Happy Valley Ghost Town Cemeteries

Happy Valley Wildlife Management Area in Oswego County, New York holds a secret: in the 1800s, this area was home to a hamlet called Happy Valley. Little remains of this once thriving community. During the Great Depression, the government bought up foreclosed farms to form the basis of this game reserve.

The area is covered in marshy terrain and pine forest. In summer, biting flies and mosquitoes swarm the lowlands. Several unimproved, dirt roads travel through the area. A few wells, foundations, and stone walls remain.

Most commonly, the curious visit Fraicheur Cemetery, established in 1850 and christened after the original French name for the area. Headstones date from the mid-to-late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Preservationists have preserved and repaired over a dozen headstones.

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All-American Diner Tour: Prospect Mountain Diner in Lake George, New York

Located along US Route 9 just west of Lake George Battleground State Campground, Prospect Mountain Diner is a typical 1950s or rock ‘n’ roll-themed diner in Lake George, New York, complete with tableside jukeboxes.

There is so much to see and do in Lake George, and the Prospect Mountain Diner is at the heart of it all. After a bad experience at a different local restaurant the previous morning, I welcomed Prospect Mountain’s casual atmosphere and reasonable prices. Unlike the other place, which charged $2.50 for every soda refill (more than a gallon of gas!), refills here were free. I ordered a Belgian waffle topped with apples and whipped cream.

The original Prospect Mountain, called Point Diner and located at the junction of Routes 9 and 9L, was a classic Silk City Diner. The Paterson Wagon Company produced approximately 1,500 Silk City Diners from 1926 to 1966 in Paterson, New Jersey. In 1967, the Point Diner’s owner, Phillip Patenaude, moved it to its current location and renamed it the Prospect Mountain Diner. It burnt down in 2007 and a replica was built in its place.

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All-American Diner Tour: Longway’s Diner in Watertown, New York

Located at the intersection of State Routes 37 and 342 several miles north of Watertown, New York, Longway’s Diner is a greasy spoon catering primarily to interstate truckers and soldiers from nearby Fort Drum.

Longway’s has plenty of booth and counter space, although the booths are tightly packed. On multiple visits, the food has been consistently good. Everything is served together–home fries, eggs, toast, sausage or bacon, all on the same plate, giving it that greasy, uniform flavor. Like most 24-hour establishments, people come here after a night of drinking to settle their stomachs with a nice heavy meal. During the day, it’s more of a family place.

There are a few motels, auto shops, and gas stations nearby, so not much to see and do. Patrons mainly stop in as they’re passing through the area.

There are no surprises or custom items on Longway’s menu, just typical diner fare. The menu is simple and easy to understand. Breakfast is tiered, with eggs and French toast listed in increasing increments (1 Egg… $1.49. 2 Eggs… $2.39. 3 Eggs… $3.29. Etc). Generic sides, like meat, home fries, and home fries and meat, are carefully listed beneath each item. I imagine this was done deliberately to make ordering with a hangover easier.

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All-American Diner Tour: Julie’s Diner in North Syracuse, New York

Located off Brewerton Road (US Highway 11) at the terminus of Airport Boulevard just outside the Syracuse Hancock International Airport in North Syracuse, New York, Julie’s is a modern diner with a fresh, contemporary style. Their motto is “We dish it out, you gotta take it!” (Not sure what that’s supposed to mean…)

Julie’s was crowded when a friend and I visited. We sat at the small counter (5 to 6 seats at most) and both had their signature waffles. I also got a side of raisin toast. I don’t know if blueberries were just out of season, but the blueberry topping they used seemed old and the berries were tiny. The waffle was good though. The diner was clean and the wait staff was friendly, despite the rush.

Julie’s is only open until 2:30 p.m., so breakfast is its primary focus. Without a doubt, people come here for the waffles. They are served Belgian style with several different fruit toppings, or just powdered sugar.

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Barrington’s Mysterious Cuba Road

I grew up in the northwest Chicago suburbs. Des Plaines to be exact. Home of the famous Choo Choo Restaurant, the first franchised McDonald’s, and the stomping grounds of John Wayne Gacy. When my friends and I wanted a scare, we usually trekked out to Cuba Road, a lonely avenue north of the Chicago suburbs, about a good half hour drive from my home. My sister, being four years older than I, was the first person I ever heard mention the road. She had just gotten her driver’s license, and like many teens, wanted to take her new found freedom somewhere thrilling. Cuba Road was such a place.

It was dark and remote, filled with mansions set far back from the road, and where one never knew what was lurking around the bend. There were rumors of abandoned insane asylums, phantom cars, haunted cemeteries, and a whole host of things that went bump in the night. For added danger, a few of the more fool hardy visitors turned off their headlights to see how long they could drive along the inky black avenue before common sense, and fear, got the better of them.

Cuba Road sits nestled between the towns of Lake Zurich and Barrington, both upper and upper-middle class retreats. The main portion of the road runs between Route 12 (Rand Road) and Route 14 (Northwest Highway) and is home to a veritable cornucopia of legends. White Cemetery, located along the western half of the road, has its spook lights. The avenue itself hosts a phantom car (or cars), a pair of spectral lovers, and a vanishing house. Rainbow Road, a side street off Cuba, had the distinction of being home to an abandoned mansion that some believed was either and old asylum or a getaway for gangsters. That building has since been torn down and the property is being redeveloped.

The ghost stories that seem to literally pour out of the mouths of visitors led famed author Ursula Bielski to proclaim, “For Chicagoland ghosthunters, Cuba Road is the single most notorious haunted site north of southwest suburban Bachelors Grove Cemetery.” Those familiar with the notoriety of Bachelor’s Grove understand the challenge of filling shoes of that size. Scott Markus, who has done impeccable research on the folklore of the road, dubbed it “the Archer Avenue of the North Side,” because of the variety of stories.

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All-American Diner Tour: Knotty Pine Diner in Wampsville, New York

Located along Genesee Street (Route 5) just west of Oneida, New York, the Knotty Pine is a rustic, country-style diner. It sits in the heart of a historic area with lots to see and do, including the Oneida Community Mansion House, Turning Stone Casino, and Boxing Hall of Fame.

I liked the atmosphere and decor at the Knotty Pine. There is counter seating, booths, and plenty of table space for larger groups. I ordered the Knotty Pine Breakfast Combo, which as you can see from the above photo, is enough for one person but you won’t have any leftovers. I also had a Diet Coke (of course), and my total came to $11.10. My eggs were well done, not runny, just the way I like them. On my visit they were offering a special omelet, spicy ham and pepperoni with hash browns.

TVs were displaying the local news at a reasonable volume.

Breakfast is served at the Knotty Pine until 11:30 a.m. They have two custom breakfast items: the Knotty Pine Big Breakfast, featuring two eggs served on home fries with ham, peppers, onions, and Texas toast for $7.99, and the Knotty Pine Breakfast Combo, featuring two eggs, two pieces of toast, two slices of bacon or sausage links, and two pancakes for $7.99. Both standard diner specials.

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