haunted western new york

Storm Hags

myth and meme month

It was 85 degrees when I left work tonight. Well past sundown. In September.

I am so ready for this to end. The mums I bought this weekend are already dying from the heat. I am slowly going mad, and not just for want of my normal fall behaviors (I am due an Operation Autumn update, I know).

But I know that when the weather shifts, it’s going to shift hard and fast and we’re due a year with November Witches (the storms that come in during late fall on the Great Lakes). To that end, I’ve decided to write about the storm hags tonight-since I’ve finally found reference to them.

My googling skills are odd. Things will show up once and then never show up again for me, if they show up at all. I read one reference to the hags years ago, that placed the hags in Buffalo-I can tell you that in the decade that I’ve been here (give or take a decade, at least) I’ve never heard about this story. Mid has no idea what I’m talking about either, but he did mention a cryptic lake monster. More digging will be needed there.

I think that this is like that photo series that came out last year-maybe not made up completely, but misplaced. Because the storm hag is a myth, though perhaps one born out of modifications to older legends. The way that I heard the legend was a green, fairly angry fairy that rises out of the lake to throw storms at the city.

The way that the more developed American legend goes is that the Hag is a water spirit, green skinned and ugly as dirt who rises up out of the lake (Lake Erie) and drags entire ships down with her. She is not terribly nice, and yes, at least one version of the story links her to faerie, though whether the legend actually intended to suggest that she is a faerie or just to invoke an image that would have been more familiar at one point than it is now, I don’t know. There are multiple faerie like, not entirely nice (there’s that trend again, faeries not being ‘nice’) creatures known for their strong interest in drowning innocents.

The most obvious answer is that the Irish and English who settled this part of the Great Lakes (Buffalo was at one point broken between the Polish, the Italians, and the Irish) brought preexisting faerie belief (mainly in a spirit called Jenny Greenteeth, who meets the same physical description and hobbies as the Storm Hag) and used it to explain weather patterns on a lake notorious for taking down ships, often quickly.

Shoeless Joe Jackson and the Baseball Hall of Fame


I know that posting a folklore entry on Saturday makes it sort of a cheat to call it the Sunday folklore post.

But it’s festival season, I’m trying to get Mid ready to go-and I have 30 pounds of cherries that I’m trying to get processed out (I have peach cherry butter on the stove right now).

I haven’t written anything for the Haunted Western New York series in a very long time. This is a story that I grew up with (though I admit I grew up in Central New York so I’m cheating a little). I worked within walking distance of the Baseball Hall of Fame and its haunting status was sort of a given. Rather, it came up every so often that it’s haunted (and it was mentioned on the tours during that time-mid to late 1990s anyway). It wasn’t a huge topic of conversation but we knew.

I don’t know anyone who has actually seen Shoeless Joe but the whole town is steeped in ghosts, at least in a manner of speaking. Cooperstown takes its baseball really seriously, but it’s also the seat of the New York State Historical Society. The Cardiff Giant is housed at the Farmer’s Museum. It’s a very historical area that is sort of self aware about it, we know it, but we don’t really talk about it either-that’s tourist stuff, or special occasion stuff, not stuff we ever really sat around talking about.

The way that we’re told the story as locals is that the building is haunted, period. The most common story is that Shoeless Joe Jackson is not terribly impressed that he hasn’t been elected into the Hall of Fame. And there’s the generic sort of haunting reports that every building with a reputation seems to cause. But things apparently have moved and it’s apparently not uncommon to hear the sounds of someone breaking the cases at night-of course the cases are never being broken.

It’s not hard to think that a building that’s full of the relics of sports legends would carry some sort of residual energy. It’s especially not hard to see in a town that sort of vibrates with it.


Haunted Western New York-The Sullivans

Repost from several years ago. Unfortunately, this is also in my pre-link to source era. As stated in earlier HWY entries-all stories are already established in the public record (i.e. media coverage, Internet discussion) prior to publication unless otherwise noted.

I thought that Memorial Day weekend would be a good day to post this, since the story of the Sullivans has been linked with Memorial Day in my head since I was in high school- my father used to camp out on the couch on Memorial Day watching as many war movies as he could find on AMC.

Since they were playing war movie marathons…that would be a lot.

I have mentioned I’m a Navy brat, right? Both my parents served.

The story of the Sullivan brothers is a fairly tragic one, and one of those horrible stories that destroyed a family but led to other families being spared the same trauma. During World War II, all five of the Sullivan boys enlisted in the Navy. Two of them had already served their tours, but had re-enlisted.

At the time, there was already regulations preventing family from being stationed together but the brothers enlisted with the requirement that they serve on the same tour. At this point of the war, the regulations preventing this type of behavior were not being enforced (I’m not a military historian, but I can imagine that if it meant getting able bodied men on boats, they weren’t going to be picky). All five of the brothers, ranging in age from 19 to 28 were stationed on the USS Juneau, a light cruiser seeing action in the Pacific Theater.

The Juneau was hit during the Battle of Guadalcanal, though she managed to survive the first torpedo hit. She was hit again later the same day near the weapons magazine and went down. It’s speculated that at least 3 of the brothers died at this time. Due to a desire to not  break radio silence, paperwork confusion, and other factors, a search for the approximately 100 survivors left in the water was not mounted until much later- leaving the men to fend off dehydration and sharks.

Eventually 10 survivors were pulled out of the water- but none of the 5 Sullivan brothers made it through the battle. Three were killed in the torpedo hits, one drowned, and the last went insane in the five days between the sinking and the search efforts, eventually going over the side of the life raft.

In an even more tragic twist to the story, the brothers’ family was not notified until 2 months after their deaths. This was due to wartime Naval security measures. However, after their parents were finally notified, the Sullivan brothers were treated as national heroes. After their deaths the Navy developed the sole survivor policy, which obligates that an individual who has lost a child or sibling during wartime actions be exempt from the draft or combat. However, the draft protection only stands during peacetime operations, and the combat exception has to be approved in times of war. This also does not apply to families with only one child.

The Navy would also name two destroyers The Sullivans- the first time a ship was named after more than one person. One of these destroyers is currently docked in the Buffalo Naval Park.

The Fletcher class Destroyer docked in Buffalo is said to be one of the most haunted naval vessels in the United States- it’s often listed with other haunted ships like the Queen Mary. The Sullivans saw action in the Korean war and World War II and most likely saw heavy casaulities. It may be that many of the first hand accounts (and there are many) may be the crew that were lost when the Sullivans was an active Destroyer.

However, at least one of the urban legends surrounding the vessel suggests that one of the most active spirits may be George Sullivan, the last brother to die, searching for his brothers. While I’m not going to say that it’s not possible, since there are two of these ships (the other was sent to Maine), why would he pick this one over the other?

People have reported being touched directly, lights will flicker in areas of the ship with no power, and items will move around seemingly with a mind of their own. At least one story reports that people refused to work on the ship on Friday the 13th because the Sullivans were said to be more active on that day than any other. One of the legends surrounding the ship suggested the entirity of the Battle of Guadalcanal is cursed, and that those who died during and directly after it, including the Sullivans, won’t rest until they are able to clear their Admiral’s name (who has been heavily critized for his actions during said campaign) (it would be interesting to see how this would be done- at least one source I’ve read has said that it would ‘require’ the The Sullivans to see active duty again to reclaim that honor, which seems unlikey for a Destroyer(s) mothballed in the 1970s).

Haunted Western New York-The Collinwood Inn (Oneida)


*Blogger does NOT claim that any of these stories are factually correct. For the most part, all stories are part of the public discourse prior to publication unless otherwise stated. Do not explore or otherwise enter any site that is not already open to the public.

I’m coming back to this column! Yay!

I’m going to start back with a property that seems to openly embrace its reputation as haunted. The Mansion in question does, or at least did, offer its own ghost tours and open its doors to investigation.

I’m always intrigued by how places react to their reputations. Some of them seem to really embrace it, and use it to their advantage (as in, play up the ghost tourism industry) and others seem to want nothing to do with it. Even Cooperstown, where you can’t have a McDonald’s in the city limits, has jumped on the ghost tour bandwagon. That being said, if I’m writing about it here-I’m not the original source of the legend. I want to stress that.

The Collinwood Inn in Oneida was originally built as the Farnam Mansion for Stephen Farnam in 1862. Since the Mansion was built, there has been at least six deaths on properties which have given rise to rumors of ghosts on the site. The ghosts are said to include multiple past owners of the property. The sightings range from the figures of people to a ghost cat. There have been reports of multiple types of physical phenomena including footsteps and issues with the electrical equipment. The current owners (as of October) seem more than willing to embrace their ghosts, and have worked them into the inn’s theme.

Haunted Places and Ghosts in Utica

Haunted Farnam Mansion Investigation

Farnam Mansion Hauntings

Oneida’s Farnam Mansion provides home to spirits, owners

Haunted Western New York-The Pond Circles of WNY

Photo Credit: WGRZ Buffalo

Photo Credit: WGRZ Buffalo

As we move into winter in WNY, will the pond circles come back?

Last winter there were reports in and around Eden about the presence of perfectly shaped holes in the ice on several ponds. What caused these holes? Probably something completely safe and mundane, but still. Ice circles.

The story was strange enough to have received national attention after being picked up the Huffington Post.

My favorite bizarre theory? Fish flatulence. It’s probably more related to water patterns but I’m blaming it on the fish.

Mysterious pond circles in NY spur talk of aliens

Backyard Mystery In Eden: Pond Circles ??

Haunted Western New York-Burrville Cider Mill (Fort Drum)

photo via morguefile

photo via morguefile

This column is wandering around here there and everywhere. I thought that it may be cute (ahem) to look at a haunted cider mill while I’m knee deep in apples. Don’t worry, I don’t plan on being quite so twee with this column in the long term.

(The video’s not the best quality but I do like videos for these entries.)

The Burrville Cider Mill was built in 1801 and was originally used as a gristmill and a sawmill. At the time the site was known as Burr’s Mill. The property was purchased by Captain John Burr, a man rumored to be a pirate-and to still be haunting the site. Records indicate that the site has had a cider press going back well over 100 years.

There’s been first hand reports of doors opening and closing, as well as photos taken of full apparitions. Lights flicker and objects will move around the gift shop. At least one spirit is accused of smoking cigars in the kitchen. The two ‘named’ ghosts are Captain John Burr, already mentioned, and Homer Rebb, who owned the mill in the 1940s.


Burville Cider Mill

Our Visit to a Haunted Cider Mill

Northern New York offers haunts for ghost seekers

Haunted Western New York-Utica Psychiatric Center



Returning to my stomping grounds, the Utica Psychiatric Center is cited as one of the most haunted locations in Utica. The building was opened in 1843 as the country’s first public mental health center. This was prior to the era of the Kirkbride Plan and moral treatment, which helped to make mental health care more humane for patients; the H.H. Richardson Complex was a Kirkbride building with an eye towards the safety of the patients, even if the treatment fell well below what we would currently call humane and safe.

The first director of the Center was Dr. Amariah Brigam, who would later help to found the American Psychiatric Association. However, the development that the Center would become known for was the Utica Crib. The crib was an adult-sized restraining device that was used to control patients who doctors believed could not be controlled in other ways. Even as early as the 1860s the crib was controversial, with some suggesting that it had a calming effect and others arguing that it was dehumanizing (see here for a photo).

Claims about the haunting seem pretty typical for haunted asylums, and run parallel to those claims made about the Richardson Complex. Orbs, ectoplasm, voices, and other traditional haunted phenomena seem to be the most common.

Please do not enter this site, it is currently not open to the public.

Haunted Places in Utica Area

Kirkbride Plan

Utica Psychiatric Center

Utica Lunatic Asylum

The Most Notorious Ghosts, Haunts, and Urban Legends in Utica

Haunted Western New York-Devil’s Elbow, Binghamton

Going slightly farther south than we normally do for this column, we’re taking a side trip into Binghamton this week.

The curve known as Devil’s Elbow (or Devils Elbow) has its own classic phantom hitchhiker. In the case of the Devil’s Elbow ghost, the legend appears to be set in the 1930s. According to local legend the curve was the site of multiple fatal crashes. During a rainstorm a salesman was driving the curve and spotted a woman in white walking along the side of the road. She didn’t appear to be hitchhiking but he pulled over anyway.

The woman accepted his offer of a ride, and they made small talk. He loaned her his jacket, and she gave him the address of a house just off of Highway 17. However, when he pulled into the driveway the woman was nowhere to be seen. His jacket was missing as well.

Puzzled, he knocked on the door of the house and an older woman answered the door. The salesman told her what had happened and she nodded.

“Yes,” she said, “This happens this time every year. My daughter was killed on Devil’s Elbow in October several years ago. She walks that curve every fall now looking for a ride home.”

Matilda (Penn Yan)-A Haunting

spiritThis is a repost from last summer. I spent the weekend going to concerts and making wine charms-which was quite nice and relaxing but then I had to face the reality that I didn’t blog anything for today.

This is the regional breakdown of New York State from a Utica/Cooperstown perspective.

-Albany and its surrounding cities is the Capitol region.

-Anything about 50 miles north of Utica is the North Country

– The Syracuse/Utica/Norwich corridor (Route 8, essentially) is Central New York

-Binghamton and neighbors is Southern Tier

-Western New York starts somewhere between Oswego and Rochester

-The Island is Long Island

-Downstate is Hudson and lower

-There are few specific zones like the Finger Lakes and 1000 Islands

This will obviously vary from person to person, but that’s the general regional zone description I grew up with. For this blog the most extreme point east I’m probably going to work with is Cooperstown, because that’s not far off of center of the state even if it’s not culturally Western New York. Definitely anything west of Syracuse or Rochester.

Moving along, Penn Yan boasts that it is home to a particular urban legend that has gained notority over the years. The Lakeview Cemetary houses the Gillette family plot, where Matilda and Francis Gillette were laid to rest in the late 19th century.

The story goes that the relationship was not the most peaceful and Francis is said to have stated that he would be glad to see Matilda gone as she lay on her deathbed. Her response is said to be that she would never leave him alone, even if it meant returning from the other side to do so.

According to legend, an odd situation developed after Francis was laid to rest several years later. The family tombstone developed an oddly milky appearance- a blemish said to look exactly like Matilda. No matter how the stone was cleaned, the spot remained hovering over Francis’ grave. Depending on source the stone has been replaced or sandblasted, always with the same profile showing up on the tombstone.

This appears to be primarily be an oral legend, only appearing on websites relating to local history or very recent publications on the same.

Haunted Western New York-Haunted Properties and Boundaries

I want to touch base on a subject that I’ve covered briefly before on this column but I think needs to be addressed directly:

Whatever the rumors surrounding a place are, DO NOT act like that gives you a right to enter the property.

I generally write this column under the thought that 99% of my readership is both mature and understanding enough to not enter a property without permission. However, I want to say plainly that a property’s supposedly haunted status, whether it be in Western New York or anywhere else, does not equal an invitation to urban explore, vandalize, break into, or otherwise enter a property. It’s one thing to go to a place like Van Horn where the story is embraced-and the property is actually open for visiting-and entering a place like Central Terminal, where it’s both illegal and dangerous to be on site.

This is especially true of homesteads-while I try to avoid currently occupied houses or properties, the state of these sites may change after publication, which is a situation that I can’t avoid-or even become aware of. DO NOT BREAK INTO PEOPLE’S HOUSES. IT’S JUST RUDE. Horrific Knits will not be held responsible for any legal action that may be taken against you for doing so.

All stories presented in this column are found in other locations already (either in print or online), unless stated as personal experience.