The hunt is on for ghosts at Foster Town House
FOSTER - The town of Foster already has one ghost on the record books and a paranormal investigation at the old Town House may reveal more. Investigators from the West Warwick based Ghost Hunt Organized Search Team staged a search last month for possible paranormal activity at the Foster Town House at 181 Howard Hill Road.
Though the old civic building lacks a singular traumatic event in its history, John Austin, GHOST lead investigator, said the town house's age and heritage make it a good candidate for a supernatural examination.
The Foster Preservation Society is headquartered in the town house basement and sponsored the visit from GHOST. John Lewis, Foster Preservation Society secretary, noted that the old building, in continuous use since its construction as the Second Baptist Church of Foster in 1796, hosted its first town meeting in 1801 and was officially deeded to the town in 1822.
"It is the oldest continually active town house in the nation," said Lewis. "There are older town house buildings in the nation but they are not still in use or have not been continually in use since their construction."
In addition, said Lewis, "The building is full of thumps and creaks and occasionally the lights go off for no known reason." He added, "With the long history of religious and town gatherings, some serene and some raucous, what better place to do a ghost hunt? After all, what ancient New England structure is without its legends?"
One such legend is the story of Peleg Walker, a troubled business owner who met a tragic end hanging from the Ramtail Mill bell tower in 1822, the same year Foster took possession of the old town house. According to the story, passed down by locals orally until it was officially recorded by Margery Matthews in "Peleg's Last Word: The Story of the Foster Woolen Manufactory" in 1987, Walker had a falling out with his partners in the family woolen mill business. Asked to give up the keys to the factory, he threatened that they would have to take them "from a dead man's pocket." When Walker was found, a suicide victim hanging by the bell rope, the keys were, indeed, in his pocket.
Immediately following the tragedy, locals reported hearing the sound of a clanging bell at odd hours of the night, and so the bell was removed. The sound continued after the bell was taken down, and in fact the sound of clanging bells was reportedly heard even as the abandoned and derelict building burned to the ground in 1873. Odd, unexplainable activity continued at the site, and a note in the town's 1885 census states that the area is haunted, making Peleg Walker's ghost the only supernatural entity ever officially counted in the census records.
GHOST investigators last month covered the building with infrared motion detectors, audio recorders, electromagnetic field gauges, and temperature sensors in hopes of capturing any unusual movement or dramatic temperature changes that signal the presence of a paranormal entity. Austin said that he and his team devised their investigation methods, which combine personal surveillance with hours of audio and video recordings, through years of practice and observation. "The fact is, you need a lot of patience for this type of thing," said Austin. "You do spend a lot of time sitting, waiting, and watching."
GHOST investigators will return in the coming weeks to present the findings of their study. Lewis said that even if no paranormal activity is uncovered at the town house, the group will present an explanation of their methods and present evidence collected at other investigation sites, including Slater Mill in Pawtucket and the West Warwick Town Hall, which once served as that city's jail and is known for its unusual supernatural events.
For more information about this and other upcoming Foster Preservation Society events, visit www.fosterpreservationsociety.org.