RISEUP was contacted by an acquaintance who wanted to gauge our interest in investigating this former
(decommissioned) Roman Catholic church in nearby Woonsocket, R.I. He spoke of the claims of paranormal
activity inside that had been related to him by the volunteer staff who maintain and care for the cathedral - now an
arts and cultural center that hosts a myriad of public and private events - now under stewardship of a non-profit
We contacted the organization to introduce ourselves and were put in touch with a gentleman named Steven
Moreau who, we were told, was the church's "paranormal consultant". Steven and his friend Charles Reis are
actually the creators and driving forces behind a very entertaining Internet web series called "Creepy Places of
New England", wherein they travel to various reputedly haunted locations across New England and delve into the
history, legends and folklore that surround them. The webisodes are extremely entertaining, enlightening and
presented with a keen sense of humor.
We made our arrangements, set a date and invited our friends from the TAPS Home Team to join us on this
initial excursion into this iconic and staggeringly beautiful early 20th century gothic cathedral. The sheer size of the
structure would prove to be a daunting task, but allowed a larger group to work together to ensure a controlled
environment, yet cover the building adequately.
Joining us would be our good friend and TAPS member Joe Chin, who was on hiatus from the filming of the
SyFy network's "Ghost Hunters International".
Back row (L-R): Demetria Walter, Steve Mills, Ken DeCosta, Tom Stewart, Tom Carroll, David Grady
Middle Row (L-R): Joe Chin, Wellington Chin, Julie DeMay, Traci Boiselle, Christine Downes, Wendy Thatcher
Front Row (L-R): John Barrows, Chris Blanchette, Nancy LaVena, Dan Snizek
RISEUP Investigators Present: Ken DeCosta
TAPS Investigators Present: Traci Boiselle
Geographical and Historic Data
(sources: St. Ann's website / The Onyx Glossary)
The St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church building was built between 1913 and 1917 by French Canadian immigrants
to serve the religious & social needs of the Catholic community. Built in modern French Renaissance style, the
building exhibits all of the rich classical details of Romanesque architecture. In the 1920's, over 40 stained glass
windows, designed and produced by French artists, were installed.
The church itself is 200 feet long and 118 feet wide, built on a granite block foundation, its main body
constructed of light-colored brick with cement stone trimmings. Like many old churches, its built in the form of a
large Roman cross, in the Modern French Renaissance style. Its architecture is Romanesque in design, inspired by
the 16th century architects Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola (who is perhaps best known for his Jesuit Church of the
Gesù in Rome, the interior of which clearly influenced that of St. Ann's) and Andrea Palladio. The roof of the church
is covered with slate and copper trimming, while the front is flanked by two 160 foot tall towers, each of which is
topped by an eight foot tall copper gilded cross (the tower on the Locust Street side had a belfry which housed
three giant bells). Construction on it began in 1914, and it was opened to the public in 1918.
Just about every inch of the 93-year-old church is decorated with intricate frescos, oil paintings and stained
glass windows. The former church, which is now an arts and cultural center, claims the largest collection of fresco
paintings in the United States. Its artist, a hunchback named Guido Nincheri, plastered and painted the walls by
hand for $25,000 in 1940. In many ways, the themes and extent of the paintings are reminiscent of those in the
Sistine Chapel in Rome. He ended up doing over 200 different fresco paintings for the church, featuring over 600
Concrete painted columns appear to be fine Italian marble as they stretch 60 feet into the air, supporting the
ceiling. The intricate stained glass windows appear three-dimensional. The pastel colored frescos show a deft hand,
the physiques of the bodies are physically accurate, highly detailed and Michelangelo-like in their poses. Nincheri
used the parishioners' faces as the faces of the figures in the paintings, making the building into a massive
scrapbook of the French-Canadian mill workers that collected and donated nickels and dimes to build and decorate
their beloved Catholic church.
One particular fresco, "The Original Sin," (below) depicting the Serpent tempting Adam & Eve to eat forbidden
fruit from the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. This fresco can be found in the ceiling arch of the church's
south transept (like most of the church's ceiling art you have to crane your neck to see it), and the guide told us
how parishioners, back in the day, had objected to Adam and Eve's nudity. To appease the philistines, Prof. Nincheri
had added a few strategically placed leaves to the fresco. However, he supposedly flew into a rage when the pastor
requested further leaves be added, to the extent that he demolished the scaffolding and stated that if the St. Ann's
parishioners wished to further cover up Adam and Eve's nudity, they could do it themselves! Apparently students of
the church's school were forbidden to gaze up at the "racy" Adam & Eve fresco, and those caught doing so by nuns
were punished in class on Monday morning. Some clever boys would smuggle in little pieces of glass or mirrors
which they would then use to secretly admire the artwork.
The story goes that one day in the mid 1940's Prof. Nincheri visited a nun's seventh grade class and asked her
to show him who she felt were the two most wicked & mischievous boys in the class. It was supposedly these two
boys who served as the models for the demons in the fresco below, though to this day the identity of the two boys
is unknown, even though the St. Ann's Arts & Cultural Center placed an ad in a local newspaper asking if the
models would identify themselves. No one stepped forward to admit it and it remains one of the unsolved mysteries
of the church.
In the year 2000 the Diocese of Providence announced it would close St. Ann's Church due to a dwindling
number of parishioners and rising maintenance costs of the building. In fear that this artistic and historic landmark
building might be destroyed, a small but determined group of concerned individuals formed to save the building. In
the process they incorporated as the St. Ann Arts & Cultural Center. They then began to lease the building from the
Diocese. After six years of leasing the building to the organization for its use, in September, 2007 the Diocese of
Providence turned ownership of the building over to the nonprofit group for its permanent use as an arts and
cultural center. From its inception, the Center has been a valuable resource to the surrounding communities. Today
it continues to expand its programming and offerings to the public, while striving to preserve and maintain this
impressive and beautiful national historic landmark.
What he described as a dark, shadowy form standing behind the bar in the basement function room (below) was
photographed by Charles Reis. Mr. Reis claims it only showed in one of a series of pictures he snapped.
There have been a host of EVPs recorded by various groups that have investigated the church.
There have been reports of a woman singing near the basement stage area that were so clear that one former
staff member announced she would no longer stay in the church alone after hearing it one day.
Chairman of the Board Wally Rathbun reports that many times, when searching or asking out loud for a
particular item, it will simply appear as if it had been placed there by an unseen assistant.
The large pipe organ (below) in the loft above the entrance has not been functional for many years, yet multiple
people report hearing what they believe is a single, distinct note emanating from it.
A set of keys once simply disappeared for over a year and then suddenly turned up in a very odd place.
A local group performed a play inside the church proper (below) one night that dealt with the subject of
vampirism. As if displaying its objection to the subject matter, the fire alarms mysteriously went off on opening
night before the play started. No fault could be found within the system by volunteers or the fire department. It
was the only time in memory the alarm sounded with no clear origin. On another night, a piece of scenery fell on
top of one of the main characters, who was also the co-writer of the play. When this happened, Dominique Diron,
the center's Executive Director, said the radiators inside the church started to make a sound he had never heard
before, despite the thousands of hours he's spent inside the church. He claimed it was almost like the sound of
The most fascinating claim involved a police response to the church after a call had been placed by a staff
member claiming they had seen an intruder in the basement. Multiple police cruisers surrounded the church and the
staff member accompanied the cops on a sweep of the building. They found nothing out of the ordinary until one
officer walked upstairs basically as "white as a ghost." He said while he was in the basement, he heard what he
described as crying coming from inside the ladies room. He went to the door, identified himself and asked whoever
was in there to step outside. The crying continued. After issuing a couple more demands to exit the lavatory, and
hearing the crying continue, he drew his service weapon and carefully entered. He could find no one inside.
We arrived at approximately 6:30 pm in the church parking lot and renewed acquaintances with our friends from
the TAPS Home Team. We had worked together on a number of investigations and because of our shared
philosophies and approaches to paranormal investigation, we can easily mix team members seamlessly.
The group was treated to a discourse on the history of the church by both Dominique and Wally and then taken
on a tour of the building with a special emphasis on the area where activity has been reported. We were joined by
Steven and Charles from C.P.O.N.E. as well as Jon DeMeo from Warwick Rhode Island Ghost Investigators (WRIGI).
A complete setup with static IR cameras was performed and the investigation began at 8:45 pm.
During setup of an IR static camera in the basement ladies room, Dan Snizek watched one of the stall doors
open on its own. When we went in to try to recreate this or to seek a plausible explanation there was no apparent
reason for this to have occurred. There was no vacuum from the opening or closing of exterior doors, no faulty or
out of square hinges and no breeze inside the lavatory. While there was no video up and running at this time, there
was a recorder in the room which captured the sound of the stall door opening. Dan does not speak at this point,
but leaves the lavatory to call on another investigator to come back with him.
Bathroom stall opens - recorded
In the church boiler room, TAPS investigator Demetria Walter observed shadows darting around where the old
coal chutes are located.
A shadow was also observed moving from the bar area - where Charles Reis shot his photo - toward the stage
In the upper fresco gallery, multiple investigations heard the sounds of movement in the seats. This was also
the case in the lower seating area of the church.
A shadow was seen moving along the wall of the lower seating area by RISEUP investigator Dave Grady.
An interesting EVP session was conducted in the basement by Ken DeCosta, Steve Moreau and Jon DeMeo
where seemingly intelligent responses were given to questioning involving the presence of a former parishioner.
The most astonishing evidence collected was a video taken while all present were on break. While a static IR
camera ran inside the basement function hall, a shadowy figure was recorded moving down the stairs that runs past
the bar entrance and ladies room. This is a side entrance to the hall and it is impossible that the shadow of anyone
moving past the side entrance door - which is located at the top of a second set of stairs to the right of the landing
- can be seen. There is also a ceiling overhang which effectively blocks out any passing shadows. This was tested
extensively before accepting this video as something unusual and compelling.
The Audio Files
The first indication that the church may indeed be a haven for paranormal activity came on the first session in
the basement function room. A larger group of investigators were present for this. Some stood and some sat in
front of the bar area where Charles Reis of the "Creepy Places of New England" web series had taken a picture
about a year ago which was said to depict a figure standing behind the counter. As they started a line of
questioning, a whistle is heard directly in front of Dan Snizek of RISEUP and behind John Barrows of TAPS. Neither
was responsible for this and it was very clearly heard by everyone present.
Whistle inside the room from unknown source
A group of investigators led by Tom Stewart and Chris Blanchette of RISEUP and John Barrows of TAPS were
conducting an EVP session near the stage when they heard the sounds of chairs being disturbed there. Curious as
to whether this was something other than a normal sound, they decided to ask the chairs be moved by request. The
audio clip below documents what they heard as they gathered at the front of the stage. One chair did indeed slide
at the end of this clip.
Sounds of chairs being moved on stage
Demetria Walter of TAPS was in the basement function hall joining the small group of investigators who had
heard the sounds of chairs of the stage creaking when no one was sitting on them. As they pursued an answer for
this, she recorded a voice at 0:05 that appears to be asking for a specific line of questioning to occur. What that
might be, we are at a loss to say, but what we were told is that many years ago, something foul did occur in this
"Ask me what happened"
A small group comprised of Julie DeMay, Wendy Thatcher and Nancy LaVena of RISEUP investigated the
basement area at one point earlier in the evening. Expecting little, they instead received a surprising result of their
efforts when this welcoming female voice was captured on digital recorder. The group is very much isolated from
the others at this point. "Noise bleed" was not an issue or an extenuating factor in the basement.
Both team leads, Ken DeCosta of RISEUP and Traci Boiselle of TAPS had a pair of interesting encounters. The
first happened while they were sitting at the foot of the altar in the cathedral. Remaining silent and just listening to
the natural sounds of the church, traffic and watching the area in front of them, they were taken back by the sound
of a woman's voice, heard audibly, to their left coming from the side of the altar. This moment was captured on
recorder and was stunning for both involved. An immediate check revealed none of the group or any of the staff
were there with them. In fact, a small group joining them entered the massive chapel seconds after the voice was
heard and came from the opposite direction the voice originated from.
Disembodied female voice in cathedral
Based on the sample data we collected, it does seem as though the church has a certain unusual aura about it.
The most profound example of this has to be the video footage of a shadow moving across the wall where the stairs
lead to the entrance hallway to the basement. We tried to recreate this by walking past the safety doors that are at
the end of this hallway, but this could not be done. The outdoor lighting is too dim, the doors too far away and the
level of those doors too high to cast a shadow from outdoors. The windows on the safety doors are rectangular and
no more than 4" x 14", hardly enough to cast a full-length shadow inside the building. There is also enough video
evidence to declare the shadow begins to move down the stairs, which cannot be the result of any shadow cast by
anyone outside the building.
The TAPS Home Team's involvement was invaluable to us and gave us not only full coverage of the building, but
another perspective on which to draw from.
There are certain claims that can easily be refuted or attached to alternate explanations. The neighborhood is
well-populated and there always is a existing possibility that sounds are being generated by human traffic outdoors.
We certainly heard some examples of this during our stay.
We are arranging to re-visit the cathedral in the near future.