disease was to dig up the dead and burn their hearts to halt the "vampire" activity. This is definitely the stuff of nightmares.
3. Mercy Brown Vampire Incident
No other case during the Vampire Panic has become as legendary as the exhumation of Mercy Brown. Mercy's immediate family suffered from the tuberculosis outbreak and she was suspected to be causing the ailments from the grave. Upon examination, there were little signs of decomposition and the body had appeared to have changed positions. Though there are several scientific explanations for these occurences, there is still a popular opinion that she was indeed a vampire. Her grave in Exeter is a popular attraction for ghost hunters and fans of urban legends wishing to visit the cite of an alleged vampire.
4. The Foster Witch
The northern town of Foster is home to one of the state's most popular urban legends. Dolly Ellen Cole was a natural healer and suspected witch living in the area during the 1800s. The town's people set out against her and attempted to burn her alive through setting her house ablaze. While Dolly wasn't home, sadly her daughter was inside the home and perished in the fire. Dolly cursed the town and vowed revenge. Sightings of her ghost still appear throughout Foster. Her case is often confused with that of Dorothy Cole, a woman who was mysteriously murdered nearby during this time period. Their two tales have often been combined into one chilling urban legend.
5. Finger Nails Freddie
The terrifying cinematic character known as Freddy Krueger is thought to have been inspired by creepy campfire tales in Rhode Island. The stories of "Finger Nails Freddie", a violent man living in the woods with long finger nails, date back to the 19th century. The story say anyone that wanders onto his former property in the woods is murdered. There is some speculation that Finger Nails Freddie is actually a man who lost his family when neighborhood children set their home on fire. His face was burned as a result and he turned to the woods, but vowed revenge on the town.
This Rhode Island urban legend is specific to Block Island. It is said that in the 1700s, a passenger shipped called the Paletine was stranded at see during a storm. In one version of the tale, the ship was taken over by pirates who held the passengers captive and murdered the crew. Another version involves a mutiny by the crew who murdered the captain and imprisoned the passengers. In both versions the passengers ended up on an abandoned ship that eventually crashed on Block Island. While most of them were rescued and relatively unharmed, one woman was accidentally left on the ship. The people of the town burned the ship to avoid other boats getting caught up in the debris and the cries from the remaining passenger were heard as the fires blazed. It is said the ghost of the woman is still spotted and the image of the burning ship reappears each year.
These Rhode Island urban legends are in many ways sad historical accounts of terrible actions that occurred based on fear and misunderstanding. The urban legends that have evolved from the blurred historical accounts of these incidents are terrifying and nightmare inducing.