Hudson Valley’s Most HAUNTED
by Rochelle Riservato
Fall is the time of year that brings out the thrills and chills of Halloween costumes, parties, and businesses that lure thousands annually to be scared out of their wits. However, it’s been told that the Valley’s landscape lends itself to the probability that ghosts DO exist—from Native American mystifying legends of the Valley and Dutch settlers being fanatical founders of fables to Washington Irving’s writings, adding to the supernatural mix of folklore. So, if you possess curiosity coupled with a bit of skepticism—and a love of ghostly tales—WE’VE RESEARCHED A FEW PLACES IN THE HUDSON VALLEY PURPORTED TO HOUSE A RESIDENT GHOST, OR PERHAPS TWO!
Huguenot Street–New Paltz
Being the oldest inhabited street in the country, Huguenot Street has been said to have a dark side, not only when the sun goes down. This historical haven hosts tales of murder of the axe-wielding genre and colorful stories of spooky sightings. HERE ARE JUST A FEW:
The Death Coach
As it’s told, one night an old woman sits vigil at her dying husband’s bedside waiting for the town doctor. The husband, with much impatience, repeatedly asks the wife, “Is it here yet?” Not knowing what he’s speaking of, the wife suddenly hears the sound of horse hooves outside. Feeling he is delirious with his demise near, the wife feels a sense of relief, hoping his pain will soon subside and he will pass. She looks out the window and surprisingly sees a black coach, sans windows, horses, or a driver. Fearful but calm she realizes that her husband was awaiting the arrival of his “death coach.” She turned and squeezed her mate’s hand and he was gone. His visible spirit moved out the door and she went to a window to witness her husband board the carriage—just as he entered the coach, he turned and waved goodbye. The death coach then proceeded down the road to bring her husband on his
Dark Cloaked Axman and Dog
The Abraham Hasbrouck house is the alleged sinister location of a man with a long, dark coat who carries an axe and is accompanied by a large black dog. He seems to relish lurking over those asleep. However while there are many reported sightings of him, there has never been any trace of evidencethat his presence exists. Nevertheless
the source of the sorcery came from a true news story that took place about four decades ago when a SUNY New Paltz male student was arrested for breaking into a local apple orchard—but was released. Upon his return to campus he tried to strangle a female student, but her screams were so horrifying that her attacker ran and escaped the campus, finding refuge in a barn owned by a Mr. Grimm. When Grimm assisted in the assailant’s capture, the young man charged toward Grimm and hacked him to death with an axe. Upon discovery that this student was the son of an international diplomat he was released from the Asylum for the Criminally Insane (aka Mattawan State Hospital) and deported.
Bones in the Basement
Basements in homes from centuries past were sometimes notoriously known as slave quarters. With the famous slavery abolitionist Sojourner Truth having led a life of servitude in Ulster County—especially in New Paltz—it’s not hard to believe a tale told by Alf Evers, a Valley author and Woodstock historian. Evers and his parents once lived in the Abraham Hasbrouck house. Being the son of a clairvoyant mother who persistently mentioned a vision of a child buried inthe home’s basement, the young and elder Evers commenced digging to reveal a gruesome discovery. Indeed, they found a child’s bones buried there. Having unearthed the remains they placed them on a table for a physician to verify they were a child’s bones. However, the child’s identity would never be revealed as the bones disintegrated shortly after their discovery. Many felt they were the remains of an illegitimate slave child—but forever a mystery it will be. The legends of Huguenot Street can be experienced in October during the annual Haunted Huguenot Street event from October 28-30th. For details visit huguenotstreet.org.
Elting Library – New Paltz
Located at 93 Main Street in the downtown section of the New Paltz Village, this totally locked-up landmark structure became a YouTube sensation in 2007 one week before Halloween when security cameras captured the image of an amorphous blob moving about. Upon scrutiny of the camera, the image could not easily be explained by any possible technical issues, but in the morning a librarian found the locked door was ajar. The upload of the video to the popular YouTube site became the most popular online video about New Paltz that revealed a 30-second stretch, at approximately 3:30am, of what the library staff described in a published report as the blurry image of an anomaly, spider, shadow, or dust mote moving across the room toward the door, eventually disappearing through the east wall. Out of curiosity, further research in the library’s Haviland-Heidgerd Historical
Collection revealed that two known deaths had occurred in the section of the library that was originally the Solomon Eltinge House. The two documented deaths had occurred in the house in 1899 and 1908. The video, uploaded on March 21, 2008 garnered over 300,000 views by October of that year—more than 5 times the recorded population of the village in the year 2000. Several months after the alleged haunting it was discovered that the library had erected a Day of the Dead alter during a community-wide reading of Bless Me, Ultima as part of the One Book, One New Paltz program.
Shanley Hotel – Napanoch
Amidst the Shawangunk Mountains is a section of the Valley that transcends one into a time-travel mode. Once a mill town, the Village of Napanoch lost its “cutting edge” when wood milling died down. And, speaking of dying...The Shanley Hotel, once a flourishing inn built in 1845, has about 40 spirits that came to “light” when it was purchased in early 2005 by the Nicosias. Renovations included installing electricity, so the couple was in the dark literally, but also
about the fact that they had guests that had checked-out of life—but not out of the hotel. Footsteps could be heard on the once-grand staircase that led from the Gentleman’s Club on the first floor to the second floor, which had a
three-bedroom brothel adorning its level.
First built in 1845 by Thomas Rich the hotel changed hands many times, but it is James Shanley’s name that still adorns the building today. Shanley and his wife Beatrice were well loved in the town of Napanoch, and their inn was like home to many guests who enjoyed a variety of social activities and events hosted by the hotel. It is believed that the comfortable feeling the patrons experienced at the inn is the underlying reason why so many spirits remain at the Shanley today.
Aside from the comforting atmosphere of friends and family, there were also times of tragedy and debauchery at the inn. Tragically, all three of Mrs. Shanley’s children died before they were nine months old. Rosie, the four-year-old and daughter of the in-house barber, drowned in a nearby well. And, there’s also Mr. and Mrs. Shanley, a playful six-year-old named Jonathan, T.J. the bartender who passed in 1980, Claire a 19th century suicide, and a spirited spirit named Joe who likes his solitude and has definitely made that clear!
The Nicosias have worked with many psychics and paranormal experts and have also conducted historical research. Almost every paranormal experiment has yielded positive results. From the opening and closing of doors and rocking chairs rocking to the spirit of Rosie, who loves jewelry, virtually taking it right off guests. Video, print cameras, and electronic voice phenomenon records (EVP) have documented supernatural findings and are considered Class A—an industry rarity. Because of their in-depth investigations, the Nicosias have become experts in the paranormal and have been featured in many articles, as well as radio and television programs. For more information on ghost investigation and haunting events at the Shanley Hotel, visit shanleyhotel.com, where the “spirits are inn.”
Bannerman’s Island Haunts – Beacon
Once an impressive gateway to the Hudson Highlands, the ruins of a grand fortress—a Scottish castle— still stands on an isolated island south of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. Now known as Bannerman’s Island Arsenal on Pollepel Island, it deteriorates more each year—sadly crumbling but steadfast in its island host’s four-century old legends.
HERE ARE A FEW OF THE
MOST POPULAR LEGENDS
An Island Namesake
Many years prior to Francis Bannerman’s castle building, Native Americans feared being in close proximity to this six-acre parcel as they believed it was possessed by evil spirits. Because of this, the island became a respite for Dutch settlers to hide from Indian attacks. Even the name of the island has legend as Pollepel’s name came from the story of newlywed Polly Pell, who with new hubby took a romantic sleigh ride when misfortune took hold and they entered the icy waters of the Hudson. River currents washed both ashore and the slave who rescued them named the island after her.
Flying Dutchman Cries
The infamous island also became a threat to Hudson sailors’ sanity and safety, as they feared a tribe of goblins that were subjects of the Heer of Dunderburgh. Dunderburgh purportedly controlled the winds and waters of the Hudson Highlands in Washington Irving’s story The Storm Ship—aka The Flying Dutchman, which sank in a wicked storm south of Pollepel and was said to be doomed to sail the Hudson for eternity. During violent storms, cries for help from the crew can still be heard.
Radiance Reduced to Rubble
Disastrous events plagued the Bannerman’s Island Arsenal. In 1929 a gun powder explosion relocated a castle wall clear across to the mainland—injuring three people, one of which was Mrs. Bannerman—and causing $50,000 worth of destruction. The pinnacle of devastation came after Bannerman’s death when in August 1969 a mysterious fire gutted all the island’s buildings. The embossing of the Bannerman name on his castle not only faded into history in a figurative sense, but literally as his castle turned to rubble—however the legends and allure of the island are still very much engraved in people’s minds.
Visiting the Island
The island and castle ruins are visible from land by driving a short distance south on Route 9D from the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge until reaching Breakneck Bridge, where one should park on the side of the road and cross the bridge over the train tracks. However, there is a two-and-a-half hour excursion and hard-hat walking tour of Bannerman
Island called the Hudson River Adventure. The 49-passsenger Pollepel departs from a Beacon dock and a Newburgh dock on the weekends. 845-220-2120; prideofthehudson.com; or bannermancastle.org for reservations
Culinary Institute of America (CIA) – Hyde Park
The presence of Father Murphy is somewhat of a culinary tradition amongst CIA faculty, staff, and students. But, are the stories just cooked up or real?
The CIA, formerly a Jesuit seminary named St. Andrews, is a 150-room, five-story structure perfectly positioned on 80 acres offering Hudson River vistas. The land’s cemetery is the final resting place of many of the Jesuit priests, and according to a college librarian one of the rooms under the former seminary chapel was a mausoleum. When the school bought the building, bodies had to be moved out and one, not embalmed, exploded in its coffin and left a dreadful stench in the room. After many unsuccessful attempts to remedy the horrific aroma, the school’s president sprinkled some out-of-date sherry around the room—which did the trick.
Apparently the un-embalmed body is Father Murphy who is blamed for many enigmatic happenings that occur at the CIA. Events such as a 3am phone call retrieved by a security guard on the emergency line where only Beethoven melodies were audible, and upon checking the room from where the call came, it was discovered there was no phone—just an empty jack. These phone calls happened often.
In addition, reports of footsteps in the CIA’s attic, which appears to be Father Murphy’s favorite haunt, and attic lights turning off during an electrical inspection; even when the inspector turned the switch back on—lights out, once again. Perhaps Father Murphy just wants to keep the memory of the Jesuit seminary alive.
Rondout Lighthouse – Kingston
The “Widow’s Watch” legend is told each year after the fall equinox when it’s said the lighthouse is haunted by a young bride widowed on her wedding night when her husband, the newly appointed keeper, died in a boating accident. For over a century, this young widow roams through the lighthouse at that time—still in search of her spouse.
For those not afraid of spirits, tours leave on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from September 30 to October 30 from Gallo Park on the Rondout in Kingston. The ferry Dirigo departs at 6, 7, 8, and 9pm with an exciting storyteller aboard. Adults, $25; Children under 12, $20. Includes boat ride and haunted lighthouse tour with cider and donuts at Mariner’s Harbor at night’s end. A portion of each ticket goes to support the Lighthouse Restoration Project. 845-336-8145 or 800-378-8145 for information.
Old Dutch Reformed Church–Kingston
The legend and lore of the Old Dutch Reformed Church is not only haunted, but it’s haunted by a hobgoblin (aka troublesome creature). It all started when an early clergyman and his wife were returning from New York City in a storm on the Hudson and as their ship passed Dunderberg Mountain in the Hudson Highlands, the creature swooped out of nowhere and perched on the ship’s foremast. The hobgoblin, being a rascally entity, was obviously trying to better the chance the ship would capsize in the turbulent waters. The clergyman was asked to pray for safety by the passengers and crew—and upon doing so, the hobgoblin went missing.
By next morning with all safe and sound, the hobgoblin’s cap was discovered hanging on the church’s bell tower. In his attempt to retrieve his cap, it’s said the hobgoblin became imprisoned in the tower until such time the church was moved off the consecrated ground it was built on in 1852. It’s a fact that the church was constructed atop a cemetery of more than 100 graves—with more burial places in the church’s crawl space.
Reverend Ken Walsh, a pastor at the Old Dutch Church, has stated that although there was no steeple at the time the story is reported to have occurred, he does acquiesce that the church is definitely haunted and that the church, indeed, was built upon a graveyard.
When first arriving, the pastor experienced figures and actually saw a man dressed in black, complete with top hat on, standing in his office. Some parishioners in the congregation will not be in the building after 10pm—but the pastor said he always got the sense that the “old” congregation was still watching over the church and new churchgoers.
And there are more stories, such as the one about a small painter seen at work on the steeple during lightning flashes with moans mistaken for worshipper snoring during Sunday services. Or another painter on the steeple dying of “painter’s colic.” And then there’s the real steeple painter who rapidly descended from his painting job after claiming to be tapped three times on his shoulder. Plus the usual with churches, organ music sans an organist—and whisking objects passing quickly past a person’s eyes.
The hobgoblin, by the way, is supposed to have added an extra line to the clock face so that “XII” became “XIII”—and we’ve all noticed that; haven’t we?
Potterville –near Wawarsing
An old milling town called Potterville was founded sometime in the 19th century and named after the owner of a lumber mill, Francis Potter. It is presumed that Potter’s mill was the main source of income for the townspeople until the mill burned down. As the sole employer and income source for the townsfolk, people began leaving the place. In 1927, there was a horrendous flood, which accelerated the exodus. A horrible murder also occurred there; a man killed each member of his family and then pulled the trigger on himself. In another incident a murderer was caught and hung, and afterward several people started dying for no apparent reason. Formerly located up Lundy’s Road, the land is now owned by Open Space Institute and the buildings have been demolished.
Paranormal and Ghost Investigators:
Michael J. Worden, an author and ghost investigator, has a website called Paranormal Police Headquarters—the official site of the Ghost Detective at paranormalpolice. com. According to the site, Worden has visited the following places in the Hudson Valley and states they have produced verifiable hauntings, and in some cases investigative activity such as Electromagnetic Frequency (EMF) sweeps have been performed. Worden works with author and
researcher Linda Zimmerman.
Cedar Grove in Catskill; Lindenwald, Martin Van Buren National Historical Site in Kinderhook; The Senate House in Kingston; The Ulster County Jail in Kingston; The Van Deusen House in Hurley; Pottersville, an abandoned town in Wawarsing; Freight Station and Office Complex in Ellenville; and the former O&W Railroad Station in Ellenville.