Barbara Van Reed
with ghost hunter Tom D’Agostino
You’ve probably seen his name in these pages, as The Patriot reporter for Webster Board of Selectmen meetings and as the author of the Tales from Beyond column. He’s also a professional musician and music teacher. And though Thomas D’Agostino has many talents, his passion is for the paranormal.
Tom has conducted more than 1,000 investigations into paranormal activity in New England, and has become its foremost authority hereabouts. He’s working on his tenth book on the subject now, with titles such as Haunted Massachusetts, Haunted Rhode Island, Abandoned Villages and Ghost Towns of New England, and Haunted Vermont. New England is rich with ghost stories and legends, he says.
Tom and his wife Arlene Nicholson, a professional photographer who joins him in his investigations, were at an author’s book signing at Booklovers’ Gourmet in Webster last month. There they demonstrated the modern ghosthunter’s tools for finding apparitions: a videocamera and recorder, and proved it with actual ghost images and voices stored on his laptop.
A non-believer would have to believe.
He showed the image of a moving apparition taken at the Tavern on Main in Chepachet, Rhode Island. Arlene said that a 15-year old ghost hunter had set up the video and recorded the ghost, which can be seen walking across the room moving its arms and head. She said it’s highly unusual for a ghost to take a human form; usually they appear as vertical shadows, she explained.
As they do with each investigation, Tom and Arlene set out to debunk the video, using every method possible to explain the apparition another way. That involved re-staging the scene with traffic going by the tavern to see if it could be a passing reflection from outside, as well as having the integrity of the original video analyzed by experts at a TV station.
There was no explanation but that this was, in fact, the ghost that was rumored to be haunting the tavern.
Tom also told his audience at the bookstore about the famous Victorian Mansion in Gardner, which dates from 1875. Legend has it that several ghosts still live in the house and have been sighted. In 1963 a Portuguese man named Enos Sari, who apparently liked his whiskey, died in a fire in one of the rooms.
When Tom toured the house with its current owner, Mark Veau, he recorded their discussion of its haunted history. A few weeks later, as Tom was playing back his conversation with Mark, he heard an ethereal voice intrude and say “Por-Teu.” Por-Teu is an old Portuguese phrase that could mean “good luck” or “for you.” He replayed the conversation for us on his laptop, and it was, indeed, eery to hear the voice suddenly say “Por-teu” in the middle of it.
Clayton Harris, of Webster, who had been listening to Tom tell this story, jumped in and said: “Oh, that’s an EVP.” Yes, said Tom, acknowledging Harris’s familiarity with the subject. EVP is an Electronic Voice Phenomenon.
Then Clayton told his own story of the paranormal. “I had four kittens,” he said, “and I never let them go down into the cellar of my house. One day, I was at the bottom of the stairs and a cat suddenly flew by me. I thought it must have been one of the kittens so I went upstairs to see which one it was. They were all four there.”
Clayton couldn’t explain what had happened, and a few weeks later, something similar occurred. “I was at the bottom of the stairs again, and a black cat runs by me and disappears into the wall.” Arlene was listening to Clayton tell his story, and said, “I’m getting chills listening to you tell that story. We’ve had something like that happen too.”
“Normally I don’t tell people this,” Clayton admitted.”I know it wasn't a real cat, but an apparition.”
Tom’s explanation for all these paranormal events is that they are examples of energy not confined to a body. “I see it as energy – it's there, but it doesn't have housing anymore.”
For example, “The cats are energy. We don’t know what space or dimension they live in.”
Tom continued: “We know stuff, but we don’t know anything, really. We can see only our side of the veil. That’s why we do these investigations. And for every answer, there are ten more questions. Until we get to the other side of the veil and come back, we won’t know all the answers.”
Tim Weaver, also of Webster, joined the conversation and told us of his experience with disembodied voices. Tim said he was “the last Webster-based employee at Cranston Print Works.” He worked in the “building back by the warehouse,” in the “grey room” where they brought the grey materials.
While he worked there, he had heard rumors of ghosts in the building. Then, a few months back, as the demolition of CPW was nearing completion, something happened. “I was talking with the head of the demo crew. We were standing where the building was - the building was gone, but I heard voices talking, clearly. There was no one else around and nothing else was going on.”
Do ghosts communicate with us? Tom thinks so. “They communicate with us by appearing or by voice.”
Tom’s book Haunted Massachusetts has tales of Colonial ghosts, reincarnated souls, and doomed spirits in 41 cities and towns, including Worcester, Uxbridge, and Sturbridge. He hasn’t recorded any ghost stories in Webster, Dudley, or Oxford, though it seems there might be some loose spirits around here.
So, how did Tom’s career exploring the paranormal begin? He grew up in a haunted house in Greenville, Rhode Island, he said, so was used to the idea of a haunted place. When he was in college, a friend asked him to stay in a “haunted” house for the winter while he was away. “I stayed there for just six days,” said Tom, and decided then and there to study the science behind the paranormal. He took every science course he could, including meteorology, which he thinks can explain some local phenomena. New England is a giant battery, with its underground streams and quartz, he said. This leads to pressure zones which can be as big as the weather or as small as a room, possibly explaining some of the local ghosts.
All the paranormal events Tom writes about in his books occurred in public locations which can be visited. While he does investigate private homes that have ghostly activity, he writes only about those that his readers can explore for themselves.
You can read Tom's “Tales From Beyond” online under the Features button.