The cornerstone was laid in 1875, and it’s been said that 12 men lost their lives building the ornate five-story building we know as Providence City Hall. Samuel Thayer was the architect and had huge dreams of creating a lasting and inspiring structure. Built before electricity, all the lights were gas-powered and the elevators were driven via water from the boilers. In the beginning, there were caretakers that lived in the building, winding clocks and ensuring the next day’s events were set up correctly.
Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy both spoke from the grand staircase, but they weren’t the only famous people to grace the halls of Providence City Hall. Mayor Thomas Doyle was one of our city’s most beloved and longest-standing mayors. His death was mourned by thousands and his body was laid in state at Providence City Hall, directly in front of the office he held for so many years.
I have believed in ghosts my whole life. Maybe it’s my overactive imagination or I’m just sensitive to that feeling people get in creepy buildings/old houses. I worked at Providence City Hall for three years before my first run-in with a ghost. My coworkers whispered in corners about hearing footsteps late at night or smelling cigar smoke at their desks. The custodial workers sometimes refused to go in the basement, even the mail guy was a little freaked out about certain parts of the building.
I took it all in jest and assumed they were messing with me until the day I heard the ghost. I was washing my hands and I heard the words "NOT TODAY." I turned around immediately. It sounded like it was right behind me! There was no one there, so I went into the hall — no one. I stood right there and called a friend on my cell phone to come upstairs to help me look. He came and searched the men’s restroom, then went into the surrounding offices to search for whoever was taunting me. Still, no one was there.
Word got around fast that I "heard a ghost," but I was convinced that it was someone playing a joke on me. After becoming “the person everyone shared their ghost stories with,” I realized they had common themes. Most mentioned a man with a tall Abe Lincoln hat, cigar smoke that comes out of nowhere and then a chill in the air, chairs that would move on their own, and papers that were moved or misplaced. This was someone — or something — that felt as if it owned the building.
I’m no ghost hunter, buster or whisperer (but I obviously watch a lot of television), so I called a professional. Luckily, I sounded just sane enough in my plea to the team at SyFy’s “Ghost Hunters” that they agreed to investigate. The first night was off to a slow start — nothing exciting was happening — and I was afraid they’d pack up their cameras and leave. Luckily, they are used to this kind of shyness from ghosts and stuck it out.
I don’t want to ruin the episode for you, which you can find on the internet (the episode is called “City Hell” and is in season eight of the show), but things popped off after the slow start. Not to mention I became famous, well, more like infamous. The local media came to City Hall and interviewed me — sometimes in all seriousness and sometimes at my expense. They figured out scientific reasoning for certain occurrences but also heard some pretty weird stuff.
I’d like to say that Jay and the rest of the “Ghost Hunters” asked me to join their group of poltergeist predators, but unfortunately, their squad is deeper than T. Swift’s. I continued to give tours of City Hall (a skill I acquired long before my TV debut) and the occasional student would ask if the place was haunted. I would giggle to myself and say "if you only knew." But the student usually did know. They saw me on TV. I told you I was famous.