Feeds:
Posts
Comments

To view large or order fine art prints and posters of this image, click here 

 

Mary of Sweet Hollow Road, outside Melville, New York is perhaps Long Island’s most famous ghost. And with Hallow’een coming up, she finds herself more popular than ever.  

Last week I was on a video shoot, this time for http://www.forgottenli.com, and the producers wanted a clip of Mary darting out in front of a car on Sweet Hollow Road, standing by the side of the road, outside of the graveyard – all the usual Mary as the Lady In White stories. Between takes I started telling the young lady playing Mary, Amber D’Amato, some of the other Mary stories. Mary was the daughter of the school teacher who either killed all his students with an axe, or in another version, locked his students in the schoolhouse and set it ablaze. Finding out what her father had done, she hangs herself out of shame. There’s the Mary who is committed to the asylum on Mount Misery and sets fire to it, burning alive the patients and workers alike. There’s also Mary’s grave – you find the grave, shine your flashlight on her name, say it three times and if her face appears it means your imminent death. 

There are several others, including Mary Hatchet in which she kills her family with a hatchet. Or Mary is buried in the graveyard near the overpass of Northern Parkway, and can sometimes be seen standing next to her tombstone. Mary is buried across the road from the graveyard, a suicide victim, not eligible to be buried in hallowed ground, and can sometimes be seen standing just inside the forest, watching. Mary can be seen sometimes, walking along the side of the road in her white dress. Mary sometimes flags you down and asks for a ride home. When you reach the graveyard she tells you to stop, and says this is where she lives. When you look again to the passenger seat she is gone.

But my favorite is much simpler. Mary is seen wandering the woods along Sweet Hollow Road. No reason why, no horror or gore, just a ghost moving through the trees.

As I spoke, Amber’s face began to show fear and more than that, sadness. “You mean she wasn’t a victim” she asked? And I thought about it, and yes, except for the Mary Hatchet stories, she was a victim? Even as the arsonist burning the inmates alive, her sickness is the evil, not Mary herself.

The first question to ask to get to the truth of the legend is why Mary? All these events didn’t happen here, and certainly not by women named Mary But most legends have some grain of truth about them, and at some point there was a probably was a Mary, and something happened so memorable and so horrifying, that she’s become a magnet for what seems like every other folk tale or legend in the area. 

I’ve talked to people who were teenagers in the sixties and Mary stories were around then. That some of the tales are much older is a strong possibility as well. Legends about the Lady in White are almost certainly false. They involve a young couple arguing while driving down Sweet Hollow Road, he pushes her out of the moving car and she’s killed by another car following behind, and she haunts the road now dressed in white. You find variations of this story all over the country.

That some tales date from the colonial era, or the 19th century is quite possible. Whether or not there was ever an asylum on Mount Misery is hotly debated, though probably unlikely, so it can’t be said if there was any real chance she was ever an inmate there, let alone set the fire. 

Curiously enough, there was a fire in the schoolhouse in the area, in the 1880s, but certainly not with all the students inside. And according to legend, the bloody schoolhouse sat on the corner of Sweet Hollow and Mount Misery roads, a short distance from where this schoolhouse still stands. Perhaps that’s the grain of truth to that legend. It’s possible that there was a school on Mount Misery prior, it wouldn’t have been unheard of in the colonial era even. But again, no evidence exists.

Which is why I like the simplest story the best. Why does Mary still wander the woods of Mount Misery and Sweet Hollow? Because she is called to. She’s summoned by countless fear seekers, ghost hunters and curious teenagers each year, and no doubt will be this Halloween as well. I have no doubt that from time to time, when someone calls, she’s there. There is something about us that needs the supernatural. And as long as we need Mary, she will come.

Want to read more about all things gothic on Long Island? Subscribe by clicking on this link to receive new posts regularly by email, or click the RSS feed, Google or Yahoo links on this page

The location for this photo is a spot on Mount Misery where two paths meet. I found there a fire ring, as well as crosses painted in red on the surrounding trees. Mary played by Amber D’Amato

Advertisements

Rosemary Amphitheater, Rosemary Farm, Huntington, New York
To view large or order fine art prints and posters of this image, click here

“A poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Across this bridge, some of the greatest performers of their generation walked – Sarah Bernhardt, John and Ethel Barrymore, Tyrone Powers, Helen Hayes and the entire 300 piece John Phillips Sousa Orchestra. The moat was once filled with water, and hidden in the moat were jets which would send water cascading up sixteen feet in the air, hiding the island that served as the stage from the rest of the 4,000 seat amphitheater between scenes. The moat was fed by a waterfall to the side of the stage, and the view was beautiful, not only of the stage, but of Long Island Sound further down the hill. 

This wasn’t a theater built by a city, a corporation or as a business, it was a labor of love, built by a man for his wife, at the bottom of the hill from their house. It was built by patrons of the arts for their community and for the artists.

Today the stage is silent, shadows fall and like the rest of the amphitheater, overgrown with vegetation, grown taller than a person. The statues are gone, much of the stone which was used to build it is fallen from it’s original form, now just rubble. But the feeling is still there, when the brightest stars to be seen were on the ground and not in the sky.

Want to read more about all things gothic on Long Island? Subscribe by clicking on this link to receive new posts regularly by email, or click the RSS feed, Google or Yahoo links on this page

Melville, New York
To view large or order fine art prints and posters of this image, click here

Sweet Hollow perhaps has had more reports of haunting and strange incidents than any other place on Long Island, particularly if you include neighboring Mt. Misery. Sweet Hollow Road divides the hollow from that ridge, and it is at this underpass that carries the Northern State Parkway overhead that several of these stories take place.

There is the legend that one dark and snowy night, a busload of children were coming down the Parkway, when the driver lost control and slid off the overpass and onto Sweet Hollow Road, killing everyone on board. Since then there have been reports of a group of school children walking lost along the road, as well as reports as seeing a bus full of children parked at night outside the graveyard, which is just down from the overpass.

One of the most famous is of the three teenagers who supposedly hung themselves from the overpass in a suicide pact. Reports vary, but one of the most common is that if you honk your horn three times before passing beneath, then look in the read view mirror after coming out the other side, you will see them there.

Parking underneath the overpass might find your vehicle rocked violently from side to side, either trying to do you harm if it’s by the three suicide victims, or to get you to safety if it’s by the school children. If you park in just the right place beneath, your car will be pushed out by unseen hands. Alright, of course there’s an almost imperceptible rise to the road which explains that, but that doesn’t explain the small handprints that several people have found on their car later, after having dusted the trunk before parking there with flour.

And there’s the policeman. Drive a little to quickly or too recklessly, and you will be pulled over. Sweet Hollow Road is narrow, winding and dangerous. But keep an eye on the policeman as he walks back to his patrol car, and you might notice the back of his head blown away. It seems even the grave can’t keep some public servants from their sworn duty.

Of course there is no evidence for any of these deaths – no newspaper reports, no memories from locals. So the truth of all of these tales lay on shaky ground. Whatever the truth, there is an air of mystery about the overpass, and even if specters never existed there, the stories provide a richness sweetly deserved.

Want to read more about all things gothic on Long Island? Subscribe by clicking on this link to receive new posts regularly by email, or click the RSS feed, Google or Yahoo links on this page

Mount Misery, 
Melville, New York

To view large or order fine art prints and posters of this image, click here

So I was walking through the woods on Mount Misery with my little guy, who was having a fun time until I told him the following story …

“You know, there’s a story about these woods, that people used to see a man in rags wandering this very trail, and in his hands he carried a basket of human heads.”

“Where did he get the heads daddy?”

“Well there was a series of murders, and the killer was never caught, so that could have been him. On the other hand, there have been lots of people who got lost here and never came out, so it could have been them too.”

“I wanna go back to the car daddy.”

“But on the other hand, it could just be a story. When I was a little boy, a friend of mine’s mommy told him about the crazy man that lived in the old house down the street from where your grandma lives, and he told us about it. Remember it? The one falling down that looks haunted?”

He nodded without looking up, busy looking around into the woods, ahead of us on the trail, his head turning to look behind us.

“Well one day a bunch of us decided it wasn’t true, and we dared each other to go up and knock on the door of the house. Finally I got up the nerve, walked up on the porch and looked in the window. And it looked totally empty in there, so I knocked. No answer. I knocked again and there was no answer. So the other boys with me came up and we all had fun knocking away at the door, till I looked up. Standing there looking at us was a big guy in overalls, with a crazy grin on his face, holding a shotgun.”

“What did you do?”

“We ran, and ran and ran. I ran all the way home and told my mom about it. And you know what she told me? It turns out there was an old man who lived there. The grocery story just down the street used the house as a warehouse. And since they had all that stuff in there, they needed someone to watch over it. The old man who lived there wasn’t crazy, but was actually retarded. So they gave him a place to live, food to eat and a little money, and he made sure no one broke in and stole anything.”

“So why did that other boy’s mommy tell him that story?”

“Sometimes mommies and daddies will tell their kids a story to scare them, so that they don’t go someplace they shouldn’t go, where they might get into trouble. Or get lost. My mommy told me the story of Black Annie, just as her mommy told her the same story for the same reason.”

“So maybe there never was a man with a basket of heads? Maybe that was just a story mommies told their kids?”

“Maybe, maybe not. At any rate they never solved the murders, found the bodies or caught the man or found his basket. And some people say he’s out here still.”

“I wanna go back to the car daddy.”

Want to read more about all things gothic on Long Island? Subscribe by clicking on this link to receive new posts regularly by email, or click the RSS feed, Google or Yahoo links on this page

The Coyler House

ca. 1819 
Mount Misery Road
Melville, New York
To view large or order fine art prints and posters of this image, click here

Built by Walt Whitman, Sr., the design of the structure is almost identical to that of the Walt Whitman’s birthplace, just of Route 110 nearby. The house was originally part of a farm of 80 acres acquired by Richard Coyler from Tredwell Whitman and has been the subject of numerous sketches and paintings, including those of George Avery, Rudolph Ruzicka, and Hobart Nichols. At the time of the poet’s visit to the house in 1850, it was occupied by Walt’s Aunt Sarah and her daughter Hannah, the widow of Richard Coyler, “These three days, we have been on a visit (father and myself) to West Hills, the old native place. We went up in the L.I.R.R., and so in the stage to Woodbury–then on foot along the turnpike and ‘across lots’ to Colyer’s, I plumped in the kitchen door. Aunt S. (Sarah), father’s sister, was standing there.”

I’ve spoke recently to a fellow who was a teenager in the 1970s, and who heard many stories that the house was haunted. In fact, according to him, at that time this house was considered the source of all the ghost stories on Mount Misery. According to his tale, the Army Corp of Engineers was brought in to investigate, the thought being that perhaps the incidents had a geological source. It was also about this time that this area of Mount Misery was reported to have been closed to the public, following a rash of UFO sightings, supposedly for national guard and law enforcement training purposes.

Whatever they learned has never been reported, but one must never underestimate the value of teenagers out to smoke dope, drink beer and get a bit frisky with their paramour to collect, preserve and often originate local legends and lore.

Want to read more about all things gothic on Long Island? Subscribe by clicking on this link to receive new posts regularly by email, or click the RSS feed, Google or Yahoo links on this page

ca. 1680
Mount Misery
Melville, New York

To view large or order fine art prints and posters of this image, click here

In the woods off Chichester Road in Melville, New York, if you look hard enough, you’ll find a cemetery with about a dozen graves. There you’ll find the final resting place of one Eliphalet Chichester, a noted revolutionary during this country’s war for independence against the British. Eliphalet was born in 1737 in Huntington, and like his father before him, was known as “the Elder.” Eliphalet became so incensed at having to purchase a bond to marry his sweetheart, Mary Pine, a spinster, that his anger turned to open rebellion against the crown of England. A few feet from Eliphalet lies Asa Chichester, reportedly the last of a line of innkeepers to run the inn which stands just through the woods, and that once carried his family’s name. 

The first tavern stood on the site now occupied by the building once known as the Peace and Plenty Inn since 1660, when the town board of Huntington elected Thomas Brush to open an inn there. It stood on what was once the Old Post Road, which crossed the more heavily travelled road which led to Huntington. Inns were essential in the day when what is now a couple hour drive might have taken days. The inn wasn’t a place for drunkenness, but rather a place for refreshments, a change of horses and a community meeting house. 

About 1680 the license and site fell into the hands of the Chichester family after the original structure burned, and they built a new one, a one and a half story cottage with two rooms and a bedroom in the attic crawl space. For the next hundred years or so the family kept adding on, resulting in a long, rambling structure, which sits today surrounded by woodland, looking out on what was once the road that brought traffic to the hillside.

It is said that Asa, and perhaps other family members don’t actually rest in the cemetery, but perhaps still make their nightly journey up the small staircase to that loft. A former owner reported that their dog refused to go up those stairs, and once a blue light was seen going up.

Many notable persons, both locally and of world-wide fame stopped at the Peace and Plenty. Teddy Roosevelt used to ride horseback along with family and friends from his house near Oyster Bay for lunch. Walt Whitman, who was born just down the road would stop in when he was a newspaper man in the area.

But times change, and when Jericho Turnpike started going into Huntington, traffic in the area fell off, business slumped, and Asa was forced to shut its doors. Though here there is some confusion in the historical record. If Asa closed down the inn, and died in 1841, how could Teddy Roosevelt, who wasn’t even born until 1858 have been a patron? Reports say that following the closing of the inn, it was in the family till 1915, when it became a boarding house, before eventually becoming once more a private residence. Even the Whitman story casts doubts on just when or if Asa closed the shop. Whitman didn’t return to Long Island until 1836, so unless Asa died just after retiring from innkeeping, it would be hard for Walt to have been a patron.

And perhaps that’s why Asa sticks around, for it seems that perhaps the oft told story that Asa closed the family business isn’t completely accurate, and he seeks to clear his reputation. There is little doubt that some presence hangs about the place. Items of furniture goes missing without a trace, as well as other behavior associated with poltergeists. Mysterious footprints have been seen, footsteps heard, and the house has had quite a bit of trouble keeping an owner since it fell from the Chichester family’s hands.

In any event, it can be assumed that if all the reported ghosts of Mount Misery and Sweet Hollow get together for a pint, it’s at the Peace and Plenty Inn, and Asa is pulling the tap.

Want to read more about all things gothic on Long Island? Subscribe by clicking on this link to receive new posts regularly by email, or click the RSS feed, Google or Yahoo links on this page

West Hills County Park, Melville, New York

To view large or order fine art prints and posters of this image, click here

The Mothman is a figure which plays a small role in the book and film, The Mothman Prophecies. The book by John Keel actually deals more with UFOs than the mothman, which has been described as a winged creature between six and ten feet tall, often with glowing red eyes. What is eerie about it, is that when people started collecting stories, the stories were already in existence, rather than coming into existence once it became a part of popular culture. The story related in the book and movie is perhaps the most notorious and well documented case, but it’s also been reported frequently in New Jersey, as well as Long Island. And where else but Mount Misery and Sweet Hollow Road.

Want to read more about all things gothic on Long Island? Subscribe by clicking on this link to receive new posts regularly by email, or click the RSS feed, Google or Yahoo links on this page