Ghosts are Among Us: Haunted Hotels of the Adirondacks
Haunted Hotels of the Adirondacks
Do you believe in ghosts? If you’ve ever sat around a campfire listening to ghost stories or heard an unexplained bump in the night then you’ve probably pondered this question once or twice in your life. You could be a die-hard ghost enthusiast or a complete skeptic, or you could fall somewhere in the undecided middle ground. But no matter where you stand on the supernatural scale, you might enjoy a chance to test your assumptions with a stay in a haunted house. That may sound like the stuff of horror movies and young adult novels, but there are plenty of hotels in the Adirondacks that are reputedly haunted to the hilt by all sorts of interesting ghosts. And they all have scary stories of deaths and evil motives to go along with the otherworldly sightings. So if you ever want a vacation that’s out of your comfort zone, or even out of this world, check out some of these spooky sites.
The Sagamore Hotel at 110 Sagamore Road in Bolton Landing (just north of Lake George in Warren County) is such a gigantic, old building that you know there has to be at least one ghost hanging around. Originally opened in 1883 by hotel operator Myron O. Brown and backed by four Philadelphia millionaires, the Sagamore covers almost all of Green Island. The building was destroyed by two fires in 1893 and 1914 and reconstructed in 1930. It fell into disrepair again and closed its doors in 1981. Sitting vacant for two years, it was purchased by real estate mogul Norman Wolgin of Philadelphia in 1983, 100 years after its original construction. The building is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Although the Sagamore’s website doesn’t boast of their hauntings, many visitors since the 1950s have given corresponding accounts of strange occurrences at the hotel. Some say they’ve seen the ghost of a middle-aged woman wearing a blue polka-dot dress moving through the hallways and the Trillium, the hotel’s fine dining restaurant. Sometimes the woman is accompanied by a man and walks down the stairs into the reception area. Others mention seeing children giggling in the hallways or on the golf course. An undocumented legend says that a little boy was hit by a car while running after a golf ball and died, staying to haunt the golf course forever. There are even reports of one room being closed off to visitors because of strange noises during the night. One previous employee claimed that the hotel is built on a Native American cemetery, which is the source of the strange feelings and ghosts sightings reported by many of the guests and employees. Another employee, a prep cook in the restaurant, quit after a tall woman in white spoke to him and then walked through him and disappeared. www.thesagamore.com
If you’ve ever driven by Beardslee Castle at 123 Old State Road in Little Falls (Mohawk Valley, Herkimer County), you would probably not be surprised to hear that it’s haunted. Beardslee is indeed a castle–a replica of an Irish castle that looks ancient, although it was built as recently as 1860; the castle, commissioned by Augustus Beardslee, was constructed by masons from Ireland and Switzerland.
While it’s not actually a hotel, Beardslee Castle is arguably one of the most haunted buildings in the state. There are countless stories of gruesome deaths, unexplainable happenings and strange sightings on the Beardslee property dating back more than 300 years. In the mid-1700’s a group of Native Americans were blown to pieces when they tried to enter a homestead on the property that was filled to the brim with munitions and powder. Jump ahead to the 1950s, where Route 5 travelers reported seeing a blinding light rush from the trees, resulting in many fatalities as cars drove off the road. These inexplicable accidents have continued to the present day. Some drivers have reported seeing a young child walking along the road in the middle of the night, which is even stranger in light of reports that the ghost of Mr. Beardslee was seen holding a lantern and searching for a lost child. The suicide of Pop Christensen, the first owner of the castle when it was a restaurant, only added fuel to the ghost story fire, leading some to believe that ghost may inhabit the castle. Recent guests speak of a young woman dressed in white who walks the grounds and stands outside the windows. Two drivers even witnessed the young woman being hit as she stepped into the road one night, but when they got out of their cars no one was on the road and there were no marks on the car. Even employees of the castle are afraid to be there alone, having heard footsteps, music and voices after all the guests have left. They’ve even found tables overturned and chairs moved around when they come in for work in the mornings.
Following the ghost sightings, visits by dozens of psychics and paranormal experts took place; many have concluded that it is indeed haunted. A recording done by the New Hampshire Institute for Paranormal Research in 1983, picked up playful whispers throughout the night. In October 1999, the Castle was featured in a segment of “Haunted History” on the History Cannel, and the producer said that a picture of a ghost in the dungeon was the best he’d ever seen.
The castle serves dinner four nights a week and also hosts wedding receptions, banquets and special events. Guests can head down to the Dungeon for drinks at the bar and perhaps an extra fright, as most of the sightings have taken place in this specific area. www.beardsleecastle.com
The Big Moose Inn
The Big Moose Inn, located on Big Moose Lake in Eagle Bay, is famous as the site of the murder of Grace Brown and her unborn child in the early 1900s. Built over 100 years ago in 1902 for George Burdick, a popular Adirondack guide, the Inn was known as Burdick’s Camp and then Waterman’s Camp after it was purchased by Leonard Waterman, but was renamed the Big Moose Inn in 1946 when it was sold again. It kept its name through several more owners, renovations and additions. Today there are 16 guest rooms, a dining room, and a tavern for guests to enjoy. But it is hard to say what brings more guests to the Inn–the luxurious rustic setting or the story of cold-blooded murder.
Originally from South Otselic, NY, Grace Brown moved to Cortland to work at the Gillette Skirt Company in 1905. She soon began an affair with the owner’s nephew, Chester Gillette, culminating in her becoming pregnant in 1906. Gillette promised to marry her and took her away to Big Moose Lake in the Adirondacks. They were seen rowing out on the lake on July 11, but Gillette later returned alone and could not give a satisfactory explanation of where his pregnant fiancé had gone. Brown’s body was found in the lake the next day. It is believed that Gillette knocked Brown out with a tennis racket before throwing her out of the boat to drown in the lake. Letters between the lovers were found in Gillette’s rented room and published for sale, and Gillette was executed in 1908 in Auburn Prison.
The story of Grace Brown later served as the basis for Theodore Dreiser’s novel, [amazonify]0451531558::text::::An American Tragedy,[/amazonify] and Jennifer Donnelly’s novel, [amazonify]0152053107::text::::A Northern Light.[/amazonify] Two non-fiction books also cover the details of the Brown murder: [amazonify]09713069154::text::::Adirondack Tragedy: The Gillette Murder Case of 1906,[/amazonify] by Joseph W. Brownell, Patricia A. Wawrzaszek, and [amazonify]0932052584::text::::Murder in the Adirondacks: An American Tragedy Revisited[/amazonify] by Craig Brandon. George Stevens’ 1951 film [amazonify]B00003CXBZ::text::::A Place in the Sun[/amazonify] starring Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor, was also inspired by the murder. Many guests to the hotel claim to have seen Brown’s ghost by the lake, but even without a ghost sighting, the story of Brown’s murder is enough to make anyone feel spooky in the wilderness. www.bigmooseinn.com
The Brightside Hotel is a true wilderness location, located in the forests surrounding Raquette Lake (located in Long Lake, Hamilton County) in the Adirondacks. Brightside was originally the backwoods home of the Bryere family, at a time when you could not be expected to see another human being in the area surrounding Raquette Lake. Joseph O. A. Bryere moved from Quebec to the area in 1880, building the Brightside along with his wife in 1884. Over the years the couple built not only the hotel but a 100-acre great camp style complex, including cabins, a boathouse and a water tower. The hotel opened for business in May of 1891, offering guests modern conveniences and outdoor sports,such as hiking, golf and tennis. The Bryere family continued to run the hotel until it was sold to a corporation in 1957. It is now owned by The Light Connection, which purchased it in February 2001 and updated the amenities to modern standards along with extensive renovations.
The Bright Side’s website admits to stories about ghosts from their guests. Many people say that they have felt or seen that something was watching them. One story revolves around a death in the 1970s. A couple who had checked into the hotel was staying in one of the bedrooms over the kitchen. The man tried to cross the ice into the village in the middle of a blizzard but never returned. The wife sat waiting for him in her room, and it is said that her ghost continues to wait there today. Bizarrely, the woman is said to appear when someone plays the original piano in the Great Room. When the Bright Side was being renovated in the early 2000s, two old-fashioned coats were found on the coat rack, first a woman’s and then a man’s, with no explanation as to their origin. Another freaky story reveals that the original owner J. O. A. Bryere was the county coroner, and would sometimes bury bodies in the basement when the ground outside was too frozen to dig.
Today, there is a specific room that gets a lot of supernatural action. Some have said their bed began to shake while they were on it. Another guest claimed to see blue-tinted spheres floating across the kitchen. A staff member was sleeping, only to be awakened by the crash of her door inexplicably falling off the hinges. The last story, however, is the creepiest of all, told by a woman who stayed at the hotel. While she was making her bed, she heard what sounded like the click of her camera on the dresser. It was not until she arrived home that she realized it had indeed taken pictures of its own accord, and that in those pictures laid many bluish orbs.
The Mohawk Valley Ghost Hunters visited The Bright Side in 2002 to get to the bottom of the paranormal activity. They said that they felt the energy of the busy original building in many sure signs. www.brightsideonraquette.com
When you walk into the four-story Victorian-era Adelphi Hotel in Saratoga Springs (Saratoga County), you’re transported so thoroughly back in time that you may see a ghost and think it’s just another guest. The hotel was built in 1877, commissioned by the original owner William McCaffery. Its Lombardian flourishes reference an Italian villa with the arched windows and second-floor piazza. The day it was finished McCaffery ordered the 77th Regiment Band of Saratoga to play from the piazza to celebrate its grandeur. Famous men such as Cornelius Vanderbilt and John Morrissey made a habit of staying there. But by the time it hit its centennial birthday, the hotel was abandoned and in such disrepair that it was slated for demolition. Sheila Parkert and her husband, a couple from Nebraska, bought the hotel in the 1970s and renovated it slowly, to reopen in 1980.
Due somewhat to its age, the Adelphi hotel has racked up quite a few ghost stories and sightings over the years. In fact, Senator John Morrissey died at the hotel the year after it opened. But it isn’t Morrissey who is seen walking the halls of the Adelphi. A large number of guests have come to management with the same story, that they saw a woman in a blue velvet Victorian dress haunting the rooms. The guests hear footsteps where no one has walked, see doors and windows opening and shutting of their own accord, and watch the lights flicker. Parkert says she’s never seen any supernatural things at the hotel, but the corresponding accounts of guests do make you wonder. www.adelphihotel.com
Although it’s definitely a permanent residence rather than a hotel, the Oakwood Cemetery in Troy merits mentioning because of its local notoriety as the most haunted place in the Capital Region. The Cemetery has been around since 1848, serving as the final resting place of “Uncle Sam” Wilson, Emma Willard, Amos Eaton, Russell Sage, and famous civil war generals George H. Thomas and John Ellis Wool.
Visitors to the cemetery claim to immediately realize that it’s haunted, feeling a sense of being watched or followed when they are near it or in it. Even those driving by have claimed to have seen things moving in the cemetery at night, or strange white clouds appearing out of nowhere on the road in front of them. It is said that if you go there at night, any type of ghost could speak with or spook you. One man met a little girl who asked him to help her find her mother and then disappeared when he followed. Others have been followed by quick-moving shadows, and still others have been driven out by loud screams that seem to come from nowhere and everywhere at once. The most sinister claims are of people getting choked or seeing a statue crying blood. www.oakwoodcemetery.org
Got a haunted hotel story you want to share, based on your Upstate NY/Adirondack experience? Leave a comment here or drop us a line at info at thefreegeorge dot com.
–Jessica Nicosia is an Assistant Editor for The Free George.
The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.
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