Last Updated on August 9, 2023
While writing an assignment for ForbesTraveler.com about America’s castles last year, I happened upon Belcourt. Of all the castles I researched, Belcourt had a story that stood out from the others, even before I’d visited and spoken to the owner.
Belcourt was the dreamchild of a renegade, Oliver Belmont, who so disdained his nouveau riche Newport neighbors that he built his enormous estate with its back to them. The eccentric son of horse lover August Belmont (for whom Long Island’s Belmont Park is named), Belmont Jr. devoted the majority of his first floor to his beloved steeds — and included in the estate’s plans only one bedroom and no kitchen. (His meals were delivered from town by horse-drawn carriage.) The eccentricities go on and on, but what really captivated me were the ghost stories.
Mrs. Harle Tinney, the current owner of Belcourt — and only remaining owner of a Newport mansion to still reside in her home and open it to visitors — had given me a personal tour when I’d visited last September, and she offered to do so again this time as I drove through town with my four niblings on the way to Martha’s Vineyard. The kids were delighted to have the opportunity to visit a real haunted house. Micaela, the oldest, even plotted how to get into the coronation coach, which Mrs. Tinney and her husband had painstakingly built by hand over many years. I told my niece to forget it, but she kept the idea firmly planted in her craw.
Just a few weeks after Ghost Hunters aired an episode on the Belcourt hauntings, Mrs. Tinney gracefully set aside a few hours of her day to open her home to us. Within moments, the niblings had worked their spell on her, and the four of them were clambering into the golden coronation coach, with Micaela grinning ear to ear. What they didn’t know was that the paranormal detectives had learned that the coach had been the site of some paranormal happenings, including a ball of light that floated above the carriage.
On the other side of the house, Mrs. Tinney pointed out the monk statue reported to be haunted. The Ghost Hunters episode details the stories regarding the carving, including one that Mrs. Tinney herself had one morning. While lying in bed, Mrs. Tinney noticed a man clad in a brown robe, but when she reached next to her, she found her husband sleeping soundly. The robed man then walked out of the room — right through the wall.
On the second floor, the possessed suit of armor that has been rumored to scream at passersby caught the attention of the two oldest niblings. The ballroom also boasts some haunted chairs, which either begrudgingly let you rest your fanny or toss you out, depending on your seating choice.
The niblings had yet another special opportunity when Mrs. Tinney led them past the royal litter that blocked the third-floor staircase and up into the organ chamber above the ballroom. She then opened up the pipes and let the instrument bellow, creating an ideally ethereal soundtrack for our surroundings.
On my first visit to the castle, I had admitted to Mrs. Tinney that I’d once experienced an unexplained sighting. At work one day while speaking with a co-worker, I noticed a flash of green dart past me out of the corner of my eye. The green appeared to start behind me, as I did not notice it enter from my other side. I paused in my conversation to tell my co-worker what I had seen and felt a chill when she told me she had seen the same. Despite all my years playing with tarot cards and Ouija boards as a kid, it was my green-streak experience that left me most open to believing the many haunted tales that surround Belcourt.
Before we left, Mrs. Tinney invited us to return for the Halloween festivities, during which Belcourt opens its doors for an evening of macabre enchantment. For those who can’t make it on the most haunted of nights, consider coming on a Wednesday, when medium Liz Souza gives tours and explains the castle’s haunted history.
- View episode of Ghost Hunters at Belcourt Castle
- Check out the pictures of my niblings below, and see if you can peg their whereabouts to the haunted locales in the Ghost Hunters video.