A Sit-down with the Author of Secret Rhode Island: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure

Local author pulls back the veil on the state’s lesser-known history in latest book


North Kingstown resident Robert Curley has been writing about Rhode Island for more than 30 years, including penning articles for this magazine, so he’s a bit of an expert on the topic. His favorite lane is the odd and obscure, and he shares some of the interesting stories collected over the years in his latest book, Secret Rhode Island: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure.

“As you go along, you gather tidbits,” Curley says. “They don’t always fit what you’re working on at the time, so you store them away for later.” With Secret Rhode Island, Curley gives readers a smorgasbord of facts and stories that clarify mysteries and myths, as well as introduce new ones. “This book is a collection of things people often ask me about. They know part of the story, but there’s always more underneath. That twist is what I’m sharing with them. It’s right up my alley.”

Curley has written two other books featuring the Ocean State: 100 Things to Do in Rhode Island Before You Die, and Off the Beaten Path Rhode Island, now in its second printing with another edition possibly coming in the near future. A travel writer and recognized expert on the Caribbean Islands, Curley has made countless contributions to tourism magazines and websites and written the guide, 100 Things to Do Before You Die in the Caribbean.

In conversation, Curley is a treasure trove of fascinating legends and lore. He could start every sentence with the phrase, “Did you know…?” and you’d listen in rapt attention for the big reveal at the end. For instance, the first gas-lit street lamp in the United States was installed on Pelham Street in Newport and there’s a plaque to prove it; and during the 19th century, Little Compton was the US poultry capital and is honored with a monument in that town. Did you know that sideburns originated with Ambrose Burnside, a Civil War general from Rhode Island?

“Much of the book comes from me trying to answer questions for myself,” says Curley. “It’s great that I get to share what I find with others.” Curley will be signing books at the International Museum of WWII, Wakefield on January 10.



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