Swan Lake’s Stone Castle

One of five built by Italian-American stone mason Joe Moshini in the 1930s, this tiny stone castle is located at 2669-2673 Briscoe Road in Swan Lake, south of Liberty, New York. It formerly sat in front of the grand Commodore Hotel, which burned in a controlled fire in 1979.

From the 1920s to the 1970s, New York City Jews flocked to Catskill resorts like the Commodore for summer vacations. There were once over 500 resorts and hotels in the area, known as the “Borscht Belt“. The hotel’s garden, and its tiny castle, was reclaimed by nature, but in 2013 a group of volunteers restored it and erected signs relating the history of the site.

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Luna at Mount Hope and Warner Castle

Model Luna Mae at Mount Hope Cemetery and Warner Castle in Rochester, New York. I continued to refine my use of a basic 70-300mm lens for this photo shoot.

Luna at Mount Hope

One technique I’m experimenting with uses exposure compensation and my camera’s highlights feature to help produce a brighter exposure. With exposure compensation, you can increase or decrease the brightness of your photos (essentially by adjusting the shutter speed). With the highlights feature, the camera shows you what parts of your photo are “clipped“, or so bright the camera can’t reproduce the image (essentially pure white).

Luna at Mount Hope
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Luna at Warner Castle and Sunken Garden

Model Luna Mae at the Sunken Garden and Warner Castle in Rochester, New York. I continued to refine my use of a basic 70-300mm lens for this photo shoot.

Luna Noir

The higher the focal length, the more it throws the background out of focus, making a zoom lens perfect for separating a subject from the background. But, the trade off is that it’s difficult to steady the lens so motion blur is a problem. I increased the ISO to 800 to counteract that, but I think using a tripod would’ve been more helpful.

Floral Luna

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Leah at The White Lady’s Castle

Leah at The White Lady's Castle

Model Leah Hotte poses at a stone wall, located in Durand-Eastman Park, which was once part of a hotel dining hall that served swimmers in nearby Lake Ontario. According to legend, a woman in white haunts the ruin, searching for her long-lost daughter. The park is located in Irondequoit, New York, north of Rochester.

Leah at The White Lady's Castle

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Hartford Castle’s Once-Majestic Remains

“Hartford Castle” is the colloquial name for a mansion that formerly stood on a tract of land just outside Hartford, Illinois, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. Its original owner, a French immigrant named Benjamin Biszant, called it Lakeview. He built the imposing home for his bride, an Englishwoman whose name has apparently been lost to history.

Sparing no expense (which was certainly an impressive dollar amount in 1897), Biszant surrounded Lakeview with sprawling gardens, statuary, romantic gazebos, and, finally, a moat to keep out trespassers. According to Louie Haines, a neighbor who recalled helping to dig the moat with his father, the Frenchman stocked it with goldfish that interbred with local crappie, producing what he described as “unusual looking fish.”

Eventually, Biszant’s wife died and, perhaps, the pain was too much for him to remain at Lakeview. He sold the mansion and moved west. Several owners and tenants occupied the mansion until 1923 when a husband and wife from nearby Wood River purchased the property. They lived there until 1964, when the wife became a widow and decided to move to less lonely surroundings.

During that time, according to Bill Matheus of the Lewis & Clark Journal, local residents treated the property as if it were their own. Visitors frequently roamed the grounds and even invited themselves inside the mansion for tours! The mansion deteriorated during the late 1960s, and in 1971 and 1972 vandals ran wild.

Continue reading “Hartford Castle’s Once-Majestic Remains”

Boldt Castle in Winter

Boldt Castle and St. Lawrence River
Few places in Upstate New York are as romantic as Boldt Castle on the St. Lawrence River. George Boldt, general manager of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City and manager of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia, began construction of the 120-room mansion in 1900, but it was never finished.
Boldt Castle in Winter
It was to be a grand tribute to the love of his life, Louise Kehrer Boldt. Tragically, Louise Boldt died suddenly in January 1904. Heartbroken, George Boldt sent workers at the castle a telegram telling them to cease construction immediately.
Boldt Castle in Winter
For the next 73 years, the partially-completed castle sat empty and abandoned, left to the mercy of vandals and the elements. In 1977, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority bought Heart Island and agreed to commit all proceeds from tours and events toward its restoration. Today, much of the structural damage has been reversed, and the ground floor is beautifully furnished. It looks particularly romantic, like something from a fairy tale, covered with snow and ice.

Cleveland’s Macabre Franklin Castle

Visitors to Cleveland’s Franklin Boulevard are likely to shudder when walking past this quintessential haunted house, even if they’ve never heard the stories.

  • German immigrant Hannes Tiedemann built this High Victorian-style home between 1881-1883.
  • After his wife passed away from liver disease in 1896, Tiedemann sold the home and since then no one has lived there long.
  • Wild stories about the home include murder, illicit affairs, hidden rooms and passageways, and even infanticide.

If you ask about a haunted house in Cleveland, you are likely to get one response: “Franklin Castle.” That is because this High Victorian style stone house is one of the most infamous haunted houses in the Rock and Roll Capital of the World, if not the state of Ohio.

Built between 1881-1883 by German immigrant Hannes Tiedemann, Franklin Castle (or the Tiedemann House as it is more properly known) is located at 4308 Franklin Boulevard in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood. Today, this neighborhood is economically depressed, but it was at one time an upscale residential avenue. It is rumored to be home to more than a few tortured souls left over from a series of gruesome murders – but are any of those stories true?

On January 15, 1891, before construction began on the home, Tiedemann’s 15-year-old daughter Emma died of diabetes, a fact which becomes important later. Hannes Tiedemann and his family lived in this house from 1883 until 1896. He sold it shortly after his wife Louise died of liver disease. From 1921 to 1968, it was the home of the German-American League for Culture and known as Eintracht Hall.

Prior to US entry in World War 2, the German-American League for Culture advocated the overthrow of Adolf Hitler’s regime. From 1968 to the present day, Franklin Castle went through a series of owners. The first, James Romano and his family, are largely responsible for the house’s reputation for being haunted. Their encounters with the unseen were widely circulated in the press, and the Northeast Ohio Psychical Research Society even conducted an investigation of the home.

Continue reading “Cleveland’s Macabre Franklin Castle”