By Theresa St. John
“During the day, I don’t believe in ghosts. At night, I’m a little more open-minded.” – Unknown
Who doesn’t love Halloween and everything that comes with it? But, before and after October 31st, these ghostly haunts offer the spine-tingling chills we die-hards adore.
1. Dr. Best House and Medical Museum
This museum seems to capture not only the elegance of a past Victorian era but the echoes of its prior residents as well. A human skull, once used by the doctor for teaching purposes, is now displayed on the dining room table, staring back at visitors from dark empty-eyes.
Post-mortem photographs of young children, taken while seated on the lap or in the arms of grieving mothers, were often the only images a family had of their little ones. Today they can be viewed throughout different areas of the office, which also served as the Dr’s home.
After the loss of his young son and beautiful wife, sadness seemed to settle over the house. It seeped into the home’s walls and slithered under the worn floorboards. Handwritten medical records and state-of-the-art equipment from the late 1800’s, include a complete set of the physician’s amputation tools, making it easy to believe a departed spirit or two might still be lurking.
2. Dunkirk Lighthouse
Still an active lighthouse, Dunkirk is situated at Point Gratiot, New York. Established in 1826 it was first lit in 1875 and became automated in 1960. Its original lens, installed in 1857, is a Fresnel lens. There are only 70 such lenses in the world. Not only was the first shot fired here, marking the War of 1812’s infamous start, Cpl. Cyrus Jones of Dunkirk was the first soldier slain in the battle. His final resting place is on the grounds.
During WWII a dozen active Coast Guard personnel were stationed at the lighthouse, sharing duties with Dunkirk’s keeper. And several shipwrecks along the rocky coastline during the 1800’s are noted in Dunkirk’s history. In 1841, one of the most catastrophic accidents on the water saw The Erie burn, taking 141 lives down with the wreck.
Some visitors claim to hear footsteps of past lightkeepers, distant voices of playful children, and shadow figures moving past the staircase on the second floor. One youthful spirit is known to play with a ball. With so many deaths on or near the property, it’s no wonder the lighthouse is said to be one of New York’s most haunted.
3. Hummingbird Home
Built in 1892, this Queen Anne Victorian home exemplified how the rich and famous lived. Owners hosted dignitaries from all over the world here. There were political meetings and elaborate parties, where everyone who was anyone attended. Throughout the numerous rooms of this stately home, one will still find interesting items left behind. Pipes, cameras, gavels, swords, a young boy’s bat, and adding machine sit on fireplace mantels or bookcases, adding to the mansion’s mystique.
At one time, under Dr. Brown’s ownership, Hummingbird Home became a funeral parlor. Today, if one dares to walk down a long flight of stairs that lead from the dining room into the cellar below, remnants of an embalming room, casket lift, and other equipment can be seen. A strand of rosary beads hangs from a hook in the adjoining room.
If you prefer an overnight stay in one of its five comfortable bedrooms, Jason is the bed & breakfast’s host who’ll make your visit perfect. The presence of a ghost, roaming around in the night, could make you pull the covers over your head though, who knows?
4. Lockport Caves
This half-mile hydraulic tunnel was built during the 1800’s, providing waterpower to three mills in the surrounding area. Today, guests are invited to explore the historic “Flight of Five” Erie Canal locks 67-71, constructed in 1838, view ruins from the industrial revolution, then follow a tour guide through the dank, dark water tunnel where workmen blasted their way through solid rock during the early days of the Erie canal.
Stalactites, flowstone, numerous geological formations, and artifacts left behind in these underground caves aid in making the experience seem other-worldly, even haunted. As soon as people are seated inside the boat, a unique ride begins, as it slowly glides down still, lifeless waters, cave walls on either side. It seems spooky, lit sporadically by small electric lights placed here and there along the way.
Stories of children employed to help blast through rock, in part because they were fast on their feet and fearless in the face of danger, but also because many were orphans with no loved ones to miss them if they died, are shared by the knowledgeable guide. Men were encouraged to drink on the job for the same reasons. It could be attributed to alcohol rather than poor working conditions if they were to perish in a blast. No one truly knows the extent of deaths during that time. Other than spirits bothered by their untimely passing.
5. Red Coach Inn
Designed after the Bell Inn in Finedon, England, The Red Coach Inn has been welcoming guests since 1923. It’s a beautiful English Tudor which sits on highly coveted real estate-a mere 500 yards from the majestic Niagara Falls. Although Niagara Falls had finally acquired a hostelry that would lend credence to the title “Honeymoon Capital of the World,” it also came with a side of murder…
One morning, when the maid unlocked the Honeymoon Suite, intent on cleaning and preparing it for the next guests, she was horrified. The bride lay in bed with the left side of her face beaten to a pulp. She was unrecognizable. A bloodied candlestick rested beside her. It was the weapon her husband chose to commit the crime. He was later arrested and charged but gave no reason for his horrible act of hatred.
A creepy portrait taken of a second couple on their wedding day once hung in the Honeymoon Suite. It was taken down and stored in a closet for over a year after people complained that the bride and groom’s empty eyes seemed to follow them about the room.
Each one of these attractions is listed with Haunted History Trail of New York State, a year-round, creepy collection of 65 attractions, 30 counties and more than 400 miles throughout the state.
All photos by Theresa St. John