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Haunted Lake Placid: Six Historical Places Where They Say There are Ghosts…

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Haunted Lake Placid

Lake Placid’s Most Haunted Places

Lake Placid has its share of allegedly haunted locales. Like any town, Lake Placid’s abundant history could be a partial explanation of these hauntings. Here are some well known and some not so well known “haunted places” that have become legend in the Lake Placid area.

1. The Lady in the Lake

Mabel DouglassOn September 21, 1933, influential educator Mabel Smith Douglass went canoeing on Lake Placid, and never returned. Thirty years later, almost to the day, divers found Douglass’ body. Due to the cold water and the deep level of immersion, Douglass was incredibly well-preserved, resting on a rock shelf near Pulpit rock. That area of the lake is so deep, some consider it to be bottomless.

The question remains–did Douglass kill herself, or was she murdered? No one has been able to determine for sure. The true story of Douglass’ mysterious death is recorded in the book [amazonify]B000RL67PY::text::::A Lady in the Lake[/amazonify] by George Ortloff, and was the loosely interpreted basis of the fiction book Dancehall by Bernard F. Conners.

Despite the lack of clarity regarding her demise, there have been numerous accounts where campers or boaters report seeing a form that appears to be Douglass materialized over the lake. So if you go canoeing near Pulpit Rock at night, stay alert; you might see Mabel hovering near her 30-year resting place.

2. The Stagecoach Inn

The Stagecoach InnLocated away from the hustle and bustle of Main Street, the Stagecoach Inn on Old Military Road is truly like stepping back in time. Formerly Lyon’s Inn (also known as North Elba House) the Inn served as a meeting-place in the town of North Elba. It also housed the post office at one time. In the 1900s, the Inn was the home of Melville Dewey, creator of the Dewey Decimal System and founder of the Lake Placid Club. Several years ago an attic fire severely disabled the property, but it was restored by the current owner, Mary Pat Ormsby. Today the Stagecoach Inn hosts guests in rustic comfort, and clearly has been the site of several historical comings-and-goings.

But do these visits continue today?

Some feel that the Stagecoach Inn is haunted, and employees say that guests have either seen spectral entities or felt their presence. Meanwhile, housekeepers report that someone – or something – swipes pillowcases. The antics regarding accessories don’t end there; pillows with the message “Welcome Friends” used to be a permanent fixture on the couch welcoming guests, but they would be found turned around or upside down when no one else had been in the room.

Rest assured, though, this lovely inn is a wonderful place to stay and receives rave reviews from their guests. If you’re looking for a historical and relaxing place to stay in Lake Placid, the Stagecoach Inn is it. Apparently, the ghosts think so too.

3. The Former Lake Placid Club

The Lake Placid ClubAlthough few remnants of the Lake Placid Club remain, there can be no doubt of its impact on the region and the village of Lake Placid. In 1891, Melvil Dewey and his wife relocated to Lake Placid for health reasons (Dewey suffered from hay fever). Seeing its potential as a winter wonderland location, Dewey purchased five acres on east Mirror Lake and established the Lake Placid Club in 1891. The Club’s purpose was simple–to enable visitors to enjoy winter activities and rejuvenate in the unique restorative locale of the Adirondacks.

Although not a huge success at first, the Lake Placid Club eventually grew to encompass 9,600 acres, and employed over 1,000 in the early ‘20s. Dewey is credited with introducing the winter sports culture to Lake Placid; although others living there enjoyed the same wintry activities (such as snowshoeing, skating, and cross country skiing), Dewey was the one who made it a common course of action for vacationers visiting the area. Now modern-day tourists travel to Lake Placid to continue the legacy of Dewey’s “winter sports philosophy.”

As I said, the club’s buildings aren’t standing anymore, although one can see the remnants of the driveway sloping up to the land on which the Club’s main building was built. However, there was a ghost story circulating when the Club’s buildings were still there. Apparently renovations were completed during World War II, when the US Army used the buildings as a reconditioning center. Thus started the ghostly activity; Dewey’s wife was seen rocking back and forth in a rocking chair in the library–a fitting place for a librarian’s wife to appear.

4. The Olympic Center

Sergei GrinkovVisitors know the Olympic Center as home to the Miracle on Ice, where the US Hockey Team bested the Soviet Team. But did you know that skating legend Sergei Grinkov passed away in the same building?

It was November of 1995. Sergei and his wife, Ekaterina Gordeeva, were practicing for the Stars on Ice Tour, the famous ice skating tour that opens each year’s new series of shows in Lake Placid. Suddenly, Grinkov collapsed on the US Rink, the victim of a heart attack. Paramedics arrived and tried to save him, but he did not survive. Ekaterina skated solo at the show, and since then skaters claim to have felt Sergei’s presence in the rink where he died. No one knows for sure, but the claims of feeling a presence in the rink (especially early in the morning or late at night) are too consistent to ignore.

5. The Olympic Speed Skating Oval

The Olympic Speed Skating OvalAnother venue rich in history (and in tales of ghostly visitors) is the Olympic Speed Skating Oval in Lake Placid. The 400-meter rink was used in the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics as the speed skating venue. Since then it has hosted numerous events, including speed skating competitions, public skating, public speed skating, and special skating events. It is also popular with one particular ghost.

Several oval employees have claimed to see a human shape out of the corner of their eye while cleaning late at night; the sightings occur when the doors are locked and no one is in the building. One employee claimed to see the form of a person reflected in the clear glass of the vending machine that used to be in the main room; when he turned around to see who was standing behind him, no one was there.

Employees suspect that the ghost is of a speed skating official that fell backward and hit his head on the ice while officiating at a race on the oval during the 90s. The accident occurred when a fallen skater slid into him from behind. He died from a brain hemorrhage resulting from the fall, and several claim that the official is still doing his duties at the oval, keeping an eye on the place.

6. The Whiteface Club

The Whiteface ClubAnother beautiful former hotel in the Adirondacks, the Whiteface Club was built in 1882 and called the Westside, which housed summer guests. In 1898, the Whiteface Club and Resort was born. The Club also has an extraordinary golf course, and golf was being played at the Whiteface Club and Resort before it was officially acknowledged as a game. Now it houses condominiums, a cottage, golf courses, and a restaurant.

The Knollwood Cottage overlooks Lake Placid, residing on the Whiteface Club property. It has seen an interesting history; fires have damaged the Club building not once, not twice, but three times. And in the 1980s, the main building was demolished to create the condominiums that currently inhabit the property.

One person who did not take kindly to the changes was Preston Bickford, the son of the family that built the original structure and was the caretaker for the inn. Preston shot himself, and since then ghostly pranks have been going on at the Whiteface Club property, including the Kwollwood Cottage. People taking photos of the beautiful staircase have reported seeing the ghostly image of a man at the top of the stairs in the developed photo, even when no one else was in the house.

The pranks don’t stop there. Preston was the head plumber at the club, and trained an apprentice named Jim. He became the head plumber after Preston’s death, and the job was not without its challenges. One day Jim was turning on the heat in the lower level of the Convention Center when he saw that water was leaching through the ceiling. Later, the cause of the leak was determined to be the removal of a plug from the pipe. It was not easy to do, and Jim had to climb 25 feet under the stage and dismantle the entire front of the structure just to replace the plug. It was later found on a ledge behind the pipe, and considering the great difficulty involved in the prank, Jim thinks it was Preston’s ghost sabotaging the pipes.

Other pranks, with no explanation, involve the urinal in the public men’s room flushing on its own in the middle of the night, lights turning themselves on and off when no one has been in the room, kitchen doors swinging on their own, and the sound of running footsteps. Apparently the colorful history of the Club lives on.


John Brown’s Farm

Not many realize that John Brown (he of the famous-abolitionist-John-Brown’s-body-lies-a-moldering-in-the-grave fame) was buried on the farm where he spent several years before his infamous raid on Harper’s Ferry. Although I haven’t heard reports of Brown himself hanging around, some have seen his wife in the preserved home, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Swiss Acres Inn

I have heard about this ghost for years–the small motel boasts an elderly lady spirit, who apparently floats through the hallways occasionally. Don’t worry; her presence has been reported as comforting and not at all threatening.

Christie Sausa is a Contributor to 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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