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Haunted destinations: Gov. Sprague Mansion, Cranston, Rhode Island

Posted by mandyf on October 4, 2012

Sprague Mansion in Cranston is considered one of Rhode Island’s most haunted places. Passing by on the road you would never think anything strange is afoot, but for those who go inside the innocent looking exterior slowly melts away. The Mansion was the home of Col. Col. Amasa Sprague and his brother William Sprague II. It is the actions of these men that have long been alleged to be the reason that spirits are trapped at the mansion to this day.

Amassa and William owned A&W Sprague Company back in the Civil War era. They produced calico cloth – millions of yards of calico cloth. Enough in fact that by some estimates they were the richest men in America at the time. Both brothers were very well known and connected. Amassa built the Narragansett Trotting Park, while William turned his attention in a different direction. He sought political offices – first a senator’s seat, then governor. He married well tying the knot with kate Chase whose father was the Secretary of the Treasury before joining the Supreme Court. It would seem they lived a charmed life without a want.

Everything changed on New Year’s Eve in 1843. Amasa’s body was discovered outside of the home. There was visible evidence of a severe beating and multiple gunshot wounds – although some claim there was only one gunshot wound. Records were not that meticulously kept at the time. There were no witnesses to the crime, but the authorities knew someone had to be arrested to at least appear as if justice had been carried out.

A man named Nicholas Gordon owned a nearby pub, and by all accounts he was chosen as the murderer for just that fact. The Sprague brothers were very upset that their employees drank, and as Gordon’s tavern was the closest to their factory he drew the bulk of their ire. Anasa used his power to get the city to pull Gordon’s liquor license just because he didn’t like him. When that happened, Gordon and his family went from having one of the most profitable taverns in the state to having nearly nothing. Therefore he was not only a prime suspect, but in actuality the only suspect.

Once Nicholas Gordon was taken into custody things got ugly. The entire Gordon family was rounded up and one by one – including their dog – and they were tried as co-conspirators. Even by standards of the era, the trials were a sham. There was a complete lack of physical evidence and the only person that stepped forward at the trial with any “information” was a prostitute that couldn’t even remember the Sprague brothers’ names much less identify them. Years later it was found she testified to escape charges she had pending that were dropped.

The jury that sat in Gordon trials did not contain a single Irishman, and impartial observers years later commented that all of the authorities involved in trial displayed blatant and overt bigotry and even refused the defendants the right to speak at times. Eventually, Gordon’s brother John was convicted and hanged. The problem is he didn’t commit the murder – the murderer was William Sprague II.

Since then many sightings of apparitions have been claimed. In some cases the apparitions have been said to be solid. Sometimes it is a man – sometimes a woman. People report cold spots throughout the house, reoccurring images on heat sensitive film, even actual physical contact with the supernatural. The stairway is a hotbed of activity said to be like a real life stairway to heaven – or wherever. Phantom footsteps are nearly a daily event on the stairs as is the image of a man in black. The doll room is so beyond creepy you need a diaper to visit it – you really do. The wine cellar is possibly even worse.

Who these spirits are is unknown. Some say William Sprague I is the man in black condemned to the mansion for eternity. Many believe that it could be the son of Kate Chase Sprague, William III who committed suicide in 1890. Almost everyone agrees the woman haunting the house is Kate who wound up divorcing William and blew her entire fortune and ruined her reputation. The feeling is the mansion was the point of her pain and she is tethered to it until she lets go of whatever it is that plagues her soul.

Whether you believe in ghosts or haunting matters little when you walk through Sprague Mansion. People that enter having no idea of the history of haunting often leave feeling a very distinct but indescribable feeling of something being wrong. Many of the sightings can be written of to lighting – and nobody argues that – but there are far too many other things that cannot be explained. Believe it or not, but pay it a visit and keep an open mind. The Sprague Mansion is open for tours, for further information you can contact the Cranston Historical Society, or visit the mansion at the address below.

Sprague Mansion

1351 Cranston St

Cranston, Rhode Island 02920

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