Stephen Harris House – Providence, Rhode Island - Atlas Obscura

Stephen Harris House

A simple Colonial home with a past haunted by death and madness. 


The historic capital of Providence, Rhode Island contains a number of placid neighborhoods that still bear the architectural mark of the Colonial period in which the area was founded, and located on one of the city’s oldest streets is the very possibly “cursed” Stephen Harris House.  

Having been heavily renovated since its construction in 1763 the slatboard abode is now a pale yellow, but a new paint job can’t hide the building’s mysterious history. Constructed by Providence merchant Stephen Harris over the site of a former French Huguenot burial yard, the new home seemed to bring nothing but ill fortune to Harris and his family. As soon as construction was finished, it’s said that the merchant fell on hard financial times after losing a number of his trading vessels at sea. In addition to this material hardship, the Harris family saw the death of several children and the stillbirth of even more. As life continued down its cursed path for the formerly successful couple, Harris’ wife went mad and was confined to the upper floor of the dwelling, and local legend says that she could be heard to rant tirades in French, a language she did not know. 

Whether this was a matter of Huguenot Haunting, or simply the hardships of the Colonial lifestyle, the current residents say that there has never been a live birth in the house since its construction. The local legend and eerie aura surrounding the site would even go on to inspire H.P. Lovecraft’s 1937 short story The Shunned House which used a thinly veiled account of the Harris’ story as the basis for an even more grotesque tale of supernatural horror.

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June 1, 2013

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