Mysterious America

Abandoned in New York

When it comes to urban exploration, New York has it all. The Empire State stretches across 54,555 square miles. Relics of the past can be found in every corner.

Upstate New York is filled with abandoned, out-of-the-way places. Each represents someone’s dream; a career; fond memories; a home; all quickly fading into the past. But explorers beware: while most of the following places are open to the public, some are restricted and you visit at your own risk.

Camp Beechwood

An abandoned Girl Scout camp deep in the woods is something from a horror movie, and you can experience it yourself in Upstate New York. In 1929 the Girl Scouts of America purchased 150-acres between Maxwell Bay and Sill Creek for use as a summer camp.

Unfortunately, rising tax rates, declining membership, and environmental factors led to the camp’s closure and sale in 1996. New York State bought the land but budget cuts forced it to designate the site as a preserve. The buildings were left to rot. The camp is remarkably well preserved for having been abandoned and accessible to the public for over two decades.

Roadside America

Hudson Valley Diners

There’s nothing more American than a classic diner, and New York’s Hudson Valley has more than its fair share.

The Hudson River flows in more or less a straight line 315 miles through eastern New York from the Adirondack Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. In southeastern New York, the Hudson Valley has fostered its own sense of culture and community. The classic American diner is part and parcel of that culture, and the Hudson Valley has many fine examples of diners both historic and modern.

Center Diner in Peekskill

Situated on Peekskill Bay on the Hudson River’s east bank, Peekskill is a small river town with a modern downtown. The Center Diner, opened in 1939 on Bank Street off Route 202 (Main Street), is a classic greasy spoon wedged between an alley and a plasma center. It is a rare National Diner.

Mysterious America

America’s Haunted Houses

These storied homes are valued for their architecture or their role in historical events, but many visitors and residents report that something otherworldly lingers…

Lizzie Borden House

The Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum in Fall River, Massachusetts was the scene of a gruesome unsolved double murder, perhaps among the most infamous in the U.S. Thirty-two-year-old Lizzy Borden became the chief suspect, but she was acquitted at trial. Today it’s open for tours and overnight stays.

The Franklin Castle

Built between 1881-1883, Franklin Castle (or the Tiedemann House as it is more properly known) is located in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood. 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? Only a few people have been allowed inside its wrought iron gates to know for sure.

Historic America

La Belle-Famille Battlefield in Youngstown, New York

This little-known British military victory along the Niagara River led to the French surrender of Fort Niagara, but historians are undecided about where it actually took place.

Click to expand photos

The Battle of La Belle-Famille was fought on July 24, 1759 between French forces under the command of Col. François-Marie Le Marchand de Lignery and British forces under the command of Lt. Col. Eyre Massey and their American Indian allies along the Niagara River during the French and Indian War. The battle ended in complete British and Iroquois victory over the French, and the surrender of Fort Niagara two days later.

Approximately 3,500 British and Iroquois lay siege to Fort Niagara at the confluence of Lake Ontario and the Niagara River from July 6 to July 26, 1759. Trapped inside were 520 French regulars, militia, and their American Indian allies under the command of Captain Pierre Pouchot. Pouchot appealed to Col. François-Marie Le Marchand de Lignery for help, and Lignery marched from Fort Machault with 800 French regulars and militia and 500 native allies to relieve Fort Niagra’s garrison.

Lignery sent messengers ahead to notify Pouchot that relief was on its way, but unfortunately for them, the British also had advanced warning. Approximately 450 British soldiers and an equal number of Iroquois warriors set up a carefully laid ambush. Lignery compounded his earlier mistake by failing to properly screen his movement and French forces walked right into an open field, triggering the ambush.

Mysterious America

Decades-Old Mystery Hangs Over Rush Rhees Library

At least one University of Rochester employee refuses to stay dead, according to this 88-year-old campus legend. But was he–or his accidental death–real?

Established in 1850 as an independent offshoot of Baptist-born Madison University, the University of Rochester grew to become a mid-sized research university along the Genesee River in Rochester, New York. Benjamin Rush Rhees, a Baptist minister and namesake of Rush Rhees Library, was the University of Rochester’s third president, serving from 1900 to 1935. His long and steady leadership oversaw the university’s growth into a modern institution.

Rush Rhees Library was constructed between 1927 and 1930 in neoclassical style, and its tower, which contains a carillon featuring 50 Dutch bells, stands 186 feet high. The library’s impressive collection contains over three million books, as well as beautiful neoclassical artwork and sculptures. But does something otherworldly flicker through its halls?

The ghost story at Rush Rhees Library is as old as the library itself. In 1929, during construction of the central library tower, a Sicilian immigrant and laborer named Pete Nicosia fell 150 feet to his death. James Conroy, his foreman, supposedly signed Nicosia’s death certificate and made burial arrangements, or so the legend goes. Since then, Nicosia’s disembodied spirit has materialized before bewildered and unsuspecting students.


The Shadow I Once Kissed

This striking gothic monument to Samuel Fletcher Pratt (1807-1872), his wife Mary Jane Strong (1815-1886), and their family in Forest Lawn Cemetery, at 1411 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, New York, features five full-scale granite statues. Pratt & Company, a hardware store later expanded to include iron and steel production, was at one time the most prominent business in Buffalo.

Samuel Fletcher Pratt (1807-1872)

S.F. Pratt bought out his partner’s share of the company in 1836. In 1844, he became president of the Buffalo Gaslight Company, and went on to found Buffalo Female Seminary. Samuel and Mary had two daughters, Jeannie (1841–1872) and Helen (1843–1873).

Samuel Fletcher Pratt (1807-1872)
Mysterious America

The Highlander's Legend and Weeping Woman of Ticonderoga

Two colonial-era ghost stories, one of which sparked an international legend, make Fort Ticonderoga one of Lake Champlain’s most haunted places.

Originally called Fort Carillon by the French, Fort Ticonderoga is a stone star fort near the southern end of Lake Champlain at the New York/Vermont border. French engineer Michel Chartier de Lotbinière, Marquis de Lotbinière constructed the fort between 1755 and 1757 during the French and Indian War. The French and Indian War was part of the larger Seven Years’ War between France and Great Britain.

In 1758, the British launched an invasion of what was then the French colony of Canada. Fort Carillon was key to French defenses on the shore of Lake Champlain. Today, visitors to Fort Ticonderoga are likely to overlook the secluded battlefield about three-quarters of a mile west of the citadel, but for seven hours on July 8, 1758, it was the scene of the bloodiest battle in the French and Indian War.

British General James Abercrombie took a force of 6,000 British regulars and 12,000 colonial volunteers, rangers, and American Indians to lay siege to Fort Carillon. The French, under General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm and the Chevalier de Levis, numbering about 3,600, dug entrenchments and erected breastworks on a hill west of the fort. Abercrombie ordered poorly coordinated frontal attacks on the French lines. The slaughter resulted in 800-1,000 British killed and 1,500 wounded to the French’s 104 killed and 273 wounded.