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Can’t make these up: The best ‘only in Rhode Island’ stories of 2022

From left: DJ Finesse, aka Mason Santos, poses for a portrait with Providence College students Daisy Donovan, Madeleine Walsh and Reilly Sweeney outside the Dunkin’ Donut Center in Providence on February 22, 2022. The group is responsible for making Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me" a Providence College home game sing-along.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

“Only in Rhode Island.” It’s a saying. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a vibe. When you hear it, you know you’re about to get a full Rhode Island, good, bad, or ugly.

The year 2022 had its fair share of those sorts of stories, the ones that seem like they can only happen here – in part because everyone knows everyone and, when you do something, err, notable, there’s nowhere to hide.

Here are the Globe Rhode Island stories that best represented this phenomenon in 2022.

Starting off with a bang

We got off to a hot start on New Year’s Day in East Providence. The story outlining the events started as such:


“The identical-twin lawyers were drinking in a hot tub, celebrating the New Year, and one had a gun. What could possibly go wrong?

For 42-year-old brothers Robert and Ryan McNelis, the hot tub led to heated words, which allegedly culminated with Ryan shooting the gun at nothing in particular, and then running down Pawtucket Avenue in his bathing suit and throwing the gun away.”

Ryan McNelis would eventually plead no contest to firing in a compact area, according to court records. That came after a plea last year in a convoluted saga involving the Division of Motor Vehicles.

‘Viloating’ common decency (and spelling)

Beach access in Rhode Island is a serious topic that touches on everything from the environment to racial justice and social class.

It’s also sometimes deeply weird, like when Westerly agreed to replace signs that ominously warned of beach access “viloators” – sic – in an area where people actually can freely walk onto the beach. In addition to the typo, the sign was also vague. It was supposed to refer to vehicles, rather than people on foot. And it used logos of state agencies that hadn’t approved their use. But besides that!


Safe in Bristol

A fedora. A team of safecrackers. Bristol, R.I. What more could you want, besides the combination to the lock and for the safe to contain gold bars? In May, we were there as they opened an old safe in a school building basement. Eat your heart out, Geraldo Rivera.

Rhode Island accents

If you’re not already listening to Rhode Island Report, our weekly podcast, this is a good way in. Host Ed Fitzpatrick spoke to a dialect coach about the distinctive Rhode Island accent; they analyzed some voicemails from you, our listeners. Not for nothing, but it was our most popular episode of the year.

Speaking of podcasts…

For her Innovators column, Globe Rhode Island reporter Alexa Gagosz talked to Sara E. Corben is the voice, researcher, writer, and producer of “Weird Island,” a podcast that “takes listeners behind the scenes of Rhode Island’s quirkiest tales.”

Episodes have included weird tales of yesteryear, including the secret apartment in the Providence Place mall, the history of the Superman building, and the abandoned East Side train tunnel.

The truth is out there

Is there intelligent life out there beyond Rhode Island? And even, indeed, into the universe? Eric Smith, a Rhode Island College graduate, has turned his interest in that question into a part-time volunteer career, as Globe Rhode Island’s Carlos Muñoz wrote in April. Smith has looked into hundreds of cases in Rhode Island – which is, according to a list compiled by a gambling site, one of the least likely places to spot UFOs and other paranormal activity. We’ve got enough going on here already, Martians and Sasquatch! Stay out!


All the way

A scary situation ended up coming to a peaceful end thanks to a Rhode Island food staple. Police in North Providence helped resolve a standoff by meeting a man’s request for three hot wieners and a pizza. The man promised to surrender after eating, which was technically true, although it did last another 10 hours.

Nick Alahverdian

The strange case of Nick Alahverdian, the former Rhode Island man who authorities say fled to Scotland and faked his death to avoid scrutiny from law enforcement, including for alleged sexual assaults, continues to reverberate in 2022. Alahverdian was arrested in December 2021 while in the hospital for COVID-19 while using the name Arthur Knight.

Globe Rhode Island columnist Dan McGowan took a step back in January to look at Alahverdian’s time in Rhode Island, concluding that Alahverdian is finally getting his wish to be newsworthy.

New Wave

Rhode Island is getting new license plates. Some people liked them. Some people didn’t. You won’t really have much of a choice in the matter starting in a few days.

We knew 2022 was trouble when it walked in

Taylor Swift had a big year. She released the album “Midnights,” which was really good. She announced a tour, which will also be really good unless you didn’t get tickets, in which case it will be bad. But most important for Rhode Islanders – since there was no news about her Westerly beach house, which is not far from the beach access “viloators” sign, actually – was her status as Providence College musical muse.


Amanda Milkovits’ story looked at how Swift’s “You Belong With Me” became an anthem for PC as the Friars won the Big East regular season title in 2022 and made it to the Sweet 16. Three PC students asked the DJ to play the song, and the rest was history.

One of the three PC Swifties summed it up well, also managing to capture what was so great about being in Rhode Island in 2022 with all of you: “Everyone loves being there [at the games], and not to get cheesy, everyone feels such a belonging, a community and a love within Providence and being in that atmosphere.”