New York Haunted History Trail…Are You Up For The Challenge?
By Olivia Gilmore
The month of October is known for its picturesque fall foliage, all sorts of pumpkin treats, and above all, the spooky Halloween vibe.
Luckily in New York State, it doesn’t have to be October 31st for you to get spooked to the bone. On the Haunted History Trail, you can get your spook on any time of the year.
The 400-mile haunted trail is filled with a deep-rooted history that allows for a true experience of the ghastly paranormal world in New York State. With over 65 different locations across the state, brave souls who are willing to bear the trip can choose to visit mansions, hotels, castles, haunted gardens, and many other spooky sites.
If you happen to feel a tug on your shirt or a faint voice in the night, don’t be surprised, you’re never actually alone on the Haunted History Trail.
First Stop, Pasta With Ghosts
On a weekend-long haunted excursion, the first location I found myself at was Silvio’s Italian Villa in Warwick, New York.
As I was looking forward to chowing down on some authentic alfredo, I was rather apprehensive about sitting at table 24, the exact place where former owner Roy Vail took his own life.
“I never believed in ghosts, until I started working here”, said one waitress. Allegedly her haunting experience happened one night while she was closing the restaurant with another waiter. “I felt someone grab my shoulder,” she said. However, she turned around only to find out her coworker had already left.
Since it was built in the 1700s by a revolutionary war veteran named Levi Ellis, the building has had several different renovations and residents since. Despite the old eerie feeling the building gives off, the decor is impeccable, especially outside on the patio where beautiful fireplace seating is available.
Getting Homely With Creepy Dolls
The next stop and one of my favorites was the Burn Brae Mansion located in Glen Spey, NY. In order to access the mansion, you must drive along the cliffsides that complement a river basin below, it is quite the view of the Catskills at sunset.
The massive mansion is equipped with guest suites, a backyard motel, private baths, a pool, volleyball court, and game room. The 20 acres surrounding the mansion supply guests with great hiking opportunities, just beware, the quietness of the woods is almost deafening.
The yellow and blue-trimmed Victorian was built in 1907 and has had five different owners since, including the current owners Mike and Pat Fraysse. They currently operate the home as a bed and breakfast, however, it is like no other.
Primarily because of the ghost stories Mike tells and the wonderful homecooked meals he provides. Did you know the mansion also hosted dozens of Olympians? Well, now you do!
Don’t expect to be sleeping with the lights off in the mansion, from other guests’ reports, you won’t want to. Guests have reported seeing an apparition of a woman in a white dress, doors opening and slamming, balls bouncing, and even the sound of an organ playing.
Each guest room has a notebook filled with unexplained occurrences written by guests who have stayed overnight. However, no stay at the Burn Brae Mansion is complete without a trip up to the unique attic room.
The number of historic items that are neatly crammed into such a small space is simply shocking. Everything and I means EVERYTHING that was left behind from previous owners is displayed in the attic, even the dozens of creepy dolls with watchful eyes.
A lifetime Of Work
After a wonderful breakfast at the Burn Brae and a short drive through the valley later, I arrived at Wing’s Castle in Millbrook, New York.
My mouth dropped, eyes widened, and I could hardly believe what I was seeing…a handcrafted old-fashioned castle home.
Once just a simple idea, artists Peter and Toni Ann Wing brought their vision to life, creating one of the most remarkable live-in castles made from 80% recycled materials.
The castle doubles as a home and a lovely bed and breakfast. The furniture, underground tunnels, stained-glass windows, and all the accessories inside the house are either hand-built, bought locally, or antique memorabilia.
The stone castle is equipped with several available guest rooms, including one in the dungeon and one in the tower room.
You can even enjoy swimming in a moat that travels underneath the castle that overlooks the Millbrook Winery.
A hotel stay is no match to this awe-inspiring Hudson Valley Castle, as Toni Ann Wing said herself, the castle truly is “44 years of one man’s hard work”.
One of the most haunted sites in Albany, Ten Broeck Mansion was built in 1797 for Gen. Abraham Ten Broeck and his wife Elizabeth Van Rensselaer. With one step inside the eerie establishment, there’s no doubt that you’ll feel chills creep up your spine, and here’s why.
After the Tri-City New York Paranormal Society investigated the mansion, their electronic voice phenomena picked up on a man’s voice saying “go away” and a child’s voice in the what-used-to-be nursery.
A woman in white has also been seen peering down from the second-floor window upon outside guests. Several “hot spots” have been detected in the mansion, and it is not unusual to feel unwelcoming spirits follow you throughout the halls.
After a quick walk through the corridors, even my sense of intrigue with the mansion’s age-old wine cellar wasn’t enough to make me want to stay.
The Albany County Historical Association offers guided tours of the Mansion along with several thematic events throughout the year. The unusual site can even be rented for special events. A wedding with ghosts anyone?
A Mansion’s Secret Room
Once I made my greetings with the life-size friendly vampire in the doorway, I arrived inside The Knox Mansion in Johnstown, New York.
Created by the owner of Knox Gelatine, the old Victorian was built in 1889 and has 42 rooms, each filled with their own touch of individuality.
Not only are tours of the mansion available, but the current owner of the mansion, Marty Quinn, offers a one of a kind bed and breakfast.
If you are really looking to get your pants scared off, ask to see the secret windowless room, only accessible through a crawl space in the attic. People have been reported hearing voices and getting scratched there. I know for myself, and soon as I got in there, I immediately wanted out.
Marty Quinn’s love of the mansion runs so deep that he annually puts on a Haunted Halloween Tour for the neighborhood kids (and adults).
The tour features a scare-walk through the impressively decorated mansion, and Marty made sure to add that many people don’t always come out with dry pants. Anyone up for the challenge?
History With A Twist
With three floors of exhibits and traces of ghostly hauntings, the Saratoga Springs History Museum is located in the Canfield Casino in Congress Park. Opened in 1870 by wealthy businessman John Morrissey, the Canfield Casino has a questionable history that makes people wonder what went on on the third floor after clubhouse hours.
In 2010, several employees of the museum started sharing their paranormal experiences with one another, and before they knew it, Ghost Hunters were on the scene investigating.
Roulette wheels spin, glass chandeliers chime, and footsteps creak upon the floorboards, all without a single soul being in the building.
Don’t believe in ghosts? I felt the same way. Until I found myself walking up to the third floor, felt a tug on my shoulder, and booked it all the way out of the building.
A Garden of Ghosts
Given as a gift to his wife in 1899, Spencer Trask built the Yaddo Garden in Saratoga Springs as a rose sanctuary complete with beautiful stone terraces and water fountains. Elegant statues stand mounted at the head of the garden, representing the Trask’s children.
People claimed to have even seen members of the Trask family stroll through the garden. The lower part of the garden incorporates designs from the Italian and French Renaissance, while the modern upper garden is tucked away within the woodlands.
The peacefulness of the garden is unlike no other, and you can almost feel the history that thrives within it.
Yaddo is not just a garden, but a 400-acre estate that acts as a retreat for all kinds of artists. After the Trask’s passed, they left a letter of intent stating that an estate is a place for the “rest and refreshment [for] authors, painters, sculptors, musicians and other artists both men and women, few in number but chosen for their creative gifts.”
Although the application is quite competitive, once accepted to the program, artists are invited to stay in their own studio place on the premises, with the communal space being the Yaddo Mansion.
Despite being only a FEW haunted locations out of over 60 on the Haunted History Trail, there is no doubt in my book that these places deserve a humble amount of recognition.
Not only are the places worth a visit for their hauntings alone, but also for the dedicated owners and guides that operate them.
If you’re anything like me, you might find yourself questioning the verity of the paranormal world. But all it takes it one visit to one of these locations, and I promise, you might just prove yourself wrong.
Visit http://hauntedhistorytrail.com for more information.