A flat iron wrapped in a blood-soaked towel with hair still attached to the end found behind an old plaster wall. A horse-drawn carriage arriving in the middle of the night. An old farmhouse with a basement so haunted, it sent a plumber and an electrician running and neither would return to pick up their valuable equipment. Could that basement be the final resting place of Amy Beulah Perkins (my great-grandmother), the subject of this week’s prompt–challenge?
Let’s start with the facts:
Fact #1: Amy Beulah Perkins was born on May 5, 1892, in Norwich Connecticut, to Charles L. Perkins and Jennie Rogers. She was the second of two children to be born to the couple. Her older sister, Georgia May Perkins, was born on June 28, 1890, also in the town of Norwich, CT.
Fact #2: The next time Amy appears is on the 1900 US Federal Census when she is 8 years old living on North Hope Street in Bristol, RI. Amy, along with her sister Georgia, is living with their father Charles L. Perkins, but their mother is not listed as living in the household. Where did their mother go? Their father’s marital status is listed as ‘married,’ yet his wife is noticeably missing.
Also in the household is Fanny Tracy (Rogers) Wiggins, who is Charles L. Perkins’ sister-in-law, and Fanny’s two daughters, Caroline and Marguerite Wiggins. I find it interesting that Fanny is listed as ‘housekeeper,’ and not sister-in-law, and that Fanny’s daughters are listed as ‘boarders.’
Fact #3: Ten years later on the 1910 US Federal Census, the family is still living in Bristol, RI, but now living on ‘Pappoose Squaw Road,’ later to be renamed as Poppasquash Road. Amy, now 18 years old, would make her final appearance on a federal or state census record. She is living with her father, Charles L. Perkins, but her sister Georgia May is no longer in the household. Fanny T. Wiggins (Amy’s aunt), her two daughters Caroline and Marguerite “Mabel” Wiggins are also still living with Amy & her father. New members to the household are Caroline Shepard, Charles “Charlie” Rogers, Mary Brown, her husband Louis Brown, and their two children, Rhena and Leonard.
Amy’s occupation is listed as a ‘dragger/doper’ in the Rubber works industry. I know from historical records that the National India Rubber Company (later known as the US Rubber Company) was in Bristol in 1910, and I can only speculate that is probably who Amy was employed by.
Fact #4: Amy had a daughter, Thelma Evangeline Perkins, on January 8, 1911. Thelma’s birth certificate didn’t list the name of her father, but recent DNA matches led me to discover his name–Nathaniel S.B. Goffe. This birth certificate would be the last historical or official record that Amy Beulah Perkins would appear on, as she simply vanishes from the face of the earth afterward.
By this point, you’re probably wondering how the antique flat iron wrapped in a blood-soaked towel with hair still attached to it fits into the story of Amy Perkins. Well, that story is about to unfold…
Fact #5: Amy’s father, Charles L. Perkins, died in 1913 after being run over by the train he was working on. Amy’s daughter Thelma (my grandmother) was 2 years old at the time of Charles’ death.
What’s interesting about this timeframe is that my grandmother also recalled being told by her ‘Aunt Fanny’ and ‘Grammy Shepard’ that her mother just ‘up and left in the middle of the night when she was just two years old.’ My grandmother said she remembered they were all living on ‘the farm’ in Washington/Coventry/West Greenwich, RI. The farm my grandmother remembers living on is where the antique flat iron was found, and it’s the same farm that was believed to be haunted.
Fact #6: My grandmother appears on the 1915 Rhode Island State Census as being 5 years old and living in West Greenwich, RI, living with Caroline Shepard, Charles Rogers, and Caroline’s Wiggins. Caroline Shepard was listed as Thelma’s great-grandmother.
My grandmother also remembered a horse-drawn carriage arriving in the middle of the night and a casket being loaded into the carriage.
Fact #7: Caroline Shepard, the woman my grandmother came to know as ‘Grammy Shepard,’ died on January 5, 1918. My grandmother, who was just three days shy of her 7th birthday, shared a bed with Caroline Shepard and remembers waking up next to her after Caroline Shepard had already passed away.
Shortly after Grammy Shepard’s death, my grandmother was sent to live with Marguerite ‘Mabel’ (Wiggins) Skinner and her husband Albert, in Hartford, CT. If you recall, ‘Mabel’ is the daughter of Fanny Tracy (Rogers) Wiggins. Fanny Tracy (Rogers) Wiggins is the sister of Jennie (Rogers) Perkins. Jennie (Rogers) Perkins is the mother of Amy Perkins. That would make Amy Perkins and Mabel (Wiggins) Skinner first cousins. My grandmother didn’t stay with them very long, as she ended up in Windsor, VT by the end of 1918.
As best as I’ve been able to tell, Caroline Shepard owned the farm until her death, at which time, it was left to her son, Charles Rogers. Ownership eventually went to Caroline’s daughter, Fanny, who died in 1958 leaving the farm to her daughter, Mabel, and Mabel’s husband, Albert Skinner.
This is where things get very, very interesting, strange, and downright terrifying.
Mabel (Wiggins) Skinner & Albert Skinner had one child, a son, Russell F. Skinner, born about 1920. Russell Skinner and his wife Barbara would inherit the farm from his parents. He was the last family member to own the farm and was the person who discovered the flat-iron. What follows is an excerpt from an email that Russell sent my father in the early 2000s:
…we wonder if our experiences at “the farm” in Washington, RI as a relationship to the disappearance of your Grandmother Amy. I will return to our experience at “the farm” which began when we became the owners to see if you have any thoughts relative to them.
When we took over the farm, we started to remodel the house. Some work consisted of removing the mastered walls in the kitchen. As a result of this activity, plaster fell down between the outside wall and the inner structure. To clean out the plaster, I had to reach down to the sill where I came in contact with what turned out to be a very old cast iron flat iron wrapped in a blood stained towel. Also a one foot square area just above where I found the iron had been roughly re plastered showing hand prints and so on. The rest of the walls were perfectly smooth. Incidentally several strands of hair were stuck to the point of the iron. Could this have a relationship to your Grandmother’s disappearance and your Mother being sent to live with my folks in Hartford?
I wonder if my Mother ever lived at “the farm.” As far as we know, when she Married my Father on May 31, 1912, she was living at the Rhode Island State Hospital as an employee. I guess she was very serious when she refused to talk about past family matters with the remark “that’s just gossip.”
Russ would go on to tell my father about other strange occurrences in the house, such as after he and his wife were finished sitting at the table in the kitchen, they would get up, push their chairs in, and leave the room. When they came back to the kitchen, he said the chairs had all been pulled away from the table. In other parts of the house, doors would open and close seemingly on their own. He would also tell us how his wife absolutely refused to go in the basement, which was a dirt floor basement, of the farmhouse. Something–or someone–gripped her with fear. It wasn’t just Russ and his wife that had these bizarre experiences; two different people they hired to do work in other parts of the house also had terrifying encounters.
They hired an electrician to rewire the house. All went according to plan until the electrician needed to finish work in the basement. According to Russ, the electrician hurried out of the basement leaving all his tools and equipment behind, jumped in his truck, and left the property never to return. Russ and his wife never received a bill for the work the electrician did, and the electrician was so affected by his experience at the farmhouse, he refused to even return to the property to collect his tools and equipment.
Shortly after the electrician’s experience, Russ hired a plumber to replace some pipes and bathroom fixtures. Again, the plumber had no issues upstairs or on the main floor of the house, but when he went to the basement to finish replacing pipes, he also came running up from the basement, got in his vehicle, and left the property. Just like the electrician, the plumber also left all of his tools and equipment behind, never sent a bill to Russ, and refused to come back to the property to collect his belongings.
Sometime in the 1980s or 90s, Russ and Barbara sold the farmhouse. Russ told my Dad that within a few years of the new ownership, the old farmhouse burned down. He believes the new owners rebuilt right over where the house originally stood.
Over the years, my father and I have come to the conclusion that Amy Beulah Perkins was probably murdered at ‘the farm’ by a family member living in the house who also tried to cover up the crime by hiding the murder weapon (the flat iron) inside the wall. However, we are still left wondering…
Was Amy buried beneath the dirt floor of the basement of the original house? Was it her spirit that haunted ‘the farm’?
Or, was Amy’s body loaded into the horse-drawn carriage that my grandmother remembered arriving in the middle of the night, and driven away to dispose of her body elsewhere?
We may never know what really happened to Amy Beulah Perkins. No record of her death has ever been found, and she does not appear on any official record after 1911. Unfortunately, Russell Perkins died in 2012 (his wife preceded him in 2010), and their only daughter tragically took her own life some years ago. I never had the opportunity to meet Russ, as I was living 800 miles away in Reynoldsburg, Ohio.
My father and I don’t know with certainty exactly where ‘the farm’ originally stood. All we have is the name of the road and intersection where my grandmother, Caroline Shepard, Charles Rogers, and Caroline Wiggins were living in 1915: “Weaver Hill Road near Kitts Corner.”
If you have any idea or information that could help solve this mystery, please do contact me!