Washington Irving wrote of the Headless Horseman, a tale of a Hessian of Sleepy Hollow who had lost his head in war. It’s a wonderful story that all enjoyed in their childhood. In RI though there is a more gruesome tale of a headless spirit in Swampton. This story may even predate Irving’s tale, and cause most to shudder in fear, when alone on Indian Corner Road.
In the early 1800s a large portion of Swampton consisted of over grown forest and wetlands. Virtually all of the roads that traverse through the wilds of this portion of RI didn’t have names. Often the locals would apply names to them that best described their location. While some were adorned with pleasant names like Rathbun and Sunnyside others had much more gruesome rubrics. Dark Corners, Purgatory Rd, and Robbers Corner carried names that both identified them and warned the weary traveler. Though most names changed over time, there are those who’s now formal name still carries the spirit of its location. Indian Corner is the most interesting and frightening of those lonely byways.
Indian corner Rd. lays in Washington county Rhode Island and travels northeast toward Wickford. Over 200 years ago, Indian corner was marked by a large boulder for when the winter snow made it difficult to follow. Just as long as the rock stood watch over that lonely stretch of road, many travelers who brave it by night spoke of an encounter with a headless torso or its disembodied head. On the evenings when it was dark and the fog would creep over the edge of the swamps and consume the road, it was said that a headless torso surrounded by a blaze of blue light would appear near the rock. It would sway to and fro and begin to rise from the ground with a lurch. Suddenly it would thrust upward into the sky leaving a trail of illumination in its wake. Though some claimed it was the spirit of a young boy, most believed to be the angry spirit of a Narragansett Indian. This is how the location had gotten its name.
The Narragansett Indians who previously lived in Swampton had been displaced by the settlers. Some local historians speak of a battle, in Swampton, during the King Philips War. They claim that bodies of the Indians killed during that skirmish had been buried near the rock. On the dark nights as the moon hides below the trees and the shadows grow long, some have seen blood flow from under the rock. Though most believed to be due to the iron in the soil, it is still frightening on a dark and gloomy evening.
Those who are aware of the daunting history of Indian Corner road try their best to shun it at night. Those who cannot, scurry in haste as to avoid encountering the torso or its disembodied head. On one occasion thought a local road mender who was not privy to the tales, stumbled on to something strange on Indian Corner Road. While walking home he noticed something peeking out from beneath a pile of leaves in a rain worn ditch. His inquisitiveness drew him over to the gaping hole, where he kicked away the leave to reveal its content. To his chagrin he discovered a skull staring up at him from the side of the cavity. Fascinated by his discovery, he decided to take it with him. When he arrived at home, his wife was furious at his new curio and refused to let him bring it into the house. To appease his wife the mender placed the skull on the end of a pole behind the house.
That evening a furious storm came down over the valley. As he and his wife relaxed by the fire, they were startled by a loud clattering outside their home. Thinking it was just the wind, they settled back into their seats. Suddenly they heard a rumble right outside their door. As it grew louder, they quickly scurried to the window to see what it could be. As they peered out the window his wife shuddered and screamed at what they saw. It was a headless skeleton feverishly shuffling about near their home. His bones rattled loudly as he appeared to be frantically searching for something.
Fearing to soon be noticed by this uninvited fiend, the mender and his wife quickly retreated into the bedroom and hid under the sheets. The next morning they surveyed outside their cabin for any sign of the ghastly ghoul witness that evening. All that was found was the havoc left in his path. One other thing the mender did notice was that the skull he had placed on the pole near his home was now gone. Obviously the angry skeleton had come to reclaim his crown.
The skeleton has been said to be seen sitting on top of the rock at Indian corner. Some people say it is to guard the graves of his fellow Indians, while others believe he is there to reclaim the land once own by him and his ancestors. Whatever the reason might be for the headless duo, today Indian corner road it is still a place that many respectfully avoid traveling at night.
~ Strange New England
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