Top 5 Haunted Places in Saratoga
Saratoga’s Most Haunted Places
Haunted Saratoga: Famous Ghosts, Supernatural Occurrences & Hauntings in Saratoga Springs, NY
No matter where you go, every town has their ghost stories. Whether it’s the creepy house everyone knows to stay away from or the cemetery no one dares to explore after dark – with history come hauntings, and Saratoga has a lot of history. Did you know that Saratoga is actually a hub for haunted energy? Nonbelievers, you may scoff at such an idea, but there is a reason why Saratoga is considered to be so supernatural.
If we’re talking about Saratoga, how can we not mention the springs? Throughout Christianity, springs and fountains have long been revered as a place for visions and healings – and of course Saratoga’s Native settlers knew this and felt the same way.
Saratoga is located directly on a fault line; it’s this geological feature that controls many of the area’s mineral springs. Gloria Ottavio, a retired teacher from Rochester and Haunted History Ghost Walk tour guide has explained, “Because of the fault line, Saratoga is geographically conducive to supernatural phenomenon…it’s also why Saratoga tends to invite ghosts.” She continued that in the past, cultures from all over the world tend to build temples and other religious sites on fault lines because of the increased electromagnetic activity. Here are the Top Five Haunted Places in Saratoga – read on, if you dare…
1. Canfield Casino
Containing by far the most documented hauntings in Saratoga, the ghosts at Canfield Casino may be the real deal. In this 141-year-old building founded by boxer and U.S. Congressman/NY State Senator, John Morrisey, the first supernatural occurrences began in the mid-1990s, when a visitor saw an apparition of a woman dressed in Victorian era clothing. In 2004, the Casino’s Museum Executive Director, Jamie Parillo experienced a freezing drop in temperature and hostile energy shortly after a permanent exhibit of clothing and furniture from one of Saratoga’s most prominent families, The Walworths, moved into the space. While the Walworths are remembered for their prominence, history also remembers the family for sad stories of spousal abuse and the murder of Mansfield Walworth, by his eldest son, Frank.
After Parillo’s experience, the spooky incidents began to accelerate. In 2007, a full body apparition asked a museum volunteer a question and vanished, and in 2009, a visitor had a glass slapped from her hand by an unseen presence. Objects like big rolled rugs have been pushed up against doors in locked rooms and sometimes empty rooms will smell as if someone is smoking a cigar. Last year, the SyFy Channel’s “Ghost Hunters” investigated the Casino’s haunted claims. Maybe they were just trying to make for good TV, but during their visit the crew experienced a lot of activity, and if you’ve seen the show, they like to debunk myths. The most activity was encountered near the Walworth exhibit, with a male voice and conversation being recorded, as well as all of the investigators personally experiencing tapping touches on their shoulders, hair and necks. If you would like to investigate for yourself, stop by the Casino’s exhibit with an open mind and see what jumps out at you–literally.
2. Madame Jumel’s Circular Street Mansion
Madame Jumel fits in perfectly with Saratoga’s colorful and haunted history – sometimes it’s more about the story than the actual haunting claims. Madame Eliza Jumel, born in 1775 as Betsey Bowen to poor parents in Rhode Island, spent many a-summer in the gorgeous Greek revival mansion on Circular Street. Much of her past is made up of both fact and fiction, and which is which exactly, we’ll never know. She reportedly followed in her prostitute mother’s footsteps until she left an infant son in RI to move to NYC to become an actress and social climber. What is known for certain is that she married wealthy wine-merchant Stephen Jumel and became quite the businesswoman working alongside him until his death in 1822. She then married Vice President Aaron Burr; he did it for financial gain, she did it for the name. After only one year of marriage, they divorced, after Burr squandered her money and infidelity was cited on both sides.
Jumel began spending her summers in Saratoga in the early 1830s, but didn’t buy the mansion until 1851, she summered there through 1859. Over the years there have been numerous reported sightings of Victorian-age apparitions, but it is the sound of Madame Jumel’s swishing skirt that has let more recent homeowners know that she’s still there. Her historic Washington Heights mansion is also reported to be haunted, but because of her fond memories [in Saratoga], the Circular Street mansion is said to be her favorite haunt.
3. Hattie’s and Caffè Lena on Phila Street
Hattie’s is a historical restaurant that has been in operation since 1938, and Caffè Lena, opened since 1960, is the oldest continuously running coffee house in the United States. The two Phila Street neighbors have more than just longevity in common – they may be haunted by their founders. There are stories of Hattie Grey’s experimentations with voodoo, and perhaps solidifying these claims, contractors working in the restaurant’s basement found the bones of large animals strung together by yarn in a typical voodoo ritual fashion. Also, after Hattie’s death, there were reports by the staff that the restaurant began to “act up,” so to speak, as if Hattie had some sort of magic over her beloved place.
With Caffè Lena, people have reported orbs and unusual mists in photographs they’ve taken at the spot where Lena Spencer’s body was found. (In 1989, she tragically fell down the Caffé’s stairs, leaving a horrible end to such a wonderful legacy). Toward the end of Lena’s life, people believe, from her own accounts, that she was accompanied by some kind of spiritual presence who looked out for her and the Caffè.
Both women cared so deeply about their establishments, it’s very likely they would still be watching over them.
4. 75 Spring Street, West Hall (Former Skidmore College Dormitory)
Perhaps the eeriest of all of Saratoga’s ghost stories is the tale of 75 Spring Street, the former Skidmore College dormitory. According to Ottavio, in 1966 two Skidmore students Kathy and Laury came back from dinner to find a woman with brown hair standing in their room. When she disappeared almost as quickly as they had seen her, they were convinced they had seen a ghost. The girls bought a Ouija board to hold a séance; the story goes that from the board they discovered: “I was killed in this room, strangled. He dragged me into a closet and bricked up the wall.”
In 1969, Laury wrote a paper inspired by her experiences, the research for which brought her to an unsolved mystery case in the local police files. Laury did some more research and eventually found that a body had been recovered from one of the walls of the dormitory. The finding of the body is said to be unsubstantiated, and I wonder how much of the rest of the story is true. But that’s the fun in ghost stories – the mystery and the subsequent what-ifs…
5. Saratoga Battlefield (specifically Wilkinson Trail)
The Saratoga Battlefield, located in Saratoga National Park is known as the turning point of the Revolutionary War. The Battle of Saratoga, which consisted of two very important battles during September and October of 1777, was a crucial victory for the Patriots during the American Revolution. The Battle is recognized as one of the fifteen most decisive battles in world history, so it’s not hard to fathom that there would be residual spiritual energy from such an emotionally charged place. Today, as a National Park, the area is always full of visitors and many claim to feel the sadness of the land as soon as they set foot onto it. Many visitors have also reported hearing gun shots and drumming off in the distance, especially on the Wilkinson Trail. Either that’s patriotism, or spirits of soldiers passed.
If you’d like to learn more about these local haunts, Saratoga Arts has partnered up with paranormal author and historian Mason Winfield, for Haunted Ghost Walks of Saratoga. Through the end of October, tours leave at 7pm on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday [at Saratoga Arts]. If you’d rather explore on your own, Saratoga Public Library has an extensive “ghost file” – so you can read where all of these “hauntings” originated and discover even more, like the woman in the blue dress at the Adelphi Hotel, or “Mr. Green” who is said to inhabit another building on Phila Street. Saratoga loves a good ghost story, it shouldn’t be hard to find some more haunts among all the history.
–Aubree Cutkomp 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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