As I turn onto W 2nd Avenue in Johnstown, New York, I’m more than a little excited, ready to park my car for an overnight stay in one of the state’s most historic mansions. I sit still for a few moments, gazing up at the facade of Knox Mansion. It’s a truly majestic home, built in 1889 by the gelatin magnate and philanthropist, Charles Knox.
I’m not the only one who believes in ghosts, believe me. In fact, I recently read that four out of every five people actually put credence in the thought that life continues after we pass through this realm into the next. It’s a belief that goes all the way back to ancient Egyptian times, perhaps even further. I’ve never actually run into a nasty ghost, and I’ve met a few of them. I lived in a haunted house for a few years, back in Massachusetts. The ghost wandering around our hallways was actually pretty friendly. It didn’t take long to learn that her name was Rachel. It was kind of sad, selling our historic home and moving on, to a different state. I often wonder who she haunts now.
In this particular moment though, I’m staring up at Knox Mansion, speechless. I have to admit that the structure is both impressive and imposing, at the same time. For a few seconds, the thought “UH-OH” runs amok in my head. I’m pretty sure I say it out loud. Maybe because it’s so stately; the design and sheer size of it take my breath away. I find myself already wondering what lies beyond the heavy wood front door. Do I really want to find out?
Because there’s something more here. I can feel that it’s haunted. The air suddenly grows heavy. I find myself peering in the windows. Is something looking out from behind pretty lace curtains, honing in on me, wondering who I am and what I’ve come for?
I never back away from an encounter with a ghost. The thought of interacting with one usually excites me. So, I’m surprised to discover that I’m actually tempted to leave. It would only take a moment to put the car in drive and move away from the property. Yes, it’s that unnerving.
Of course, I don’t leave. I step out of the car, grabbing my backpack, cameras and notebook. It’s pretty much a “Suck it up, buttercup” moment. I slowly walk up the curving driveway, eyes darting around as I soak it all in. Eventually, I make it to the entryway and find that the door has already opened wide, to welcome me inside. Hopefully.
Tonight, the mansion is booked solid with overnight guests. I’ll be sleeping on the first floor, courtesy of a comfy, overstuffed Victorian couch in the front parlor. It’s a room with reported activity. I’m excited, to think that I might witness a ghostly encounter myself. The owner’s wife walks me through many rooms on the first floor. The furnishings are heavy, the walls covered with rich, dark wood. I see several pianos, even though I am told that no one plays them.
In the front hall, I discover portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Knox. When I walk up the elaborate, curving staircase, the strangest thing happens. Not only do their eyes seem to follow my movement, their entire face seems to turn and watch me make my way to the second floor.
We wander into the library and I pour over old, historic books. The pages are worn and dog-eared from other people marking interesting passages they wanted to revisit during their overnight stay.
Another living area is filled with old portraits, a pool table, and a marvelous fireplace. I’m told it’s made from volcanic ash, shipped in a block at a time from Italy. My mouth drops open at the beauty of it. I’m amazed to see how the room appears today, it nearly matches a photograph from days gone by, when the Knox’s entertained here.
The entire time we walk through parts of the mansion, I am regaled with tidbits of ghostly encounters; some hear a young girl laughing while others feel her tugging on the back of their clothes. It’s suspected that she might have been a child of the Knox’s, suffering from retardation, thus hidden from the public in a secreted room on the 3rd floor.
Other visitors have spotted an elderly gentleman, standing quietly at the top of the stairs. He appears to look a good deal like the Knox’s beloved gardener, Philip Ulrich, from Rutenberg, Germany. Ulrich became employed in 1905, and was sent around the world three different times by Mrs. Knox, searching for rare orchids, which she loved. He retired in 1934, after suffering injuries in an automobile accident and died in 1950, when he was 90. Reports of orbs moving throughout rooms in the mansion at all times of day and night are reported as well.
The Knox Mansion does celebrate Halloween, going all-out with ghosts and goblins. They have a ‘scare zone’ and a ‘no scare zone’ for the weak of heart. Ghost hunts are also hosted here; teams will arrive in the Fall and explore the entire Mansion with the public who have paid for admission.
As for myself? I slept like a baby – when I slept. Did I have any encounters with the supernatural? Uh, yes, but that’s another story for another time. Stay tuned. Let’s just say, I was not afraid. It was an amazing visit and would not be adverse to another overnight stay.
Knox Mansion is part of The Haunted History Trail of New York State. If you have any interest in ghosts and hauntings, you need to look them up and ask for a brochure. With 65 locations, 31 counties and over 400 miles to investigate, I can’t wait for my next adventure!