I always feel blessed to live in New England this time of year. The leaves begin to burst with fireworks of crimson and gold. The air is crisp and clean. We begin to don sweaters while we peruse local art festivals or snatch up a bargain at a neighborhood yard sale, and perhaps stop a farm stand for some warm apple pie.
This bucolic scene is so comforting that it’s easy to forget that New England history is full of dark, harrowing events: The Salem Witch Trials, Lizzie Borden and her axe. A few weeks ago, while fulfilling a Cub Scout hiking “belt loop” requirement with our 6-year old, I learned that one of New England’s most horrific events occurred just a stone’s throw from out backyard.
Nine Men’s Misery
From 1675-1676 English colonists in Southern New England, along with their Native American allies, we engaged in a war against the Narragansett Indians. Metacomet, or King Phillip as he was known by the colonists, was the leader of the Narragansett tribe. King Phillip’s War was a horrific, bloody conflict. Following one battle, nine English colonists were tortured and killed by King Phillip’s men in a swampy area, in the middle of what is now known as Cumberland, Rhode Island.
The exact spot where these men were killed, and subsequently buried is in a wooded area owned by the town. The grounds are also home to a former Monastery, which now houses the Cumberland Library. The Monastery has a lovely walking trail, and many locals use as part of their regular routine. Just off the walking trail is a small hill with a mound of rocks. It is a monument to Nine Men’s Misery, and it has been there since 1676.
The walk to the monument is an easy 5-10 minute hike from the library, and the trail is well-marked. Many in the community use it for walking and running, and it certainly makes for a great nature walk with the kids. The monument itself is pretty nondescript, it’s literally an oval-shaped (perhaps crypt-shaped?) mound of stones, covered in Moss with a small plaque resting at the top of a small hill.
My children were not overly impressed with the modest monument, but they enjoyed the walk.
Video courtesy of my husband, the Traveling Media Guy.
What I didn’t know, until my husband whispered into my ear as we left, is that this particular site has a reputation as one of the most haunted areas of New England! Apparently there have been reports of a dark phantom horse running through the site, unexplained drops in temperature, and moans, screams and the like. It was described by author Thomas D’Agostino in his book Haunted Rhode Island, several years ago.
I’ll admit it, my walk back to the car was much speedier than my walk to the monument. I hate to admit that I might believe in ghosts, but I don’t think I’ll be heading back to Nine Men’s Misery anytime soon.