Cool breezes on the back of your neck, hearing a giggle down the hallway, creaky footsteps descending the staircase. These aren’t uncommon occurrences on the Haunted History Trail of New York State. Up and down the state is a collection of over 90 places you can visit for a good spook, from restaurants to gardens to bed and breakfasts. With Halloween a few days away, it’s the perfect time of year to make the drive to some of these frightfully fun destinations…but rest assured, these places are open for business year round.
From least to most scary:
Yaddo Gardens (Saratoga Springs, NY)
More serene than spooky, these beautiful gardens lie on the property of the Yaddo Estate, which was erected in the late 1800s by Spencer and Katrina Trask. The beautiful gardens have both French and Italian Renaissance influences, making it stand out from other gardens in the states. The estate itself has been used as an artists’ retreat since 1926, and has fostered immense talent such as Truman Capote, Sylvia Plath, and David Foster Wallace. But writers aren’t the spirits that are said to roam this property. The Trasks had four children, all of whom died young. Coincidentally or not, there are four marble statues that are said to represent the four seasons. However, many people report feeling an aura around the statues, and many believe that the spirits of the Trask children live on here.
‘Ghosts in the Yaddo Garden Tours’ are held Friday and Sunday evenings at 5pm from September 13th – October 27th for $10 (children 12 and under are free). Entry to the gardens is free.
New York State Capitol (Albany, NY)
It’s hard to imagine that people actually work every day in this magnificent building. But even if they stay late, they may not be alone. The capitol building, which was built between 1867 and 1899, was actually constructed by three different teams of architects, which is why the design is so unique and eclectic. Its history lends itself to the subject of many ghost stories over the years — some people have even reportedly seen former President Abraham Lincoln! Many people have reported seeing or hearing the ghost of Samuel Abbott, the night watchman who died in a fire that broke out in the building in 1911. He was responsible for saving numerous historical books and documents, and now roams the halls to continue his duty of protection. Numerous other people are said to haunt the illustrious building, including a person who jumped to their death in one of the stairwells. You will even be directed to the secret demon stone carving, which carries a myth of its own. If you are able to find it without any guidance, you are reportedly pure evil! (Lucky for us, our tour guide pointed it out.)
New York State Capitol Hauntings Tours are free and offered from September 25th – November 1st.
The Bull’s Head Inn (Cobleskill, NY)
Dining with a ghost might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you head to The Bull’s Head Inn, you might not have a choice. Not only is their classic comfort food just the ticket to warm you up (do not miss out on their Reuben Egg Rolls), but as the oldest building in the town, it comes with stories of its own. One of the former owners of the house-turned-restaurant, Mrs. John Stacy was very anti-alcohol, which didn’t seem to make her too happy once a bar was installed in the space. Both staff and diners have reported unexplainable phenomena, including silverware flying off the tables, faucets turning on, glasses falling over, and even apparitions late at night.
Old Dutch Church Cemetery (Kingston, NY)
One of the older places we visited, this cemetery dates back to 1658 and is the final resting place for many different people — Dutch settlers, Native Americans, African American slaves and servants and British soldiers. The church on the grounds was actually built atop a grave site and many parishioners have reported strange sounds and organ music playing without anyone there. Theatre on the Road gives hour-long cemetery tours that introduce you to eight of the interred, bringing the history of Kingston alive. The town itself has a unique past — during the Revolutionary War, the British burnt down over 300 buildings, and many of the victims are buried at the cemetery.
Living History Cemetery Tours take place on Saturdays in October at 7pm, for $15, $10 for students and seniors and $1 for children 12 and under. Private tours for groups of 20 or more are available upon request.
Huguenot Street (New Paltz, NY)
Historic Huguenot Street is home to seven stone-house museums, a reconstructed 1717 French Church, a cemetery and a replica Esopus Munsee wigwam. Now home to a museum and educational corporation, it once was the site of a French settlement, and also played home to the area’s Native and enslaved African peoples, as well as Dutch settlers. Now it is known as one of the most haunted places in the Hudson Valley, and hosts Haunted Huguenot Street Tours throughout the month of October. Evening tours kick off around an outdoor campfire, where a local fireman tells his own tales of unexplained occurrences in the area. Then, an hour-long tour through the homes and grounds reenact some of the history of the street. The stories, drawn from diaries and historical records, weave together actual historical facts with theories about the deaths of some of the former residents.
Haunted Huguenot Street Tours run through the month of October from 5-9pm for $20.
Garvan’s (New Paltz, NY)
It’s not on the Haunted History Trail yet, but this restaurant occupies a building dating back to 1759, and the owner, Garvan McCloskey, has plenty to say about what lies within (besides the food, of course). Since the New American restaurant boasts Irish charm and camaraderie, it’s no surprise that the friendly staff are more than happy to regale you with tales of ghosts that lurk upstairs. Patrons have reported seeing the ghost of a little girl and her cat (one child even was said to have spoken with her!) who used to live in the house. According the to the story, there was a fire and she ran back inside to save her cat and both perished in the fire. So while you’re dining on their legendary scallops, make sure to chat up the waitstaff to find out what else they’ve discovered inside.
Old Stone Fort (Schoharie, NY)
What now serves as a historic site and museum was originally built as a church in 1772. The Old Stone Fort, which lies upon and surrounded by a cemetery, was fortified during the American Revolution and later attacked by the British in 1780. A look around the fort’s museum, you’ll find countless historical artifacts, from cannons and arrowheads to rocking horses (made of actual ponies) and luggage. Exhibits continually change, so it’s always worth a return visit. If not for the history, then for the ghosts! Docents at the museum report strange happenings, including hearing toilets flushing when no one’s there, organ music playing, and even footsteps or a light touch on the shoulder when they are alone.
Saratoga Springs History Museum / Historic Canfield Casino (Saratoga Springs, NY)
Originally built by John Morrissey as a casino, or as it was known back then, as a gentleman’s clubhouse, the Canfield Casino hosted numerous parties and was known as America’s Monte Carlo. It opened in 1870. After Morrissey’s death, Richard Canfield purchased the venue in 1884 and owned it until 1907 when gambling was banned. Now the building serves as a museum with roving exhibitions, but visitors frequently get more than what they bargained for here. It has seen an upsurgence of paranormal activity in the last two decades, and even attracted Ghost Hunters to explore the building. People have reported smelling cigar smoke randomly, temperature drops, and even moving objects. Agnes Hamberger, who works at the museum as an archivist, told us she saw the tail end of a skirt move from the hall into one of the rooms one day when they were closed. There are often workers who report hearing footsteps when they are there on Sundays, even though it’s closed to the public. I could have sworn I heard someone whisper my name in my ear when I was on the third floor, only to turn around and find myself alone.
Dr. Best House & Medical Museum (Middleburgh, NY)
Practically a shrine to the late Best Family, their home remains as it was when two generations of Best doctors practiced here for 100 years. The house was built in 1884, where Dr. Christopher Best ran his practice until he passed away in 1932. His son, Dr. Duncan Best took over the practice until he retired in 1986, and later passed away in the early 1990s. Since then, the house has been preserved and kept open as a medical exhibit. Luckily, we live in the 21st century — walking through the halls of this home will serve as a time warp to days of electrostatic machines, homemade medicines and crude amputations. Interesting contraptions, medicine bottles, and equipment are displayed throughout the house, serving as a reminder of how far we’ve come in the field of medicine. But that’s not all visitors might see here. People have reported hearing voices, captured photographs of apparitions, and have heard the piano playing without explanation. When we toured the property, a cabinet door slammed shut, knocking over a picture frame, while we were in the room.
Guided tours are available on Saturdays from 12-4pm Memorial Day through Labor Day, or year-round by appointment. They also regularly host events.
The Knox Mansion (Johnstown, NY)
Built in 1889 by businessman Charles Knox, owner of the lucrative Knox Gelatine company, the Knox Mansion now is home to Marty and Fawn Quinn. The gracious homeowners go all out hosting holiday parties, gatherings and haunted houses, and even allow guests to sometimes stay in the spare bedrooms as a Bed & Breakfast. The 42-room mansion is an elaborate estate, with unique touches that the Quinns will be more than happy to tell you about. The imported Italian solid lava ash fireplace in the family room, a secret cupboard probably used to stash valuables, a dumbwaiter (which now serves as a great hiding spot for the brave) and an attached conservatory that still houses orchids and other lush plants, to name a few. Most notably, however, is probably the hidden room in the attic. When exploring the house, Marty Quinn discovered a crawl space in the attic and upon further exploration, a secret room hidden through the end of the chamber. There has been much speculation about the purpose of the room and Quinn has his own ideas. It is possible that the room was used as a room for a handicapped child; a lock on the outside of the door is quite unusual. And according to Quinn, three people have been scratched inside this hidden room. But the stories here could go on for days — many people have been touched on the shoulder, groped, had their hair whisked back, or have had something whisper in their ear. Lights flicker, unaccompanied footsteps are heard, and children are often heard playing when there’s none home. Every member of the Quinn family have their own tales to tell, and as guests come and go (some leave in the middle of the night), more stories accumulate. We hope to go back and add to the arsenal one day.
To discover more haunting places in New York, you can head to the Haunted History Trail of New York State.