Haunted Bristol Walking Tours available nightly through November

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 9/21/19

"I've always liked hanging out in graveyards," admits Joan Quinn, dressed in a full-length hooded black cape and clutching a lantern while standing in front of the old State House on the Town Common …

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Haunted Bristol Walking Tours available nightly through November


"I've always liked hanging out in graveyards," admits Joan Quinn, dressed in a full-length hooded black cape and clutching a lantern while standing in front of the old State House on the Town Common on a recent Wednesday evening. "And I've always been fascinated by the paranormal."

That's to be expected, from someone who admits that her favorite childhood movie was the 1963 psychological thriller "The Haunting." A historian and tour guide, by day, for the Newport Preservation Society, Ms. Quinn also serves as a docent, in season, for the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation.

Experienced and unflappable, Ms. Quinn has led ghost tours in both Charleston and Newport, and she saw promise — and a largely untapped market — in Bristol's rich and varied history.

"When I really started investigating I found out there was so much more to the story," she said. "The history is so fascinating in this town."

It addition to Bristol ghost stories, Ms. Quinn brings other elements to her tour, including photographs and a discussion of auras and other paranormal images.

The storytelling portion of the tour covers a good deal of ground, from the historic lands of the Wampanoag near Mt. Hope Farm to Asylum Road and back into town, though the walking part begins at the old State House on High Street and ends at the intersection of State and Thames Streets.

"All these stories are based on actual facts," said Ms. Quinn, before setting out. "Are you all believers?"

"I try to keep it real but I have had some really weird experiences. But I think the more you remain open to it, you start to notice things."

The tour begins with stories of the Wampanoag people and King Philip's war. "Stories of apparitions abound," she said. "Many unusual lights, and hoots and hollers have been heard." From an unexplained cold spot in the barn at Roger Williams University to strange fogs and sightings of an indian warrior on Tower Hill Road, to restless spirits on the Town Common, it seems there's no shortage of possible paranormal activity in town….if you know where to look.

Ms. Quinn's tour also details the sordid story of the Reverend Avery of the Congregational Church, a murdered girl, and the resulting trial of the (19th) century. The bombardment of Bristol and the Colt family's midnight flight to Cuba are both also well-covered.

A Haunted Bristol Walking Tour shouldn't stand in for straight history, if that's what you are going for (both Linden Place and the Bristol Historic and Preservation Society hold a wide variety of tours, all factually unimpeachable). But as Ms. Quinn says, her stories are based on historical fact, so if you enjoy a good story, and are willing to spend an hour suspending any disbelief you might have in the paranormal, it's a really fun diversion.

Ms. Quinn will be appearing on a Travel Channel program this fall, "Kindred Spirits", in a segment in which she will be talking about haunted happenings at the Rose Island lighthouse. She filmed on location with a crew this week and there is no firm broadcast date yet, so stay tuned.

To schedule a Haunted Bristol Walking Tour, Ms. Quinn can be reached at 401/286-1209 or email joanbq1@aol.com.

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