NEWPORT, RI(RISEUP Paranormal spent an entire year (2010) at Belcourt Castle conducting a series of investigations. To listen to our audio files visit this link.)HISTORY Belcourt Castle, a prime example of Newport, Rhode Island's "Gilded Age" was actually built as a summer "cottage" in 1894 at a cost of three-million dollars (which translates to seventy-five million dollars today) and took four years to build. It was designed by Richard Morris Hunt, widely known as "The Dean of American Architects". At one time the entire first floor was committed to a horse carriage collection and there were stables on the same level that could accommodate 30 prize carriage horses.Its first owner was a young bachelor named Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont (l.), a son of the Rothschild banking representative to the United States - August Belmont and a descendant of Commodores Matthew Calbraith Perry and Oliver Hazard Perry. Oliver, like the aforementioned, attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. Belmont was a collector of great renown - from medieval manuscripts and armor to stained glass - and served one term as a Congressman from New York. His lot in life was fully realized when he inherited sixty-million dollars in 1890. Playing host to the home's Opening Ball in 1895 was the wife of Oliver's closest friend William Kissam Vanderbilt, Alva Erskine Smith Vanderbilt (r.). The couple would divorce that same year - unthinkable to most common folks, but a growingly acceptable occurrence to the social elite - and Alva would go on to become Mrs. Oliver Belmont one year later in 1896. She moved into the home with Oliver, effectively forsaking her previous home, the almost equally opulent Marble House, which was given to her as a gift on her 39th birthday by her former husband. When Oliver Belmont passed away in 1908, Mrs. Belmont became a huge benefactor of various charities, the arts and political causes. She was the driving force the Political Equality Association and the National Women's Party convention in 1915. The women's suffrage movement became her cause célèbre and she was instrumental in gaining equal rights for men and women in the political and business arenas. The fruits of her efforts toward this movement not only reverberated in this country, but were felt in England as well. Alva lived a long and fruitful life. Her love of grand mansions developed into an industry of sorts as she invested in the construction of a number of them and owned nine at the time of her death in France on January 26, 1933 at age 80. Sadly, her death was caused from injuries sustained in a carriage accident that occurred only days before. Alva Belmont was laid to rest with Oliver in the Mausoleum at Woodlawn in the Bronx, N.Y. The mansion was bequeathed to Oliver's grand nephew, August Belmont IV who was only 19 years old at the time. Oliver's last surviving brother, Perry Belmont eventually assumed ownership of the manor. At the advanced age of 90 in 1940, he sold the property, effectively ending the Belmont tenure at the manor at 50 years. Between 1940 and 1956, Belcourt changed hands a few times. A man named George Waterman was the first to purchase the property and made a sincere effort to renovate the estate. He in turn sold it to Edward Dunn, like Waterman an entrepreneur, who rented out the stables to the military for equipment storage. Next in line were Elaine and Louis Lorillard, the tobacco industrialists who for a number of years hosted the Newport Jazz Festival on the grounds. It was under their stewardship though that the mansion fell into a terrible state of disrepair which also forced the festival to move to other venues. Finally, in 1956, the Tinney family acquired the estate. They had lived on the picturesque shores of Newport and had already taken the steps to renovate another grand home, the Gerry Estate, so the idea of doing the same to a now run-down Belcourt Mansion appealed to their interest in property reinstatement. Belcourt was renamed "Belcourt Castle" and has open to visitors since 1957. The castle eventually settles under the ownership of Donald and Harle Tinney, but even after Donald's passing in 2006, Harle continues to devote her life to ensuring that Belcourt Castle remains a link to Newport's glorious Gilded Age. Harle was a 16-year-old tour guide at Belcourt in 1960, when she met Donald.THE GHOSTS OF BELCOURT CASTLE If it is true that objects themselves can be haunted, then it may explain the strange and sometimes frightening phenomena that people experience at Belcourt castle on an almost nightly basis. The castle has been furnished with items from over 30 different countries and is an antique aficionado's dream. Two of the objects in the castle that have displayed unusual and extraordinary energy are the salt chairs that are located in the Grand Gothic Ballroom (below). Salt chairs or salt thrones were used only by kings and can be distinguished by their oversized backs, which allowed for elaborate and decorative ornamentation to be carved on them. Often times, they were the only chairs which had a back to them, which was also considered a royal privilege. The name is related to the practice of storing salt in them, salt being a valuable commodity at that time. Visitors to the castle have experienced strange sensations such as chills or a bizarre type of energy that seems to run across their hands. Many who have attempted to sit in the chairs have felt a resistance, as if they are not allowed to do so. In one well-documented case, a man was thrown from the chair. The chairs now have been roped off as a testament to the legitimate concern the owners have for guests who venture near them. A ghostly monk is said to wander through the castle. It seems that he appears in whatever location a statue of a similar figure (r.) is placed. When the statue was in close proximity to the stairs, the monk would appear there. It was moved to a different room and he would then manifest in that area of the mansion. Finally, the statue was placed in the chapel, which seemed to appease him and he has not been seen since then. Noted paranormal author Eleyne Austen Sharp once conducted an interview with Harle Tinney. When she began to ask questions about the monk, the recorder would shut off by itself. This happened multiple times during the interview. Sharp is convinced this was no was no coincidence. The monk was witnessed by Harle Tinney herself one night while waiting in the mansion for her father-in-law with her husband, Donald. They were to join others that were waiting for them outside the castle for an outing of some sort. At this time, the carving of the monk was in close proximity to the grand stairway. As they waited, they saw a figure they assumed was Mr. Tinney walk from the foyer to the ladies room. A brief moment later, Mr. Tinney walked into the castle from outside, where unbeknownst to them, he also had been waiting. Wanting to know what the delay was, a puzzled Donald walked into the ladies room - to find no one there. Harle had already quickly made her way out of the castle by then. There is a gallery with an extensive collection of armors in the castle. One of these is a 17th century Samrai armor given to Commodore Perry by the Emperor of Japan. There is another suit of armor however that is even rarer - it contains the spirit of its last occupant. One night in March, sometime in the late 1990s, Harle Tinney was going to the kitchen to fetch something from the cupboard. She noticed that the stained glass lights were on in the ballroom. She returned there and shut them off. As she began to walk back to the kitchen, she heard a blood-curdling scream from behind her and froze in her tracks. At first thinking someone was playing a trick on her, she continued back to the kitchen. Again she saw that the lights that she had just turned off were on again. At that point she heard another scream - even louder than the first. Summoning her courage, she again entered the ballroom to turn off the lights. As she did, she heard a third scream - even louder and more terrifying than the previous two. She phoned the residents upstairs to make certain they weren't toying with her. Assured they were not, she waited for husband Donald - who was out walking the dogs - to return. After relating her story to him, they were both surprised that when they went to check things out the dogs would not enter the ballroom. Tour guide Virginia Smith also knows well of the screams. She is certain they emanate from one particular suit of armor - an estimated 15th-century type imported from Italy that also bears a crack in its helmet where it had been pierced by a medieval weapon of unknown type. In fact, Virginia has heard the screams five or six times to her recollection - usually in March and especially in the presence of teenaged girls. It begins as a guttural growl and evolves into a terrifying shriek like the one heard by Harle. A great number of visitors have also sworn they have actually seen the face of a man inside the helmet. One other unusual factor is that Virginia has noticed that the right arm of the suit raises just a little just before the screaming is about to begin. An 18th-century mirror in the music room is yet another artifact reputed to be haunted. Those who look directly into it notice that the reflection is not motionless as it should be, but vibrates and moves. Even background objects appear to assume motion even though the mirror remains completely still.