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Posts Tagged ‘Ghosts of Long Island’

The gates to Fergusons Castle

The gates to Ferguson's Castle (click to view large)

The Monastery, also known as Ferguson’s Castle, located in Huntington Bay, was one of Long Island’s Gold Coast’s most impressive estates. Today all that remains is a wall too massive to tear down, a gatehouse, some ruins, some memories, and perhaps the ghost of the woman who built it.

Go to A Gothic Cabinet of Curiosities and Mysteries to read the article

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Melville, New York
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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.

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Mount Misery, 
Melville, New York

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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.”

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ca. 1819 
Mount Misery Road
Melville, New York
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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.

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ca. 1680
Mount Misery
Melville, New York

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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.

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Glen Cove, New York
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Winfield Hall is the quintessential haunted house. From rumors of the black arts being practiced there, to suicides, to the ghost of a young lady, this Glen Cove mansion seems designed to chill the blood.

F.W. Woolworth built Winfield in 1916, designed by architect Charles P.H. Gilbert, at an estimated cost of $9,000,000. The 56 room Italian Renaissance marble home contains a staircase which was $2,000,000 to build at the time, and boasted a chandelier made of blue and 15-karat gold leaf. The whole house is outfitted in a manor fit for royalty, mahogany, bronze, sterling silver. Woolworth’s bed was supposed to have originally belonged to Napoleon. Honeycombing the house is a network of secret passages, hidden chambers and deserted tunnels. 

Yet two years after completion, Woolworth was dead, from not seeking proper dental care. Woolworth’s wife it was said was dotty and never left her room. One of his three daughters took her own life as his father gave a party downstairs. It’s said a bolt of lightning caused the mantle of the room the party was in to crack that very night. 

Later the house was used as a school, and it was in the Marie Antoinette room, which is always kept locked, that there were at least thirty account of people who heard a woman crying in that room. It is rumored that this is the room which his daughter took her life after her father denied her request to be married. Others claimed to have seen a woman in a faded blue dress, walking in the garden. 

Compiled from The Mansions of Long Island’s Gold Coast, by Monica Randall 

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Winfield Hall Gates

Winfield Hall Gates

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Huntington Bay, New York

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Ferguson Castle was built like a medieval castle, with heavy walls some three feet thick, and details straight from the Mediterranean. The house was built in 1908 for Mrs. Juliana Armour Ferguson, the mother of seven children who used to push the furniture against the walls and used the great hall for a roller skating rink. In 1916, the house was used for the original silent version of Romeo and Juliet. A litany of furnishing proves breathtaking; a sixteenth century chariot made for the Emporer Maximilian of carved ivory and rubies, two seventeenth century marble lions from Verona, art treasures, some as old as the twelfth century decorating the walls, a fountain made of ancient Persian tiles, a fifteenth century French Gothic plaque with the Madonna and Child, as well as a piece of Egyptian era art. The house had forty rooms, six baths, fourteen fireplaces, a chapel, a servant’s room and a gatehouse. The Great Hall measured 64 feet long, 47 feet wide and three stories tall. 

Perhaps the strangest though, Mrs. Ferguson collected the gravestones of children from all over Europe, all under five years old at the time of their death, all three hundred years old, then installed in the floors, halls, entranceways and gardens of the house.

She died in 1921 and the house went through several owners, before being purchased by Suffolk County in 1964. In 1970, the house was pulled down. Rumors of the house being haunted and a hefty back taxes bill made it impossible to sell. Today all that is left is the foundations and lower entrance, as well as the gatehouse.

In her book, The Ghosts of Long Island, Kerriann Flanagan Brosky relates that Mrs. Ferguson never really left the house, also known as The Monastery. By all accounts, Mrs. Ferguson lived for her children. There was a room in the house with a long, medieval table, which was kept furnished at all time with food and treats for her children, attended to by two Japanese servants, for whom that was their only job.

Her husband had died before they moved in the castle. By the beginning of World War I, things had changed. By then, all the children were grown and had moved away. Then one child died of influenza. Four days later another died in the trenches of the war. Another divorced under hints of scandals which ruined the family name. She couldn’t accept the death of her son, and had a wax dummy made in his likeness. Each night she would dine with him then at the long table which once held the bounty for children. 

Following her death, she was still to be seen, coming down the stairs each night in her long, flowing white gown to dine with her dead son. While the house was in the process of being torn down, many people driving by at night saw a figure in white, floating among the ruins.

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From The Mansions of Long Islands Gold Coast, by Monica Randall

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