For history buffs, no trip to Upstate New York is complete without visiting Fort William Henry Museum and Restoration at the southern tip of Lake George. It’s a faithful recreation of the original fort, burnt by the French in 1757. The museum offers a variety of activities, guides in period uniform, artillery demonstrations, and an extensive gift shop.
French forces besieged the fort in 1757 during the French and Indian War. To end the siege, French General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm arranged for the British forces to leave, but American Indians under his command were angry at being denied war spoils and massacred several hundred retreating British. These events formed the backdrop for James Fenimore Cooper’s novel The Last of the Mohicans (1826).
Sir William Johnson ordered the fort’s construction in 1755 in preparation for a British attack on Crown Point on Lake Champlain. The French and their Indian allies, however, destroyed it less than two years later. The siege only lasted a few days, with the French artillery inflicting most of the damage. Montcalm’s army tried to stop deprivations inflicted by their allies on paroled British captives, but events spiraled out of their control.
Fort William Henry lay in ruins for the next two centuries. In 1952, the Fort William Henry Corporation purchased a hotel adjacent to the site and built a replica of the fort, completed in 1959. Today, the Fort William Henry Hotel and Conference Center offers accommodations for visitors and business groups within walking distance of the fort. Tour guides dressed in period costume as British regulars do a great job explaining the brief history of the fort and the French and Indian War. Excavations conducted at the site have uncovered dozens of artifacts dating to that period.
Fort William Henry has capitalized on the recent growth in paranormal tourism by offering a guided, nighttime ghost tour. Among the ‘usual’ ghostly activity, tour guides call one impatient ghost, “Mary,” and she always has somewhere to be. “People have come down the steps right behind us here and tell us they get a whisper in their ear, ‘hurry up, hurry up, hurry up,'” Nick McCue told ABC News Channel 10. The spirited activity led to the fort’s inclusion in an episode of Ghost Hunters in 2009.
Fort William Henry Museum is located at 48 Canada Street in Lake George, New York. It is open daily May through October, 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Admission costs $16.95 for adults, $13.95 for seniors, and $7.95 for children ages 5-15. Military and veterans are free with ID. Nighttime ghost tours are offered June 29 through Sept 5, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., 8:00 p.m., 9:00 p.m., and 9:30 p.m. (reservations required). Tickets are $18.00 adults, $15.00 seniors, and $8.00 for children. Called (518) 668-5471 to reserve.