Four RISEUP investigators chose to make a day outing to the site of the last stand of the Narragansett
Indian tribe against the Colonists during King Phillip's War. While this excursion should in no way be
misconstrued or misrepresented as an actual paranormal investigation, the reports of activity as well as
the surviving legends that surround the location were of particular interest to us. While the trip was cut
short because of inclement weather, we certainly plan to return to this beautiful, fascinating and
historically significant locale sometime in the very near future.
Temperature: 72 degrees (outdoors)
RISEUP Investigators Present: Ken DeCosta
Geographical and Historical Data
“The Great Swamp covers a total land area of 3349 acres. Acreage is divided among the following
cover types: wetlands (2262 acres), forest cover (897 acres), agricultural land (eighty-eight acres) and
other lands (102 acres; brush, utilities etc.). The area contains extensive forested freshwater wetlands,
dominated by red maple swamps with some cedar swamp.
The Great Swamp at South Kingston, Rhode Island, was the site of the last stand of the Narragansett
Indians in King Philip's War against the Colonists. In the bloody engagement which took place there on
Sunday, December 19, 1675, troops from the Confederation of the United Colonies of New England
including Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, and Connecticut and Rhode Island took part and because of the
numbers participating, killed and wounded, the battle had been unequalled in New England up to that
time. As a result of the battle, the military strength and resources of the most powerful Indian tribe in
New England were broken forever.
A fort in the Great Swamp had been built by the Narragansett Sachem, Canonchet, as a place of
refuge. Because of its location on a small island of dry land in the midst of a great swamp, he no doubt
considered it impregnable. It was, however, only partially completed and consisted of "pallisadoes stuck
upright in a hedge of about a rod in thickness." Two fallen trees formed natural bridges which were the
only entrances and the principal one was guarded by a block house. Inside the fort the stores, harvests
and accumulated wealth of the Narragansetts had been brought and there asylum had been offered the
aged and infirm and the women and children of the Wampanoags of King Philip.
The United Colonies of New England declared war against the Narragansett Indians on November 2,
1675, charging them, among other things, with "relieving and succouring Wampanoag women and
children and wounded men" and not delivering them to the English, and also because they "did in a very
reproachful and blasphemous manner, triumph and rejoice" over the English defeat at Hadley. They voted
to raise a thousand soldiers to be sent against the Narragansetts unless their sachems gave up the
The forces of the United Colonies under Governor Winslow marched across Rhode Island and on
December 14 attacked the village of the Squaw Sachem Matantuck near Wickford and burned 150
wigwams, killing seven Indians and taking nine prisoners. The Narragansetts then began a guerrilla
warfare, sniping Colonial troops wherever occasion offered.
On the night of December 15 the Indians surrounded Jireh Bull's large stone house on Tower Hill and
massacred all but two of the occupants. The smoldering ruins of the house were found by English scouts
the next day. It is possible that the Indians had learned of a plan for the Connecticut contingent to join
the other forces at this house and had destroyed it in order to handicap the colonies. Three days later the
two English forces joined at Pettaquamscutt and planned to attack the Indians the next day.
Ordinarily the swamp was practically impenetrable, as it is to this day, but due to the severe
December weather the marshy ground had frozen and the English soldiers gained easy access to the
island. The Indian outposts retreated into the fort where they were followed by the English. The terrible
battle which then began took place amidst ice, snow, under brush and fallen trees.
At first repulsed, the English continued the assault, though with heavy losses. They contested almost
every foot of ground until the Narragansetts, also suffering many casualties, were driven gradually from
their fort into the swamp and woods.
Meanwhile, the English had set fire to the wigwams, some 600 in number, and flames swept through
the crowded fort. The "shrieks and cries of the women and children, the yelling of the warriors, exhibited
a most horrible and appalling scene, so that it greatly moved some of the soldiers. They were in much
doubt and they afterwards seriously inquired whether burning their enemies alive could be consistent
with humanity and the benevolent principle of the gospel," says one early account.
The retreating Indians were driven from the woods about the fort, leaving the English a complete,
though costly, victory. They had lost five captains and 20 men and had some 150 wounded that must be
carried back to a house some ten miles distant. To the terrors of the battle and fire were added the bitter
cold and blinding snow of a New England blizzard through which the English toiled back to Cocumcussa.
The hardships of that march took a toll of 30 or 40 more lives. The Indians reported a loss of 40 fighting
men and one sachem killed and some 300 old men, women and children burned alive in the wigwams.
In 1906 a rough granite shaft about 20 feet high was erected by the Rhode Island Society of Colonial
Wars to commemorate this battle. Around the mound on which the shaft stands are four roughly squared
granite markers engraved with the names of the colonies which took part in the encounter and two
tablets on opposite sides of the shaft give additional data.”
- Gerald H. Hyde, Inspector for Massachusetts and Rhode Island, December, 1938
Many who reach the granite monument say they are overwhelmed by a feeling of sadness.
Occasionally the surrounding forest will fall deathly and eerily silent. At times the piercing sounds of cries
and screams will then follow this unnatural silence. Some visitors cannot bring themselves to venture
into the area, even after driving long distances specifically to do so. Many who enter report an ominous
feeling they are being watched.
There are also reports of more extreme activity such as the sounds of gunshots (the area is sometimes
hunted, at times illegally and there is a shooting range nearby) and the apparitions of tribesmen in full
war regalia that have been seen.
The four RISEUP investigators arrived at the main entrance to the site, where they would leave their
vehicle and walk a reasonable distance into the woodlands area. Access to the Great Swamp is by Liberty
Lane which leads into the management area along Great Neck Road. A large public parking area is
provided which allows access to several gravel roads and trails that are gated to limit vehicle access.
There are considerable and varied forms of wildlife that inhabit the Great Swap Management Area.
Their presence is quite pronounced and they make themselves known both audibly and visually.
After walking a considerable distance we came upon the basis for its name - The Great Swamp.
The perimeter of the water body can be traversed and we did so. The terrain is uneven and as one
would expect, in a pristine form. Power lines run through the middle of the Great Swap (below) providing
power to many of the surrounding communities of North and South Kingston as well as Richmond, R.I.
There are pathways cut into the meadow areas to allow easier passage for visitors. On this particular
day, we seemed to be the only persons present this day, although we did pass some hikers on the way in.
A great number of paranormal groups have entered the Great Swamp area in the hopes of
documenting some of the reported activity that is said to manifest itself. Because our visit would be cut
short by a quick-moving, but ample rain storm that moved through the area, we thought our time would
be better served to explore alternate explanations for some of these claims.
Being an outdoor location with a great deal of natural wildlife, misidentification of sounds - especially
during night investigations - would quite obviously be front and center as a catalyst for claims of the
paranormal. Combined with the ghastly history and the resulting legends surrounding the location, it is
not difficult to imagine people already anticipating a supernatural event might jump to conclusions about
the source of these sounds. There is then, a very real possibility that the "cries and screams" many say
they hear might simply be attributed to the vast number of mammals and waterfowl who reside there.
Fox and coyote can easily be pointed to as the main culprits.
Anyone familiar with the events and the savagery that took place here might certain become
empathic to the plight of those who once inhabited the area. This might account for the "feelings of
sadness" that are said to affect many who tread on these grounds. The mere thought and realization that
little aesthetically has changed since Native Americans roamed, lived and died on this ground can be
overwhelming and at times, disconcerting.
As previously noted, there is a shooting range very close by. This would not explain any nocturnal
sounds of gunshots, but without possessing first-hand reports, we can not accurately analyze their