New England has a lot of haunted places. Perhaps it is the combination of long history and the composition of the land itself that contribute to this, but the region has one of the highest concentrations of haunted places in the world. One of the most haunted of these is a quaint, unassuming little historical riverside mill, which has gone on to become ground zero for all manner of paranormal activity.
Located along the banks of the Blackstone River in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, in the United States, is the historical Slater Mill. It was built in 1793 by a textile apprentice from England by the name of Samuel Slater, and he was the first to make use of a set of machines as developed by Richard Arkwright and used in England that could be powered by using water power to spin yarn, making the mill the first textile spinning mill in North America to be powered by a water wheel. In its time it was completely groundbreaking technology, using a dam, waterway, waterwheel, and mill to help usher in the Industrial Revolution, much to the consternation of those back in England, who disliked his sharing of this technology with the Americans and labeled him “Slater the Traitor.” Slater also introduced the “Rhode Island System,” in which an entire family, including children between 7 and 12 years old, would be employed at the mill, a management system that would be widely copied.
The mill would stay in operation until 1895, being expanded over the years, after which the mill was used for various industrial purposes until 1923, and would go on to become a museum in 1955, and be added to the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966. Over these decades there would be numerous tragedies that would befall the mill. Besides numerous deadly fires that broke out here, there was a horrific boat disaster when the pleasure vessel the Mackinac sank in 1925 in Narragansett Bay, taking 55 people with it, with many of the dying and injured brought to makeshift hospitals right next to Slater Mill. There was also a flood in 1955 that caused some deaths and completely demolished a cemetery, causing uprooted bodies to be found all over the place in the aftermath. On top of this, it is said that many mill workers, especially the children employed under the Rhode Island System, died in various industrial accidents due to the lax safety measures in use at the time. All of this death has gone on to give Slater Mill a reputation as a very haunted place.
Most reports of the paranormal from the mill begin to pop up in the 1920s, and have continued all the way up into the present day, with the entities and phenomena reported really running the range. Perhaps the most oft reported weirdness from here are all of the ghostly children supposedly roaming about. The sounds of disembodied children’s voices and laughter are often heard, as well as that of tiny running footsteps and mischievous pranks played out by the supposed spirits. These are said to be the ghosts of the children who died here and have never seemed to have left. One of these is the persistent apparition of a little girl standing on the nearby riverbank, often seen to be just forlornly looking out over the water as if searching for something, only to vanish if spoken to or approached. On occasion, these children are seen accompanied by adult apparitions in period clothing, but they usually seem to operate alone.
In addition to the ghostly children, there is also the ghost of Slater himself, said to still make his rounds inspecting the mill, as if he doesn’t realize he is dead. There is also a whole range of other miscellaneous paranormal activity reported from the mill. Moving objects, voices whispered into people’s ears, shadow figures, ghostly messages caught on tape, unseen hands poking, prodding, or pushing visitors, malfunctioning security systems that detect intruders when no one is there, and roving hot or cold spots. Much of this activity seems to be confined to several specific locations within the mill complex. One of these is called the Wilkinson Mill, which houses the massive wooden wheel that powers the machinery and was also used to build and repair the gears and machines used in the Slater Mill. It is widely regarded as the most active place on the site and seems to harbor the most malevolent energy of the whole place. This area is said to be haunted by a man who died after being mangled by the machinery here, and who is very vicious indeed, scratching, hitting and pushing visitors, as well as emanating a feeling of dread and hostility and telling people to get out, only ever visibly appearing as an inscrutable black mass. Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) recordings of this angry entity have it spewing obscenities, shouting, and hurling threats. It is not a nice spirit, in other words.
Another notorious place for hauntings at the mill is called the Sylvanus Brown House, built in 1758 and named after the woodworker Sylvanus Brown, who was an expert on designing and building the huge wooden water wheels that kept the whole operation going. The house is said to be the lair of a ghost girl called “Becca,” who is seen as a particularly friendly and playful spirit. She is often known to grant requests to visitors, such as rolling a ball across the floor on command or communicating through the use of rods that will cross or uncross in response to “yes” or “no” questions. She will sometimes even whisper from the darkness when properly conjured up, and although no one knows who she is supposed to be, Becca is by far the most reliably experienced ghost, as well as the most eager to engage with visitors.
To this day, the Slater Mill continues to operate as a museum, complete with operational machinery, and a very popular feature are the various ghost tours held here. The location has also attracted paranormal investigators from all around the world, and it remains one of the most haunted places in Rhode Island.