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AAA World Article

Haunted History Trail of NYS

Have a penchant for the paranormal? Explore New York State’s favorite haunts along its Haunted History Trail.

By Michelle da Silva Richmond

AAA World Article

All photos Courtesy of Amity Photos.

If ghoulies, ghosties and things that go bump in the night send a welcome chill down your spine, then add the Haunted History Trail of New York State to your travel bucket list. Scattered more than 400 miles throughout the scenic state, the ever-expanding collection of 90 or so spooky sites spans some 400 years of New York’s history. Test your mettle and your sixth sense at the following haunts.

Old Stone Fort Museum
Built in Schoharie in 1772 as a Reformed Dutch Church and converted into a fort in 1777 during the American Revolution, the building was attacked by the British in 1780. The surrounding cemetery is said to be the scene of apparitions, but inside the museum is where you’ll feel the most eerie activity—especially if you venture upstairs to where you’ll find hundreds of years of memorabilia such as antique dolls, clothing, furniture and personal objects preserved in a cabinet of curiosities. Visitors and staff have experienced paranormal events in the exhibit area and in the former bell tower, where reports of a woman screaming have been documented.

Old Stone Fort
Antique doll displayed at Old Stone Fort Museum

Dr. Best House & Medical Exhibit
Time stands still in this Victorian 1884 house in Middleburgh where Dr. Christopher Best—and later, his son Duncan—lived and practiced medicine from 1884 to 1991. Poignant reminders of their lives remain in kitchen cupboards still stuffed with canned goods, closets crammed with now-vintage clothing, and rooms decked out with well-worn furniture, family photos and other vestiges of the past. The medical office, where emergency surgery was often performed, houses implements and potions left intact after Duncan passed on in 1991. Christopher, his first wife and their young child died in the house and are alleged to wander its halls. Visitors claim to have heard “someone” occasionally playing the antique record player or piano.

Dr. Best Medical
Exhibit at Dr. Best House
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Bests Medical Museum

Bull’s Head Inn
Built in 1802 and among the oldest buildings in Cobleskill, this cozy restaurant was built on the site of several catastrophic events, starting with the original log cabin from 1752, which was burned down during the American Revolution. The two buildings that followed on this site were also destroyed by fire with one or more residents perishing. Since then, the current structure has served as a town hall, courthouse, meeting hall and residence before becoming an inn and tavern in 1802. The last resident, Mrs. John Stacy, a staunch member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and an adamant anti-alcohol advocate, is said to occasionally wage war on imbibers, tossing cutlery, napkins and water glasses across the room to this day. Late-night staff claim to have seen her in period dress, floating through the dining room and downstairs bar, scowling at customers. Nevertheless, don’t be discouraged from dining there; the menu offers a variety of tasty options in an otherwise welcoming atmosphere.

A collection of signs at The Bull’s Head Inn

Grapevine Farms
This once-abandoned 1850s farmhouse in Cobleskill was acquired by Tim and Tracey Purcell in 2002 and opened as a bistro and fully stocked gift shop. Lunch is served in a charming section of the farmhouse dotted with photos of long-gone residents and family members along with memorabilia such as photos, china and silverware from a kinder, gentler era. A Coffee Bar, Cookie Bar and well-stocked Wine Cellar are added draws. Three floors of themed rooms offer kitschy souvenirs, costume jewelry, custom toiletries and other items along with a possible encounter with one of the long-deceased children said to roam what used to be their bedrooms on the top floor.

Grapevine Farm
Old family photos still decorate the walls at Grape Farms

Historic Hotel Broadalbin
What started in Broadalbin as a glove factory in 1854 and, later, a hospital for alcoholics in 1895 (with very questionable “cures”) and a subsequent boarding house for shady characters has morphed into a cozy—and haunted—inn. Stay in any of the 12 comfortably appointed rooms, and you may hear muffled women’s voices, have your TV turn off seemingly for no reason or be “rocked” to sleep in your king-sized four-poster bed. The on-site 1854 Pub & Eatery offers a full menu, drinks and live entertainment—ghostly and otherwise.

Saratoga Springs History Museum/Historic Canfield Casino
Built as the Men’s Club in 1870, this venerable site offers a peek into the Gilded Age during a time when gambling was illegal and men would skip out after the family dinner to revel, leaving their wives tucked comfortably at home. Bedrooms on the third floor of the casino were available for “other activities,” which had nothing to do with roulette, poker or faro. Nowadays, paranormal activities have been felt—and recorded—by staff and those appearing on the Ghost Hunters TV series. Three floors of exhibits showcase historic photos, personal belongings and clothing of some of the area’s long-departed prominent families. Group ghost tours are offered June to October, and the museum is open year-round for self-guided tours.

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Yaddo Gardens
Legends and myths surround the history of this stately 400-acre country estate in Saratoga Springs, purchased in 1881 by venture capitalist Spencer Trask for his wife, Katrina, a writer. When the mansion burned down in 1891, the Trasks hired architect William Halsey Wood to build the current Queen Anne Revival mansion as it is today. Despite the tragic loss of all four of their children in infancy or childhood and other misfortunes, the Trasks shared a loving marriage and a life of philanthropy in this tranquil estate. Spencer designed the expansive Italian-inspired rose garden as a gift of love to his wife. Left without immediate heirs, the Trasks bequeathed their fortune and estate to the establishment of a residency program for artists, and it has operated as such since 1926. The mansion is closed to the public so that artists can work without interruption, yet tours of the gardens, fountain and marble statuary—where sightings of Katrina have been reported—offer a glimpse into the couple’s enduring love affair.

Olde Bryan Inn
Although not officially on the Haunted History Trail, this inn in Saratoga Springs is one of the oldest—and purportedly one of the most haunted—structures in the area. Its storied past dates to 1773, and it has had many incarnations since Revolutionary War hero Alexander Bryan purchased it in 1787 and ran it successfully for visitors who came to experience the “Healing Spring of the Great Spirit.”  Today, it houses a cozy restaurant offering a varied menu and a variety of spirits—not all of them from the bar. Ask the staff about the lady in green or the man on a horse dressed in Colonial garb.

Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, it’s probably a good idea to have an open mind—and keep looking over your shoulder. 

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2019 edition of AAA World.

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