Strange New England - The Glocester Ghoul - Folklore

Dark Forest - FolkloreSome might say that northwestern Rhode Island had been cursed by some dark force in the past. It has been the source of many foul tales of devilish specters and hideous brutes. Its forests appear darker and colder than others. On all sides are ancient trees with branches that writhe like tendrils over its roads. As a fog settles over the evening, you can’t escape the feeling that stygian beast skulks within it. Though you might expect these sensations are borne from the darkest corners of our imagination, there are five men who would strongly disagree. For one late night in Glocester, Rhode Island, they encountered a fiend like no other; the Glocester Ghoul.

Albert Hicks, the last person to be executed for piracy in America, was born in Foster, Rhode Island in 1820. He had one ambition in life: to become rich by some bold stroke. He said that the only value his wealth would have was to gratify his passions with no restraint.

His career as a pirate and criminal involved many monstrous deeds. In his confession, Hicks said, that the devil, Pirate Hicks - Folklorewhose work he was doing so industriously, seemed to protect him while he pursued a career of blood and crime with impunity.  “He has stood by me all my life, on ship and on shore; amid the howling storms of the ocean,” Hicks said, “where every moment the waves threatened to ingulf (sic) me, he has snatched me from their deadly embrace; on the battle-field, in many a hand-to-hand fight he has seemed to stand by my side, protecting me from danger; and when I have been in the hands of my enemies, and escape has appeared impossible, he has, until now, invariably opened the way for my release.”

Though the devil may have been by his side while he was involved in a nefarious life, his first encounter with him or one of his hellhounds may have been back home in Foster, Rhode Island.

While living in Foster, he was fascinated by stories of pirates, robbers and highwaymen. He was often riveted by tales his friends shared with him. One claimed that pots of silver and gold had been buried in their neighborhood by Captain Kidd. Hicks often found himself dreaming of finding the stash that was secreted somewhere nearby. He could feel the gold calling to him.

DOUBLOONS - FolkloreIn the summer of 1839, Hicks had grown confident that Kidd’s treasure was lying somewhere on Paige Farm. He had heard that some Spanish doubloons had been previously found on the farm. Hicks and three fellow Glocesterites decided they would claim this hoard under the cloak of night.

Manned with shovels and picks, Hicks and his hooligans set out to claim the treasure. Once on the farm they began to dig feverously for Kidd’s supposed buried gold. It wasn’t long before their effort was interrupted by a strange sound. They stopped their work and listened with caution. Had their venture been discovered? As they looked up, emerging from the dark forest in front of them was an edldritch horror. Quickly, they dropped their tools and ran for their lives.

Hicks described the beast as “… a large animal, with staring eyes as big as pewter bowls. The eyes looked like balls of fire. When it breathed as it went by, flames came out of its mouth and nostrils, scorching the brush in its path. It wasGlocester Ghoul - Folklore as a big as a cow with dark wings on each side like a bat’s. It had spiral horns like a ram’s, as big around as a stovepipe. Its feet were formed like a duck’s and measured a foot and a half across. The body was covered with scales as big as clamshells, which made a rattling noise as the beast moved along. The scales flopped up and down. The thing had lights on its sides like those shining through a tin lantern. Before I saw it I felt its presence and I smelled something that was like burnt wool as it went by. I had a feeling of suffocation when it came near me. The monster seemed to come from nowhere and to go away in the same manner.”

After having seen that frightening beast, neither Hicks nor any of his fellow treasure hunters would ever return to Paige farm to claim the treasure. They were never sure exactly what it was they saw. It may have been some sort of hellhound guarding Kidd’s ill-gotten goods, or one of the several creatures described in local lore that lived in the nearby swamps and deep forest.

The beast wasn’t seen again until 1896 by Glocester resident Neil Hopkins. The story of his encounter was reported in January 15th, 1896 edition of The Evening Hour. On the cold winter evening of January 13, Neil was on his way home from work in Putnam, Connecticut. Though he had traveled this path alone many times before, this evening he Darkness - Folklorehad a troubled feeling.  When Neil reached the darkest point on his route, he heard a sound from deep in the forest quickly moving toward him. Suddenly, as if from out of some gateway from hell, a supernatural creature came charging from the darkness and began to pursue him.  “It seemed to be all a-fire; it had a hot breath,” Neil explained. “There was a metallic sound, like the clanking of steel against steel. The beast didn’t seem to be strong in the wind, for it chased me only a short distance, and then plunged off into the woods. I could hear the dead branches and twigs crackling under the heavy tramp.”

Neil said that whatever it was he saw, it was as large as an elephant, but it had no tail. Those who heard about his horrible encounter were not sure exactly what it could have been. Some believed it was a bear that had been seen recently in Webster, Massachusetts, and as far south as Glocester. Others thought it was the famous Glocester monster, the “burning beast” that Pirate Hicks had seen 57 years ago.

There are those who believe that the beast still haunts the forest not far from the Providence Turnpike. If you happen to find yourself to be this beast’s next unlucky victim, keep in mind that it has never been known to take a life.  What we do know though, is that during Pirate Hicks’ confession, he said, “the devil took possession of me.” Maybe what this devilish creature is out to do is to consume your soul!

~Strange New England

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Glocester Ghoul

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Glocester Ghoul 41.920327, -71.749908 The Glocester Ghoul

Sources:

The life, trial, confession and execution of Albert W. Hicks, the pirate and murderer

The Evening Hour, January 15th 1896 – Connecticut

History of the State of Rhode Island – Albert J Wright 1878


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