Phantasmal Melody at Fort Stanwix

Since the rebuilt colonial-era fort opened for tourists, some say sunrise brings a haunting melody of musical instruments from the past.

Fort Stanwix National Monument is a reconstruction of a historic fort occupying approximately 16 acres in downtown Rome, New York. Originally built by the British, it was captured and used by American colonists during the Revolutionary War. Since reconstruction finished in 1978, visitors have reported strange encounters with otherworldly sights and sounds, as though ghosts from the past have returned to reclaim their home.

British General John Stanwix originally ordered construction of the fort in the summer of 1758 to guard a portage connecting the Mohawk River and Wood Creek during the French and Indian War. It finished in 1762. The 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix between the British and the Iroquois attempted to solidify the frontier boundary and reduce hostility there. The fort was then abandoned and allowed to fall into ruin.

Colonial troops under the command of Colonel Elias Dayton occupied and repaired the fort in July 1776 and renamed it Fort Schuyler. British forces besieged the fort in August 1777, but were demoralized by a colonial raid on their camp and withdrew. It burned down in 1781. A treaty between the United States and the Iroquois League was signed at the site in 1784.

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Drink with the Ghost of Poe at the Historic Deer Park Tavern

Deer Park Tavern not only shares the physical location of the old St. Patrick’s Inn, many patrons and staff insist it shares something of the metaphysical as well.

Deer Park Tavern, 108 W Main Street in Newark, Delaware, towers above the intersection of W Main Street and London Avenue at the northwest edge of the University of Delaware campus. For nearly 170 years, it has been at the social center of Newark, but the location’s history goes back even farther. The current red-brick, ‘U-shaped’ building sits near the site of St. Patrick’s Inn, which was built circa 1747 and hosted storied figures including Edgar Allan Poe. Many patrons and staff believe a few of their spirits remained behind, even after the original structure disappeared.

Some sources say St. Patrick’s Inn was built as early as 1743, but historians disagree. A man named John Pritchard owned it in 1750, and it was sometimes referred to as “Pritchard’s Hotel”. The hotel was a hot spot for travelers in the Colonial days, and it even (supposedly) quartered George Washington. Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon based their operations out of the hotel while surveying the boundary line between Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware between 1763 and 1767. The “Mason–Dixon line” later became famous as shorthand for the border between slave states and free states.

But St. Patrick’s Inn is most famous for playing host to legendary Dark Romantic poet and storyteller Edgar Allan Poe. On December 23, 1843, Poe gave a lecture at the Newark Academy and spent the night at St. Patrick’s. According to legend, upon returning to the inn, he tripped while exiting his carriage and fell in the mud. “A curse upon this place!” he said. “All who enter shall have to return!” Onlookers were so amused they carried him inside. Later, it was said Poe either wrote or was inspired to write his famous poem “The Raven” while staying there. Poe spent another week lecturing on poetry at Newark Academy in 1849, shortly before his death.

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Is Peyton Randolph House the Most Haunted House in America?

A colonial-era home sits on a quiet plaza in America’s most historic town, but storytellers say something sinister lurks inside.

Without the misfortune of dying right before the Declaration of Independence, Peyton Randolph (1721-1775) would be considered one of our country’s most prominent founding fathers. He was elected president of the First and Second Continental Congress, before dying of a stroke while dining with Thomas Jefferson. His home, expanded and modified over the intervening decades, still stands in Colonial Williamsburg.

The Georgian-style house, at least the western wing at the corner of Nicholson and North England Streets, was built in 1715 by William Robertson. Sir John Randolph, Peyton’s father, purchased it in 1721 and willed it to his son, who took ownership at the age of 24. John had built a second house, what became the east wing, in 1724, and Peyton connected the two homes with a spacious hall, though the east wing still had to be accessed from outside.

Peyton’s sister, Susannah Beverley, lived in the home until her death circa 1754, and Peyton’s window retained it after his death. It served as temporary headquarters to French general Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau during the Siege of Yorktown in 1781. It was sold at auction in 1783, and served as a military hospital at the Battle of Williamsburg on May 5, 1862 during the American Civil War.

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Isabella’s Spectral Form Chills Guests at Geneva’s Belhurst Castle

The ghost of an elegant opera singer is said to wander the grounds of this 19th-Century mansion in New York’s Finger Lakes.

Designed by architectural firm Fuller & Wheeler and built between 1885 and 1889 for Mrs. Carrie M. Young Harron Collins, Belhurst Castle is a Romanesque Revival-style mansion on Seneca Lake in Geneva, New York. The property has a long and colorful history, and is rumored to be haunted by several ghosts, including an opera singer named Isabella.

In 1824, an English lawyer named Joseph Fellows acquired rights to the property and built a home called the Hermitage, which he leased to a mysterious man named Henry Hall. “Henry Hall” was actually the assumed name of William Henry Bucke, who fled to the United States from London, where he had been treasurer of Covent Garden Theater. Bucke had embezzled theater funds and married his stepmother, who according to legend was an actress or opera singer named Isabella. Bucke died in 1852 of an untreated injury.

Harrison G. Otis purchased the property and named it ‘Bellehurst,’ or “beautiful forest”. The Otis family lived there until 1878, when it was taken over by the United States Trust Company. Local residents picnicked in “Otis Grove” in the shadow of the abandoned Hermitage, and spun yarns about escape tunnels William Henry Bucke/Henry Hall had built leading to Seneca Lake. The old house, they said, was haunted.

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Ghosts of Chicago Raised the Bar for Books of Chicago Ghostlore

Books about Illinois ghostlore have become a “copy and paste” industry, and literally dozens of paperbacks devoid of original content line the shelves. That cannot be said for The Ghosts of Chicago: The Windy City’s Most Famous Haunts by Adam Selzer. Published by Llewellyn Publications in 2013, The Ghosts of Chicago is a necessary addition to any collection of books on Chicago ghostlore. It retails for $18.50 and is 340 pages in length.

“Professional ghost hunter and historian Adam Selzer pieces together the truth behind Chicago’s ghosts, and brings to light dozens of never-before-told firsthand accounts,” the cover promises. Selzer delivers on this promise, not necessarily by adding new locations to our catalog of tales, but by greatly expanding our understanding of well-known stories. That is what makes The Ghosts of Chicago so great—it takes on a simple task and does it better than it has been done for nearly a decade.

Two examples of this are the chapters on Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery and Resurrection Mary. Both are obligatory inclusions in any book about Chicago ghostlore, and you would think not much more could be written about them. Selzer pushes the stories beyond their usual retelling, however.

In the chapter on Bachelor’s Grove, for example, he goes into detail about the famous “ghost photo” of the lady dressed in white sitting on a broken headstone. Unlike most other accounts, he explains the who, when, and how of the photograph—giving credit to the photographer and telling her story.

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Do Past Shadows Lurk at Historic Illinois College?

Nearly every building on campus is thought to have a ghost or two.

Click to expand photos

Founded by Presbyterians in 1829, Illinois College in Jacksonville is one of the oldest colleges in Illinois. Its first president was Edward Beecher, brother of Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe. With such a rich history, it comes as no surprise that Illinois College is rich in ghostlore too. The female dorm at Illinois College, Ellis Hall, is allegedly haunted by a young woman who committed suicide. A “gray ghost”—and a faceless phantom at that—hangs out on the stairwell of Whipple Hall.

Another gray ghost, this one dressed in a Confederate uniform from the Civil War, has been seen in Sturtevant Hall. Phantom footsteps have been heard in Beecher Hall, the oldest building on campus. It is rumored that early in the college’s history, medical students stole cadavers from nearby hospitals in order to learn about anatomy. After a while, the hall where the bodies were stored began to smell, and the student’s grisly enterprise was uncovered.

Designed to accommodate 113 students, administrators at Illinois College named Ellis Hall after Rev. John M. Ellis. Ellis founded Illinois College in 1829. The residence hall was built in 1957, and the ghost of a young woman who committed suicide by hanging herself in the closet is rumored to haunt a room on the third floor. In truth, a young woman named Gail died in Room 303, but of a terminal illness. Still, residents believe her ghost opens and closes doors, hides personal items, and knocks on the walls.

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Pros and Cons of Paranormal Tourism

Despite positive news about allegedly haunted locations opening their doors for paranormal tours and events, the value of such tourism is still a hotly debated topic.

Over the years, there have been many stories of so-called “ghost hunters” trespassing and committing a variety of other crimes including vandalism, theft, arson, underage drinking, and even grave robbery. Because of the sensational nature of these incidents, local media loves to hype them up. It is undeniable that certain individuals have gone to allegedly haunted locations to commit mischief, and others use this fact to paint everyone interested in legend tripping with a wide brush. They argue the simple act of writing about an allegedly haunted location invites harm to it.

I believe that legends and lore can be a great way to create interest in Local history. Critics assume stories on the Internet draw negative attention to these places, when in fact, they are already well known in the local community. Many have already suffered vandalism long before the internet or personal computers became widely available. Many of these stories developed during the 1960s and ’70s when these locations were used as party spots for teenagers who went there to drink, take drugs, or hook up.

None of that, however, has anything to do with people who are interested in folklore and ghost stories. The individuals involved in these crimes use ghost stories as an excuse for delinquent behavior. Many allegedly haunted locations are remote and unsupervised, perfect locations for mischief, but they do not have to have anything to do with ghost stories to attract petty crime.

In 2009, three teenagers were arrested in South Side Cemetery in Pontiac, Illinois as they were seen trying to tip over a headstone. Days earlier, as many as 60 headstones had been damaged at the same location. This cemetery was not associated with any legends or ghost stories.

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Der Rathskeller Neon Sign

Der Rathskeller Neon Sign
Neon sign for Der Rathskeller, 1132 Auburn Street in Rockford, Illinois. Fred Goetz opened Der Rathskeller, Rockford’s only German-American restaurant, in 1931. It offers an outdoor beer garden and romantic, candle-lit basement dining. Yes, it’s also supposed to be haunted. According to Haunted Rockford, Illinois by Kathi Kresol, many employees believe Fred still hangs around, making adjustments to place settings after hours and playing little pranks to make sure they know he’s still around.