Another October brings another Halloween. And while you could load up on the horror movies and hope that another person’s fiction is enough to give you your scares, why not check out the real thing for yourself?
In areas of the country as historic as western New England and the Hudson River Valley, where colonial history goes back close to four hundred years, there are plenty of historic sites with intriguing folk lore about those who lived there, died and then didn’t quite move on.
From haunted graveyards to cursed houses and many other places in between, here are some places in Connecticut, western Massachusetts and upstate New York to check out for your Halloween adventure and fright fix.
1. Union Cemetery: Easton, CT
Given that the site itself has around 400 years of history underneath its belt, it’s not surprising that this cemetery is said to be a supremely haunted place. The infamous White Lady of Union Cemetery is usually seen around and outside the grounds on Stepney Road, and near the cross of Routes 59 and 111.
As her name suggests, this ghost is dressed in a long, white gown, and has long, dark hair, which is sometimes described as being covered by a white bonnet. The White Lady is generally harmless, though it’s said she tends to appear in the middle of the road and make drivers think that they’ve hit her.
Considering that the famed Connecticut demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren found this place worthy of investigation, and even wrote a book about it, it’s a sure bet to go here to see some paranormal activity.
2. West Peak, Hanging Hills, Hubbard Park: Meriden, CT
The Black Dog of West Peak is an apparition unique in the respect that it’s probably best for your health that you don’t ever see it more than once.
Since the 19th century, visitors to the Hanging Hills have reported seeing a short-haired black dog, the details of which vary with the storyteller.
However, one thing that doesn’t change from story to story is this rule of three. The first time you see the Black Dog, you’ll see a friendly-looking and happy pooch, frolicking about. The second time, you’ll see him start to look a little mangy and sad, and your luck for the day, or week, will turn bad.
And on the third time you see him, the Black Dog will appear mean and gruff, and you’ll die shortly after witnessing him, whether from falling off of West Peak or through some other accident.
Take heart and visit the Hanging Hills if you dare!
1. Bridge St. Cemetery: Northampton, MA
This place is supposedly haunted by Jerusha Edwards, the daughter of the famous Great Awakening preacher Reverend John Edwards. It’s said that visitors to her grave feel unusually cold when walking near and over her grave, which is located in one of the oldest sections of the cemetery, and that they may feel aches at the bottom of their skulls.
Jerusha haunts the graveyard because even though she’s buried next to her true love, David Brainerd, the two were unable to marry before he died of a recurring illness.
Jerusha herself died of a fever just months after, probably because she cared for David during his illness. Unable to find peace, her ghost paces the area, pining for her lost love, even after two and a half centuries.
2. Bellows Pipe Trail, Mt. Greylock State Reservation: North Adams, MA
Here, a tragic story of poor communication during the Civil War led to a restless ghost who haunts a hiking trail in the Berkshires.
In 1861, a farmer named William Saunders left his home to fight for the Union. A year later, his wife received a letter saying that he had been mortally wounded in battle, and heard nothing after that. Upset, but needing help to maintain the farm and care for her children, she remarried.
Saunders, alive and well, returned to his farm in 1865, and, distraught over what his wife had done, ran off to live alone in the woods near what is now known as Bellows Pipe Trail. He was known as the “Old Coot” to the locals, and he lived in seclusion. He only occasionally hired himself out as a farmhand, until he died of sorrow over his lost family.
Today, it’s said that Saunders’ ghost can be seen along the trail, but that he’s only ever seen walking up the trail to Mt. Greylock, and never back down toward his home in the town.
Upstate New York
1. Cherry Hill: Albany, NY
A tale of forbidden love, passion and murder in the early 19th century sets the story for the numerous reports of hauntings in the Cherry Hill house.
In 1826, a drifter named Jesse Strang met a woman named Elsie Whipple, of the prominent Van Rensselaer family, in a bar one night. The two fell in love, and they became convinced that to be together and happy, they would have to murder Elise’s husband, John.
Jesse shot and killed him, but he and Elsie had little time to enjoy each other’s company; Jesse was soon arrested, tried, convicted and hanged for murder. Elsie, however, was found not guilty of aiding and abetting, and moved away.
It’s said that John Whipple’s ghost inhabits the bottom floor of Cherry Hill, and that those who have felt his present detect a definite anger about him. Jesse Strang supposedly haunts the nearby area around the Eagle Street ravine, the location of the county gallows and his execution.
2. Sleepy Hollow Cemetery: Sleepy Hollow, NY
Of course, no listing of haunted places in New York would be compete without mentioning the famous Sleepy Hollow and the legend of the Headless Horseman, a Hessian killed during the Revolutionary War.
The Headless Horseman’s story goes back to before Washington Irving penned his famous 1820 short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” which has been the subject of numerous adaptions.
According to the original legend, a Dutch man was headed back home at night from a tavern in Tarrytown and his route took him near Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. He saw a mist rise from a grave which then transformed into a headless Hessian riding a black horse.
The Dutch man barely managed to elude the horseman, and it’s said the Hessian’s ghost still haunts the cemetery to this day, riding around looking for his head.