By Thomas D'Agostino from the book Haunted Rhode Island.
The music of an old fashioned carousel conjures up visions of laughing children, the smell of cotton candy, and all the other revelry that gives amusement parks that certain timeless wonder. In the case of the Looff Carousel on the old Crescent Park fairgrounds, when the carousel stops the phantom laughter and music of yesteryear continue to fill the air.
I remember riding the great wooden horses as a child. As I look back now to those moments, I can remember the eerie aura the carousel presented to me. I was strangely drawn to it yet fearfully repelled by the horse's faces that looked so alive and menacing in their demeanor. The wooden steeds had eyes that would follow you, watching to see which one you would pick. Then the music would start and the horses would come to life. You could almost see the snarled grins on their faces as if they were waiting for a child to be thrown from the majestic ride. Perhaps it was just the immense size of the structure in contrast to my smaller frame that was so intimidating. Perhaps it was much more.
Crescent Park was built in 1886 along the shores of the bay in Riverside, (then known as Wannamoisett) Rhode Island. It became known as the "Coney Island of New England" and people flocked from all over the territory to take in the fun and merriment of this lavish amusement park. One of the most beautiful attractions in the park was the great carousel built by Charles I.D. Looff in 1895. The carousel had 62 hand carved figures and four chariots surrounding an equally elaborate band organ by A. Ruth and Sohn, also with moving figures.
The park changed hands several times until 1920 when Mr. Looff himself took ownership and expanded the rides and games. He added a ballroom and roller rink. The park saw hard times during the World War II and was purchased by the Crescent Park Realty Company. Arthur Simmons and Fred McCusker became the new managers and renovated the antiquated park. The new park prospered once more during the 1950s and 1960s until the park was sold one more time to one Melvin T. Berry.
On September 2, 1969, the ballroom burned to the ground. The park began faltering once more until it was auctioned off in 1979. The carousel was doomed to be dismantled when some residents bought it and refurbished it. The ornate carousel now sits ominously as a National Historic Landmark in the same place to this day and is open from Easter to Columbus Day where seventy-five cents will buy you a ride on the haunted horses. Often, however, the carousel starts up by itself and the lights flicker on and off or the music will start playing when there is no visible hand to turn it on. Many people have also heard the voices of long past patrons permeating the ocean breeze as laughter and merriment once more fill the abandoned amusement park. There is even the ghost of a woman in a 19th century skirt seen looking quietly out over the water as if she is waiting for someone or in deep contemplation of an event that may have changed her life. Such an event may be why she is bound to roam the earth still forever looking into the great wide ocean. No one knows who she was but my neighbor attests to the strange history and haunts of the park as her grandparents, Albert and Elizabeth Lavoie worked some of the rides during the 1950s and 1960s. They had many strange accounts to tell her as a youth who also frequented the establishment during the hot Rhode Island summers.
Now the carousel sits along the side of Bullocks Point Avenue. Its towering point can be seen from a good distance away. It is quite a breathtaking sight but even creepier when the lights go on and the music starts within the sealed doors of the building. The horses grin in the most devilish of manner as the ghost children scream and laugh on their eternal ride trying to grab the brass ring.
I urge you to try a ride on the mysterious carousel. You never know who might pop up beside you.
Thomas D'Agostino and his wife, Arlene Nicholson are seasoned paranormal investigators, authors, and co-organizers of Paranormal United Research Society. You can find out more about them by visiting www.tomdagostino.com