There are a lot of stories around about houses that have been abandoned to decay and collapse because of ghostly activity said to occur in them. Towns abandoned because of ghostly activity, not so many. My friend Shelly Tucker tells one about a small Texas town abandoned to the spirit of a murderous (and murdered) gambler on her 2003 CD HAUNTED HAPPENINGS that frankly gives me the willies. And then there’s this one, which I ran across in Michael Norman’s and the late Beth Scott’s book HAUNTED HERITAGE (2002), about Peleg Walker and the curiously named Rhode Island town of Ramtail Village.
Now Peleg is a biblical name, fairly common in the old days in New England, but of Peleg Walker of Ramtail Village (not far from the town of Foster) we know very little, save that he lived out his short life in that area, and died in the mid-nineteenth century. Peleg was a man of business; he was one of several partners in a grist mill in Ramtail Village.
Peleg and his partners, unfortunately, did not get on well at all. In the midst of one argument , which pitted Peleg against the rest of the group, he was ousted from his partnership. They demanded his keys, and, to add injury to insult, refused to offer him a buyout, which left Peleg stony broke.
He gave them fair warning. He told them the only way they would ever get the keys back from him was from his cold dead hands, and that they and all of Ramtail Village would live to regret the day they trifled with Peleg Walker. He took off–with his keys.
The partners mistook that threat for ham acting. It was a bad mistake on their part, for, a few days later, they found Peleg’s dead body swinging from the mill’s bell rope, the bell which, in the old days, summoned the workers in for a day’s shift, then sent them home at shift’s end. Clutched in his hand–he’d been there so long he was already cold–were his keys.
Well, it was sad and all like that, but life goes on. The villagers–and Peleg’s surviving partners–said it was a shame, and buried Peleg in the local cemetery, and that was that.
Until a few nights later, that is.
Round about midnight one night, when Peleg Walker was buried and beginning to be forgotten in the press of daily life, the entire village was aroused by the sound of the mill’s bell, ringing as it shouldn’t ring until early the next morning. The partners, rung out of their beds like everyone else, hastily dressed and rushed to the mill to see what the ruckus was about. They found, to their surprise, that there was no one in the mill, let alone anywhere near the bell–but it kept up its insistent din for a few minutes longer before abruptly falling silent.
This continued, nightly, for more than a week. Finally, in desperation, the partners had the bell removed from the belfry. It rang no more; they congratulated themselves on their ingenuity, told the villagers the problem was undoubtedly some unusually nimble prankster who managed to get out of the mill before he could be caught, and began casting about for some new means of summoning the workers in the morning and dismissing them in the evening.
Then, one night, the mill itself began working. Over the course of that night, it produced a full day’s grinding–with nobody operating the hoppers and other paraphernalia.
The uneasy villagers were beginning to remember the last threat of Peleg Walker–that his partners in the mill and the whole of the village would live to regret dismissing him from the mill.
In their highly nervous state, they were horrified to hear the mill’s giant wheel, the one turned by the nearby river, turning and groaning one night. The partners, accompanied by most of the menfolk of the village, went out to the mill once again, to find the wheel running against the current–which, of course, was simply against nature.
The mass exodus began the next morning. Those who had anything to say about their precipitate departures said that they were not going to live in a village where a ghost could make a millwheel turn the wrong direction against the flow of a powerful river current, and that was that. They had no doubt the culprit was the late Peleg Walker.
Peleg’s former partners, having no better explanations themselves for this latest sinister phenomenon, were among the earliest to go. The entire village was deserted within a year of Peleg’s lonely death on the bell rope.
Legend has it that the site remains abandoned to this day. Nothing remains of the once thriving village save a few foundations.
Even Peleg appears to have pulled up stakes and moved on, for no one has reported experiencing any oddities in the area since the villagers left.
No oddities–although I wonder if, once in awhile, people with psychic leanings might not hear triumphant laughter on the wind. (^_^)