‘Strange New England’ preserves bizarre histories, legends

‘Strange New England’ preserves bizarre histories, legends

“Strange New England” is the 16th book written by Smithfield natives Thomas D’Agostino and Arlene Nicholson, featuring more than 60 odd-truth and folklore stories from all over New England.

FOSTER – Preserving the oral histories and legends of New England, however bizarre or strange, is the passion of author Thomas D’Agostino and wife Arlene Nicholson, who recently completed their 16th book, “Strange New England.”

The book tells more than 60 stories of “unbelievable people in unbelievable places” in New England, researched and retold by the pair, said D’Agostino. Stories range from historic legends to recent true stories that could not be made up, he said.

D’Agostino told The Valley Breeze & Observer that all New England states are represented well in the book, including Rhode Island. He said he and his wife collected the stories over the years while writing their “Haunted” series and felt it was time to compile the collection for a book.

“These are the enduring legends that we have in our region,” he said.

“Many of these things are long forgotten, we are proud to bring it back so people can learn the history of the area,” he added.

“Strange New England” covers such stories as a haunted violin in Wareham that caused ghostly activity throughout the house every time it was played, a woman in 1955 who left her estate to a non-existent person she met using a Ouija board, a man who lived after an explosion sent an iron rod through his head, and many more.

“It’s quite the mix of stuff,” D’Agostino said, adding that the rich history in New England lends to many tales.

D’Agostino said once a list of stories was compiled, he and Nicholson took weekend trips to research and take pictures in support of each story. He said he and his wife spend most mornings and evenings writing for their series, and they have an extensive library of historic documents at home.

“Arlene and I work on everything together, and we love doing it,” he said.

The pair traveled to Chesterfield, New Hampshire, to research a giant staircase leading to nowhere in the middle of the woods, left after a home burned.


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Though they live in Danielson, Conn., D’Agostino is Foster’s official fence viewer. He said he is often in Foster, which he said is the “real witch city” of New England with a history of witches living in town, some of who are included in “Strange New England.”

The pair, who are Smithfield natives, were both interested in ghost stories related to New England, D’Agostino said. He said the vampire stories of Rhode Island range from the Mercy Brown vampire incident to the first Town Council meeting in Cumberland where a parent requested to exhume his daughter’s body to possibly cure the vampire curse.

“We hear about a story and say it’s interesting so we’d go and look at it. Then you start learning other things out there that are really wild – whether true or legend or embellished – we find them,” D’Agostino said.

D’Agostino said the pair is nearly halfway through writing another book about birth and death practices and superstitions in early New England, and they are happy to be able to start up the Dining with the Dead ghost investigations again after COVID-19 stopped operations.

“I love New England. There is so much here. There’s so much, and it being so old with so many unique things, we still haven’t run out of ideas,” he said.

Anyone interested in joining a ghost hunting dinner, hosted by the couple, can sign up at www.diningwiththedead1031.com .

“Strange New England” is available for purchase from Barnes & Noble, local libraries beginning May 31, and local bookstores. D’Agostino often visits stores and signs copies of his book, he said, so keep an eye out for a signed copy. D’Agostino will also personalize any book purchased from their website.