We were asked to look into a series of odd occurrences at a private residence in Exeter, R.I. in mid-November
of 2010. The claims revolved around anomalous lights that have been seen around the perimeter of the home
there. The challenge then was to ascertain whether these sightings had their basis in the paranormal or the
RISEUP Investigators Present: Ken DeCosta
Geographical and Historical Data
The home is located on Yawgoo Valley Road, known locally for the Yawgoo Valley Ski Resort which is located
only a half-mile from the home.
Exeter is a town in Washington County, it extends east from the Connecticut border to the town of North
Kingstown. The town of Exeter forms one of the central towns in the continental section of the state. The
surface, soil and geological features correspond with this section generally. The rocks are primitive, the soil of a
gravelly loam and the face of the country exhibits so much diversity of hill and dale in some sections that it
may be in part considered mountainous.
Exeter is also home to a disproportionate number of paranormal legends. George Brown, his wife Mary and
their five children lived on a small farm in Exeter. As was the case for many families in those days of high
mortality rates, George's family seemed to have more than its share of illness. George's wife fell ill first,
succumbing to consumption on December 8, 1883, at the age of 36. Mary Olive, 20, his eldest daughter,
followed less than six months later on June 6, 1884.
For seven years death seemed to take a holiday, but then George's only son, Edwin, a healthy 24-year-old
who worked as a store clerk, contracted the disease. Hoping he might find a cure in the mineral waters of
Colorado Springs, Edwin packed up and headed west, his wife joining him there soon after to care for him.
While Edwin was gone, his sister Mercy Lena also became sick. On January 18, 1892, she succumbed to the
disease at the age of 19. Because it was winter and the ground was frozen, her body was placed inside a crypt
near the rest of her deceased relatives at the Chestnut Hill Cemetery, also known today as Historical Cemetery
After Mercy's death George's neighbors began insisting he do something. Local superstition suggested that
perhaps one of the deceased family members was rising from the grave to prey on the living. George was a
pragmatic man, not given to such flights of fancy, but he did have two more daughters to think about. So,
giving in to the pressure put upon him, he arranged for a doctor from Wickford named Metcalf to accompany a
small group of friends and neighbors to the cemetery on the 17th of March. They were to exhume the corpses
of the Brown women.
Once uncovered, the bodies of both Marys were found to be in a state of advanced decay, which was only to
be expected since they had been dead almost ten years. But when the men entered the crypt to examine
Mercy, they found that her corpse had shifted from its original position inside her coffin. What's more, her body
was still fresh, for when the doctor cut out her heart it dripped blood. The doctor drained her organs of fluid
and the men burned her heart on a nearby stone wall. (Some accounts add that either her liver or her lungs
were also burned). The balance of Mercy's remains were presumably given a proper burial later in the spring.
Some of the ashes were given to Edwin (who had returned from Colorado feeling better, but who had soon
suffered a relapse) to drink as a sort of talismanic potion. Despite such desperate measures, Edwin died less
than two months afterwards, on May 2, 1892.
Another famous Rhode Island "vampire" was Sarah Tillinghast, whose death was recorded in 1799. Sarah's fate
was revealed in a prophetic dream, that her father Stuckley "Snuffy" Tillinghast had several months before
Sarah's deathin which half of his orchard died. The Tillinghast's were well to do farmers in Exeter, RI. Sarah
was the first of the Tillinghast children to die, but soon other children in the family fell sick, and all them
complained that Sarah was returning at night to press on their chests. By one account, six of the fourteen
Tillinghast children died and a seventh was taken ill before neighbors convinced Stuckley Tillinghast to dig up
those who had died to examine the bodies. When they did so, Sarah was found to have fresh blood in her heart
and veins. They removed her heart and burned it. When the gruesome task was done, the bodies re-interred.
Some accounts state the seventh child actually wound up dying. Other records show only four of the 14
children died, and some researchers speculate the others were added to the legend in order to match the
details of the dream.
The Ladd School, first known as the Exeter School for the Feeble Minded, was founded in 1907 by Dr. William
Gleason. It was built for schooling youths who were mentally retarded, had some sort of mental or physical
disorder, (like epilepsy, hyperactivity, or a handicap) and socially and/or morally delinquent. They were taught
domestic sciences and farm and factory work until they were considered well enough to be integrated into
By the 1950's, the school had come under serious question and scrutiny with much suspicion of abuse and
neglect, medical or otherwise, of the students. There was also a case of suspected murder that took place in
the school which brought on such attention. Dr. Joseph Ladd, the superintendent of the school at the time, was
forced into retirement due to the rumors.
In recent years, there have been numerous reports of hauntings at the school. People have heard voices
that were whispering, talking, and even screaming. Some people claim to have been touched or grabbed when
nobody else was around to do so. Others have reported being touched or hit with objects that they believe to
have been wielded by ghosts. Upon entering the building, they find it to be very cold, dank, and uncomfortable.
Some things have been reported to have happened outside the school. Electronic devices like cameras and
radios have been said to keep malfunctioning in the area. Others have claimed that their cars stall when they
arrive or try to leave. There have even been reports of a "phantom car" that drives around the premises.
On December 12, 1965, three young women were killed about 200 feet from the residence. Their names
were Diane Octeau, 19, of Greenville, Elizabeth Bates, 19, of Esmond and Donna Anderson, 21, of East
Providence. Their vehicle was attempting to cross a set of railroad tracks as they returned from the Opening
Night at Yawgoo Valley Ski Area. They were hit by a New Haven Mail Express train bound from New Haven to
Boston. The train was travelling approximately 65 mph at the point of impact.
There is a slight downgrade at the crossing point from the Great Swamp area near Kingston making braking
somewhat difficult. The car was pushed from Old Yawgoo Road 7/10 of a mile down the tracks. Two cars had
safely made it over the tracks. Theirs did not.
At the time, there were no flashing signals or automatic gates - only a 'crossbuck'-type warning sign. It was
learned an operator of the new ski area had spoken to railway officials about this three months prior to the
In this same area, there has been at least two fatalities reported. One, a snowmobile accident and the other
The activity has been limited thus far to outdoor phenomena. The resident and her neighbors have
reported seeing anomalous lights throughout the immediate vicinity. Ten years ago, the neighbors who live to
the north had a son who at the time was 3-4 years old who said he was watching orbs racing around their yard
- circling the house.
One clear summer night while trying to get to sleep yet fully awake, the resident saw two stationary lights
outside her bedroom window. She estimated were no more than 6’ from the window and were 2’ apart. They
suddenly extinguished. The lights were white and hazy and from a direction where no vehicle could access or
park. Upon going back to bed, she slept at the opposite end of bed - to be closer to a fan on this humid night -
and saw a hazy gray- colored fog outside the window. Eventually she fell asleep. When she awoke she related
the story to her son and started crying for no reason. When she re-told the story again to the other son, she
cried again although not from sadness – she has no explanation for her emotional outburst.
Previously her 2 sons (the younger very much a skeptic) saw lights in the yard when coming home after
dark. They drove in and parked there waiting as it looked as though someone was driving out of the property.
The lights then extinguished leaving both sons and a friend extremely puzzled as to what they had just
witnessed. The 'friend' in this case was actually RISEUP investigator Jay McCray.
Two weeks prior to this investigation, two lights were sighted above the tree line just north of the property.
All of us arrived at the location at approximately 5 pm. Tonight we would focus on determining if the tragic
deaths of three young women is playing a role in the phenomena being experienced or whether the explanation
is something as mundane as atmospheric or geographical anomalies. 4 IR static cameras were set up to cover
the perimeter of the property. It was a rather chilly 41 degrees at the time of the investigation and we would
contend with that as well as the appearance of high-speed trains at regular intervals throughout the evening.
While Dave Grady manned the DVR system, Tom and Ken would make a sweep of the property while Julie
and Chris would focus their attention on the accident scene.
We quickly determined that while this part of the road was rather remote in terms of habitation, it is in a
quiet neighborhood setting. The home is positioned atop soil that had been displaced by the construction of the
high-speed tracks that had replaced the older antiquated version that once existed there. As a result of this
overhaul, there would probably be a high level of energy in the atmosphere with the combination of electricity
from the power transformers on the track and the extreme speed of the passing trains.
We checked the specific areas where the lights had been spotted and honestly could not find any reason
that ordinary household, vehicular or aircraft lights could be misinterpreted as anything anomalous. While in
the back yard, we did come across something that might explain what was happening here. The soil was very
barren and lacking in nutrients. The topsoil was shallow and barely covered a deeper and more sandy type of
subsoil. Digging a bit deeper we came across peat, a sure sign that at some point this was a wetlands area. Not
hard to fathom when the home is located in a sort of "bowl" where hills rise all around it. The water runoff
would be substantial and would seep into the ground over time.
Placing a KII meter down to determine if there was any existing natural magnetic fields present, we saw the
meter begin to spike substantially as a train approached. As it passed the location - approximately 300 feet
away from us - it "buried the needle". This was confirmed by also using a TriField Natural Meter in concert with
the KII. Moving closer to the tracks later on, we saw another immediate and high-level spike in our EMF
meters. This could only mean the atmosphere was being charged significantly by the approach and passing of
the high-speed trains.
Meanwhile, Julie, Chris and Dave were working the scene of the fatal accident and the track area.
Accompanied by the home owner, they attempted communication with any entities that might still be present in
Unfortunately, nothing of definitive proof was recorded.
One other piece of intriguing video was recorded that night and it concerns a light that was captured on our
IR static camera pointing north in the track area. There were indeed aircraft in the sky that night as TF Green
Airport in Warwick is northeast of our location. This light comes not from that area but northwest of it. The light
starts from the east, heads directly towards us and then ascends to the northeast. This does not resemble the
type of aircraft originating from or descending to Green Airport where passenger and commercial jets land and
take off. There was, most oddly, no sound accompanying it and its low to gradually higher altitude and flight
path are highly unusual. There are no municipal airports anywhere in this vicinity save for Richmond Airport
which is located to our south.
We will be returning to Yawgoo Valley Road in 2011 to continue our research into the phenomena that has
been witnessed there. We feel there is something to this. What that might be is worth the effort and time to
delve into it even deeper. Here's why:
"Ghost Lights" or "Spook Lights" are luminous balls of light that appear in remote locations. They will
sometimes react to noise or other type of lights and will appear in the same location on a regular basis. Most
of the lights have been explained naturally as "earth lights" that appear near earthquake faults, water sources,
swamps, and railroad tracks.
They can also be an example of something called the Piezoelectric Effect. Certain geologic properties of an
area or region will, during a shift in mechanical stress, release energy. This can express itself as a ball or balls
of light. If there’s a conducting material (such as electricity) in the area that can keep the energy in this state,
then the ball of light can persist for hours. A regular temperature changes from day to night can trigger enough
of a subsequent change in mechanical stress to trigger the effect. Obviously, we see railroad tracks (a fairly
obvious conducting material), but also power lines running parallel to the apparent locations of the lights, which
supports the theory.
Also, a quick cursory Google search reveals limestone as a feature of the local geography, and which
consists of the right kind of minerals to exhibit the effect. Movement along these faults may release static
charges that can appear above the fault area as glowing discharges. Ball lightning can also be created from
various sources, including power lines.
For the greater part, ghost lights seem to appear mostly in and around mountainous areas and in swamps
and along train tracks. Earth lights are a rare anomalous light phenomenon, mistaken throughout history as
dragons, UFOs, and ball lightning before being recognized as a separate category. Some of these lights can be
attributed to simple gasses that come from the ground, especially in damp or marshy areas. Phosphine and
methane naturally occur in ground that is decaying from the inside. When these gasses come in contact with
the air, their appearance can be that of a glow or a shimmer, often appearing in spherical form.
Therefore, there might also may be a presence of phosphorescence (or "swamp gas"), ionized gas emitted
from fault lines. Under the sandy soil of the property is a layer of peat, and where there is peat, there usually is
a swamp (or in this case, former low-lying wetlands). Other explanations vary from types of biological fungus
from the ground that emits a glow, to ball lightening occurrences, to simple light reflections that optically
appear to be coming from another location. They are almost always viewed at night, although there are
photographs of them appearing at dusk and dawn and even in broad day light. Also known as ignis fatuus,
Latin for temporary fire, "will o’ the wisps" are in fact said to be ghostly lights, usually seen around graveyards
and marshes at night. They look like faint flames or a flickering, glowing fog, usually green, that sometimes
appears to recede if approached. Folklorists have collected all kinds of legends related to these mysterious
lights, including the fact that they could be some form of spirit lights or have a paranormal origin.
If correct, this could explain why such lights can behave in an electrical and erratic—or even apparently
intelligent—manner. According to collected evidence these lights are basically ball-shaped, with diameters
varying from 10cm to a few meters, probably gaseous in composition. Sometimes, they display elusive
behavior and apparently have an awareness of witnesses’ movements. Some observers also say that the lights
are shape-shifters and materialize and dematerialize at will.